Tag Archives: campfire

Campfire night at Brownies

A couple of weeks ago, I went along to the Brownie pack that meets just before my Guides, to be a qualified leader when their Brown Owl couldn’t make it.  This was the pack that I took on holiday back in February, so it was nice to see them again, and meet the new Brownies who have joined since.

They were having a campfire-themed evening.  First, each Six made a log out of a kitchen roll tubes, coloured paper, scissors and sellotape.  We showed them one that a leader had made earlier, and let them work out how to copy it without many more instructions.  When they were done, we put all the logs together in the middle of the room to make an indoor “fire” (with a bucket of water next to it, of course!).

Brown Owl had left us things to make edible fires – chocolate biscuits, matchmakers and strawberry laces – as well as tealights and mini marshmallows, but we decided to skip the construction and just let the Sixes toast the marshmallows on the tealights and make fancy s’mores with the rest of the food.  I don’t think I’d ever toasted mini marshmallows before, only big ones, but I liked it as they were ready within seconds!  Another advantage was that there are lots in a packet, so each Brownie got at least 10 or so.  The Brownies were happy to spend quite a lot of time doing this, experimenting with different techniques and finding out what happens when they toast other things, like strawberry laces…and wooden skewers!

Finally, we all sat in a circle around the “campfire” and sang a few songs.  It was a fun evening, and nice to spend time with a unit that is smaller (in numbers and in girl size!) and younger and even a bit quieter than my Guides.

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Wild West camp: day 4

On Tuesday morning we didn’t need to be anywhere in a hurry, so we let the Guides sleep in till 8am.

What was for breakfast, maybe beans on toast?  Ooh, I think also fried potato cakes made from leftover corned beef hash – yum.  After that, we got ready to leave the campsite: bedding rolled, bags on gadgets, packed lunches made (one patrol at a time went to the kitchen to put their own lunches together) – because we were going on a mid-camp excursion to a nearby swimming pool.

Wearing our tie dye neckers, which turned out ok, if a little pale

Wearing our tie dye neckers, which turned out ok, if a little pale

It was astonishing how much the Guides built up the walk to the pool in advance.  The day before, several asked me and other leaders (imagine the disbelief and horror in their voices) “Is it true that we’re walking for two hours?”  We repeated many times we had allowed two hours for the journey, including rest breaks and bearing in mind that our oldest and youngest campers walk slowly, and that First Aider’s 5-year-old had done the practice walk without complaining.

Still, I think the Guides were presently surprised to find that it really was just a nice 4-mile stroll through fields and villages, over the ring road and the railway, with iconic views of the nearest city.  Each tent group had a laminated route map with instructions to follow, excellently made by First Aider, and even though we all walked in a big (sometimes a bit straggly!) group, the adult assigned to each group encouraged them to check where they were, where they were going next, what features they could see, whether we were halfway yet, etc.

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We stopped for a drink and cake break en route (just because we were offsite didn’t mean we could slack off the cake schedule), reached the swimming pool around lunchtime, had a picnic on the grass next to the pool, and gave the girls two hours to do what they liked within the enclosure.  “Enclosure” makes it sounds restrictive, but actually it was a nice big fenced area with a pool with a “serious” deep section and a “fun” shallow section with a gradual slope and sprinklers; lots of grass round the edge; benches, sun loungers and umbrellas; table tennis tables; and a stand selling drinks, ice creams and burgers.  In other words, plenty to keep everyone busy for the afternoon.

Most of the Guides and a couple of leaders went in the water for a bit.  A few (mainly younger Guides) stayed in all the time, but others (mainly older Guides) were happy chilling at the side most of the time.  We were semi-lucky with the weather.  It wasn’t hot, but it was at least mild with patchy sunshine, and it only rained for 5 minutes.  The water apparently is usually warm, but had been topped up that morning so had a chilly edge if you stopped moving.  I went in for about an hour, and had a marvellous time playing tag, doing handstands, and generally being 10 years old.  The best moment was when, near the end, there were enough people in the pool that the lifeguards turned on the big sprinkle fountain: cue big cheers from the little Guides.

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We got out and dry, purchased last-minute snacks, and walked back to the campsite.  We kept the Guides lively with a scavenger competition.  They had to collect items from a rhyme written (or found?) by First Aider.  It went along the lines of “Something new, something old, something silver, something gold” and carried on for about 10 more verses.  I managed to share one of my interesting plant facts with my group by suggesting a mare’s tail fern as “something old” because it’s existed in more or less its present form since the time of the dinosaurs.  QGB (who’ teaches biology) would be proud of me, I hope.

Back at camp, the Guides had some downtime before dinner.  They were clearly getting worn out, as there was a bit of tent grumpiness.  It was one of those moments where I appreciated having a good team of adults around: QGB was busy greeting visitors and asked me to extract some grumpy Guides from the toilets, and I managed to get them back to camp with sympathy and humour, but then found it hard to change tack, so I gratefully handed them over to another leader to be firm and sort things out.  To be fair, this mild event was almost the only problem we had with the girls: I thought they were an exceptionally easy and good-natured bunch this year.

Dinner – hurrah! – was takeaway pizza, giving the QMs a well-earned rest from cooking.  Then it was beds down, and the Guides were inspected by three special visitors from the Trefoil Guild who were joining us for the evening: our two Unit Leaders’ mothers and our Division President, who have all been many roles in guiding and love meeting the girls and joining in activities, and I want to be just like them when I’m older.  The Guides who have been with us for a few years remembered them from other occasions, and it was nice to hear them saying to each other “here comes M., she dressed up at the Queen at our Jubilee camp”, and so on.

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Meanwhile, I went off with Co-Activity Leader to get the campfire going.  Well, I faffed about and then she got it going with one match.  We had plenty of dry scrap wood, including an old wallpaper table, and it was a bit of a blazing inferno!  Luckily it died down a bit by the time the Guides arrived.

QGB and I led the campfire singing, and the interesting thing was that I thought it was one of the best we’ve ever done, whereas she thought it was one of the worst.  I think we just had different expectations and noticed different things.  The Guides, maybe because they were tired from an active day and three nights under canvas, weren’t great at joining in with the loud, active songs – we instinctively didn’t ask them to stand up, because they wouldn’t have wanted to, and some of them fidgeted and made silly noises instead of singing.  So we went into the tuneful songs sooner than QGB would have liked, but they worked brilliantly well.  They were so tuneful and audible that we sang Campfire’s Burning in three parts, which never happens, and Heidi and Land of the Silver Birch, and You’re a Pink Toothbrush (not sure if other groups sing it, but we like it!), and I taught them a new song that I learned at Region camp last year, the Liège Song (which you can find here but without the tune – I think it’s common knowledge among seasoned Anglia members), and they picked it up quite easily.  Our Trefoil visitors and some of the leaders recognised it and said they hadn’t heard it for years.  And Purple Lights and Texas and it was all rather magical.  Some of the Guides said so too, as we walked back.  So I declare it a good campfire.

Back at the campsite, it was – you know the routine by now – hot chocolate, biscuits and bed.

20 years of guiding

When this post comes out, I’ll be on camp.  There will be glorious sunshine, and everyone will be having a lovely time.  Let’s hope.  Meanwhile, it occurs to me that my guiding experience started almost exactly 20 years ago, so settle down and I’ll tell you How It All Began.

My dad is a member of SAGGA, which is a continuation of SSAGO, the Student Scout and Guide Organisation, after you’ve finished being a student.  However, SAGGA is pretty inclusive and you can join without having been in SSAGO, or indeed to university.  They do service projects, they have get-togethers and family camps, and it’s all good scouty-guidey fun.

In summer 1994, my family went to a SAGGA camp at Broneirion, a Girlguiding-owned house and grounds in mid-Wales.  That was my first conscious experience of guiding, and indeed scouting, though I’d been to one or two other events when I was very small.  A few memories stand out: the marquee (I’d never seen such a big tent before!); the smell of paraffin; the mealtime paraphernalia, with all kinds of chairs and stools and name-labelled cutlery; the bushes and shrubberies in the garden, great for secret passages and hidey-holes; the dining room in the house with a portrait of Lord Baden-Powell on the wall; the campfire circle, where I caught the singing bug; and the Brownie house, a little cottage hidden in the grounds.

One day, my mum and I went for a walk past the Brownie house.  It was in use, and I think we went in and chatted with the leaders and saw the Brownies doing their thing.  At some point, then or later, I decided that I wanted in on it.  I wanted to be a Brownie and live in a cottage with my friends and sing songs round the fire together.

When we got home, my parents made investigations (this isn’t my memory now, just their reports and conjecture).  I wasn’t old enough to be a Brownie, but my mum phoned the local Commissioner and asked if I could join Rainbows.  The Commissioner said that the only Rainbow unit in town was pretty full, but there were plans to open a new unit after Christmas…if only they had another adult helper….

Classic recruitment technique, as I now know.  That was how, the following January, my mother and I joined Rainbows together, and started our guiding adventures.

A midsummer night’s campfire

On the longest day of the year – for those of us in the northern hemisphere – another district in my division took over a nearby hostel for a Big Brownie Birthday sleepover.

The hostel is up in the downs above the town where I do my guiding, and has one of my favourite views in the world, looking down over the vale for miles and miles.  (Claim to fame: it’s described in the first chapter of Jude the Obscure).  Sadly I don’t seem to have a photo, but here’s one looking up towards the site.

Countryside with cow parsley, oilseedrape, and rolling hills

It also has great grounds, with a decent-sized wood, camping space, and a big flat area where we’re allowed to build a fire.  My district goes there for a bonfire every November, so it made a change to see it in daylight!

The Brownies arrived in the late afternoon and did some activities and a treasure hunt in the woods.  The Rainbows and Guides joined them for a barbeque and campfire singsong, then left the Brownies and Brownie Guiders to their fate sleepover stay-awake-over.  I didn’t stay overnight, but by all accounts it was good fun and something the Brownies will always remember.

Wait, why was I there?  I was invited to lead the campfire singing.  My usual singing partner, Queen’s Guide Buddy, couldn’t make it, but I was helped by two excellent young leaders from this other district.  They really were great, and I’m sure they could have done it on their own, but the arrangement worked well as I did a few songs they didn’t know, and they did some that I vaguely know but wouldn’t have thought to do (including Bananas of the World. A perfectly fine song, but I have a mental block on leading it).  A couple of other leaders got up and led a song or two as well.

A leader (me) with arms in the air, leading a song

I didn’t take any photos this time, but here I am at another campfire…

The Brownies and Rainbows joined in enthusiastically with everything, and most of the Guides with most of the songs.  We sang for just over an hour, by which time I was getting to the end of my repertoire suitable for all the age range without word sheets.

The campfire ended with everyone (over 100 of us) in a big circle, and some Promise ceremonies and reflections on the Brownie Birthday.  Oh, and it was gloriously sunny throughout.  What a lovely evening, and I’m glad to have been able to join in.