Tag Archives: trips

Thank you, Lifeboats

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Back in summer my Rainbows visited our local lifeboat station. The following week, they made cards and pictures to say thank you. I took those home and they sat in a bag in my house for 6 months.

Just before Christmas, I finally delivered them to the Lifeboat station. I hope the volunteers there enjoy them!

Girlguiding LaSER Discover Day, Greenwich

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The view from the ferris wheel

Back in June, I took my Rainbows to a Discover Day run by Girlguiding London and South East Region (LaSER, which we are in) in Greenwich.

Girlguiding members of all sections were invited to explore Greenwich’s museums, parks and maritime area. It was repeated on Saturday and Sunday (we went on the Saturday), with the option for older girls to sleep over in a museum on the Saturday night.

We travelled there on a coach with the Brownies and Guides from my district, but once we got there we went our own way for the day. We were a tiny group: we’d offered the trip to 3 Rainbow units, but only had 4 Rainbows, plus 3 Leaders and a dad – so a 1:1 adult to child ratio!

We had a great time, and looking back on it we managed to pack a lot into one day. We looked around the National Maritime Museum (which has a brilliant play area for younger children), ate lunch next to the Cutty Sark, went on a carousel and ferris wheel (both at a discount price for Girlguiding members), took a trip on a Thames clipper, walked through the parks, had ice creams in Greewich Observatory, stood on the meridian, admired the views over London, and finished the day in a play park.

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There were other activities on offer, some of them just for Girlguiding members, but that was as much as we could fit in and covered all the things the girls wanted to do.

It was a long day – 10 hours from leaving to returning – and a lot of walking for the Rainbows, but they did well. We only had one moment (at the top of the hill on the way to the Observatory) when one of them sat down and refused to get up! We had a little break, and our dad helper (not that Rainbow’s father) worked some magic and got her going again.

I should mention the event staff. All the Girlguiding volunteers and the venue staff we spoke to were brillant, really open to chatting with the girls and making sure we were alright.

The event was a very reasonable price – we spent more on the coach than on the day itself. The only snag was that we had to enter a ballot for tickets well in advance, and I overestimated how many Rainbows would want to go, so we lost money on the tickets and coach spaces that weren’t used. Next time I’d be more conservative about how many places I asked for, but I’d definitely offer it to my Rainbows again.

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The view from the Thames clipper

 

Man the Lifeboats

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I’ve lived most of my life a couple of hours’ drive from the sea, so it’s a novelty to me to be living by the coast now. I’ve been keen to have a proper look around the local lifeboat station, and I thought I might as well take the Rainbows too 😉

Two volunteers from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) showed us round. First we chatted about why we need lifeboats, why the sea can be dangerous, and what you should do if you spot someone in danger. Then we had a look at the lifeboat, and learned about the equipment it carries, and how it’s built to give it the best possible chance of staying afloat and completing its task.

We met the crew’s practice dummy, saw the clothes the crew wear (which they can put on in as little as 1 minute), and looked at the tractor that helps the boat in and out of the sea.

Finally we went to the control room and watched some rescue videos.

Our hosts made it fun and as hands on as they could, but the Rainbows did have to do a fair bit of listening. I thought they did a great job. There was a lot to take in, but even if they only remember one or two things it’s raised their awareness. Living where they do, I’m sure they’ll see plenty more of the lifeboat as they grow up.

Several extra parents and grandparents, and a brother, stayed for the visit. It’s always encouraging when you’re doing something interesting enough that people would rather join in than go home or go and have an ice cream on the beach.

National Animal Welfare Trust

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It’s Flashback Friday!

In the summer term my Guides visited our nearest branch of the National Animal Welfare Trust.

I have a friend who works there, and she kept telling me that my Guides should come and visit. So we did.

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A very nice member of staff led us around the centre and introduced us to all the animals they look after. She explained to us that they specialise in taking old animals that need a home for the last few years of their life, although they take others too. At that time they had horses, sheep, goats, rabbits, guinea pigs, dogs, and probably more. I was slightly sad as I’d heard a lot about some alpacas, but they’d been rehomed recently. Oh how I love alpacas. So woolly.

The Guides got to stroke some of the animals, and it opened up interesting conversations about the pets they had, or used to have, or would like. They asked some good questions, too.

My favourite part was meeting the member of staff’s dog. He was a big friendly woolly thing and he spent 10 minutes walking round and round the circle of Guides getting lots of petting.

We also learned about the centre’s community engagement and fundraising work. We came away with some little goodies, plus newsletters and flyers about their next events. We’d asked the Guides to bring donations of pet food and toys, and we also gave them a cheque from our unit to say thank you.

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Theme park trip!

Drayton Manor

It’s Flashback Friday!

In the Easter holidays, I took my Guides and some from the other unit in town to Drayton Manor.

It’s something that came up every term when we asked what they would like to do, and I thought the time was right to do it. Plus I like a theme park too.

Comparing the market

I looked at a few theme park websites and chose Drayton Manor because

  • I’d heard the Guides mention it as somewhere they’d like to go
  • it wasn’t too far away – about 1.5 hours by coach
  • the tickets were a bit cheaper than other parks
  • not too many rules about age (some of the others I looked at said that under-12s had to be accompanied by an adult all the time)
  • the rides looked about the right level: some scary exciting ones, but gentler ones too

Booking and budgeting

Oh dear, I still hadn’t learned my lesson from the pantomime trip that you should book and budget for a smaller coach and change up if there’s lots of interest. Instead I booked and budgeted for a 50-seater coach and had to change it down because we only had 20 girls coming. That was a perfectly good group size, but it meant the unit funds took a loss from the trip.

I made big apologies to my unit leader. Luckily we’re ok for funds and she’s a generous woman who knows we all make mistakes (and hopefully learn from them).

Drayton Manor were great with our ticket booking, I’d really recommend them. I phoned them to give a provisional number about 6 weeks before the trip, and they said fine, I could pay a day or two before. I phoned the day before to give them final numbers, and they said fine, I could pay when I got there. So if anyone had been unable to come at the last minute we wouldn’t have needed to pay for them.

It was really easy to get in, too: I queued and paid at the ticket booth while the others waited at the side, then a member of staff let us in through a side gate. I guess 24 people is a drop in the ocean to them.

A grand day out

We set up a base for everyone’s bags, the first aid kit etc on a picnic table, then sent the girls off in groups, asking them to report back in a time slot (eg between 11:00 and 11:30, so that if it got to 11:00 and they were queuing for a ride, they could go on it and then report back).

Most of the girls have been on trips with us before, so they know how it works. We had a couple of cases of groups getting separated by accident, but generally they were very good.

There were 4 of us leaders, including a new Rainbow leader who I was glad I invited – I think she had a good day with us and it wasn’t something she could do with Rainbows! We took turns to stay at the base while the others went on rides. I went on a couple of scary ones with the leaders, a really scary plummetty one with Guides (I definitely screamed more than them), and a couple of gentle ones with Guides.

Drayton Manor was the perfect size for a trip like this. It’s compact (you can walk from end to end in 10 minutes), not huge and sprawling like, say, Thorpe Park. As I said, there’s a good mix of different types of rides, so something for everyone.

As with all these places in the school holidays, the queues for the really big rides were really long, but I guess that was an exercise for the Guides in weighing up whether they were worth the wait, or whether to do something less exciting but with a shorter queues – working out how to use their time and abilities wisely! It was a bit disappointing that the log flume was closed for the day, but there were plenty of other things to do.

The younger Guides loved the fairground stalls. Every time I came back to our base, there were more huge cuddly toys sitting there. The parent’s faces were priceless when they saw their girls getting off the coach carrying giant minions and pink fluffy things.

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Our extra passengers on the ride home

I had a thoroughly good day out, and I hope the girls did too. Definitely a trip I’d do again, to the same park or somewhere else.

BIG GIG 2014

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A few weeks ago I went to the BIG GIG – a pop concert for members of Girlguiding aged 10+ – with a coachload of Guides, Senior Section and adults from my District.

We left in the afternoon and arrived in Wembley in good time – in fact, so early that we saw everyone coming out of the afternoon concert as we drove past the arena.  It was our first glimpse of groups in matching clothes and/or headgear – we would see many more over the course of the evening – and the Guides were fascinated.  I was happy to hear one of them say in wonder, “and just think, they’re all Guides.”  None of the girls had been to a national guiding event before, and most haven’t even been to a county event, so I think it was a bit of an eye-opener to see that they are part of a huge movement of girls and women like them.

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The coach parked, and we ate our packed teas, applied glitter and handed out matching flashing head boppers before getting off the coach.  We walked past Wembley stadium to the arena, queued for a little while, and then got let inside.  We were among the first, so we found our seats and let the girls go off to the toilet/food stalls/merchandise stalls, while we watched the auditorium fill up.

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Finally, the concert started, and I enjoyed myself much more than I expected.  I knew the atmosphere would be great – with thousands of excited Guides, it couldn’t not be – but I liked the music too!  I didn’t recognise all the artists, but it turned out that I knew quite a few of the songs from the radio, or because they were covers.  There was a good mix of artists – boy bands, girl bands, solo men, solo women, and a dance group – and of genres and songs to appeal to everyone, and I had a good bop along most of the time.  I liked that there was plenty of room in front of the folding seats, so there was space to stand and dance, but also the option of sitting down when one wanted.  I had a good view, but felt for some of our little Guides who managed to be in seats behind tall adults from another group.  Luckily those adults were happy to sit down most of the time; and the Guides spent a lot of the time as far out into the aisle as they could get away with.

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It was a really good trip, and I thoroughly recommend it.  My Guides, from the 10-year-olds to the 14-year-olds, kept saying how much they enjoyed it, and their parents have told us how excited they were to have been to their first concert.  We got the tickets by ballot in the summer, and didn’t find out if we’d got them till the middle of the holidays, so it was a bit of a rush to tell the girls about it and get numbers in the first few weeks of the autumn term, but it was well worth it.

Royals in the rain, Brownies on a train

Last week’s big guiding events happened without me, but they’re definitely exciting enough to share.

On Friday the Earl and Countess of Wessex (who is, of course, the President of Girlguiding and a Brownie helper) visited town.  We found out less than 2 weeks before, and in the middle of the Easter holidays, but thanks to some speedy communication between my District Commissioner and the town Mayor, and swift messages from leaders to parents, we got together a good-sized group to meet her.  They braved the rain, joined the crowds lining the streets, and a Brownie presented Sophie with a bouquet (beautiful, made by a Brown Owl).  I missed it as I was at work, but it’s brilliant to see the pictures of Sophie and Edward with our girls and leaders.  When people meet the royal family, they tend to remember it for the rest of their lives, so it’s very special to have had this chance.

The next day was possibly even more exciting.  To celebrate the Big Brownie Birthday, and in a wonderful feat of organisation, my county took over an entire train to London.  Hundreds of Brownies and their leaders piled on at the station and into carriages.  There was a competition for the best-decorated carriage (won by a group from my Division!) so the train was full of bunting, flags, banners, cakes, balloons and excited girls.  My Facebook feed has been full of wonderful pictures of this all weekend.  When the train arrived in London the Brownies were met by the Chief Guide, and each group was free to do their own thing until it was time for the train to return.  My local Brownies went on an open-topped bus and the London eye.  It looks like it was a wonderful day out, and again something that the girls will remember through their lives.  I’m in awe of everyone who worked hard to make it happen.

5 thoughts for the next Christmas trip

Shortly before Christmas, we had a District trip to see a pantomime.  Nice and simple: get on coach at 11am, into theatre, see show, out of theatre, back on coach, return at 5pm.  Eat packed lunch on coach or in theatre.  Give parents a some time without their girls to get ready for the holidays.

I did the admin bits: booking the theatre tickets, writing and sending out the letters and forms, making sure everyone had paid, handed in consent forms, and was on the coach.  Another leader booked the coach, and the unit leaders were, of course, brilliant at looking after their girls.  It was a good day out, but this is what I’d change next time.

1. Less faffing over where to go

A Christmas trip was first suggested at a District meeting in September, and I offered to organise it (with help), partly because I just wanted to make it happen, and partly to count towards my Queen’s Guide Award (the part where you have to play an active role in an event involving more than one unit).

With a few other leaders (especially my wonderful helpful District Commissioner), I researched a few options, and exchanged many emails with everyone in the District weighing in on what they thought about the costs, timing, and age suitability, before making the final decision.  It was good to get everyone’s opinions, but I felt a bit guilty faffing and sending endless emails rather than just using my intuition and deciding.  Next time I’d ideally do the research nice and early, decide on the maximum price we could ask for and the most sensible day, and be able to present a couple of neat options at that meeting in September.  Haha, in my dreams.

2. Don’t book so many tickets up front…

I booked 100 theatre seats because I thought we could fill them.  Turned out we couldn’t, and we also couldn’t get a refund because the show wasn’t sold out.  We had 73 people going, which is a really good number, but it was a damper for me that we made a loss.  If I did it again, I’d book 50 tickets and add more if we got lots of takers.  We could up the coach to a 100-seater if necessary, and I’d make sure that the cost per person covered both sizes of coach.

3. …Or team up with other Districts

Either that, or we could get more bottoms on seats by running it as a joint District (or Division) trip from the start.  This time, I invited our neighbouring Districts when it became clear we couldn’t fill all the places.  By then, it was only a few weeks before the trip, and understandably we didn’t get many takers as they already had other plans.  However, we were joined by some Guides and their lovely leaders from a nearby village, whom we often camp with.  They seemed potentially interested in doing a joint trip in future.

4. Send out info/consent forms up front

I don’t think there’s a completely simple way to collect information from a whole district, but I could have made it easier.  With the initial letter, I included a “would like to attend” simple slip to be returned with payment.  I should have skipped the slip and just given them info/consent forms to return.  As it was, I sent them out a few weeks later, so parents had another thing to fill in, leaders had another thing to collect, and it was harder to make a list of emergency contact numbers in advance (to give to our home contact and print out for me).  Lesson learned.

5. Ask for a shout-out

This didn’t occur to me at all, so I was delighted when the dame pulled out a list of people to say hello to, and it included “W. Guides, Brownies and Rainbows”.  We gave a big cheer!  Luckily, one of our on-the-ball mothers had phoned the theatre a few days in advance to ask for a shout-out.  She found that the Guides were already on the list, as I had made the booking in our name, and she added the Brownies and Rainbows.  Day=saved.