Tag Archives: walking

An arty autumn walk

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A person, I think

For our third Rainbows meeting of the term, we took advantage of the still-light evenings and good weather, and went for a walk in the park.

I gave each Rainbow a carrier bag and asked them to gather any interesting natural objects they thought would be good to make a picture. (With discussion of what was natural versus man-made, and what was safe/not safe to pick up.)

There weren’t many obviously exciting natural objects on our walk: we didn’t pass many trees, and the ones that were there hadn’t dropped their leaves yet. Still, the Rainbows managed to get collections of a few leaves, sticks, stones and bits of grass. Some absolutely filled their bags while others were very selective about what they took!

They made pictures on a bit of grass – it was a bit windy, which added an extra element of challenge! Then we went to the play park until it was time to go back.

Rainbows is a walk in the park

i spy walk park

…it literally was for this meeting.

We walked to a playground near our meeting hall. On the way, each Rainbow got a sheet of 4 photos of things to look out for on the way: special-looking trees, houses, benches etc. They got pretty into it, and most of them found everything.

We had a fun 15 minutes in the playground and managed to get all 10 girls on the roundabout at once (making it literally a Rainbow Roundabout…I’ve only just realised that).

Then we walked back, had a quick Rainbow chat, and it was time to go. Apart from the preparation taking and printing the photos, it was a nice low-effort evening. All we had to do was make sure the Rainbows got there and back intact.

A camp meeting and a night hike

Let’s flash back to last summer, when my Division combined a parents’ meeting for camp with a night hike.

We met in the village hall we normally use for our night hikes (because it works very well). First we had a meeting for the Guides and Senior Section coming on camp a few weeks later and their parents. It was a camp for a whole county, with a subcamp for each Division. The subcamp leader (and others where relevant) went through the usual sort of things: arrangements for sleeping, food, first aid, activities, kit required, etc etc. Afterwards, parents had the chance to speak to individual leaders, and the girls told a leader who they did/did not want to share a tent with. She wrote this down discreetly, of course! But it’s better to know this outright, rather than accidentally put together girls who really don’t want to share a confined space for a week.

After that, everyone left except leaders and girls who were going on the night hike, and other girls arrived who were hiking but not coming on camp. We originally meant it to be a chance for the girls on our subcamp to get to know each other, but only about 1/3 of them came, mostly from 2 or 3 units, so we opened it up to everyone.

Have I ever mentioned that I love a night hike?

Oh yes, last year. Well, I do. I love walking in the dark (as long as I know where I’m going), letting my mind and my senses open up, and showing the girls that they needn’t be afraid of being out in the dark.

It followed the same format as always. We set off from the village hall around 9:30pm, walked through the village, up a hill, along a ridge, admired the view, did a Promise ceremony, walked down a hill, through the village, and got back to the hall around midnight. The only thing different this year was the weather. It was moist and foggy so there wasn’t actually much view to admire, but we were lucky it wasn’t raining, as it had been for most of the day.

Back at the hall we enjoyed some lovely hot chocolate made by a leader who’d stayed there. The girls put their beds down, got into pyjamas, and settled down for chatter, games and nibbles. The leaders put out chairs and also settled down for chatter and nibbles. After an hour or two some of the girls (and adults) dropped off to sleep naturally, and we started shushing and settling the rest. I slept from about 2:00-6:30, which is better than some years!

In the morning we had cereal and toast for breakfast and the girls were collected at 8am. Another good night hike in the tried and tested way!

An evening stroll

It’s Flashback Friday!

Evening stroll

One of my old Guides’ classic summer meeting plans is “walk to a nearby village and play some games there”.

This has variations: there are several different meeting points and villages to choose from, sometimes there’s a scavenger hunt, sometimes we take a parachute, sometimes we take food, etc etc.

This time we walked a couple of miles to some standing stones, had a picnic, and played a couple of games (the sort where you need lots of space and soft grass to fall on). Then we walked down to the car park where the girls got picked up.

It was a nice simple evening and we got lucky with the weather, hurrah!

Marathon Challenge 2014

Back in November, I helped at an incident hike run by my old university Scout and Guide Club.

For those interested in incident hikes, I highly recommend Marathon.  I am of course biased, and I’ve never been to any other incident hikes (oh, apart from the Malvern Challenge, now I come to think of it), but every year it’s well-run and well-attended.  It’s open to Scouting and Guiding teams aged 14+, including adults.  Essentially, teams are given grid references for 26 checkpoints (hence the name “Marathon”) and have 9 hours to visit as many as they wish, to win as many points as they can.

It’s a bit strategic: if a team doesn’t plan to visit all the checkpoints (which would usually mean walking about 25-30 miles), they have to decide whether to go for ones that are closer to HQ but worth fewer points, or ones that are further away and worth more points.  There are also four manned checkpoints, where they can do an activity to win more points, scored for teamwork as well as completion of the challenge.

It takes a lot of volunteers to run an event like this: helpers are needed to brief and debrief the teams at HQ, monitor the radios, keep track of scores, man the checkpoints, drive minibuses and cars, and cook dinner for everyone.  I didn’t realise it when I was a student, but seeing it now, it really is a huge achievement for students who you might expect not to have the time, resources or experience to run a complex large-scale event.  (Gratuitous plug: they run another hike in spring for 10-14-year-olds.)  Having co-ordinated it myself a few years ago, I know all too well how much they rely on alumni (aka “fogies”) coming back to help and pass on the dubious benefit of their wisdom (and their cars), so I try to go back as much as I can.

This year I was based on a checkpoint, along with a couple of other fogies whom I already knew, and an amicable first year whom I hope we didn’t frighten too much.  Our task was to set ourselves up in the designated place, wait for teams, and offer them water refills, hot drinks, and the chance to do a challenge.  When there were no teams (i.e. most of the day: on average we got a couple of teams every hour) we sat, chatted, cooked on a stove, and generally entertained ourselves.  I always find it very peaceful to spend the day resting in the outdoors and knowing you don’t need to be doing anything else.  When I was a student, I really appreciated it as a calm interlude in the middle of an intense term, and a chance to break out of the city bubble into the “real world” and see some of the local countryside.

We were lucky to have dry, relatively mild weather.  We were given a tent, but decided not to put it up, since we weren’t likely to need shelter and it would just be a pain to take down at the end of the day when we were tired.

The challenge at our checkpoint was “sheep herding”.  Everyone in the team was blindfold, except for one member who had to guide them through a course using only a whistle.  As fast as possible.

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We set up the course with ropes tied round trees – it included a hairpin bend, a slalom around logs, and a tight passage between some bushes.  When it got dark, we put glowsticks on the ropes to help the sheepdogs.

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It was interesting to see the different teams’ techniques.  They tended to either work out a complex signalling system (“one whistle blast for left, two for right, three for stop, four for duck…”) or go for a simple “follow the sound” approach.  Both approaches worked well for some teams and less well for others.  I winced at times, when the sheepdog herded his or her teammates into the logs, through branches, or into a complete U-turn!

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Altogether it was a most enjoyable day – everything seemed to run smoothly as usual, with no disasters for helpers or teams, which as I recall is the main objective.

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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.