It’s back: Fireworks 2017!

Yes, it’s that time of the year again: Fireworks time! Our annual fireworks display at Scout Park regularly draws crowds of over 2,000 people, and planning for this year’s event has already been underway for months. The display will be on the 4th November 2017, so make sure to save the date!

This year has brought about several changes to the event, so we will now be having two fireworks displays in one evening. The Quiet Display, at 5:30pm, will be slightly smaller in order to be toddler and autism friendly, while our later Feature Display at 8:00pm will be the main event with all the usual features. And don’t forget, our impressive array of Explorer-run food stalls will be available throughout the evening.

We’re also introducing an online booking system for the first time ever! Skip the queues on the night and eliminate the risk of not getting into the event by buying your tickets in advance. CLICK HERE to book and confirm your place at one of North London’s favourite fireworks displays. Buying through our website also gives you the chance to choose a discounted Family Ticket, which is only available online. As in previous years, tickets will also be available at Scout Park on Wednesday evenings, from Wild Wolf Explorers, and on the gate.

We are hugely proud of our event, which is regularly praised as being better than others in the local area. Our family-friendly atmosphere and community focus, combined with the fact that it is primarily run by the Explorers themselves, give our fireworks display a special quality that is impossible to find elsewhere.

So, what are you waiting for? CLICK HERE to book your tickets now!

For more information about the event, take a look around our Fireworks webpages and at our FAQs. You can also keep up-to-date on how planning is coming along and receive regular updates by following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

#yknots – Explorer Belt 2017

While ‘Ellie & the Twirl Bites’ were gallivanting round the Iron Curtain Trail, Leah, Megan, Simpson and Ross were completing their own Explorer Belt expedition in and around Berlin, as team ‘#yknots’. Leah has recounted their travels below:

MONDAY – TO BERLIN

For our team an extremely early start followed by a flight to Berlin was the agenda for Monday 14th August. Once we’d arrived in Berlin, we eventually worked out how the public transport system worked (not as well as London’s, basically) and navigated our way through the city to the Heart of Gold hostel – a ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ themed hostel we’d be staying in for the night. The afternoon was spent doing a bit of sightseeing and planning the start of our expedition for the following day.

TUESDAY – DAY ONE

As the start of our expedition, we spent the morning exploring Berlin and its many historical landmarks including the Reichstag, Brandenburg Gate and several of the memorials around the city. We then made our way north to Oranienburg – a town just outside of Berlin – where we visited the Sachsenhausen Museum and Memorial. This was the perfect place for us to start gathering information that we could put towards our project of learning about the socioeconomic and cultural changes in and around Berlin.

A few hours later we started heading towards a campsite we’d found, in the hope that Marlon and Steve would be able to find us and drop off the items of kit we couldn’t take on the plane with us. With the help Google’s ‘share location’ function and some loud horn-beeping, they met up with us easily enough and we grabbed the final bits of kit before continuing our journey to our first campsite. We soon arrived and, with the help of Megan’s limited German, were able to find the right site to pitch our tents. We spent the rest of the evening cooking whilst listening to the radio series ‘Cabin Pressure’ (something that soon became an evening tradition) and planning the next day of the expedition. Before long, we were all in our sleeping bags and fast asleep.

WEDNESDAY – DAY TWO

The next morning we had relatively early start, packed up and were on our way by 8:30am – ready to make the most of the day. Unfortunately just as we started walking, the weather decided to change and despite our reluctance to remove our bags from our backs, we were soon in our waterproofs for the first time of the expedition. However, this didn’t sway our spirits and we continued on our way.

We soon found ourselves in Wandlitz but were a little puzzled by how small the town seemed when we arrived. After talking to a few locals, we soon realised we were in the outskirts of town and still had a couple more kilometres to walk before we could stop for a lake-side lunch break. Finally making it into the centre of town, we enjoyed our break and by now, the rain had stopped; the change from waterproofs to suncream was done within a matter of minutes. Embracing the Explorer Belt experience, we decided to spend the afternoon asking in the nearby libraries, churches and shops about whether they knew anywhere we could stay or if they would be able to offer us any type of accommodation.

Unfortunately, none of our attempts brought results other than a few recommendations of a campsite about 5km down the road, so we went to the supermarket to buy ingredients for dinner and breakfast before we headed off towards this campsite. Whilst in the cake aisle debating over whether to get a unicorn (einhorn!) cake or not, a woman came up to us and started speaking to us in German. Although none of us speak much German, we managed to pick up a few words and the combination of ‘Pfadfinder’ (scout), ‘Campingplatz’ (campsite) and ‘Auto’ (car) with a variety of hand gestures, was enough for us to understand we were being offered a lift to the campsite; something we gladly accepted. We eventually worked out that the woman actually worked at the campsite – this also explained why she was buying about 50 rolls of bin bags – and we arrived and pitched our tents in no time.

Due to the fact we didn’t need to walk to our campsite, we found ourselves with a couple of hours to kill before dinner, so we headed down to Liepnitzsee, the nearby lake, for a swim. When we got there we were amazed by both the view and how clear the water was and spent about an hour and a half swimming, relaxing and even attempting to catch a fish (something the other team executed much better!) before heading back to camp for dinner and an early night.

THURSDAY – DAY THREE

We started our day with a morning swim down at the lake as we couldn’t resist not making the most of the beautiful water and its surrounding views, but soon enough we were packed up and on our way again. We’d planned to spend the next two days making our way towards Strausberg so had marked out a few towns along the way that we could potentially shop or stay in – today’s aim was to make it to a little town called Rüdnitz for lunch before continuing on to a campsite. However once we had made it to Rüdnitz we quickly realised that, although it was quite a built-up residential area, there were not many shops. In fact, we were told by a local that there were “no shops for food” and the only things other than houses were a hairdresser’s and a donkey circus…

By this time, we were all very hungry, tired and desperate for any sort of food. For short relief we ate some carrots Megan remembered she had in her bag but, as nice as they were, they were nowhere near enough so we headed to the train station down the road and jumped on the train to Bernau. After we’d arrived and shoveled some food down, we set off exploring the town. We soon stumbled upon the tourist information office and decided it would be a good idea to ask if they knew any campsites nearby as our original plan had been thrown off by Rüdnitz (a place we now have a deep hatred for).

Megan and I went in whilst the others waited with our bags outside and the first thing we were told was that the nearest campsite was the one we had just come from. However, after a long discussion in German that neither Megan nor I could understand, the two women told us they knew somewhere and proceeded to show us where we could stay.

Meanwhile, Ross and Simpson were still waiting outside and had no idea what was going on or why we’d been gone for so long. Ross soon decided to come inside to see what was happening but when he did, he found the room we’d previously been in locked. There was no sign of either of us or the tourist office workers
so his mind automatically jumped to the perfectly reasonable assumption of “they’ve been abducted”. However, about thirty seconds later Megan and I came back, beaming with excitement at the prospect of having somewhere other than a tent to stay in for the night.

FRIDAY – DAY FOUR

After an extremely good night’s sleep, we were well rested for the rest of our expedition and said our last goodbyes and thank yous before heading off. We spent the morning exploring Bernau by visiting a few different churches and parks as well as climbing a tower which provided us with a spectacular view of the city. We then jumped on the train and headed for a town called Erkner. We had lunch by the river before beginning our walk to a campsite we’d found. It was another lovely day and the route was a really nice path along the side of a lake that lead us almost directly from the centre of town to where we were staying.

We arrived, pitched our tents and immediately set off toward the lake for a swim. However, after Liepnitzsee being the first lake we experienced, unfortunately none of the others lived up to its standards of sandy beds, beautiful views and crystal clear water… we were later told that Liepnitzsee is renowned for being one of the most beautiful lakes in Germany.

A few hours later, we were sat round eating cake and listening to ‘Cabin Pressure’ when we suddenly heard a rumble of thunder in the distance. At this point, we were under a shelter and when the rain initially started, we were unphased by it. About ten minutes later, however, the wind had picked up dramatically and we were being thrashed by horizontal rain – something we took as a cue to get into the tents. The next hour and a half was one of pure panic and hysteria, containing rushes to the toilet block in the pouring rain; getting stuck in the toilet block because of the pouring rain; getting stuck in the pouring rain because Ross is apparently incapable of opening a tent door, and magic puddles… but that’s a story for another time.

SATURDAY – DAY FIVE

As we were now about halfway through our expedition, we decided that day five was a good time to have a ‘rest day’. So, after a slightly later start, we packed a few small bags and headed off on a nice hike around the nearby lakes. Along our way we found giant ice creams, a very angry dog and, much to my history excitement, Karl-Marx-Straße. We arrived back to camp in the early afternoon and spent the next few hours reading, napping and swimming before cooking dinner and settling in for an early night.

SUNDAY – DAY SIX

We started our day by catching a train through Berlin and into Potsdam, a historic city on the west border of Berlin. We then spent the rest of the day in the Museum Barberini art gallery learning about various collections (and making the most of their phone-charging facilities) before we headed to a park to look for some locals to dance with for one of our challenges. As we had passed the park earlier on in the day, there had been a small group of people dancing so we thought it would be appropriate to ask them first.

Once we had explained about our expedition and the challenge we’d been given, they gladly agreed to give the ‘WWESU dance’ a go and we created a small flash mob of our strange dance. In return, the group offered to teach us some salsa and we hesitantly agreed and then continued to make a fool of ourselves. Although, we were rewarded with some delicious homemade apfelkuchen (apple cake) making the whole experience totally worth it!

Soon after we had made it to our campsite for the night and, of course, immediately changed into our swimwear and headed for the lake. Again this lake was nowhere near as nice as Liepnitzsee but that was something we’d learnt to accept and the super cute labrador retriever puppy who sat watching us from the bank made up for it! There were definitely no conversations deliberating over whether it would be possible for us to take it with us…

We then headed to the toilet block and made the most of the showers we’d kindly been given free tokens for before our usual routine of dinner, ‘Cabin Pressure’, sleep.

MONDAY – DAY SEVEN

The next morning we woke up and decided now would be a good time to wash a few of our clothes as we had time to wait before our train arrived. The wash went well. The dryer, however, turned out to be absolutely useless. This drying disaster created what we soon came to call ‘the drybag baby’. As we had to leave to catch our train, we put all the damp clothes in a drybag and carried it to the station. To put it simply, carrying
the drybag baby was exactly like carrying a small child. Quieter though.

We spent the whole day in central Potsdam, exploring some landmarks including the Brandenburg Gate (the Potsdam one, obviously) and Sanssouci Palace. Just as we were working out what train we’d need to get back to the campsite, we were offered
accommodation from Yvonne, a Potsdam Scout Leader, and her family – for two nights! So instead, we got the bus out to a small village called Schenkenhorst; we’d describe it as “the Potters Bar of Germany”. When contacting us, Yvonne had not specified where we could sleep so we were all very surprised and extremely grateful when we were shown a whole summerhouse we could use – kitchen, sofas, beds and all!

TUESDAY – DAY EIGHT

We awoke the next morning and looked out of the window to see baskets full of food sat on the windowsill. As it turns out, Yvonne’s dad had driven to the bakery and bought us some fresh bread and croissants and then given us jam, marmalade, meat, cheese and tea to go with it! Needless to say it was the best breakfast we’d had all week and was the perfect start to our morning. We soon set off into Potsdam again for the last time. First we went to the Potsdam Museum and learnt a lot about the history of the city, its art, culture and architecture, before heading through Park Sanssouci for a nice walk. We also stumbled upon a local deli where we bought a selection of cheeses to make into a cheeseboard for later on – it was incredible.

WEDNESDAY – DAY NINE

The next morning we were provided with breakfast again (with coffee this time!) and packed up our stuff before leaving. We made sure to swap badges and scarves as well as thank Yvonne and her family profusely for their hospitality.

We’d found out about the Spandau Citadel and decided it sounded really cool and that we wanted to go, so we spent the afternoon wandering through the museum (which had super squeaky floors when wearing hiking boots!) and learning about the fortress’ use over the years as well as climbing its tower and walking through its gardens.

Part way through the day we got a message from a Scout Leader in Kreuzberg offering us a place to stay, so once we’d finished at the Citadel that was where we headed. We soon arrived and Simon, a Scout Leader at VCP Kreuzberg, showed us around the church/community centre/scout hall building that we could stay in for the night. It had a kitchen, showers, sofas, table football and even a few musical instruments as well! But before we could settle down, we were taken on a tour of Kreuzberg. Simon and his fellow leaders, Catherina and Felix, showed us so much of the culture of the area – rather than the typical tourist sights – and we were all amazed by both what they knew and how much they knew. After an extensive tour of the district, we all went to a Turkish restaurant and tucked into some traditional food which included hummus!! The evening was one that none of us will be forgetting anytime soon as we learnt so much about the area and scouting in Germany as well as meeting some amazing people.

 

We headed back to our home for the night and spent the next few hours relaxing and playing the piano before settling in for our last night on expedition.

THURSDAY – DAY TEN 

On the last day of our expedition, Simon offered to give us another tour as we made our way back through Berlin. Of course, we gratefully accepted and had a thoroughly enjoyable and educational walk back to our hostel. We finally arrived and met the other team in our room before heading straight for the showers and the clean clothes that had been waiting in Steve’s car for us all week. Once freshened up and changed into comfy
clothes we sorted out our stuff and relaxed a bit while the other team went out to explore central Berlin.

When they arrived back from an apparently jam-packed two hours of sightseeing, we all headed over the road to a German restaurant and enjoyed a dinner all together. The next few hours were spent enjoying the amazing food, exchanging funny stories from the past ten days and catching up with each other. We soon headed back to our hostel and, as we were all absolutely shattered, wasted no time getting into bed.

FRIDAY – TO LONDON

On our last day in Berlin, we spent our time visiting a few more sights we hadn’t already seen before making our way to the airport. The journey home was relatively smooth and we all returned home exhausted but happy, and proud of the achievements of the last ten days.

– Written by Leah

#twirlbitesontour – Explorer Belt 2017

It’s August 2016 and Team ‘Ellie and the Twirl Bites’ have just completed their Gold DofE canoeing expedition, when Marlon comments in an off-hand manner that we’d be a good team for an Explorer Belt expedition. The Explorer Belt is a 10-day hiking expedition in a foreign country, where you meet new people and experience new cultures. We immediately latch onto the idea, giving way to a flood of speculation about places we could go and things we could do. Unfortunately it turns out Dearbhla isn’t free next summer, so the team is confirmed as Carina, Zuza and Ellie, and the planning begins…

– ONE YEAR LATER –

SUNDAY

It was a sunny Sunday afternoon in Muswell Hill, and three intrepid Explorers were preparing to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. The only problem – their car had a flat tyre. After some quick DIY from Leader Steve, we were on our way to Dover, to begin a journey that would end 12 days later in Berlin. Our plan was simple: walk along the German Iron Curtain Trail, a long distance cycle path that follows the course of the former East-West German Border, and then get a train to Berlin to finish the expedition in style.

We planned to walk a small section of this route

MONDAY – DAY 1

After a 14 hour drive, we finally arrived at our campsite in Lübeck, where we snoozed for half an hour until the reception opened (turns out driving through the night means you arrive pretty early). Once our tent was up and our massive bags safely inside, we headed into Lübeck, where we discovered that it was also too early for any coffee shops to be open, much to the Leaders’ dismay. After killing time by planning the rest of our day, we said goodbye to our in-country support team of Marlon and Steve, and set out to explore the town.

Proper German pretzels seemed appropriate for a proper German expedition!

We admired the various marzipans on sale in the Niederegger shop, visited the Holstentor, and ate pretzels from the local market, making sure to fulfill all the necessary touristy requirements. We also completed one of our minor projects (which had been set by various Explorers and Leaders); ‘use the German word for unicorn in conversation with a local’ by Carina asking for the price of a unicorn toy in a shop. Having exhausted the possibilities for free activities (as you might have guessed, three 17 year olds have a very tight budget). We began the trek back to the campsite, something which had seemed a lot shorter in the car! After a quick stop off in the supermarket, we arrived back at our tent.

Visiting the Holstentor

Left with a few hours before it could be considered a reasonable time to cook dinner, we set about creating our fabulous logbook – one of the Explorer Belt requirements. Naturally, this meant  whipping out the coloured pens and tape, and employing all our combined artistic talent in designing an aesthetic format.

Soon it was time for dinner and we started our expedition with a camp classic: pasta and sauce, with frankfurters for some German authenticity. Once we’d eaten and washed up, we wriggled gratefully into our sleeping bags for the first night of our expedition!

TUESDAY – DAY 2

Full of energy on our first proper day of hiking, we awoke bright and early and packed up camp before setting off to walk to our next campsite. When we arrived there six hours later, we definitely weren’t so energetic; the 30°C heat and heavy rucksacks had taken their toll. Not to mention our map, which made the distances look deceptively shorter than in real life. Still, we arrived, set up camp, and got started on working our way through eight ice creams (it was hot, okay?).

We took a break for lunch in a clearing just off the main path

Then it was time to get out the maps and plan the rest of our route, in an attempt to avoid any more 17km days. This was greatly helped by the fact that getting public transport is perfectly fine on an Explorer Belt expedition, as it allows you to see places you might otherwise not have a chance to. It was also at this point that we bought what soon became our most prized possession: a proper map, which actually showed all the paths (it was great). We also made another exciting discovery: the in-country Leaders had been stuck in a traffic jam all day, so we’d actually been travelling faster than they had!

That night we were treated to a ‘mad’ (- Ellie) thunderstorm after the day’s oppressive heat, which was equal parts exhilarating and slightly terrifying.

WEDNESDAY – DAY 3 

The next day saw us change our plans slightly, as Ellie’s injured Achilles tendon meant she couldn’t walk as long distances as we’d originally intended. Thus, we decided it was high time we tried out German public transport, and took the bus south to Ratzeburg. On the way, we discussed several important topics; ‘If I were a slug, I’d much rather be squished by an expensive hiking boot than a Croc’ (- Carina), and how farmers would be the best equipped to survive a zombie apocalypse (I mean, have you seen a combine harvester?).

We arrived in Ratzeburg on the opposite side to the campsite, so hiked through the town. On the way, we did some work towards our major project – ‘To discover more about the history of the German-German border during the Cold War’. We visited an exhibition of artwork by A. Paul Weber, who made time critical prints, and looked round the local history museum, complete with authentic ,,Trabi” car. After also taking a look around the cathedral we continued on to the campsite.

The local museum had an interesting exhibition about the history of the border

This campsite turned out to be right on the banks of Ratzeburg Lake, so what else could we be expected to do other than go for a swim? This provided the chance to complete one of our minor projects, ‘catch a fish’.

A refreshing dip in the lake was just what we needed after a day of travelling

THURSDAY – DAY 4 

The next day we left all our kit on site, and set out with only our little bumbags (thanks, Osprey rucksacks!), with all the essentials. We headed off towards Schlagsdorf, where we visited a museum on the site of the former border, including its outdoor reconstructed border zone and watchtower. We all found it kind of crazy, yet really cool, to be standing where not that long ago people lost their lives trying to flee across the border. The presence of the border also provided an ideal excuse for Ellie’s battered knees, when in reality she’d just managed to trip over her own laces!

The outdoor reconstruction was a poignant reminder of how this area used to be

Having left the museum, we then continued on to the place where the village of Lankow once existed, prior to being destroyed to make way for the border control zone. Once we reached the memorial, we had a snack then turned round for the long walk back to the campsite.

Having arrived back, Zuza and Carina decided to take a swim again, since it was already raining anyway.

FRIDAY – DAY 5 

Day 5 saw us hiking back into Ratzeburg to get the train and bus to Gudow. Gudow, it turns out, is a tiny place in the middle of nowhere which just happens to have a campsite. There was also a church – which was closed – and a supermarket – which was closed. Having checked into the campsite, we again took advantage of the nearby lake – well Carina went swimming and the others just paddled. This campsite had several other luxuries: free showers, an indoor cooking area, charging points – practically the Ritz!

Grey skies are no deterrent where we’re concerned!

SATURDAY – DAY 6 

The next day we discovered that the bus we’d planned to get wasn’t running, so braced ourselves and set off on the 14km walk to Büchen. Three hours later we arrived, and attempted to visit an exhibition about the former border at the Priesterkate – which was closed.

Even we were surprised by the speed with which we powered down this road

Then we continued through the town to the local Scout hall, where we’d arranged to stay overnight. After dumping our stuff and exploring the hall, we headed out again to get ice cream and go shopping. This ice cream turned out to cost 70 cents a scoop, so we each had about five scoops over the course of the afternoon.

You’ll notice a lot of ice cream eating went on during this expedition

Once back at the hall, we began cooking dinner, with various hindrances including a very persistent cat and a downpour of rain. Eventually however, we were able to eat, and very much enjoyed having a roof over our heads for a night.

SUNDAY – DAY 7 

Once again we got up early in the morning, to take the train to Lauenburg. We walked the 30 minutes to the station, very disappointed to see the ice cream shop was closed. We arrived with an hour to spare, giving us plenty of time to figure out the confusing ticket machine.Soon enough, the train arrived and we were on our way.

Lauenburg appeared completely deserted on arrival, even though it was after 10am. We attempted to find the local castle, but the signs directed us to the gardens at the top of a very long, steep series of steps. Having powered up them, we decided we were due a break, and quickly scoffed down an entire pack of biscuits (yes, that’s 32 biscuits, but they were small ones okay?). Eventually we found the castle and climbed to the top of the tower – something that proved to be very difficult with huge rucksacks on.

Next we headed back down to the Elbe, where we thoroughly confused the Tourist Office people and visited the Elbe Maritime Museum, which proved quite entertaining despite being all in German.

The best thing about pictures: no language barrier!

Having exhausted all Lauenburg’s cultural delights, we crossed a bridge over the Elbe and began making our way to the campsite. Our map showed two possible campsites so we first approached the nearest one. This turned out to be a group of random people in motor homes having a party, and we were told it was for private use only. Thus we were forced to carry on to the next campsite, all of us just wanting to get there by now.

Once we arrived an hour later, we collapsed on our little patch of grass. However, our rest was not to last as the heavens soon opened and it began to rain. As Ellie sat nursing her ankle, Carina and Zuza rushed to put up the tent before we all dived gratefully in. A nap later, and we were once again ready for action and got up to cook dinner.

MONDAY – DAY 8 

Day 8 saw us walking once again all the way back to Lauenburg, where we hopped on the bus down the Elbe to Boizenburg. On the outskirts of the town we disembarked to visit the Elbe Flusslandschaft flood exhibit, and attempted to visit the Elbberg museum, which was – you guessed it – closed. (turns out nothing happens on Mondays in Germany). However there was a permanent outdoor display about the former border, which was interesting.

Then we headed in and explored the beautiful old town before walking further on to an old observation tower left over from the border. After heading back into the centre we visited the seriously creepy church and did some more shopping, until the bus arrived to take us back to Lauenburg – a journey that, 30 years earlier, would have taken you to a different country.

Each house had its own private bridge across the river! It was so cool!

Once back in Lauenburg we visited another supermarket in our search for a vital item of sustenance: houmous. Having procured some, we walked 6km back to the campsite and embarked on a ‘houmous adventure’ (- Zuza). One of our minor projects was to create a new houmous flavour based on a local dish, so we mixed currywurst sauce with houmous to create an amazing spicy dip that was quickly gobbled down.

TUESDAY – DAY 9 

The next day saw us rising at 6am to get an early bus – if we missed it, the next one was at 2pm. Having paid our fare we were off, taking the round the houses route to Lüneburg, a city that turned out to be the biggest place we’d visited so far, to the excitement of civilisation-deprived Ellie and Zuza. With such an early arrival, nowhere was open, so we had no choice but to spend two hours sitting in a bakery and eating pastries (it’s a hard life, I know). Once we felt we couldn’t stay there any longer, we began exploring the old town. Constrained by Carina’s strict budgeting, we were unable to actually pay to visit anything. This left us appreciating the exteriors and foyers of several churches, which was as far as you could get before you had to start paying. The search for camp blanket badges led us to many souvenir shops, until we made our way to a park for lunch.

There were plenty of beautiful sights in Lüneburg, completely cost-free!

Having eaten our fill, we set off again to our campsite for the night, stopping off at a supermarket on the way. The campsite turned out to be further than we’d expected (thanks, Ellie!), but eventually we arrived and checked in.

This very fancy campsite even had benches for us to cook at! (A luxury, trust me)

Carina quickly discovered the site’s private lake and promptly went for a swim, before we all made good use of the free showers. Zuza also had a traumatic experience with a slug that we had apparently transported from the previous campsite via the tent, which was amusing for everyone but her.

All hungry after a long day, we got round to making dinner, keeping it traditional with rösti and frankfurters. Soon it was time for bed on the last official night of our expedition!

WEDNESDAY – DAY 10

Day 10 saw us rising early again for the 6km walk to the train station in order to catch a train to Hamburg. Once in Hamburg, we spent an astonishingly long time in a queue to buy coach tickets to Berlin for the following day. Having completed this mission, we headed onto the streets, slightly overwhelmed by the sheer busyness and number of people in what was the biggest place we’d been in since London. Navigating the packed streets was certainly not made any easier by the huge rucksacks that had by now become a part of us.

The delicious smells wafting from a nearby currywurst food stall proved too tempting to resist, so we decided to screw the budget and indulge ourselves – which was definitely worth it!

Mmmm…

We then continued on towards HafenCity, the old-docks-turned-upmarket-housing-and-tourist-attraction area. Ellie and Carina promptly got very excited about geography (deindustrialisation! regeneration!), while Zuza just shook her head in despair. Having rested there for a while (it was crazy hot) we carried on walking along the riverfront until we reached the ,,Alter Elbtunnel”, an old tunnel under the River Elbe whose attraction was the aesthetic interior, cool lift, and lack of entrance fee.

HafenCity was a really lovely area, especially being surrounded by water

We walked the length of the tunnel, then thoroughly confused everyone by turning around and walking straight back the way we’d just come. After reemerging into the light, we began the walk back to the station, stopping off at a supermarket on the way.

We then got the train and bus to Barmbek, the area in Hamburg where we’d arranged a Scout Hall to stay in. Two Leaders from VCP Stamm Astrid Lindgren were there to meet us when we arrived, letting us into their hall and giving us each a badge!

Once they’d left, we explored the very nice hall and got overly excited by the presence of an oven – remember, we’d been cooking on a gas stove for 10 days – the possibilities offered by an oven seemed endless. Naturally we decided that pizza was the way to go. Unfortunately, working the oven proved harder than expected, but soon enough we were indulging in our long-awaited pizza.

We spent the rest of the evening chilling, listening to Carina’s awesome German playlist (not biased at all here), and adding to our logbook.

We were really grateful for being allowed to sleep in the Scout hall!

THURSDAY – DAY 11

For the 11th day of our expedition, we got the train back into central Hamburg, where we boarded the coach to Berlin with much anticipation. Three hours later we pulled up at Berlin Central Bus Station, which turned out not to be very central at all, so we had to get the S-Bahn train to our hostel.

When we arrived at the Heart of Gold Hostel (yes, it’s ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ themed), we were greeted by Leaders Steve and Bradford, our much-appreciated in-country support team. After checking in we headed to our room and got ready to set out to explore Berlin. This ended up taking longer than expected, as we waited for the other team to arrive as well, so we had only two hours to see all the sights.

We’d planned an all-inclusive circular route that would allow us to see all the main tourist spots, so we quickly headed out, conscious of our 7:30pm dinner reservation. As we approached the Reichstag and Brandenburg Gate, it finally sank in that we were actually in Berlin and had completed our expedition after so many months of planning.

We ticked off all the mandatory tourist experiences: got lost in the Holocaust memorial, spent too much money on ice cream, and craned our necks looking up at the Fernsehturm. It proved to be a pretty whistle-stop tour, but we still found time to briefly look at the ‘Topography of Terrors’ exhibition about Berlin’s history in WWII and the Cold War, which was useful for our major project.

It was great to finally see all the sights we had been talking about for so long

Once we returned to the hostel having practically sprinted the last few streets, we headed our again to a nearby restaurant, as Steve had offered to buy us all dinner (thank you!). We all enjoyed tucking in to some classic German dishes and trading expedition stories with the other team.

After eating our fill, we made our way back to the hostel and settled in for the night.

FRIDAY 

The next morning we all packed up our kit again – something made a million times easier by the fact we hadn’t had to take our sleeping kit out. We then made quick work of the buffet breakfast and chatted to some Spanish Scouts that also happened to be staying at the hostel. However it was soon time to be off again. We crammed in a few more sights – the Gedenkstätte Wall Memorial, the East Side Gallery, the Soviet war memorial – before hitting the road again in Steve’s car.

The East Side Gallery is a 1.3km stretch of the Berlin Wall, covered in meaningful artwork and graffiti

Several hours and some complicated satnav-ing later, we were pulling into DPSG Bundeszentrum Westernohe, a German national Scout campsite near Cologne, where we stayed overnight to break up the long drive back to London. Luckily the rain ended as we pulled up, giving us dry skies under which to pitch camp and cook dinner.

For our last night in Germany, we decided to end on our expedition classic of rösti and frankfurters, while the Leaders earned our disapproval by slapping together some bread and cheese and calling it a meal.

We could hear the sounds of raucous Scouts coming from elsewhere on site, so decided to go and investigate. This proved to be DPSG Stamm Arche-Iserlohn Nußberg, who invited us to join their evening game. Through a mixture of German, English, and interpretive hand gestures we also traded scarves and badges, before returning to our camp to sleep.

It was lovely to meet some German Scouts

SATURDAY

On Saturday morning we awoke with a mixture of anticipation for returning home and sadness at the end of an amazing trip. Now pros at it, we quickly took down the tent and packed our bags. While drinking our breakfast hot chocolate, we received a visit from our new German Scout friends, which was really nice.

All the German Scouts were super friendly!

Soon enough we were on the road again, slightly mind-blown at finally putting ‘Scout Park’ in the satnav after so long in Germany. As if on a mission to visit as many countries as possible, we drove through Germany, Holland, Belgium and France in quick succession, before arriving back at Calais for the ferry home. After finally getting through passport control we drove onto the ferry and walked up to the top deck to say goodbye to Europe and get in some last minute GoPro-ing.

It was with mixed emotions that we watched France fade behind us

Having crossed the Channel, we continued the drive back to Scout Park, where we pulled up with ‘Mr Blue Sky’ blaring and were greeted by Marlon and Annie. We agreed that as Scout Park is our communal home and no Scout trip ever really ends until you’re back there, it was necessary to take a group photo in front of the gates. This completed, our expedition was finally over.

We had an amazing time doing our Explorer Belt in Germany, and loved learning so much more about its history and culture. We are also hugely grateful to Steve, Marlon and Bradford for all their help in organising it, and for being our in-country support. It wouldn’t have been possible without them!

– Ellie & the Twirl Bites

Keep an eye out for our expedition video, and for our next adventure!

Our Scottish Summer Camp – Edinburgh

And now, time for our fourth and final summer camp blog post! Having spent eight days roughing it in Loch Lomond, Glen Nevis, and the Cairngorms, we spent the last two days of camp in Edinburgh, appreciating the relatively better weather and the chance for some down time at the Fringe Festival.

SATURDAY

On Saturday morning we packed up for the penultimate time before we set out to our final outdoor activity, river tubing. When we arrived we were given yet another wetsuit to squeeze into, but this time a dry one! A pleasant surprise for us after the last couple of days in the sodden Cairngorms.

For those of you that have never experienced it, river tubing basically involves sitting in an inflatable rubber ring and floating downstream through rapids.The river was fast and enjoyable and we even got another chance to jump into the water, a throwback to the canyoning day. Some of the rapids were slightly more drastic than others and on the last there was a choice of routes, requiring some frantic paddling to get to the most fun one (also the one with guaranteed falling in, naturally). Following this we all attempted a group photo, hanging onto the banks by the tips of our fingers and trying to make sure everyone was facing the right way, despite still being pulled downstream by the current.

 

After leaving the river and changing back into normal clothes we returned to Aviemore for lunch at a local chippy and a quick browse of the local outdoor shops and their summer sales (I mean, who can’t resist bargain hiking kit?). And then we drove on again, heading to our last location: Bonaly Scout Centre in Edinburgh.

We arrived at our campsite where a pleasant surprise was waiting; Marlon had arranged for us to sleep inside in a hall rather than in our wet tents. The amount of relief expressed at this revelation resembled the kind of hysteria that only nine days of permanently damp kit can bring. With the sun putting in a welcome appearance, we moved quickly to lay kit out to dry before heading out to Edinburgh for dinner in a Mexican restaurant.

Us civilisation-deprived Explorers were then released into central Edinburgh on what happened to be the first night of the Fringe Festival, which at that time unfortunately seemed to consist mostly of 18+ events, so we just enjoyed our time wandering around the city before heading back to camp for our last night in Scotland.

SUNDAY

The early morning was spent sorting out group kit, packing tents and cleaning cooking equipment. Soon everything was packed onto the buses and we were on our way back into Edinburgh. Another morning was spent wandering around, exploring markets and festivals across the city, before we headed to a show found by one of our Leaders, Annie. ‘The Men with Coconuts’ provided a fantastic improvised comedy show that the entire Unit can now strongly recommend. The performers used audience suggestions to map out sketches, before wrapping up with “Godzilla goes to the Disco – The Musical”, an impressive show of spontaneous musical talent.

We then picked up lunch, loaded onto the buses and the long long drive home began. This drive followed the same trend as the many others, with equal parts sleeping, singing, and eating. We stopped infrequently, however we did visit the Angel of the North en route for a mandatory group photo. As the hours slowly added up and the skies darkened, the minibus playlists became more and more creative, with one bus engaging in an enthusiastic ‘Lion King’ sing-a-long. We also slowly became aware of what returning home fully entailed, and the remembrance of summer coursework and revision soon had us all pleading to turn round and head back to Scotland.

Eventually, we arrived back at the familiar gates of Scout Park, where all the kit was efficiently unpacked and, with a final farewell from the Leaders, camp was dismissed.

As always with a Scout camp, several thank yous are in order. We are hugely grateful to the Team Leaders who kept camp running smoothly, to all the drivers that sped us on our way, and especially to the Leaders themselves for organising and running such an amazing camp – we certainly won’t be forgetting it for a while!

– Written by the Explorers

Our Scottish Summer Camp – the Cairngorms

We spent two days of our summer camp in the Cairngorms, exploring the local area and going wild camping. This is the third post in our summer camp blog, so to catch up on what has happened so far, check out our Loch Lomond and Glen Nevis posts. Make sure to also keep an eye out for the last post, all about our escapades in Edinburgh!

THURSDAY 

This morning was surprisingly one of the most relaxed we had had on camp so far. As so much of wild camping is reliant on weather, especially in the Cairngorms, we had decided to wait until the morning before deciding on teams and plans for the next two days. Three teams decided to brave the plateau, despite the warnings of extremely varied weather conditions. The rest of the Unit was to stay at camp. After we had decided on a plan, the action began; shopping trolleys were loaded with obscene amounts of carbohydrate and rucksacks were packed with kit, before we finally set off into the hills, each person wrapped in as much waterproof material as they could find.

The warnings about the changeable conditions didn’t do them justice – five minutes into the hike the same rain that had tried its very hardest to penetrate our layers had completely disappeared, forcing us to remove as many layers as we could as quickly as possible before the weather changed its mind. Two groups started a gradual ascent up to the summit of Ben Macdui over the next few hours, with the weather still undecided as to whether it wanted to soak us or overheat us. Meanwhile, another group started by summiting Cairn Gorm, then continuing on to Ben Macdui, the highest point in the mountain range.

Arriving at Loch Etchachan, we found the ground to be a combination of tufts of lumpy grass and bog, definitely not what you want when trying to pitch a tent. The horizontal rain didn’t help, distorting our tents into unnatural shapes and making sure both them and us were as wet as possible. A solution to the tents being blown away was found by placing large rocks onto pegs and guy lines. From the porches of our tents, we had a great view of cloud but entertainment was not thin on the ground – as well as the joys of stove TV (basically just watching your stove as it burns) and seeing people haphazardly run for the cover of their tents on the return from a toilet trip, we were treated with an amazing up close encounter with some wild reindeer. A warm dinner was cooked in the porch of the tents, Chef Esme making an appearance and cooking ravioli with a tomato and basil sauce, extremely welcome to all.

While those who were going wild camping set off on their adventures, the more injured of the Unit were left at camp to find something in the nearby area to do. As we were in a pretty remote area this proved to be harder than we thought, with everything being either outdoors or far too expensive. Eventually it was decided we would visit the Highland Folk Museum, where we ate some very nice ice cream, saw different houses from throughout the history of the Scottish Highlands and met some guys in kilts throwing weights in a traditional Scottish manner.

FRIDAY

The next morning the Explorers out wild camping woke up in the morning to rain still lashing threateningly at the sides of the tents, and wet boots which were tentatively pulled onto feet that had only just got properly dry. Soggy tents were stuffed into rucksacks and after another reindeer encounter we set off, craving the relative comfort of the main camp. One group decided to trade off kilometres for metres of ascent, hopping up and over the hills instead of going round them, gaining 500m in just a couple hours – unfortunately despite our efforts and much puffing and panting, the cloud we were submerged in managed to obscure any view we may have had – before dropping off down a ridge down to the car park where Phil was waiting for us with the minibus. At the same time, two other groups made their way along the side of Loch Avon, slogging it down a route that was more obstacle course than path.

Those that stayed at camp were treated to a nice lie in (a 9am alarm!), before they gathered themselves together and headed to Loch Morlich, a beautiful loch located close to our campsite. Here we went for a little walk along its shores and through the bordering woodland, before finding a quiet spot to sit and chat (and make sand turtles). Soon enough we heard that our wild campers had started to return and so headed back to the minibuses slightly sandy and rather happy.

Back at camp everyone showered, collected wet kit, and attempted to dry off as much of their stuff as possible, before getting ready for a whole Unit barbecue. This barbecue provided a welcome opportunity for some down time, and we took the opportunity to invest Esperanza into the Unit, before she returns home to Chile in September. We also discovered a great new game, tent tetris, trying to coordinate the sleeping arrangements so that all the Explorers were in dry tents. Eventually, everyone found a relatively dry place to set up their sleeping kit, and we were all soon fast asleep.

– Written by the Explorers

Our Scottish Summer Camp – Glen Nevis

This is our second summer camp blog post, detailing our adventures in and around Glen Nevis and Fort William. To hear about what we got up to near Loch Lomond, check out our last post, and make sure to stay tuned for the next two instalments, to hear about the rest of our time in Scotland!

MONDAY

On Monday, our time at Loch Lomond was sadly up, and we all woke ridiculously early to take down camp. We’d just gotten all our kit into the van when the heavens opened (again…), resulting in a mad scramble to get on the minibuses. Soon we were on the road again, heading to McLaren Leisure Centre for the day, and eventually Glen Nevis for our next campsite.

Once we arrived at the Leisure Centre, we quickly changed into sporty clothing and still slightly soggy trainers from Saturday’s watersports. We started with a Leaders versus Patrol Leaders game of laser tag, although unfortunately the technology broke before it could tell us about the inevitable victory of the PLs. Climbing and table tennis were also on offer, with some of our more experienced climbers scrambling up the walls with no hesitation and some off the newer ones getting a nice opportunity to develop their skills.

After a short lunch, we entered the sports hall to play football, basketball and badminton. This soon got very competitive, despite nothing more than everyone’s pride being at stake. Everyone worked up quite a sweat, so we followed this with a refreshing swim, which soon turned into messing around on the inflatables and racing (this is WWESU we’re talking about, after all…).

Next, everyone took advantage of the showers to clean off the accumulated layers of Scout camp dirt, before heading back to the minibuses for the drive to Fort William, where we did some more shopping. Having stocked up on the essentials (houmous, wraps, chocolate biscuits…) we returned to the buses and completed the short drive to Glen Nevis campsite, where we would spend the next few days camping at the foot of Ben Nevis.

TUESDAY

Tuesday presented us with a series of opportunities: tackle Ben Nevis, hike to Steall Falls, or spend the day chilling in Fort William. Eight of us decided to take on Ben Nevis, braving the weather forecast of constant rain. Having committed ourselves to this challenge, we gathered up the necessary kit and made sure we were all fully waterproofed. We then set off, striding up the steep path with typical WWESU determination. This soon proved hard work, the rain turning the trail into a makeshift stream.

Once further up the path, we were again presented with another decision: to take the easier but less interesting route, or the more challenging Carn Mor Dearg arête. The arête was soon found to provide a more stimulating hike for all involved, and therefore we headed in the opposite direction to the route taken by pretty much everyone else on the mountain, making our way to the CIC hut. The majority of the altitude was gained by clambering up a 45 degree slope to reach a height of approximately 1100m. This brought us up to the ridge, where the rapidly shifting mist allowed us brief views of the valley from which we had just come. Eventually we reached the end of the arête, leaving us with only another steep clamber up to the summit. Thanks to Leader Tom’s excellent navigation, we soon reached our goal, and stopped for a well-deserved snack.

Unfortunately, we hadn’t managed to time our visit with one of the 10 days a year on which a clear view from the summit of Ben Nevis is possible, so we weren’t treated to a view of the surroundings. However, we did all appreciate the great sense of achievement that reaching the summit gave us, especially in defiance of the poor weather. We soon pressed on, just as the rain started again, using the handily placed cairns to guide us off the summit. We decided that, partially obscured by mist, these cairns either resembled robed Jedi or super creepy women (think ‘Woman in Black’ kind of style). After a while we rejoined the track that we had left earlier and made our way down the hill, as the rain really started up in earnest. As we staggered back into camp on achy feet, weighed down by sodden waterproofs, we were buoyed up by the thought of the warm dinner awaiting us and a sense of pride in our achievement.

While that determined group gathered their efforts for the trek up Ben Nevis, the rest of us sought a more chilled rest day and decided on a short walk up the Glen Nevis valley to Steall Falls, the second largest waterfall in Scotland. After a short stop for lunch where we enjoyed the staggering view of the 120m falls, it began to rain and we decided to risk getting a little wetter by crossing the river to take a closer look at the base of the falls. To cross the water, we took the Steall bridge, consisting of a single wire for your feet as well as two supports to hold onto as you walk. Once we had all precariously crossed the river we followed the mud that we assumed was some kind of path – wading at times and occasionally losing shoes – until we reached the base of the falls. Water crashed violently around us, the struggle to stay dry having been abandoned a long time ago.

When everyone was ready to leave, we followed the river until it was a little shallower and slower, where we struggled across – if anyone had managed to keep their boots dry up until that point, this soon changed. After several soggy river crossings and a charming walk down the hill we arrived back at camp. Some of us were then driven into Fort William where we hit the outdoor shops. Many bargain hunters went in search of the fluffiest fleeces and warmest base layers… It was a very snuggly group of Explorers who returned to camp later that evening for a quick dinner and cake before bed.

WEDNESDAY 

Wednesday brought a morning of sunshine to our previously grey trip. We packed up camp and bundled bleary-eyed into the minibuses and headed to the Glen Nevis Highland Centre, where the Leaders treated us all to a much-need cooked breakfast. Having eaten our fill, we got back into the buses and drove to Vertical Descents on the River Inchree where we were greeted by the friendly canyoning instructors. After putting on wetsuits, harnesses, buoyancy aids, helmets and shoes we walked up to the head of the canyon, slipping and sliding in the bog along the way.

The waterfalls at the start of the canyon were spectacular, and we were all mesmerised and terrified by the water. The instructors guided us through a series of slides, climbs, swims and jumps. The adrenaline rush jumping off a ten-meter-high cliff and into white water was both sickening and amazing. Almost everybody shied away from the cliff edge but the wonderful instructors coaxed us over the drop and nobody regretted it.

We hurried back to get changed and shovel down some lunch before hopping into minibuses and driving to the via ferrata which was also run by Vertical Descents. Via ferratas – ‘iron road’ for those of you that don’t speak Latin – are climbing routes that follow metal rings, staples and bridges driven into a cliff. The via ferrata we climbed was next to a waterfall and went 110 metres up the cliff face, managing to be both terrifying and awe-inspiring.

The rings made for easy climbing and yet again the instructors were energetic, leap frogging over us and feeding us edible plants from the side of the cliff. Unfortunately, half way up the drizzle set in but the view was still astounding. After reaching the top we scrambled through the bracken down the hill back to Vertical Descents where the Leaders had hot fish and chips ready for us, which we ate in the minibuses.

Soon we were back on the road again, heading up to the Cairngorms National Park. Most of us took the opportunity for a quick nap, so we awoke at Bagaduish Activity Centre to the dark shapes of the Cairngorm mountains. Finally, we set up tents and crashed exhausted into our sleeping bags.

– Written by the Explorers

Our Scottish Summer Camp – Loch Lomond

Last week the Unit took on one of its most complicated and intense summer camps yet: a 10-day tour of Scotland, travelling to Loch Lomond, Glen Nevis, the Cairngorms and Edinburgh. We took part in a huge range of activities, from mountain biking and water-skiing to hiking and wild camping, which came together to make an experience that we’ll never forget. This blog post details our adventures in and around Loch Lomond, and the rest of our travels will be told in instalments throughout the next week, so watch this space to hear the full story!

FRIDAY 

It was a cool, dark morning as we arrived at Scout Park at a time far too early to be reasonable. As the Explorers dribbled in, the van was packed, the minibuses loaded, and we soon set off. The drive was a long one, but musical soundtracks were a key feature throughout the journey, proving invaluable in keeping spirits high.

11 hours and a shopping trip to Glasgow’s Tesco later, we arrived at our campsite, situated right on the banks of Loch Lomond. After a speedy setting up of tents, tarps and Trangias, we gratefully headed off to bed, both apprehensive and excited for the nine days to come.

SATURDAY 

We woke up with expectations of a beautiful sunrise, only to have our hopes quashed by the dreaded rain. A game of Camp Cluedo was initiated: each person gets a victim, a place and murder weapon – usually a GoPro, tent peg, or some other article of essential Scouting equipment – and has to ‘kill’ their victim by giving it to them in the designated place, by the end of camp.

We drove a little way around the loch to our activities base. Two teams were on watersports in the morning, while the other two went mountain biking. Cycling around provided some excellent views of the loch and surrounding hills, despite the constant presence of the rain, and we didn’t even get a puncture (luckily for one team, none of whom knew how to fix one!). For watersports one group had a chance to go water-skiing and the other stand-up paddleboarding, so they had a lot of fun trying out some new activities. Plus, the rain greatly reduced the damage caused by falling in, as we were all pretty wet anyway!

With everyone returning to the base in various states of dampness under a rain streaked and windy sky, the minibuses were the lunch spot of choice. After lunch the groups were swapped, with some doing mountain biking and the others kayaking. The kayakers paddled around, not afraid of capsizing and getting wet (as many people quickly did). From watching us, an observer would be forgiven to thinking our aim was in fact to get as wet as possible. One of our most interesting finds was a half-sunken bench, and the photo opportunities this offered were too good to pass by.

Having exhausted all the bench-related photo options, we set off again and speedily arrived at an island which looked like it had been plucked out of ‘Swallows and Amazons’. After some exploring and another group photo, we clambered back into our kayaks and returned to the shore. With the day’s rain not proving enough for some, we once again plunged into the loch, before returning for dinner at camp.

SUNDAY

Another not so dry start as we manoeuvred our way out of our sleeping bags, ready for a day at Go Ape in Aberfoyle. We all enjoyed being monkeys for a day, swinging around the course and throwing ourselves down zip wires, all while maintaining a tight grip on the Unit GoPros that we’d been entrusted with. The final zip wire provided an amazing view of the valley, if you dared look down!

We had a brief lunch before heading back a little way in the minibuses to be dropped off for an incident hike back to camp, organised by Leaders Bradford and Kamran. At different stages on our hike we engaged in a series of excellent challenges, re-enacting duels near castles, dancing crazily, and adapting several ‘Lord of the Rings’ scenes (watch this space to see all this in our final video!).

Worn out by all the energetic dancing, we were very much ready to eat dinner when we finally arrived back at camp. Later, we gathered under the Leaders’ tarp to perform our final challenge, a poem about the Leaders, all of which had the Unit in hysterics. And then time for the results: Leah’s team won!

The day was also rather eventful with regards to our ongoing Camp Cluedo game, as Ross became the Unit’s most successful serial killer after making four ‘kills’ in quick succession. After all the exertions of the day, we were grateful to soon head off to bed.

– Written by the Explorers

#youthled: Warm Up Camp 2017

When Marlon first suggested that our next camp be led by Explorers, we thought it sounded a bit crazy. Then he clarified that this meant there wouldn’t be any Leaders there at all, and we knew it was a bit crazy.

Our Warm Up for Summer Camp camp – as well as being a bit of a mouthful – is a mixture of chilling after exams and a dry run for our actual summer camp, which will be in Scotland this year. However, it turned out that only two of the seven Patrol Leaders were going to be there, so it fell to Carina and Esme to plan and run the camp.

To save on the stress of trying to put the jurte up in the dark, we ferried all the kit up to Thriftwood Scout Camp on Thursday evening, making for a nice laid back Friday night set up. We discovered that the LONG walk to the toilet block was well worth it for the picturesque pitch.

On Friday evening we navigated the chaos that is taking 18 rucksack-laden teenagers on the London Underground to take the train up to Thriftwood. We’d scarcely arrived at our site before getting the call that our Tesco delivery had arrived, leading to a mad dash back to the entrance to collect our food. We sadly discovered that the car battery we were going to be using as a power source had managed to break overnight, meaning that we were unable to power WWESU’s extensive collection of fairy lights – the sole purpose of taking the battery in the first place. After putting up all the tents and having a much-needed cake snack, we headed off to bed.

Wary of the threatening rain that had fallen during the night, we were relieved to see a cheerful sun on Saturday morning as one team got up to prepare breakfast. After flag break, the day started with a round of on-site activities, from bouldering to some competitive pedal car races.

Then it was time for perhaps our most complicated activity, tie dye T-shirts. Having consulted many different sets of instructions, we decided on a fool-proof method: dip the T-shirts in the dye and hope for the best.

We mixed up a few sachets of brightly coloured dye and found our hoard of elastic bands. Once everyone had scrunched their white T-shirts into interesting shapes, we all started the dying process, managing to get plenty of dye on both the material and ourselves. After the T-shirts had soaked for what was hopefully long enough, we took them out and wrapped them in clingfilm to save until Sunday. We also took the chance to do the same to Marlon’s new bedsheets, that he’d for some reason trusted us to dye – naturally, we chose the brightest combinations of colours possible.

As could be expected from a pair of committed DT students, Max and Lawrence had arrived back from one of the earlier activities clutching a large length of what appeared to be skirting board, requisitioned from the wood pile, and claiming they were going to make a bench. This they promptly got down to, while Ned’s team made lunch.

Saturday afternoon consisted of several games to provide a chance for each team to try and gain a lead in the ongoing inter-team competition that was running throughout the weekend. Having been successfully worn out by an energetic day, everyone had some down time before dinner.

Our excellent dinner crew then prepared a delicious barbecue on the jurte fire, while the now-finished (and very impressive) pioneered bench was put to the test by several hungry Explorers. We were treated to a quick visit from Leader Phil, who turned up on his motorbike suspiciously just in time for a burger, checked we were all still fine, then headed back to London.

Having eaten dinner and done flag down, we headed to the Thriftwood campfire, where everyone got involved in some campfire songs (especially the penguin song – what a classic). After leaving the campfire, we made our way back to our site, where we started up our own campfire. We decided this was the perfect opportunity to treat some of the newer Explorers to Wild Wolf’s impressive repertoire of campfire songs and sketches (needless to say, buckets of water were involved…). It was great to see everyone getting involved in singing along, whether it was to ‘Oh Sir Jasper’, ‘Kumbaya’, or the mandatory round of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Similarly, everyone had a go at an inventive round of charades. We then had a few minutes of quite reflection, before getting off to bed.

Esme and Carina decided that being in charge of 16 teenagers wasn’t quite adventurous enough, so made the decision to sleep in the jurte instead of their tent. All was peaceful until they were woken at around 3am by a shifty-looking magpie intent on stealing our food. After protecting our precious bread with a trusty camp blanket, they quickly fell back asleep.

A few more hours of sleep later, we awoke to the team leaders getting ready to prepare breakfast around us, making good time with a great breakfast to start the day. An excess of yoghurt pots led to some very competitive yoghurt eating from Max and Ned.

After flag break we rolled up our sleeves and began rinsing the tie dye T-shirts, to the sound of a classic ABBA playlist on our portable speaker. Once the water was running clear there was an excited scramble to unwrap various elastic bands and see how the patterns had come out – very nicely, for the most part.

We rigged up a washing line to hang up the T-shirts (not to mention Marlon’s bedsheets) and stoked the fire. While some of us engaged in a little friendly water fighting, those who preferred to stay dry engaged in a traditional round of Shiniest Dixie, leaving Ned’s team victorious in the inter-team competition.

The lunch crew then began to prepare fajitas for lunch, after coercing Esme and Carina off for some ‘relaxation time’. Some of those not involved in cooking lunch then began a game of volleyball over the conveniently placed washing line. During lunch, Ned continued in his mission to down 1kg of yoghurt in shots of 55g.

After a lovely lunch, and with our stomachs full of fajitas we began to prepare for the end of camp. As kit was packed and tents came down the sound of some classic Year 6 disco hits could be heard drifting from our portable speaker. Everyone pulled together to take the jurte down – taking great care to not let it touch the floor! – and pack the car (shout out to Chris for driving all our kit home to Scout Park). Then there was just time for flag down and a quick group photo before we were on our way to the train station.

And so we arrived back in Bounds Green at the end of a chilled out weekend, tired but satisfied, and having given the Sunday afternoon commuters a true display of youth-led Scouting.

A big thanks to all the team leaders for helping keep everything running smoothly, and to Emily, Max and Tilly for taking on their extra roles of responsibility!

– Carina & Esme 

Terrain 1 Hill Walking Permits

After lots of kit preparation and various pieces of paperwork (last minute for some!), the nine Explorers and Leaders who were being assessed to lead hill walking were ready to leave. We started the long drive up to Bethesda in Snowdonia – a place we all know and love! Once we had arrived many hours later, we headed straight off to bed knowing we had a long day of walking ahead of us.

The next morning we awoke to the smell of a cooked breakfast – much appreciated by all present – and after making sure we had the appropriate kit with us, set off into the hills for the start of our assessment.

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Marlon’s group started off with some micro-navigation, which tested their ability to navigate a group through low visibility conditions. Some of these short legs proved to be a little trickier than others as Dave was told to navigate his way to a point between two blades of grass. Despite this, the group was still successful in meeting the targets in a rather featureless landscape. As well as learning lots about hill walking and navigation, we also discovered where the jelly-monsters of Snowdonia live; they rise up to the surface after rainfall causing some rather unstable boggy ground.

– Bradford, Kamran, Ross & Dave

Meanwhile, Stuart’s group was practicing their general navigation combined with some group management. This involved navigating our way through various features that may or may not have existed, as well as being able to keep track of where we were without being told where had just been or where we were headed. Throughout our walk up to the summit of Drosgl, we encountered wildlife such as carnivorous sundew flowers, cotton grass and lots of sheep – unfortunately, not all alive.

– Leah, Simpson, John & Alex

At lunch, we switched groups and continued honing in on the skills we knew as well as learning lots more: handrailing, boxing and catching features being a few of the many techniques we were using. After a few more hours out on the hill, both groups headed back to the hostel for dinner and naps (or very important jigsaw puzzles for some) before our long-awaited night navigation assessment.

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Hearing rain hammering down on the roof of the hostel confirmed what we had read earlier on the forecast and, as 10pm approached, everyone layered up with fleeces and full waterproofs in preparation for the weather conditions we had been dreading. However, on arriving at our starting destination the rain had stopped. Everyone was already overheating and had to strip off a few layers before continuing on. Contrary to expectations, the sky was relatively clear and host to a beautiful sunset over the Welsh landscape – meaning we didn’t actually have to use our headtorches for about another half an hour!

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In a similar fashion to the morning, we split into two groups and began navigating short legs in a combination of pairs, groups and individually. Although still a challenging activity, everyone enjoyed themselves more than they thought they might have and even though it was our assessment we learnt a lot. Along with the surprise of the amazing weather conditions, both groups came across toads and frogs and one group was even accosted with strange green lasers being shone from a nearby house. After a rigorous four hours of night navigation, we were collected and driven back to the hostel where we all tucked into the cheeseboard Marlon had provided. Some may argue that our priorities are little skewed but cheese always comes first. Even at 2am. (This is one of the first things new members of WWESU will learn.)

The next morning while packing up we were called in to have our individual debriefings with one of the assessors. Everyone passed, and we were all given some great pointers for where to go next! Soon after we were ready to leave, so we loaded up the minibus and made our way down the winding Welsh roads towards Betws-y-Coed – one of Wild Wolf’s favourite post-camp lunch spots. The following few hours were spent browsing various outdoor stores, eating ice cream and relaxing by the river. Unlike the previous day, a conscious effort was made to stay protected from the surprisingly bright sun. We finally piled back into the minibus and headed back to London, all exhausted from the challenging weekend but very happy, with more knowledgeable T1 Hillwalking permit holders in the Unit – just in time for Summer Camp.

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Cake with the Twirl Bites

Some time back in August, Ellie, Zuza and I (Carina) decided to do the  Explorer Belt Award – a ten day hike in a foreign country. As the planning got going, we realised something pretty big: we were going to have to finance this trip somehow… cue the fundraising!

Our plan was to hold a cake sale on the street and see what we could make. Having all rushed home from school on Friday to mass-produce baked goods, we turned up this morning at Crouch End clutching bags of cake-filled tupperware and lugging a folding table. We soon found out we’d missed something pretty key: this weekend was the launch of the Crouch End Festival, the UK’s largest community arts festival. While this would mean plenty of customers, we weren’t sure how the organisers would react to us encroaching on their turf! A quick chat and a wave of a Scout scarf later, and everything was sorted: so long as we kept out the way of the WI, we could stay.

We quickly got set up by the bus stop – always good for potential customers – and lay out our wares. Ranging from stacks of lemon curd muffins and exotic raspberry cupcakes to cheerful gingerbread men and super-gooey brownies, we definitely had something for everyone – or we would have had, if there weren’t so many people that insisted on sticking to their diets!

Trade quickly picked up as the streets got more and more busy. Wary of appearing like a stereotypical phone-obsessed teenager, I hid behind the table to publicise our cake sale on the WWESU social media. As normal, we got the usual amount of questions about who exactly we were – Brownies? Girl Guides? Nope, Explorer Scouts.

We also witnessed the repeated struggle between parent and child as to whether cake would be bought or not, which usually takes the form of:

Us: Would you like to buy some cake?

Parent: No, thanks.

Child: YES. YES. CAKE. YES. (until parent reluctantly gives in)

Pretty soon we were running out of stock. The sun, which until then had been hiding behind a conveniently placed tree, now chose to make an appearance. We watched in dismay as Ellie’s beautiful raspberry buttercream melted into bright pink sludge, leading to the solemn sacrifice of two cupcakes to the bin (luckily most of them had been sold by then). Several gingerbread men had lost limbs as a result of tragic accidents, so also had to be sacrificed – although this time to a much worthier cause: the tireless Explorers behind the stall!

At around 2pm, four hours after we started, we decided to call it a day as our once highly aesthetic stall had diminished with each sale, until only two muffins were left – a much less inviting display. Trying not to look too shifty, we quickly counted our takings and concluded that we had made a respectable profit, which would go a long way towards financing our expedition in the summer!

– Carina

To stay up-to-date on how our Explorer Belt is getting on, follow Wild Wolf on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, and keep an eye out for #twirlbitesontour!