Fireworks 2017: Our 9th Annual Display

It’s 4pm on Saturday. The gates are about to open for the biggest event in our calendar: our annual community fireworks display. The stalls are all set up, Scout Park is buzzing with activity, and hundreds of tea lights have been lit. Months of preparation and hard work have culminated in this one evening, with record numbers of visitors expected and record numbers of volunteers involved in the event.

“Well done to Wild Wolf ESU for their fantastic fireworks display tonight.”

For the Unit’s Explorers and Leaders, the set up began on Wednesday night, carrying on right up until the actual event on Saturday. Our six teams of Explorers all had their part to play, from coordinating sound and lighting for the entire site, to making sure all our kit was kept ship-shape.

“Congrats Wild Wolf ESU for a fantastic firework display. Great organisation & advert for UK Scouting.”

When Friday night came, the entire Unit could be found at Scout Park, putting up gazebos, unrolling extension leads, and painting signs. Soon enough we’d made a significant dent in the long list of tasks needed to prepare the site, and after a quick dinner and briefing we headed off to the dorms to get some much-needed sleep before the big day.

“Thanks for the great night!”

In the morning it was once again all hands on deck, with more volunteers arriving to help set up. The morning also brought the dreaded rain, but this proved no obstacle to us dedicated Explorers, who just donned waterproofs and carried on regardless. Although we did keep our fingers crossed for dry skies later during the actual display!

“A fantastic show run completely by volunteers and young people.”

Around lunchtime we were excited to welcome Aimee-Lee and Dave from Scouting Magazine. They were given a site tour by the Publicity Team, before chatting to a few of the Explorers about the event and what Scouting means for them. It was great to have them here and we hope they enjoyed seeing how important a youth-led approach is to us!

“Great fireworks display tonight courtesy of Wild Wolf ESU.”

After lunch we had an influx of Scouts from other Units, all having volunteered to run stalls such as Toffee Apples and Candyfloss. They quickly got their stalls set up, unpacked their wares, and plugged in their fairy lights. With 4pm gradually drawing nearer, we had a briefing for all the volunteers and stewards, then changed into uniform and assumed our positions.

“Lovely child-friendly fireworks – my daughter loved the marshmallow toasting on fire and singing around the fire.”

As the clocks hit 4pm we opened the gates and started inviting in lots of families, including hundreds of Under-6s! The event quickly swung into motion, with songs echoing around the campfire circle, burgers sizzling on the barbecue, and marshmallows being toasted on the fire.

“Fantastic atmosphere at Wild Wolf ESU fireworks event.”

This event was only made possible by the 217 people who gave up their time to volunteer at the event, including 87 young people aged under 18. A few of these amazing volunteers have written about their role in the event below:

“I was part of the Hot Food team, meaning that I was making and selling food like burgers and hot dogs. The station was set up in three parts; there was the ‘cooking’ section where the food would be cooked by adult volunteers, then the ‘making’ section where the newly cooked food would be packaged inside a wrap, bun or roll along with some salad. Finally there was the ’till’ section where all the visitors could buy their freshly made food. We were selling constantly throughout the night, keeping all of us pretty busy, but in the end it was a great experience and I’m very happy with what we achieved.” – Gabriel, WWESU Explorer

“My boys loved it! We will be back next year.”

“I had a great time helping to run Network’s waffle stall. We were selling non-stop the entire time and it was really nice to see so many people enjoying themselves at the event. I can’t wait for next year!” – Amy, North London Network

“Great Fireworks tonight, well done to all of your Scouts!”

“It was incredible to see how all the effort we put into Fireworks came together to produce an excellent event for around 4,000 people! We began the weekend with a Friday night of hard yet rewarding work, and I then passed Saturday morning in the kitchen, preparing all the food necessary for the many stalls. The rest of the afternoon was spent getting ready for our own stalls, in my case: marshmallow toasting. We lit a bonfire and waited until the first visitors arrived. The night was amazing, selling marshmallows, talking to customers and telling stories round the campfire. The overall feel of the event wasn’t just of a display, but of different groups within the community coming together to provide a wonderful evening for our guests.” – Jonah, WWESU Explorer

“Loved the marshmallow toasting, thank you!”

“It was really great to see how hard-working all the Explorers were. Those on the Hot Drinks stall with us were enthusiastic, organised, and level-headed throughout the evening. A big well done to everyone involved in the event!” – Barrie, parent volunteer

“Amazing evening! Well done to Wild Wolf ESU for the organisation + to all the other incredible Explorers & Leaders from across North London Scout District”

“After spending the last day and a half scurrying up ladders, ruthlessly cable-tying, and playing the classic game of ‘guess the length of the coiled cable’, by the time 4pm came around we were ready for the event. Having set up camp in the info tent, the three of us (Leah, Eddie and I) were responsible for co-ordinating sound, lighting and answering questions from the public. We discovered Eddie’s hidden announcer persona, (a suave, charismatic tone well suited to missing persons appeals) and took pleasure in watching everyone enjoy the evening. Well done to the whole of the Production Team and a special thanks to Peter, Shaun and Phil for their valuable support.” – Lawrence, WWESU Explorer & Production Team member

“Thank you, see you next year!”

“A huge thank you for a wonderful double fireworks run by WWESU – our funds are now well-boosted by selling popcorn!” – Donald, King’s Cross ESU Leader

“Massive congratulations to all Wild Wolf ESU for their fireworks event. WWESU’s young people are a huge credit to Scouting.”

“For the Publicity Team, there wasn’t much manual labour to be done, but we definitely had a few challenges of our own. Marlon tasked us with filming, editing and finishing a full length video of Fireworks to be shown at midnight on the Saturday. This meant that between filming, taking photos and tweeting/instagramming/facebooking we had to make sure that footage was being downloaded and edited whilst more footage was being shot. And, as you might expect, there was a lot of footage! Although to everyone doing all the heavy lifting it must have looked like we were having a lovely relaxing time with our Twirl Bites and mince pies, let me assure you, it was the total opposite. Making sure that all the content we got was good and that everything being posted was relevant, while simultaneously editing, was an experience of its own. That being said, being on the Publicity for such a huge event was a lot of fun, and especially rewarding when the whole Unit got to enjoy the fruit of our labours at the end of the night.” – Ellie, WWESU Explorer & Publicity Team member

Completed just before midnight on Saturday, this video shows exactly how special our fireworks display is. Take a look below to see for yourself!

We’d also like to take this opportunity to say a huge thanks to all the volunteers – young and old, Scouts and non-Scouts – who gave up their time to make this event possible.

And now, time for one last thank you – to all the guests who came to our Fireworks Display! Your support means so much to all of us here at Wild Wolf ESU. The money raised from the event stays within the Unit and will go towards helping Scouts in hardship take part in all the amazing opportunities we offer.

So, once again, thank you for visiting our event last weekend. We hope to see you again next year!

“I can’t wait for next year!”

Our Fireworks Display is just one way that we work to support our Explorers. We have also entered the Aviva Community Fund, which gives charities the chance to win money towards their chosen projects. Next term we plan on buying several fancy new bell tents for the Unit, and some money from the Aviva Community Fund would help us get a long way towards reaching this goal. We’d really appreciate it if you could take a moment to click on the button below and vote for us – it only takes you three minutes but makes a huge difference to our Explorers. Thank you!

FIREWORKS 2017: Everything You Need to Know

Our annual community fireworks display is THIS SATURDAY! All of us here at Wild Wolf ESU are very excited for our ninth display, which promises to be the best one yet – and we hope that you are too! To help you plan your visit, we’ve put together this handy guide of all the things you could possibly need to know for Saturday’s event.

TICKETS:
If you didn’t manage to book online, don’t worry, tickets for both the Quiet and Feature Displays will be available to buy on the gate on the night. However please note we will only be able to accept cash payments at the event, not debit/credit cards.

The on-the-gate ticket prices are below:

Quiet Display (5:30pm) Feature Display (8:00pm)
Adult (18+) £5 £6
Child
(6-17)
£4 £5
Under 6 Free Free

TIMINGS:
We recommend you come when the gates open to avoid disappointment – once the park reaches capacity we will have to stop admitting people. Not only that, but arriving early also gives you a chance to visit all the stalls on offer and make the most of the evening! There’s plenty to do, so make sure to leave lots of time to enjoy our delicious food, relax by the campfire, and soak up the atmosphere. Please note that advance tickets only guarantee you entry up until 30 minutes before the fireworks go off. Scout Park will also close as soon as the fireworks finish, so it’s definitely worth arriving early to take advantage of everything we’ve got planned.

QUIET DISPLAY – gates open 4:00pm, fireworks 5:30pm

FEATURE DISPLAY – gates open 6:00pm, fireworks 8:00pm

See our event schedule for more information.

STALLS:
A number of stalls will be available throughout both displays, planned and run by Scouts from all over London. All our food and drink are very reasonably priced – we know feeding a family adds up! – and are sourced locally. There will also be games for children, a classic campfire, and another bonfire specially dedicated to marshmallow toasting. The event is mostly run by Wild Wolf, but this year we’ve got a few other Units coming in to lend a hand – the full list of stalls is below:

Hot Food (meat & veggie burgers, meat & veggie hot dogs, pulled pork baps, falafel rolls, halloumi burgers) – run by WWESU
Hot Drinks (tea, coffee, hot chocolate, mulled apple juice) – run by WWESU
Glow Sticks – run by WWESU
Marshmallow toasting – run by WWESU
Cakes & Bakes – run by Tottenham ESU
Toffee Apples – run by Tottenham ESU
Popcorn – run by Kings Cross ESU
Norwegian waffles – run by North London Network
Bouncy Castle – run by Argo ESU
Tuck Shop – run by the 2019 WSJ Unit
Krispy Kreme doughnuts – run by 8th Muswell Hill Scouts
Kids’ Games – run by Phoenix ESU
Candyfloss – run by 8th Holborn Scouts

LOCATION & TRAVEL:
The event takes place at Scout Park, our regular meeting place. The address is Scout Park, Gordon Road, N11 2PB. Unfortunately there will be no on-site parking, and we anticipate that the surrounding streets will fill up pretty quickly. However, not to worry, as there is plenty of public transport nearby. Bounds Green tube station (Piccadilly Line) is only a few minutes’ walk away, as are the 184, 299, 102 and 221 bus routes.

WEATHER:
While our fingers are crossed for dry skies on Saturday night, there’s always the chance that it might rain. The event will be going ahead whatever the weather, so don’t let any grey skies put you off! However we would like to remind you that it is an outdoor event, and as such the ground may be muddy and the weather cold, so we recommend you wear sturdy footwear and warm clothing on the night.

SAFETY:
Every effort is made to ensure the site is as safe as possible for the event. As a result, please note that no fireworks, alcohol, or sparklers are allowed in the park. Similarly, Scout Park is strictly smoking-free (including e-cigarettes) and no dogs are allowed on site apart from assistance dogs. We thank you in advance for your cooperation.

ANY QUESTIONS?
We hope that has cleared up any queries you may have had, but if not, feel free to email us at wildwolfesufireworks@gmail.com. There will also be an Info Tent on the day for any questions or concerns (or positive feedback!).

Thank you for your support, and we look forward to welcoming you to our Fireworks Display on Saturday night!

Fireworks 2017 Update – Online Booking Now CLOSED

ONLINE BOOKING IS NOW CLOSED (but don’t worry, tickets will still be available on the gate!)

Our 100th blog post brings you an update on the preparations for our Scout Park fireworks display on the 4th November. With only two weeks to go, set up for the day is well underway and lots of tickets have already been sold. However, due to phenomenal demand, advance booking has now ended, so it is no longer possible to buy tickets online. But no need to worry, you’re still able to buy them on entry to the park on the night! Our Explorers are also selling Feature Display tickets at Scout Park every Wednesday from 6pm-9pm. Please check our tickets page for more details.

As usual, everyone is getting stuck in with preparations for Fireworks. All our teams are working extremely hard to get the word out about the big day, as well as taking care of the mountains of preparation required to meet WWESU’s high standards. Of course, this means all the Explorers are needed to keep everything going smoothly in the run up to the event.

The Publicity Team have been sharing all the latest updates and photos on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, while Production Team have been hard at work setting up the sound system and lighting in order to project music and light across the entirety of Scout Park, as well as collecting miles and miles of fairy lights and extension leads!

The Creative and Content Teams have been taking care of all the signs, logos and posts for the event, whipping out the purple paint or photo-editing software as required. As usual, our dedicated Quartermasters are taking care of all the equipment required for Fireworks, keeping it all ship shape and in good condition.

And finally, perhaps the most important team of all (or at least we think so…) the Catering Team are planning how to take care of all the Explorers and volunteers on the night with hot food, warm drinks and plenty of snacks!

All the stall holders are also preparing for their roles on the night. We’ve got homemade candyfloss, Krispy Kremes, Norwegian Waffles, BBQ, falafel wraps, pulled pork baps, hot and cold drinks, toffee apples – the list goes on! Plus marshmallow toasting and a big campfire offering some authentic Scout experiences.

To keep up-to-date on how our preparations are progressing, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and for more information about the event check out our website, wildwolfesu.org/fireworks.

Welcome to WWESU: Autumn Camp

With many new Explorers having joined us in September, we decided to run a weekend camp to introduce them to the Unit. To give them a taste of what WWESU is all about, we spent one day doing watersports and the other hiking – two classic Wild Wolf activities!

Friday evening saw a group of eager Explorers congregating at Scout Park, piling onto the minibuses and settling in for the drive to Longridge Activity Centre.

Having arrived, we set up camp in record time. Some older Explorers ran the newer ones through how to pitch their tents, while everyone else banded together to put up the jurte.

The next day one of the three teams rose early to cook everyone breakfast. Hindered by the fact all the firewood provided was either damp or still alive (or both!) they eventually managed to get a proper fire going and cook some bacon. That done, all the Explorers pulled on their buoyancy aids ready for a day of paddlesports. The three different teams rotated through sessions of kayaking, canoeing and stand-up paddleboarding. This also provided the perfect occasion for the first launching of our brand new canoes! Seeing the fleet of bright orange boats finally in use on the water really made all the months of hard fundraising worth it (and huge thanks to everyone that contributed their efforts and support to make it possible!)

Leader Phil also took the opportunity to test out his fancy new drone, capturing some pretty cool aerial shots of our site and activities on the water.

In various states of wetness, all the Explorers congregated around the jurte for lunch, prepared by Team C. After that, we were back on the water, doing a different paddlesport this time. The canoeists canoed, the kayakers kayaked, and the paddleboarders fell in. Everyone, however, had a good time!

Our next break centred around cream teas and hot chocolate, sparking the usual controversial debates – ‘scOnes’ or ‘scOHnes’; jam first or cream first – which got pretty heated. Before things could turn violent, however, we got back on the water for our last session of the day.

That wasn’t enough watersports for one day, of course. In an attempt to help everyone to achieve their Paddlesports Stage 3 badge, we were all put through capsizing and rescue drills for both kayaks and canoes. This provided plenty of amusement for those watching – until it was their turn! Although some people were at first apprehensive about voluntarily dunking themselves in freezing water, everyone was glad they’d done it eventually – particularly when they got to the final stage: Longridge’s amazing hot showers!

After a hearty barbecue prepared by Team B, we settled down for the night and got some sleep before our long day tomorrow.

The next day we woke up bright and early to get ready for a day of hiking – we had two teams doing a 13km hike and four teams taking on a 17km one. We set off on our hikes at 11am and walked until around 4:30pm. Along the way the groups passed through various checkpoints scattered among the Chiltern Hills.

We finished the day at the Black Park Country Park and piled into the minibuses for the hour-long drive back to Scout Park where we quickly unloaded the minibuses and packed away all the kit.

Overall, we had a fantastic weekend, breaking in new kit, trying new activities and learning new skills. The younger Explorers also had an awesome first weekend away with us – a great introduction to all that we do!

Firing up for Fireworks 2017

There’s only one month left until our annual Fireworks Display and Bonfire returns to Scout Park on the 4th November. A community and family favourite which attracts over 2,000 people, this year’s event is shaping up to be bigger and better than ever before!

Naturally, however, this means that a lot of organisation and preparation is needed to get everything running smoothly. Planning began months ago with the creation of what became the first of many important spreadsheets (we’ve got lots and lots of them now…). As a youth-led event, the role of our Explorers is always crucial; everyone has chosen their job for the big night, whether it’s flipping burgers on our BBQ, running campfire songs or spinning miles of candyfloss.

Our specialised Explorer-run teams have also been incredibly busy organising everything that goes on behind the scenes. The Publicity Team have been furiously Tweeting, Instagramming, Facebooking and blogging to help get the word out about our amazing event – any posts you see are from us! We’ve also been planning how we are going to tackle the event, including which camera angles are best for filming fireworks and just how many plug sockets we will need to keep everything charged.

The Creative Team have been hard at work designing the posters and social media graphics, as well as mass-painting signs for all our tasty food & drink stalls. They’ll be putting up all the bunting and candles on the day and hanging miles of fairy lights between the stalls.

The Production Team have done the preliminary planning for the lighting to make sure that the whole of Scout Park will be lit up beautifully, and have looked at the sound system to ensure that the music reaches even the smallest of ears.

Meanwhile yet even more groups of Explorers are organising the catering for the 150+ volunteers involved in the event, the other equipment we need and everyone is busy selling tickets.

And, of course, our Leaders have been coordinating everything and looking at the logistical side of the evening to make sure that everything runs to plan!

We are incredibly grateful for all the support we’ve received from our amazing community – thank you to everyone who has bought tickets so far!

If you haven’t bought your tickets yet, what are you waiting for? By buying in advance, you get cheaper tickets, skip the queues at the gate, and reduce the risk of possible disappointment on the night. Tickets can be bought online at wildwolfesu.org/fireworks, or from any of our Explorers. Alternatively, pay us a visit at Scout Park every Wednesday from 6pm to 9pm to book your place at one of North London’s favourite fireworks displays!

For more information about the event, see our homepage or FAQs.

 

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