A Golden Year!
Highlight of this memorable year must surely be the progression of four of our members to Queen's Scout, on the way picking up the much-coveted Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award.
Now that the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme forms the core of the Scout Training Programme, the opportunity to be 'doubly rewarded' is in fact made more straightforward for Explorer Scouts. (This is yet another instance where the Scout Movement has caught up with the 44th - we've been doing this for years!)
So a very big "Well Done!" to Sam Coe, Chris Gallant, Samuel Johnson and Adam Lewis. At a special assembly the County Scout Commissioner for Gloucestershire Mrs Joan Goldsmith presented the lads with their award lapel badges. They will in due course receive their Gold Award certificates at the Duke of Edinburgh national presentation ceremony at either St James Palace or Buckingham Palace.
Looking back over the year what is evident is the commitment these four, together with their peers, have for the 44th. And although having such a large proportion of the unit from a single year group frequently presents problems of recruiting and retaining members from the years immediately below, this issue was clearly recognised and has been addressed wholeheartedly by the current U6 members. They have encouraged several new members from year 9 (who will now form the core of the unit) and left their successors on the Executive a large band of interested prospective members in year 8.
So what did we get up to this year?
The first of the 'new-look' six terms sped by in a flurry of activities. The unit welcomed several new members to its ranks - they appear to be enjoying our own unique brand of scouting - they're still with us and active!
Much of the programme this year was organised by our senior members to 'gently break in' the newcomers to our ways and introduce them to the traditions and expectations of the unit. We welcomed back Jason Stone for a night of navigation and mapping skills (Rich Young had a barrel of laughs when he eventually retrieved his mobile - hope it dried out OK Rich!). We focused on expedition and hiking planning issues and enjoyed a dark cold evening finding out how different - and difficult! - it is to navigate unfamiliar routes in the dark recesses of a wooded Welsh valley. All this as preparation for an overnight expedition in the Forest of Dean during October half term.
Having motivated and then walked with the group, Sam Coe and Samuel Johnson then took off to the Peak District with Chris Gallant and Adam Lewis to complete their Gold Expedition hike.Yet again the 44th showed its support for the National Menigitis Trust by tackling the Five Valleys Walk, with several members setting out early Sunday morning to traverse the valleys that radiate out from Stroud. The weather was fair - a grey cool morning giving to a pleasant but not too warm sunny afternoon. The fine scenery and views were enjoyed and much happy banter was exchanged with fellow walkers along the way. The now traditional home-made cake and coffee stop at Honey Hill was especially welcome and the only setback of the day was IJG's altercation with a doggy gate which painfully tried to guillotine his middle finger.
We raised around £220 for the National Meningitis Trust.
Dragon Boat Races at South Cerney are for us now an annual event. Making up the major part (12 crewmen from 20) of the Gloucester District Boat, we had a close fought contest with a Marling School crew, eventually conceding 1st place to them by a mere couple of seconds. Yet again it was an enjoyable day out on the lakes, blessed by warm autumnal sun and good camaraderie.
The Cotswold Marathon was for us a low key affair this year - ie we didn't sweep the medals ceremony! Pete Lloyd took his team around the 38 miles in around 7 hours again to retain the Lowery Trophy and although several of us posted times ahead of the rest of the field, we didn't qualify for any of the category trophies. Still, it's not the winning that's important, it's the taking part! A bit hard to swallow for our juniors though who came in 90 minutes ahead of the following team but were left wondering why they weren't called up to collect the cup from Joan Goldsmith. Later inquiry revealed that because one of the team's birthday was on the wrong side of the marathon date, that precluded them from winning the trophy; a point certainly not clarified on the entry forms, which seemed to imply the usual interpretation of age as relating to the school year group.
Our sponsorship and fund raising efforts, with two well-run Quiz Nights (thanks especially to Chris Gallant), enabled us to send off cheques totalling in excess of £900 to charities. These were - Meningitis Trust, Crack Cancer Campaign, PMM School Uganda, Chariot for Jack, The Project Trust. This is an extremely laudable effort on the part of the boys in the unit - something that is rarely recognised by the school.
We need to ensure that the transition to a new team of organisers for the Quiz Night keeps the event a successful one and a regular feature in the school's calendar.
As usual the summer term suddenly became fraught with exams but although so many of the unit were tied up with A levels, Friday night meetings were still well attended, although activities were a little less 'structured' or 'directed'.
During half term six of the unit's year 9 members planned and successfully completed a hike for their bronze award expedition. Stephen, Gareth, Andrew, Will, Josh & Kit, with their assessors Sam & Samuel in tow, set off from Tibberton along the Gloucestershire Way, finishing up the following day on schedule at Speech House in the Forest of Dean. Their overnight stop was at Abenhall, where Dan Wright and Gavin Jones introduced them to some of the joys of bushcraft and survival - the focus of their trip.
Along the way Josh managed to fracture his ankle(!) but this didn't stop him from completing the hike. They built their own shelter, were taught how to make and build a fire which they used to cook some of the edible plants and seeds they collected, and were treated to some glorious sunset views. A good experience for them all.
And finally, our summer expedition was to southwest Eire - Beara & Kerry. A good time enjoying the craich - we also welcomed Rachael Brown back as head cook and bottle washer; she was managing the catering to qualify for her Residential section of her Gold Award.
One thing that I am especially grateful for this year was the insistence of Mr Tim Young (our secretary Rich's dad) to give our hut a new ceiling. He spent a week in July ripping out the old and sadly dilapidated suspended ceiling to replace it with a splendid chipboard version, with insulation, and in the process rewiring and installing new light units. The hut now has a cosier ambience and should remain warm and snug during the cold winter evenings. Our heartfelt thanks Tim! It just remains now to fix up that water supply …..
One of the strengths of the 44th at present is its leadership team. I always marvelled at how Frank Henderson used to dedicate almost single-handedly his time, efforts, money and van(!) to the life of the unit. I thank Pete Lloyd for his hard-working support and valued friendship and now that Adam Griffiths has settled in Gloucestershire and the District have finally endorsed his warrant, the 44th has 3 Explorer Scout Leaders as well as 3 specialist Instructors and a Helper. A very healthy state of affairs indeed!
Being financially sound, with a good leadership team and what promises to be a full influx of new members the future prospects for the 44th Gloucester (STRS) Explorer Scout Unit appear bright. If we live up to the achievements of the outgoing Exec and their peers then we can be justly proud of ourselves.
44th Gloucester (STRS) Explorer Scout Unit
31st August 2005