Great sunshine in more ways than one...


It may be called the Emerald Isle because of its reputation for rain, but there was plenty of sunshine in Northern Ireland this weekend. And not just in the sky, as I’ve enjoyed a fantastic and inspiring 26 hours there...

A hastily re-arranged visit, after the volcanic ash forced me to cancel a trip to Northern Ireland last month, kicked off with a visit to Crawfordsburn (Northern Ireland Scout’s fantastic activity centre) to join their 50:50 Patrol Camp.

Barbara and her colleagues were looking for something a little unusual and hit on the idea for a camp with a hint of competition, but with a fun element and opportunity to top-up the knowledge where necessary.

Judging from the reaction of the Scouts, it was a winning combination. Clearly the activities on the site, especially caving, archery and a new zip wire were big winners with the many Groups who were also using the site and we were able to chat to. The Scouts were being well prepared for the County Flag, a more serious camping competition however, I was grateful to two leaders' wives who had kindly stepped forward to judge the cooking competition.

Celebrating with Harry...

In the evening we joined the 80th birthday celebrations for Harry McClintock, a Scout since the age of 13 when he joined his newly opened Troop in 1943!

I was particularly struck not only by his memories of being a Scout and the inspiration he got from his leaders at the time, but that also present were five former members of Harry’s Troop, when he was their leader – 20+ years on, but still the same stories of outdoor fun, camping and adventure and inspiring leadership.

They too told stories of how they are now offering the same activities to young people in Northern Ireland through a project to offer Scouting activities to schools during term time at Crawfordsburn. And so the unique experiences we offer continue over the generations.

Magical myths...

Myths and Legends was the theme of the Northern Ireland Cub camp, on the doorstep of the Giant’s Causeway, a World Heritage site at Bushmill’s on Ireland’s north coast and an opportunity for me to catch up with Cubs, leaders and helpers from across the country.

Luckily there were no video cameras around – I hope – when some of the Cubs we joined at the Causeway showed me how to make a wish in the wishing chair carved in rock, especially the bit about wiggling my bottom three times...

Liam, a young Cub on his first camp, summed the weekend up when he said 'It’s awesome, I haven’t slept at all.' Judging from his exhausted look, he wasn’t telling a fib either.

I nearly hadn’t made it to Northern Ireland a second time however, leaving my departure from Gilwell a little tight as I was chairing a meeting of our delegation that will be representing The Scout Association at the European Scout Conference in July. I hadn’t allowed for traffic on the M25 to be even slower than usual due to overheating cars and coaches. But I made the plane with a few minutes to spare and at least without the feared call of 'will the last remaining passenger...'

Other bits from the diary this week have included a meeting with the Adult Support team to look at taking our work in that area further and finalising plans for Bear’s action packed series of 23 visits in the North East Region of England this coming weekend. More about that next week, in the meantime, look for ways to follow the weekend online.

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