My son, Thomas, was one of the original members of the 20th Oldham Uppermill Methodist Cub Pack that Derek Stacey formed at Uppermill Methodist Church. He joined when he was eight, and then proceeded through the new Scout group and the District Explorer Unit, whilst also a Young Leader at 20th Oldham. His sister followed him when she was old enough, and Scouting has been a big part of both their lives ever since. As they had got so much out of Scouts, when I saw in the Church newsletter, just over five years ago, that they needed help with the newly re-formed Beaver Colony I thought: “well I can do that!” It turned out that I was offering to help slightly more than I realised - I started going along in September 2011 and by that Christmas, I was the Beaver leader.
In January 2015 we had some major changes: Derek very reasonably decided that ten years with the group was enough, and Andy felt that his increasing responsibilities at work didn’t allow him to continue as Scout Leader. This left us with a dilemma, deciding how we would keep all 3 sections going, without enough adults. I felt very strongly (and I still do) that it is wrong to have a Beavers without a Cubs or a Cubs without a Scouts, since we are meant to be a progressive organisation, developing young people’s skills, so that’s how I more or less accidentally became a Scout Leader and Tom, then 19 took over Cubs.
Having not previously been a camper I have put up and taken down a remarkable number of tents in the last couple of years, and this year’s exciting birthday present was a new sleeping bag! Other women’s midlife crises seem to revolve around spas and prosecco, mine is more camps and hot vimto, and it really has grown on me. I have learned new skills, made new friends and discovered that I can do more than I thought. As my personal challenge for the Diamond Duke of Edinburgh award last year I chose to complete my Nights Away Permit and take the Scouts away using it. We had a great trip but here’s the thing - I look back on it now, and it’s remarkable that I thought it was a big challenge. We are what we do, and now it’s just become something that I do. This year’s Freezer Camp at Hesley Wood in February was chilly, muddy and having to evacuate the girls from a leaking tent in the middle of the night didn’t make it restful, but seeing the Scouts’ enthusiasm and enjoyment made it all worth it.
Scouting is now very much a family concern. I have become the Acting Group Scout Leader, taking responsibility for the group as a whole, Tom comes back to help when he isn’t at university (where he is also a Cub leader) and Freya has followed in her brother’s footsteps to run the Cubs. Freya has also emulated her brother in becoming a Queen’s Scout, and we were delighted to spend St George’s Day in Windsor, seeing her participate in the annual parade at the castle, in front of HRH the Duke of Kent and Chief Scout Bear Grylls. There have been only 3 Queens’s Scouts in Oldham District in the last 15 years or so, so we are very proud that Tom and Freya were two of them. Freya has also been selected to be a part of the UK Contingent at the World Scout Moot in Iceland this summer - the next great adventure!
Unexpectedly, one of the things I enjoy most about being involved with Scouts is going to camp. It’s not so much the mud and vimto, it’s being a part of a team, all working together. There is no doubt that the Scout Association has a lot to offer young people today, and that this is being recognised - the demand for places is high and there are not enough groups to accommodate them. We are building a great team to cover all 3 sections (I’ve been focusing on the family, but Lee, Matt, Jude, Julie and Tessa are great leaders, assistant leaders and section assistants and we also benefit from the help of Jean and Eileen from UMC) but for us to be able to continue to offer a quality, adventurous programme we need more adults to join us, whether your contribution is regular or occasional, child-based or administrative, we would love to have you join our adventure. You can find more on our website www.20tholdham.co.uk.