Autumn Camp 2018 and Camping Futures

It’s mid-week following our return from Autumn Camp 2018. We camped for the weekend at Pinsent Campsite in Winchester and as those attending knew, as the leadership team at Phoenix Explorers, it was our first camp. On camp with us was a Nights Away Assessor, assessing our preparations for and running of camp with the view to gain our own Nights Away Permit within Scouting to allow us to run our own events in the future.

The great British weather

The weekend got off to a potentially shaky start with Storm Callum threatening to derail our plans for a peaceful weekend, however, the south didn’t fare as badly as other regions of the UK which meant that forecasts showed some strong gusty winds but nothing we couldn’t handle. The pitch we had selected and booked at Pinsent Campsite was well sheltered with trees and a hedge-line which meant we were well protected from the elements in our camp.

The food

On this camp, our first camp together, we took a light-touch on activities and instead, put the focus on essentials like food. One aspect of Scouting that I enjoy is togetherness and for Phoenix Explorers, this includes the leaders. All of the meals we ate on camp, we cooked and ate together with the leaders eating the same meals as the Explorer Scouts, cooked by the Explorer Scouts.

On Friday night, we enjoyed chicken fajitas with some extras on the side and it was great to be able to share this first meal together. Saturday morning we had a classic English breakfast and what camp would be complete without one. Saturday evening, we tried something new and made our own pizzas and cooked them on an open fire with loaded potato skins for starters – definatly one that we will see on the menu again I think.

Breakfast or bunch? Explorer Scouts don’t like early mornings.

Pioneering in the sun

We were very lucky with the weather on Saturday with blue skies allowing us to take full advantage of the pioneering activity we had arranged. The weather on Sunday was not so great with a heavy downpour in the morning but luckily, it held back later and mostly stopped by the time we broke camp and packed our kit but that wasn’t enough for it to come home dry sadly.

No camp would be complete without a campfire and on Saturday night we enjoyed a hearty fire together which lasted well into the night. On Sunday, before we finished breaking camp, we held a short Scouts Own giving us all time to take a moment of reflection together. This is the first time I have ever participated in a Scouts Own with young people and the first time I have ever run one too. I hope that the Explorer Scouts on camp found the experience positive; as a team, we agreed that it was a worthy addition to the camp and we will plan to incorporate these into our camps and programming in the future.

Trying something new: open-fire homemade pizzas.

Reflection and achievements

As a leader, I had a fantastic time even with the weather on Sunday. It was great to get to see the Explorers in the real outdoors camping for the first time and I really hope that everyone had as much fun as I did and I cannot wait to get out another camp. As a team, we were tried and tested on a couple of occasions but we followed our processes, stuck to our plans, and at the end of it all, we accomplished our goals and came back feeling immensely positive. I want to express a massive public thank you to the other leaders who attended the camp with me as it’s not a solo effort and it’s a team that makes the experience memorable. I also want to thank not only the Explorer Scouts who came but also the parents and families of those Explorer Scouts for putting their faith in us as leaders and letting them attend the camp with us.

The important takeaway is that we accomplished our goal. Our Nights Away Assessor on camp validated everything that we had achieved and rewarded me with my Nights Away Campsite permit. This milestone means that I am now qualified to run camps for our Explorer Scout Unit both indoor and on campsites. This achievement allows us not only to think about undertaking more camping activities but also means that we have more autonomy to run these camps.

The future

Always looking ahead, I do not plan to end our journey here. My goal for Phoenix Explorers is for us to be able to undertake even more adventurous camps and I will be looking in the future to get the Campsite permit upgraded to a Greenfield permit. With a Greenfield permit, this means that we would be able to camp in more remote areas off the beaten track and enjoy different experiences. There isn’t a timescale for doing this and it’s not something I want to rush into either; I want to be certain of our abilities as a Unit and leadership team in running camps both Indoor and on Campsites before we go down the Greenfield route. This all ties with what I described to our Explorer Scouts and parents earlier this year when I described how we plan to start small and scale up and grow into it together.

I hope this camp and also this post has inspired our Explorer Scouts who weren’t able to join us this time to join us next time. if you aren’t already with us and you like the look of what we do, why not join us?

Camping and Permit Update

Firstly, a thank you to parents, Explorers, and everyone else involved for bearing with us this year with respect to camp. We know it was a bit of a shock to some when we announced that there would be no Summer Camp, however, we promised that we weren’t going to rest there so we want to share an update with regard to camps.

Issues recap

To recap our position from earlier in the year which we originally emailed out to everyone, the issues were a combination of lack of planning on my part because I dropped the ball and secondly and more critically, because as a leadership team we lacked a Nights Away Permit which is the ticket which demonstrates we are qualified and capable to run a camp within The Scout Association.  As we eluded to in our email from earlier this year, any camp we run this year has to have two objectives:

  1. to give our oldest Explorer Scouts the opportunity to go on a nights away experience
  2. to allow us to validate the necessary permit for us to more easily run our own camps in the future

Opportunity for the older Explorer Scouts

The first objective is important on a more personal level. At Phoenix Explorers I want everyone to have had the opportunity to go camping and to experience Scouting in the wild. Regrettably, for reasons that pre-date the involvement of me and others, some of our older Explorer Scouts have not had the opportunity to attend an Explorer Scout camp for nearly two years. Some of these same Explorer Scouts will be leaving us later in 2018 as they turn 18. To me, this is not a position we should ever have to be in and we need to rectify this by ensuring that these Explorer Scouts have had an opportunity to camp.

Permit validation

The second objective is validating the adult training to obtain a Nights Away Permit. In Scouting, this is all about demonstrating proper planning, cost prudence, appropriate safety, emergency precautions and, most important for the Explorer Scouts, that a programme has been put in place which is appropriate for their interests, age, and ability.

The great news is that last night, I had a meeting with my Nights Away Permit Assessor who has reviewed the planning and preparation that has gone into organising an Autumn Camp for 2018 and he is happy that we are doing the right things and is happy for us to proceed to share the information about the camp with yourselves. The other great news is that we have a Nights Away Permit Holder; somebody to act as the qualified person to oversee the camp; available for the weekend we are planning which enables us to go ahead with the camp.

All being well, following our Autumn Camp 2018, I will have successfully validated the criteria for a Nights Away Permit and we will be self-sufficient as a Unit and able to run our own camps without us being reliant on the availability of leaders from outside Phoenix Explorers to act as a permit holder and lead our camps for us.

Autumn Camp 2018

Combining the two objectives from above: opportunity and validation, we have decided that the first camp we run as a team will be an Autumn Camp for 2018. It will be held relatively close to home and will be run over a long weekend. We will be limiting the number of places available to Explorer Scouts to 12 and we will be offering these spaces first-and-foremost, to our oldest Explorer Scouts. We came to this decision for two reasons. The details for this will be sent privately via email to everyone concerned.

Firstly, we need to ensure that the older Explorer Scouts have an opportunity to camp with us and that they do not leave us in the coming months without that experience. Following this Autumn Camp 2018, we will be organising more camps for our Unit so there will be no shortage of experiences available for everyone else in the months and years to come, however, making sure that the oldest of our Explorer Scouts have had that same chance before they leave is crucial.

Secondly, the reason for limiting the numbers is that we want to under-promise and over-deliver. We want to make sure that what we do is done safely and done well to a high standard. If our first camp as a team and the camp we use to validate the Nights Away Permit is open to our entire Unit – about 35 Explorer Scouts in total, that is a big camp to organise out of the gate. By starting small for this first camp, it makes the event easier for us to plan, it makes the logistics of getting to and from camp simpler, and it means we can pay more attention to the finer details making sure they have a great experience on camp.

We understand that this head-count limit may still leave some of our members frustrated, however, in the interests of getting it right we feel it is the best approach. This is the start of a long-term journey for me and our team at Phoenix Explorers. Using what we learn from this camp we can scale-up our achievements to do bigger camps that are run over more days with more activities and are further afield. If we try to be too ambitious for this first camp we run the risk of being under-prepared which could result in a sub-standard experience for the Explorers. That is not what we want as it doesn’t give them what they come to Explorer Scouts for and it doesn’t give you value for money as a parent, guardian, or carer.

The future of camping

To set some level of expectation, I want our Unit, at some stage in our future, to be able to organise and run international experiences taking our Explorer Scouts overseas on international camps. This is a whole new level of challenge when it comes to planning, preparation and decision making for us as a leadership team, however, it’s worth having that vision and putting in the effort in my eyes. Taking part in an international experience is one of the pinnacles of adventure for Explorer Scouts and is an experience I would love for the young people to be able to have with us. Taking part in an international experience earns them the right to wear the Union Flag badge on their Uniform not only as an Explorer Scout but for the rest of their Scouting lives so it is truly something they can keep forever.

Magnetic Declination and Compass Navigation

Which type of north does a compass needle point and what difference does it make?

This week with our Explorer Scouts, we did some work towards our Navigator Staged Activity Badge and part of this was a quiz which we made with various questions about compasses, maps, map symbols, and a little bit of route plotting. One of the questions we asked the Explorer Scouts was “Where does the red needle of a compass point” and the answer threw a lot of them off so we thought we would explain what north really is. Hopefully, this post proves useful for somebody, somewhere.

 

So where does the needle on a compass point?

The obvious answer is north, however, there are different kinds of north:

  • Grid north
  • True north
  • Magnetic north

Grid north is the direction that an Ordnance Survey map points. True north is the direction of the meridian which points to the north pole. A conventional magnetic compass that we use in land navigation points to magnetic north. It is attracted to the northern magnetic pole of the earth.

In England, magnetic declination or magnetic variation is small so it’s generally not a problem but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t understand it to maximise our navigation skills and knowledge, right?

What is grid north?

Grid north, the direction of Ordnance Survey maps are closely linked to true north. Ordnance Survey maps always point grid north. Vertical grid lines on the map, those going from bottom to top, follow a northerly line through the central meridian of the UK which is based on a system called Ordnance Survey National Grid or British National Grid (BNG) as shown below. The central meridian for the UK is 2 degrees west.

The Ordnance Survey National Grid or British National Grid (BNG)

The red line on the map above is the central meridian: a line through the country which follows a notherly track to the north pole through the centre of the UK. In Basingstoke, we feature on the SU Ordnance Survey map which, as you will see, is on the edge of that central meridian which means we have it easy as you will see in the true north section.

What is true north?

True north is the direction of the closest meridian of longitude, a line that goes south to north, which joins up with the north pole. As you travel further west of the 0 degrees line or further east of the 0 degrees line, the meridians closest to you start to change shape and instead of being parallel lines, start to become somewhat trapezoid shaped: we know, it’s a bit confusing.

In the UK, for all real purposes, we can ignore the whole grid north vs. true north debate. If you wanted to be exact about it, however, an SU map of Basingstoke has the following statement printed on it: “At the centre of the east and west sheets true north is 0 degrees and 47 minutes, and 0 degrees 34 minutes west of grid north respectively. The annual change is approximately ten minutes east.”

In simple terms then, true north is less than half a degree west (negative) of true north on our map. Every year, that number changes by approximately ten minutes (1/6th of a degree positive). Eventually, then, those 47 minutes will become zero and as time goes even further, will become a positive variance.

What is magnetic north?

Magnetic north is the one we do need to think about in the UK because even though our variance is small, it can still make a difference. The earth is round, we know that. We also know that at the top is the north pole and the bottom is the south pole. Magnetism generated by the earth is a result of magma flow inside the earth’s core and various other things. The problem this creates, however, is that the top of the magnetic field isn’t exactly at the top where true north points. It’s slightly off-centre and it’s actually always moving very slightly. This difference is what we call the magnetic declination.

When we use our compass for navigation, we lay our compass on our map to get our bearing to walk to. We spin the bezel to line our start point and our destination point, rotate ourselves and the compass around that point and start walking. The problem then is that our compass points to magnetic north and our map points to grid north (let’s just say it’s true north for argument’s sake in the UK). If we were to follow that bearing over a very long distance we would eventually start to veer off-course.

The level of magnetic declination in the UK is calculated by the British Geological Survey (BGS) and they publish terribly complicated looking maps called Isogonic Charts which record the variance. Luckily for us, Ordnance Survey maps report the magnetic declination on them and we can use an online tool to get the very latest data too.

For example, the SU map for Basingstoke carries the following statement: “At the centre of the east and west sheets magnetic north is estimated at 2 degrees and one minute and one degree 54 minutes west of grid north respectively. The annual change is approximately ten minutes east”. The online tool at http://www.geomag.bgs.ac.uk/data_service/models_compass/gma_calc.html, using SU 480560 as the grid reference, tells us that the BGS value, as of July 2018 is 1 degree and 14 minutes west (negative).

How to account for “north”

Now that we understand the different types of the north, how do we account for it and deal with it? It’s actually surprisingly simple.

Grid north we ignore as that is the north we are already working with when reading a map. True north has such a small angle in the UK it is not worth thinking about. Magnetic north, as we demonstrated above, for Basingstoke, is just over one-degree negative, to the west.

For a westerly magnetic declination, we need to add degrees to our compass. For easterly magnetic declinations, we need to subtract degrees from our compass. The diagram on OS maps helps us remember this too. In the illustration below, the map being used has easterly declination which means you need to subtract degrees.

If the magnetic north and true north arrows are pointing to the left of grid north, we need to add minutes: left is more, right is less. This works on your compass too! If you rotate your bezel left, you will be adding degrees. If you rotate right, you will be subtracting degrees: left is more, right is less.

Ordnance Survey map north indications for declination.

Here are a couple of examples, some of which have been borrowed from the Ordnance Survey at https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/resources/maps-and-geographic-resources/finding-north.html.

If you are walking Snowdon, and you are at 53.0682389 degrees latitude and -4.0766629 longitude, the magnetic declination is 0 degrees and 19 minutes which means your luck is in, you don’t need to make any changes. If you are in Lowestoft at 52.4759646 latitude and 1.6905025 longitude, the magnetic declination is 2 degrees and 45 minutes west of grid north so you will want to account for this.

Remember for westerly magnetic declination, we add degrees so set your compass as you normally would and then, once you have your bearing, add two degrees to it and then your compass is aligned correctly to account for magnetic north.

Supporting Chineham Tigers Fun Day

Who doesn’t love a bit of BBQ food, right? Tomorrow, leaders and Explorer Scouts from Phoenix Explorers will be helping to support a local community event being held by Chineham Tigers Football Club by providing the BBQ service. There’s loads to do as you will see from the flyer below. The weather forecast looks good and with money raised from the BBQ helping to support both Phoenix Explorers and Chineham Tigers Football Club so why not pop down and see us?

We will be serving staple BBQ food of burgers and hot dogs but we also have supplies to cater for vegetarians and those with gluten intolerance. 

The fun starts at 12 p.m. on Saturday 9th June 2018 at the Sherfield Playing Fields behind Sherfield Community Centre. We look forward to seeing some of you there!

Flyer for the Chineham Tigers Fun Day at Sherfield Park

Scout Association Branding

Earlier this week, the Scout Association launched their bold new brand. We love shiny new things at Phoenix Explorers so this week, following the announcement, we have updated our website and our social media profiles to incorporate this new branding which we hope you find even more attractive than before. Over the coming days and weeks’ we will be updating our printed materials too. If you have copies of forms or policies of ours printed, there is no need to reprint them: we aren’t changing the content of the documents, just their appearance at this time.

Part of the new branding by the Scout Association is a new focus on Skills for Life, promoting and highlighting that Scouting is not just about having fun and learning something new as a member of the movement in your youth but it is about learning things that can help you throughout your life in your years ahead. The video below has been launched, as part of the new brand and the #SkillsForLife message to show just what we mean.

At Phoenix Explorers, this bold new brand doesn’t mean we are changing what we do: we are still exactly the same Phoenix Explorer Scouts doing the same activities for all our members to enjoy and be safe doing it.

Ideas for Days Out

We’re always looking for ideas for things to do with our Explorer Scouts and when thinking of things to do, we always try to find a balance of fun, excitement, something new, and links to the Scouting programme too. Back at the start of this term, we held an anonymous survey for our Explorer Scouts to see what they wanted from their Scouting and the overwhelming majority wanted to do more day trips and days out so we’ve been focusing our efforts on this.

From this feedback, as a starter, we’ve come up with two potential days out that we could run, depending on interest: one idea is a day trip to Thorpe Park as something fun and exciting; the other idea is a kayaking course. The Kayaking course not only offers something new for a lot of people but also something Scouting. The course follows the BCU 1 Star certification (Paddlepower Passport) and will earn Explorer Scouts completing it, the Paddle Sports Stage 2 Staged Activity Badge once they have registered with the BCU for their certificate following the course.

If you are interested in these events (or not), please follow the links to the surveys below to give us your expression of interest (or not) so that we know whether or not to look further into each activity and start organising them in full. Confirmed pricing, dates, and full event information will be provided privately once we have confirmation of interest. The closing date for the surveys will be 19th March.

Phoenix Explorers Do Thorpe Park
Phoenix Explorers Kayaking Course

What Happens Outside Explorers Doesn’t Have to Stay Outside Explorers

We all lead different lives and lifestyles and many of us take part in activities and events outside of Explorer Scouts. What happens outside of Explorer Scouts doesn’t have to stay outside of Explorer Scouts though! There are many ways that you can bring together things that you do in your own personal life to get reward and recognition within Scouting and sometimes we all need little reminders of that.

In this article, we thought we’d highlight a few of the areas and ways that you can do just that. If you are ever in doubt as to whether something you do in your personal life can help you towards an achievement in Explorer Scouts, just ask.

Providing Evidence

For all of the examples below and those that we haven’t covered, it’s important to remember your evidence. If you are doing something outside of Scouting, you need to be able to show to your Explorer Scout Leader that you are can complete the requirements. The easiest way to do this is by printing the requirements for the badge from the website. If you are trying to complete a badge such as Musician you could give this to your music leader or assessor and have them sign it to certify you.

All the pages on our website are print-friendly as well as mobile device friendly. When you print the pages only the bits you need will be printed. Remember to think about your costs and the environment when printing so print in black and white unless you need it in colour.

Musician Staged Activity Badge

Lots of young people play instruments. It starts at school and can often flourish into something that you do and develop outside of school. The Musician Staged Activity Badge is something you may have earned in your younger years of Scouting in Cub Scouts or Scouts, however, it’s important to remember that this Staged Activity Badge stays with you and grows as you do.

If you reach Grade One with your instrument, that covers everything you need for Stage Two of the Musician Staged Activity Badge. Pass the requirements for Grade Three and that gets you Stage Three of the badge. Remember to check; as you level up the grades with your instrument, check if that qualifies you for the next level up of the badge.

Creative Arts Activity Badge

Do you enjoy art, crafts, photography or so other creative outlet? This could be just what you need to earn your Creative Arts Activity Badge. Print the requirements page and show your Explorer Scout Leader examples of your work that meet the requirements and it could be that simple.

Media Relations Activity Badge

To you run a blog or a YouTube channel? Speak to your Explorer Scout Leader as we may be able to adapt the requirements of the Media Relations and Marketing Activity Badge to fit what you do. Do you help to run and publish a school, college, or other publication like a website, magazine, or newsletter? This could count too. Remember that the requirements are not fixed and we can tailor these to fit unusual activities so long as the difficulty level involved is equal to that of the normal requirements.

Outdoor Activities

In Scouting, we love the outdoors so there are plenty of Activity Badges and Staged Activity Badges which focus on the outdoors. Do you ski, snowboard, mountain bike, run, or any other physical activity? A number of Activity Badges and Staged Activity Badges are linked to different outdoor activities so there would be too many to list here. Take a look at the list of Activity Badges and Staged Activity Badges to see what is available and how you can complete them.

Child and Data Protection Advice for Parents

At Phoenix Explorer Scouts we believe that there should be absolute transparency in how we operate. There are two essential areas in Scouting in this regard: the protection of young people and the protection of data. As Explorer Scout Leaders, you entrust us to keep your child safe and when you give us your personal information you entrust us to protect this too.

The Scout Association state that all those involved in the Scouting movement should understand the Child Protection Policy. While this information is available online, we felt that you should have all of the information directly accessible to you without having to search the internet or the Scout Association website for it.

Child Protection and Safeguarding

The first document, Understanding Child Protection and Safeguarding focuses on how we, as Phoenix Explorer Scouts, follow the Scouting Association Child Protection Policy. The document clearly sets out what these policies and rules are and provides you with the information you need to raise a concern or make a report yourself, should the need ever arise.

GDPR and Data Protection

GDPR is the new data protection regulation coming into force in the UK and across Europe in May 2018. The second document, Understanding GDPR and Data Protection explains how we use, process, and store the personal information that you provide us to allow us to communicate with you and contact you should the need arise. The document sets out our responsibilities, how we comply with regulation and law, how we obtain data, share data and how we will dispose of data when no longer accurate or required.

We welcome any questions you may have about either of these advice documents or if you have any other queries and we hope that you find this advice helpful.

Basingstoke Gang Show 2018

On Tuesday, we went along to the Basingstoke Haymarket theatre with Beavers, Cubs, and Scouts from the 1st Chineham Scout Group to watch this years’ production of the Basingstoke Gang Show. If you don’t know what a Gang Show is, it is a variety show performed by members of the Scout and Girlguiding associations. The Basingstoke Gang Show brings together members from both of our districts: Basingstoke East and Basingstoke West.

Basingstoke Gang Show 2018 courtesy of @BstokeGangShow

We had a great time, the show was excellent, and it was great to see a number of our Phoenix Explorer Scouts in the show. For the Explorer Scouts that took part in the show, they will be earning their Performing Arts Activity Badge for all the time, dedication, and hard work that goes into putting on this show. The show will hopefully be back in 2020 for it’s biennial running.