Heage group braves wilderness to scoop top accolades

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The 1st Heage Scout Group has been braving the outdoors in a bid to camp their way to success – achieving top Scouting accolades. 
And this month marks the group’s 72nd camping expedition over the past six years, but they have no plans to slow down any time soon.

The Scouts have been very happy campers, taking to the outdoors to spend a night in tents, taking on new challenges and learning new skills.

The group started embarking on one-night camping trips in 2010 as part of the Dragon Awards. The Dragon Award, started in January 1998 by Scouts Wales, is open to network members and leaders, as well as Scouts and Explorer Scouts.

The whole idea is to sleep under canvas at least one night per month. You don’t have to complete a stage within one calendar year, you can spend as many years as necessary to complete the award. However, if you miss a month, you have to wait until the same month next year to complete the missed camp.

But with so many Scouts achieving the award, leader Ian Coope found they were disappointed when the trips stopped. So he created a new unofficial award to allow members to carry on camping.

The 57-year-old, who has been Scout leader for 22 years, said: “Dragon was set up by the Welsh Scout Office and involves camping one night every month. To get the ‘Gold Award’ Scouts need 36 camp outs over a three-year period.

“But what happens once they have reached that goal?

“We found the Scouts were still eager to embark on camping trips so we decided to run our very own version that continues to provide a challenge once the Scouts have hit gold. They have to take part in 12 consecutive months of one-night camps – they absolutely love it.”

And Ian said it wasn’t just good fun, it was beneficial to their development.

“For one night each month they pitch up tents and get things up and running, cook their own food and learn lots of new skills including orienteering, survival training, first aid and much more,” he said.

“It is beneficial to their social development. They learn how to work together as a team and delegate jobs in order to achieve their goals. It is also a confidence boost as it builds up their self esteem and belief in their own abilities.”

Each camp has a different theme, which is to hone individual skills, so one month it could be focused on cooking, then bushcraft and so on.

The scheme has taken the group all over the country including camping stints in London, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Staffordshire. The Scouts have even gone as far as the USA on a camping trip, which they thoroughly enjoyed.

Ian said: “It’s all about balance – showing the youngsters they can work hard as well as have fun. It is important to show the Scouts that they need to work hard, persevere, and stay committed.

“These are all life lessons which will come in handy in the future.

“The trips are great fun, and something I am proud to be a part of. It’s not all mud and cold tea. The seaside trips have been great – camping on the beach.

“It’s so rewarding to watch them grow and to get stuck into all activities.”