A movement for peace which began in battle

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Scouting has its origins in the military tactics of the Boer War (1899-1902) and the ingenuity of one man in particular, Robert Baden-Powell.

It sounds like something out of an Enid Blyton novel but the reality is around 150 Scouts have just taken part in the largest scout camp in the north of England.

The event took place at Black Hills campsite in Bingley, starting on Friday and finishing on Sunday.

All of the scouts taking part had to pitch their own shelters, cook their own food and took part in a range of survival-based activities.

Organiser Colin Robinson, 72, has been involved in Scouting for the last 30 years and said the camps offered youngsters a ‘reality check’ to the comforts of modern life.

He said: “When they arrive on the Friday they are all issued with equipment to build a bivvy shelter. They will cook all their own food over a fire for the whole weekend. They are on the go from early in the morning right into the evening, they literally do not stop.

“It takes their blinkers off. It shows them there are different ways of doing something and it gives them practical skills they might need later in life, which is important these days because no-one knows what kind of situations they are going to find themselves in later on in life and often it’s the skills we learn in childhood which we remember the most.

“It’s lots of fun and building up self-belief and giving them confidence because the stuff they end up doing is like nothing they’ve done before. They get to meet people from all over the world, they get to learn things, they catch, prepare and cook their own food and they come back having achieved something.”

While the majority of today’s youngsters are quite at home skulking through the undergrowth and all manner of other things on games consoles, this is real life.

During the three night camp, scouts made a number of objects (which they got to take home), among them a three-legged stool, a hammock, canvas pouch, salt and pepper pots, bracelets and a mystical-sounding ‘moon compass’.

Colin explained: “The moon compass is made from laminated card, which is aligned to your watch so when you point it at the moon, it will tell you which way is north.

“A few years ago we had Bear Grylls fly in by helicopter to see us and he said what we were doing was pretty good.

“There are 11 different activities over the weekend and each lasts for about 45 minutes with two leaders per group of 12. Over the whole weekend, they get to complete four badges - survival, camp, cookery, craft and entertainer.”

It’s the latter which is left until the end of the evening, when everyone is assembled around the campfire.

“We sing songs and then we get the scouts to do a short bit of entertainment, lasting about four or five minutes and for that they get their badge. It can be a song or some acting or something else.”

Colin, a former pit worker who moved into engineering before owning a series of fish and chip shops, remembers joining the Scouts as a youngster but like many, in his teens he drifted away from it.

“When you get older you have other options and I understand that, it’s sometimes difficult for us to appeal to that age group and appeal to a new generation. One of the biggest problems we have is getting new leaders, because many have never been in Scouting before and so they are sent on a training course but this can sometimes be difficult for people to fit in, because everyone is so busy these days.”

Colin found himself returning to the Scout movement in the 1980s when one of his four sons joined up.

“I ended up becoming a leader,” he said. “It’s changed immensely since the 1980s. I was one of the first leaders to bring a girl member into a group I ran in Frizinghall, Bradford and now we have lots of girls - at the weekend, about a third of the scouts were girls.”

Another thing which has changed is the uniform - back in the day, scouts were often the subject of light hearted japes over the mushroom trousers, green or beige shirt and military-style beret. These days, the berets have been ditched, along with the mushroom trousers, which have been replaced by more functional black tracksuit bottoms. What’s more, there are now girl scouts with rumours of a possible merger with girl guides in a few years to bolster numbers and broaden the appeal. One thing which has remained the same, however, is the badge collecting - scouts proudly wearing symbols of their achievements literally on their sleeves, courtesy of the much sought after intricately decorated woven patches, which are no doubt sewn on by doting mothers and fathers.

One of the most exciting parts of the weekend was scouts catching their own food.

Colin said: “The rabbit and pigeons are provided but the fish come live from Kilnsey Fish Farm. They are put into a big pool and when the time comes, scouts get in and catch a trout, dispatch it, then they are shown how to prepare and cook it. It’s one of the most exciting parts of the weekend.”

He added: “Overall, it’s an eye-opener for them, we’re showing them part of life they don’t normally see and also they’re learning things they might need at some point - they might be travelling and end up in a situation in which the things they have learned here come in.

“They are taught how to use a knife and an axe.

“I think it gives them more confidence and you remember things like that a lot easier when you are younger.”

Another plus is the cost - around £30 to each scout, great value for money for an event which Colin reckons would cost 10 times as much down south.

Colin adds: “Most of the time, the scouts turn up with their soap and washbag and when they leave, it is in exactly the same condition as when they arrived.”

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