Wednesday, 3 June 2015

So, How Did Our Guys Get On At The County Challenge?

If you read our last post you must be wondering how our patrol did in the Slieve Bloom County Challenge 2015. The truth is that it was a nasty weekend and they coped admirably! That's what scouting is, ie being prepared!

Despite the lousy weather forecast the rain held off just long enough for Barry, Pauline & Dave to erect the bell tent before taking a hike up to the camp site to see what our guys were up to. We weren't allowed onto the scout camp site. When Pauline Smith arrived she went for a sight seeing walk up the hill. Thankfully the bull didn't seem to mind too much and she returned unharmed!!!

The patrols putting their sites into place were busy, busy, busy with their boundaries, pitching sleeping tents and putting up kitchen/mess/store tents. And then came the rain. It was going to be a long weekend but hopefully everyone came prepared to do their best.

Inspections started in earnest at around 10pm. This was just to see how the patrols were getting on and what if anything they'd put into place since the markers'd introduced themselves earlier. It was lashing rain and the patrols were assembling their pioneering gadgets and preparing supper. They were coping well and it'd soon be time for bed.

At midnight, when the patrols' curfew had been called most of the scouts were tucked up snugly in their sleeping bags happily whispering away to one another, pleased with their progress and looking forward to waking up fresh in the morning to finish building their sites before completing bases in the afternoon. Lucky for our guys were sleeping in new Gelerts and that's more or less what they managed to do - unlike most of the other scouts participating in the challenge that weekend!

So, there was water coming down from the sky, down from the top of the mountain, up from the ground and it really was a case of water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink! Well, that's a minor exaggeration in this case given that each patrol site had imported plenty of drinking water too. Problem was that unless you were lucky enough to be camping in a modern tent (like our guys were) with a built in 'bath-tub' ground sheet and had your guy ropes, etc tensioned totally and utterly correctly you were gonna get very wet! And that boys and girls is exactly what happened...

Saturday morning arrived. Pauline P hopped up out of the bed (yes, I did say B.E.D.) feeling nice and refreshed. First order of the day "go and collect all the personal gear, ie sleeping bags, blankets, clothing, etc so that it could be taken to the laundrette and dried..." That was a lot of wet stuff. There were probably around 100 or so young people camping out that weekend & most of their stuff was wringing wet! Oh, the joys...

Once this had been dealt with and breakfast eaten the now dry patrols were given time to catch up with building their sites in the pounding rain. We've only a very few photos, due to the fact that it was chucking it down ALL the time, oh and it was really cold too. To give them their due; that is everyone who attended the event, they put their hearts and their souls into it and gave them a hand. Every single person, man, woman and child worked so hard to make this event work. It was stressful at times, but we all got through it!

In the afternoon the scouts headed off to complete their bases. For those of you not in the know these consisted of a hike off up the mountain, through the forestry and participating in set tasks along the way. This is one of the ways that Scouts is different from most youth groups or clubs, we concentrate on camping and hiking but also other things like map reading, backwoods and survival skills, cooking on an open fire, setting up camp and selection of sites, building useful things out of little more than a few sticks and a length of rope, etc.

We encourage the kids to do their best in all things and this includes team spirit and the spirit of scouting especially at times of adversity. Our motto is "Be Prepared!" and in our pursuit of all things scouting we try and help our members be prepared for all eventualities. The weekend was a great test of everybody's spirit and preparedness with contingency plans being implemented literally as the hours and minutes progressed.

Most of the scouts slept inside on Saturday night, there'd been little rest the previous night and a lot of energy'd been used completing the various tasks during the day. It's traditional with events like this that the evening is rounded up with a hot meal, (tested like all else) and a good auld sing song around the campfire. The patrols are encouraged to participate with either a song or a skit and often these are judged as part and parcel of the competition! They'd a great campfire spirit going that night in the wet weather shelter where it was warm, friendly and dare I say it? Dry...

Sunday came too quickly. There'd been even less sleep than there'd been the previous night with scouts playing pranks & chatting overnight despite supervision! Our girls deeply regretted their move inside convinced they'd have slept better in their tent, but oh well. At least the boys got a good night's sleep!

Originally this had been a three day event, running into the bank holiday Monday but given the never ending downpour it was decided to call it quits once the scout's had completed the two remaining bases on Sunday morning. Lunch was another test meal and surprisingly the rain held off long enough this time to allow it to be cooked on an open fire - they'd been forced to abandon Saturday's open fire in favour of gas powered due to the unrelenting rain! Unbelievable.

Finally. The final camp site inspection started 2pm. All evidence of the weekend's activities had to be removed and equipment and patrol neatly stacked and ready for inspection with divots and holes refilled before the patrols departed the camp. Once done the markers had the dubious pleasure of inspecting the sites yet again; a runner delivering the final scores to the adjudicators in readiness for the final results. And we waited...

Congratulations to Roscrea, they did really well, especially the Eagle patrol who won this year's overall challenge. Everybody deserves a medal for surviving the event! Of course, in the spirit of scouting we were delighted to have been awarded silver. Nobody was expecting this. Barry had been quite clear in his expectations of the Bear-Phoenix patrol: have fun, do your best and come last!

The biggest shock was that with Roscrea Eagles, Clara and Camross we're through to the Phoenix in August and representing our county at a nationa event!  Wow!!! Now all this was a month ago. To be honest, it hasn't quite dawned on us yet. The Pheonix Callenge 2015 is just two and a half months away and we've still got a programme to complete and our annual camp, the holidays and the Gaeltacht.  And then the Phoenix.

Holly summed it up well: "...if it's gonna rain like this, count me out! No way."

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