Outdoor Training Weekend 2023

For the second year running, County hosted an Outdoor Training Weekend at Willow Tree Centre on 10th -11th March 2023 for volunteers interested in learning new skills or having a bit of refresher. The aim of the weekend was to equip volunteers with outdoor skills and confidence that they could take back to their units, as well as offering chance to socialise and build connections with other volunteers.

“I loved every minute of it. Everyone was so friendly, chatty and helpful. All the activities were fun, I felt like I was a girl guide again and I’d been on an ace weekend camp. I feel more confident to go for the Going Away licence and plan meals and activities on camp which was the whole reason I signed my daughter up to guides is because I wanted her to have the same experiences that I had had when I was a guide. This training will help me to organise those sorts of activities for our unit.” Kerry, Hillingdon.

We started the day with Archery led by Willow Tree volunteers Jenny, Katherine and Alison who ran the session as if we were a group of young members, giving us a real taster of what’s on offer! After a few rounds attempting to hit the target (with mixed success and a lot of giggling), we blew up balloons (a mission in itself for some of us!) before the competition started of which team could burst all the balloons on their target first. This saw the competitive spirit come out and plenty of friendly banter as the field was filled with “ooooh so close” and cheers after the satisfying “pop” of a balloon.

Back inside the house, Jade talked through the RSPB activities and how we might apply and adapt them for each section. We started going round the room talking briefly about the last time we had been in nature, with a variety of responses from commuting to work, going for walks, or appreciating nature right on our doorsteps. Then we prepared to get creative (and mucky) creating bug hotels from bamboo and string and decorating with cute wooden animals and also getting stuck in bird food from lard, sunflower seeds, nuts and pellet seeds – all of which can be bought in bulk, making it an ideal activity to run as a unit.

We had an introduction to den building from Jackie Diamond (County Residential Advisor) and Nikki Latham (Ruislip-Northwood Residential Advisor). Here we learnt about the different types of shelters and some safety considerations and best practice before venturing out to the woods to create our own masterpieces. Each group created a different style of shelter but thankfully no one tested how waterproof they were (phew!) After dinner we were due to have a campfire in the evening, but the weather had other ideas, so the group settled in for an evening of exchanging stories and ideas. Some members also took the opportunity to tackle their huge badge pile by sewing more badges onto their blankets.

We started day two with a session led by Jade talking about meal planning for a weekend away. We discussed food options and ideas that could be appropriate for many different dietary requirements. Jade talked about ways we could aim to reduce the number of separate meals and having to consider the risk of cross contamination by picking meals that are all purpose. We went through a few examples of adaptations you may need to make for allergies and covered the question of the best place to get vegetarian marshmallows that burn on a campfire.

“It was great to meet some new faces from across the County, and share experiences from our Guiding journeys, as well as making new connections. I loved the archery and den building, being out in nature is so therapeutic and a great way to spend time with fellow volunteers. I have never been particularly adventurous with campfire cooking so always relish the opportunity to try cooking new foods and this did not disappoint.” Marian, Ruislip Windmill.

We then headed outside again with Alice leading a session on campfire building and Jenni going through options for campfire cooking, giving her own personal experiences of what works well on a fire. The group then got to work preparing our fires and lunch! Taking some tin foil we added mushrooms and gnocchi, seasoning with spices of our choice and garlic before wrapping it tight in a parcel shape and putting on the fire. We then took empty tin cans (being careful to remember to remove the external paper wrap!) and added frozen mix veg, egg noodles and stock mix and filling with water to create a campfire pot noodle!

We then, of course, finished with s’mores before heading back to the house for the final activity of the weekend. The organising team were available for attendees to ask questions around risk assessment, REN forms and ask advice on their Going Away Scheme or tips for future trips they were planning.

A big thank you to Jennifer Maidment, Alice Mulvenna, Jade Fardon along with Jackie Diamond and Nikki Latham for organising the weekend. To Guy Perry for being the QM, Chris Hughes for supplying the cakes and to Fauzia Mumani for bringing along items from the Harrow and Pinner shop to those volunteers who had placed orders – it was very exciting to get our hands on new branded items. Thank you to Jenny Brazier, Katherine Mills and Alison White for coming along to run the Archery session. If you are interested in becoming an Archery instructor please contact the Willow Tree Team who will happy to support you.

“Thank you to Jade, Alice and Jackie, it was so good and got some fantastic ideas for the Brownies and the Guides” Clare, Northwood.