Green field Camping
From the day the Troop started, it was always the policy to Green Field Camp. This was the original method of Scout Camping; a farmer’s field with a water supply. David Clark always managed to run summer camps on green field sites, next to a river. We worked on a 3 year cycle, one long away trip and two East Anglian sites. Scouting introduced a trial Camping Permit system for leaders in the late 1980’s, Cambridgeshire being one of the 3 chosen trial counties. As a direct result of this, David Clark, Nigel Tebbit and Roger Summerfield were instantly issued with Green Field Permits. We must be one of the first Groups to have them in the UK.
Prawle Point, in Devon, was a site David found, a long trip but a very interesting camp. We spotted a yacht firing a flare out at sea near our site and did nothing about reporting it! This was mentioned to the RNLI Life Guards when we visited them next day…..needless to say, we will report any flares we see in future!!! This camp was memorable as we had one lad bitten by a baby adder and another badly sprained his ankle. Both resulted in visits to the local health centre. It turned out the sprain was a break when checked out later at Addenbrookes. We only used this site once as we decided it was far too far to travel, and not a particularly good site, wood for fires being impossible to obtain.
Locksters Pool, on the river Wye, between Hay in Wye and Bredwardine was, in my view, our best site. We camped on the flood plain alongside the river, with a practically vertical hill the other side of the site. We could canoe down from Hay to the site, or from the site down to Bredwardine. The river next to the camp was very shallow in places and it enabled many youngster to learn how to canoe in very shallow, safe waters. We had 3/4 camps there; I think the last one was in 2002. The distance became a problem as leaders could no longer get home quickly. Sadly, the owner, Milo Mason, a good friend of ours, was drowned trying to get his cattle in during very heavy rain which caused the adjacent pasture land to flood.
A site at Higham, near Colchester, was another good site found by David, which we used 2 or 3 times until it became unavailable owing to change of ownership…
As time went by, and long distant camps became extremely difficult for leaders to manage, I spent some time looking for more convenient sites to enable leaders to split their time between camp and work commitments. My first success was Little Lodge Farm, on the river, deep in Thetford forest. Again, an ideal canoeing river, and narrow enough to build a rope bridge over, with the result we had many very wet Scouts.
One afternoon we saw a very dark cloud approaching, which turned out to be a mass of flying ants, which settled on the tents about 1cm thick. These had been driven on by a massive storm, which flooded several tents (there had been no rain for several weeks and the ground was solid) and many lads had very wet sleeping bags. I think all the leaders lent theirs out and slept mainly in their clothes that evening!
Another new site was at Shottisham Hall Farm, a large country estate and shoot, on the River Deben, near Woodbridge. Again a brilliant canoeing site and plenty of country side to explore. Two points stand out about our first camp there. The site been used for a District Camp the previous weekend and we must have found nearly 100 metal tent pegs that had been left!! They obviously had not done a proper site clear when they finished. On the second morning, a young lad, the gamekeeper’s son, turned up to watch, and eventually joined in. Next morning, directly after breakfast, there he was again and joined us for the day. His father, Richard, the game keeper, turned up that evening on his quad bike, with the previous night’s shoot, and dropped off 25 Pidgeon and 5 Rabbits. Richard showed the lads how to ‘breast ‘a Pidgeon while Nigel Tebbit and I did the rabbits. Not many troops can boast fresh Pidgeon, and then, Rabbit stew for supper!!
Eventually work took its toll on David Clark and myself, so we then had to run weekend camps from then onwards at Abington, Pampisford, Grantchester, Haslingfield and one or two other local sites. Weekend camps have been the situation for the next 10/15 years owing to leaders work and family situations. James Prisk joined us in 2013 and intends to reintroduce week long camps in the future.
Making and using our own canoes
David Clark felt the troop needed an activity to concentrate on and decided it would be a very good idea to make fibre glass canoes. (See John Wicks memories) A mould was hired and a canoe, and a duplicate mould was made for future use. Over the years, we must have made about 6 – 8 canoes from this mould. My own memory of canoe making is of a long cold, dark evening at Philimore Gardens with two ex-Army 14ft tents erected back to back. Inside were the mould, fibreglass, resin and two, or may be more, electric fan heaters going full blast. The warmer it was, the quicker the fibre glass and resin set, and our aim was to make both halves of the canoe and join then together in one evening!!!
These canoes, along with a few other odd ones, must have lasted about 35 years until we decided we ought to buy some new ones, as fibreglass was becoming to be a problem. I think the last two were sold about 2 years ago, for £50, having been stored at the back of the porta cabin for several years.
The original canoe trailer, circa 1971, was stripped down and refurbished in James Prisk’s workshop about 2018 and will last another 45 years. David Clark, Nigel Tebbit and Bill Manley were the main BCU certified instructors, while I managed a BCU level1!!!
After a few years of little use, our Explorer leaders, Ian Griffin and Ben Harris, are in the process of getting certified so the Explorers can make full use of our 8 canoes. In the meantime, many thanks to Will and Penny Bull who have been keeping Harston Scouts on the water, and for Trumpington Farms for allowing us to canoe from their land in Grantchester.
During the late 1970’s/early 1980’s we acquired an old Enterprise yacht, which we named ‘Friday Night’ after the many hours spent on Friday nights by parents getting it fit for use. It became obvious after a while that it was not, although great fun, a practical activity for us and eventually it was sold.
Activities over the years
Over a 50 years period, we have managed to provide a very wide range of Scouting Activities, and I will try and pick out a few highlights. Numbers have always been strong, with over 40 lads in the troop in 1978. Thank goodness we had 5/6 leaders then!
Cubs were started in 1973 by Betty Holmes (see Cub Report) and result of her contact, we had, for several years, our St Georges Day Service in Harston School, with the Salvation Army Band providing the music.
Hauxton Cubs were started in 1981, with Gwen Hodges as the leader.
Every November, we took the older Scouts to Derbyshire for a weekend hill walking, staying usually at Crowden Youth Hostel. Other similar trips including going caving with Perry Dazley while Martin Gambie and Bill Manley took the lads up to Cumbria for a weekend’s walking.
Various District Camps at Abington, St Ives and Gilwell Park were attended, as well as the Queens silver Jubilee Camp.
We have had visits from a range of speakers, including an American U2 spy plane pilot, complete with his full air conditioned space suit, Alan Banks Motor Cycle Scramble team, complete with bikes, and Mr Webb from Newton, complete with his portable, and very noisy, petrol engines.
In 1982 we arranged for the British Red Cross to run a 10 week Junior First Aid course for all our older members and this ran every other year for about 12 years. As a result of this, there are many 55 year old ex scouts with a very good first aid background in South Cambs.! During this time, we had been cutting the grass in the Village Cemetery as our contribution to Harston village
In 1982, a new Concrete Building was opened at Abington Camp Site, and we donated 6 “Sapporo Autumn Gold” Dutch Elm resistant Elm trees to celebrate the opening of the better facilities. In 2018, Cambridgeshire Scouts sold the site to the International School as they could not be bothered to carry on running it. An absolute Disgrace.!!!!!
Also in 1982 we purchased our first transport, an old black van we converted into a 12 seater mini bus (Bench seats, no seat belts)
In 1983 we started the Granta Canoe Race, 11-13 year olds canoeing from Hauxton Mill to the M11 Bridge, the older lads going to the Railway Bridge and back. I think we had over 30 competitors every year, until it finished in 1991. We even took the canoes on the Norfolk Broads, staying in an old pleasure cruiser, the Valoma, owned by Norfolk Scouts.
On 11 October 1986, a flotilla of fourteen canoes left Jesus Green, Cambridge to paddle to Ely in aid of Lindsay Angel, Roger Angle’s severely handicapped daughter. Roger, a work colleague, had helped David Clark start Harston Scouts, and it turned out he had been raising funds over the past 5 years to send his daughter to America for specialised treatment. Scouts took it in turn canoeing, and with support from other Granta Leaders, arrived at Ely in fine shape, to find Roger and Lyndsay waiting for them. Radio Cambridge covered the trip, and we have many newspaper cuttings of the event. Our initial Target was £500, but thanks to the support of many people, we actually raised £2512.
In 1987 we won the district First Aid competition….we still have the trophy!
In 1988 the Venture Unit was started, with Richard Hopkins and Tim Anderson as leaders, while in 1989, Mark Stark took over running Hauxton Cubs and Martin Gambie and Bill Manley retired as Scout Leaders. The canoe race attracted 48 lads from 11 troops in the County, and we had 11 guides for the first time. The Troop won the County Scout Quiz.
1990 was the 21st Anniversary of the reforming of Harston Scouts and a very successful parents disco was held to celebrate the occasion. A visit to RAF Alconbury was enjoyed by all the lads, while at Philimore Garden Centre, a 36ft. Porta Cabin arrived, a present, via David Woolridge, from Fisons in Hauxton. A good, permanent storage facility for all of our equipment and many thanks for David and Nigel Clark for allowing us to use their land for this. We used it until 2018, when we opened our storage and Activity Centre on Harston Recreation Ground. In 1990, we also replaced the Black mini Bus with two very good second hand ones.
In 1991 we started the year with 32 members but quite a few went up into Venture Scouts. Cub Numbers were down, owing to the general decline in number in the Scout Movement during the early nineties. Camp was held at Little Lodge farm, with 22 scouts, a very good turnout before many joined Ventures. We had a presentation of Chief Scout awards to…….. (see photo)
In 1992, Lingarden, a major UK bulb supplier, ran a National Scout Daffodil Competition for the most inventive community project. Most of the local companies planted daffodils purchased from us, with the result we won the £100 1st prize. This helped to fund camp at Hay on Wye, and trips to Perry’s cottage and the November trip to Derbyshire.
We managed to get tickets for a recording of the BBC’s children’s show “Tricks and Tracks” early in 1993 and 27 members spent the evening at the BBC in London. Unfortunately, Mark Start had to move away on business, and as we could not find anybody to takeover Hauxton Cubs, the lads transferred to Harston and we were forced to close Hauxton.
One of the highlights of 1994 was the Jumble Sale, which raised the tremendous amount of £1340. Camp was at Little Lodge Farm and Jason Williams and James Tooley were awarded their Chief Scout Awards. (see photo).The Chief Scout’s Award is the highest award in the Scout Section and in gaining this award the Scout has to complete a series of tests and achievements based on adventure, commitment and service to the community, self reliance in Scouting skills and leadership, as well as helping to promote’ Scouting.
At the AGM, Brian Payne, the County Commissioner presented Warrants to Paul Woolridge (Raz) and his future wife, Wendy Moss, who were ACL’s with Betty Holmes in the Cubs.
In 1994, after 26 years as GSL, David Clarke decided it was time for somebody else to take over the running of Harston Scouts. A celebration evening was held for David and Lorna, with a video showing David in action running camps, hikes, and activities over the years. Many old Scouts, and parents attended, to thank David for all the time spent providing adventurous activities for hundreds of youngsters over the past 25 years. David was presented with a “Thank You” present and his Scouting History in the Big Red Book (see the BBC “This is your Life” show)
The next few years passed with a wide range of activities, both District and County, with both Cubs and Scouts going up and down, similar to the national average. However, thanks to the work of Brenda, Colin and Amanda, we usually had a waiting list for the Cubs.
In 1998 the Scout Association ran a campaign with Asthmatics Association and we managed to raise over £450 with a charity swim at Melbourn Village college pool. However, information and documentation for the late 90’s and early 20’s seems to be very thin.
In the late 1990’s Scouting started to allow GSL’s to have girls in the movement, but it was not until 2011 we had Girls in Harston Scouts. My initial thoughts when it was first discussed were negative, but I have since realised that Scouting should be open to all and I feel it has been a great success.
One notable event!!! In 2013, Granta District was closed, partly as a result of the Counties disgraceful decision to sell Abington Camp Site. Granta Groups were the main local users of Abington Camp Site and objectors to the sale, and County used the fact that we did not have a DC, to split the objecting Groups into 3 Districts, ourselves and Orwell going to Royston to strengthen them. This has proved beneficial to us as we can use Hertfordshire facilities, but Cambridge trainers if required. To mark the closing of Granta District, 1st Harston decided to have the Granta Badge on their Scarves as a way of recognising the excellent work done by Granta District for Scouting in South Cambs over many years.
After 44 years, the final link with David and Nigel Clark as leaders and officials ended at the AGM as Nigel retired as Chairman and was presented with the Chief Scouts 25 year Certificate. Harston Scouts owe David, Lorna, and Nigel a great debt of gratitude for all they did over the years for Harston Scouting.
In 2015 James Prisk took over as Scout Leader, with Tim as his number two, and Ben re-joining from Uni, with the result that activities increased, numbers increased, so now in 2019, our 50th Anniversary, we have over 30 Scouts, and 25 Cubs, along with 15 in Granta Explorer Unit.
In the summer of 2016, Benda and Colin were presented with the Scout Medal of Merit for their brilliant work with Harston Cubs.
In 2017, work started on the provision of the storage facility on Harston recreation ground, which was opened by Jane Moran, a parent, Exec member and Parish Councillor in November 2018 with a fire work display. The evening was attended by several of the people who generously help provide the facility.
50th Anniversary Camp
It was decided that the best way to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Harston Scouts was to run a weekend camp for all the Group at Tolmers Camps site, a large, well equipped site owned by Hertfordshire Scouts. The weekend of 27 /29th September, 2019, was chosen and was attended by 30 Explorers and Scouts camping, with 6 Cubs visiting for the day. The benefit of using Tolmers was the wide range of activities available on the site…rifle range, Raft building, Giant slide and inflatables, Camp fire circle, and a large indoor centre for cooking, leaders sleeping quarters and storage facilities.
It was decided to hold a Hog Roast on the Saturday Evening and we were pleased to invite many of the people who have helped us over the years.
It gave me the opportunity to say thank you to John and Janet Tebbit, who unfortunately could not attend, Dom Bellamy, Will and Penny Bull, Paul Woolridge (Raz, GSL Hardwick), and many others without who’s help, Harston Scout Group would not be as successful as it is today. We are currently very well run by an excellent team of leaders and helpers, without whose help this celebration could not go ahead.
Harston Scouts were asked to design a badge to celebrate our 50th and the attached was designed by Paola Rosella, which was presented to all our guests and to all members of Harston Scout Group to be worn as part of their uniform.
Its been a fascinating 50 years and I am sure, to quote the 1957 Jamboree song, Harston Scouts will be here ‘for another 50 years’
Group Scout Leader 6 July 2021