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BP Adventure to Bruges

Over twenty Guides from across the North East completed their Baden-Powell Challenge Award with a trip to Bruges.
The adventure started when the girls met for the first time at the ferry terminal in Hull. Before even setting foot on the boat, the girls were partaking in getting to know you games and meeting their new cabin mates and volunteer leaders.
During the sailing to Bruges the girls did further team building activities, made badges using a dry felting technique and worked on creating posters about what they had done in their own Baden Powell Challenge before settling down for the night.
The next morning the boat docked, we all caught the coach to medieval Bruges and a walk through the city took us to the Choco Story Museum where the girls visited the Museum to learn about chocolate history before taking part in a special chocolate workshop lead by Master Chocolatier Reuben. During the workshop the girls made their own chocolate plaques featuring the Choco Story logo and a selection of decorated chocolate buttons, all of which were taken home as presents. After the trip to Choco Story, the girls had some free time to get their lunch and explore the atmospheric city in small groups. As we were blessed with a glorious Summer’s day, many of them headed to the city square pavement cafes for lunch, eating Belgium’s famous frites before exploring further. Mid-afternoon we all gathered again to enjoy a trip along Bruges’ canals and learn a little about the City’s history whilst having a well-earned sit down.
Back on the boat that evening, the girls gave presentations in their groups on their Baden Powell Challenge achievements before learning more about what guiding had to offer for them once they had left their Guide units. Later we talked about how the trip had gone and one of the Guides said “I liked getting to know different people and I was nervous everyone would be in big groups. I realised lots of other people were in the same boat as me and I have made loads of new friends”, another said “I would highly recommend coming to an international trip with Guides, especially if you are a nervous traveller. They are great experiences with plenty of fun to be had”.
The group’s leader, Liz Laming, said: “The girls had a wonderful time for some it was their first time travelling abroad without their parents, it really boosted their confidence and they really enjoyed the chocolate too!”

ICE 2016 – Final Project Trip to Dublin

An early start was needed for the beginning of ICE’s 2016 adventure as 12 Guides and 3 Leaders met at Newcastle airport. Once goodbyes were said and pictures taken, the group headed through the airport, an easy and swift process, and it wasn’t long before we were safely aboard the flight to Dublin International Airport. On arrival we were met by 3 Leaders from Portmarnock who took our luggage while we waited for the bus and squeezed in a quick lunch at McDonalds! It wasn’t long before we were unpacked and ready to explore our home for the next 5 nights. Just a short walk took us towards the supermarket and then the beach, shoes and socks off, in for a quick paddle and photo opportunity. The day was rounded off with the newspaper game where patrols had to compete to complete a range of challenges and satisfy the judges high standards.

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Our first full day saw us heading to the beach for our first community project – beach clean-up and sand dune preservation. The mornings effort saw 12 sacks of rubbish collected and two areas of the dunes planted with marram grass roots collected as part of the clean-up. As the marram grass grows it helps secure the dunes so when storms come the sand is held in place. It was extremely satisfying seeing the rubbish mount up and the dunes becoming clearer. A few residents came over to thank us for our hard work. Lunch was well earned followed by an ice cream before catching the bus to Swords for an afternoon at the cinema. It was difficult to stay awake in a darkened room after a hard morning working! The day was rounded off with a lovely meal out.

Tuesday was an opportunity for a lie in – greatly appreciated by all! The morning was spent practising songs for the nursing home, we quickly learnt that although we all knew the same songs there were small variations so we had to decide on the same version for everyone. An early lunch was had ready to set out for the bus to Raheny. One of Portmarnock’s Brownie Leaders met us at the nursing home to introduce us to the residents. After a shy start everyone sang their heart out and put lots of smiles on the residents faces, and in return the residents sang to us. The Guides helped to hand out tea as they chatted to residents, explained why they were in Ireland and what they had done so far. Once the tea cups were cleared away the girls made paper flowers, more opportunity for chat. As a thank you, the home provided us all with sausage, chips and Rock Orange (Ireland’s version of Fanta, a new favourite with us all!).

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Wednesday was back to an early start as we had a bus to catch to take us to Swords so we could walk to Brackenstown for the morning’s community action. The girls were asked to make booklets for the Parish Priest to take to homes when a loved one has died. The booklets contained music suggestions and readings that the family can choose from for a funeral. Such a simple thing to do but the end result will bring much comfort in times of loss. Once 300 booklets have been collated, stapled and packed it was time to visit the local food bank to hear of their work and see the packages given out to those in need. The morning flew by and it was soon time to leave to head back to Swords for lunch and shopping. In the evening we were joined by Brownies, Guides, Seniors and Leaders from Portmarnock for a campfire – though due to the weather it was an ‘inside campfire’. Songs, chants and repeat after mes were shared, new songs learnt and lots of laughter along the way. A quick drink and s’mores was needed before we tried Irish dancing – time for more laughter as the Leaders struggled to follow instructions!

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Thursday – a day for sightseeing and souvenir shopping. One bus and dart train later the group arrived in Dublin city ready for sightseeing aboard the Dublin Tour Bus, our driver shared lots of local knowledge and history as we made our way around the city. No rest, quick lunch before walking to the National Leprechaun Museum. Our guide explained the significance of leprechauns in Irish history and we heard stories of the cheeky little people. Our favourite part of the museum was when were shrunk to one third of our size so we could experience life as a leprechaun – it was hard work climbing on the giant furniture but great fun! All to soon it was time for tea before catching the train back to Portmarnock. The day was rounded off with an awards ceremony and memories of the week.

An early start again as our host Leaders collected us for the airport at 6:45! Once through security, pancakes were enjoyed for breakfast, much needed after our early start. Before boarding we had time for a few selfies! Everyone boarded the plane with thoughts of meeting family at the other end. Goodbyes were said, hugs were given as the 15 members of ICE 2016 made their way home. Not the end, but the beginning of the next stage of everyone’s guiding journey.

GoodbyePortmarnock

International Trip to Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a small nation in the heart of Central America.  It is a country unlike any other full of contrasts, variety of landscapes and cultures.  Costa Rica is an environmental wonderland.  It is home to 5% of the world’s biodiversity.

The people of Costa Rica are the country’s greatest asset.  There are very welcoming of travellers who come to experience their ecological gem.  It is a developing country that lacks resources while it struggles to advance in the 21st century.

badge costa ricaOur group from North East England was made up of 8 Senior Section members and 3 leaders.  We started our Costa Rican adventure with a 22 hour journey from Newcastle to San Jose via Heathrow and Dallas.  We arrived to a very warm welcome and a traditional Costa Rican meal – rice and beans.

 

Our first adventure was to work with biologists at the OSA turtle conservation project.  We walked the beach helping with the coastline clean up and mCR1angrove reforestation.  We spent time on the Pacific coast waiting for turtles so we could monitor turtle population.  This involved measuring and tagging them.  After drinking the milk from freshly cut down coconuts, watching macaws and sloths in the trees, we soon discovered that we were there as travellers and not as tourists.  We had immersed ourselves into the Costa Rican culture.

CR2We then set off for Cerro de la Muerte, one of the highest points in Costa Rica.  In Providencia we were surrounded by a lush cloud forest, known for its sustainable lifestyle.  We learnt first-hand about rural Costa Rican life as we joined a family in the small community and soon became part of their home.  Community members are committed to sustainable farming practices and developing micro-enterprises to support economic vitality.  We had the opportunity to work on their 100% sustainable farm, participate in the entire milk process from milking cows to making cheese.  With Señora Flora we learnt how to make a traditional coffee basket made from old newspapers, which are still used today in the fields.  The local artisans showed us their work and how they create art from a wood root found in the forest and by reusing plastics.

On the Caribbean side of the country, we had an amazing experience visiting the indigenousCR3 community living in the Talamanca Mountains.  The Bri Bri are one of the last remaining native people in Costa Rica.  They practice non-invasive agriculture within their protected mountainous rainforest.  The remote village can only be reached by a rugged mountain trail.  We had to leave our bus and hike crossing three rivers, one by boat and two on foot.  We learned about their history, culture and way of life and how they find food, medicine, tools and building materials within the rainforest.  We were taken to the home of the family who was responsible for cocoa production.  We sampled cacao beans and a chocolate drink. Our visit included a simple lunch of chicken, hearts of palm, rice and beans served on a banana leaf!  Few people are invited to visit the Bri Bri on their sacred land and we were privileged to have the experience.

CR4Next was the Veragua rainforest.  We explored the private reserve with researchers.  We experienced flora, fauna and amazing animals during night insect and frog walks.  We had a working visit to the butterfly garden, where we set the new butterfly’s free in the garden and prepared the lava for hatching.  We had the opportunity to work on a frog habitat restoration project.  We finished lining a pond that had been dug and brought plants from other parts of the park to make the resettled frogs feel more at home.

Our finCR5al location was at the base of the spectacular Arenal Volcano.  We had time to relax in the hot spring pools before flying through the rainforest canopy on a zip line.  We got our equipment, had a safety demonstration and a practice run.  Now we were ready for the truck drive to the first platform.  We drove under the canopies of trees that were so high.  The first jump was quick and easy, then they started getting further apart to the next elevated platform tree house.  The canopies were now at our feet as we flew through the air.  We had an eagle’s view of the entire valley, the fields, the towns and people’s houses.

We visited Escuela El Jaúuri elementary school.  We were met by enthusiastic children waiting to take our hands as we got off the bus and show us to our seats.  They performed traditional songs and dances and we CR6even had to join in.  We interacted with children in their classrooms.  A history class was learning all about England and the Queen, so we sang them the National Anthem.  We donated essential materials to the school before we left.

 

A visit to an organic farm was full of surprises.  We learned about rural Costa Rican life on a CR7small scale farm.  We explored the fields and the crops they had growing.  We collected tropical yams for tea, turned sugar cane into juice, roasted coffee for the smoothie competition and make tortillas for tea.

Our last visit of this adventure was to an orphanage.  Children are taken directly from difficult home situations and given a safe place.  It offers hope to children as well as education, justice, recreation and access to health care.  We spent time playing with the children, blowing bubbles that we had taken and the children looked at our photographs from the trip so far.  We left them with lots of colouring in things, snacks for school and cleaning materials – items they struggle to have.

It was an amazing experience with lots of once in a life time opportunities.  Cold showers, damp clothes, thunderstorms, rice and beans, dense tropical forests, palm-fringed beaches, towering volcanoes, endangered sea turtles, gregarious monkeys, sleepy sloths, brilliant macaws helped us to achieve the Costa Rican experience.

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We feel humble for the opportunity to help so many communities and projects during our visit, which was returned many times over by the warmth of all we met.

We went there to make a difference, we did.

Finland Jamboree ROIHU & Helsinki 2016

Girlguiding North East England’s Finland trip started early on 19 July at Teesside Airport with pic1three adults and seven members of The Senior Section all packed up to embark on a life changing experience attending ROIHU 2016, an international jamboree with an attendance of 17,000. The trip consisted of an overnight stay on the outskirts of Helsinki, eight days at ROIHU Jamboree and six days sightseeing back in Helsinki.

Our first night’s stay on the outskirts of Helsinki gave us the opportunity to regroup and ensure everyone was ready for the jamboree. We spend the evening discussing our expectations of the jamboree, comparing badges and writing our contact details on wooden clothes peg to be given out over the coming eight days.

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ROIHU itself was a whirlwind, with thousands of activities to choice from centred around six themes: Experience; Global Culture; Me; Creativity; Water and Entrepreneurship. The first days were spend exploring the extensive site, settling into the camp routine and unfortunately getting slightly lost when trying to find our camp unit!

 

For the next four days the group took part in numerous activities including swimming, sailing, crafts, sexual health education, fashion design and educational debates. Through the activities and general camp life friendships within the group were strengthened with the girls learning to live in a confined space with each other and also new friendships formed with thousands of Finnish scouts and international visitors. Over this period of time the girls took charge of their own programme planning daily activities they were interested in and ensuring they could fit everything in around the set meal times and whole camp activities.

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The last day of camp gave the group the opportunity to join the International Service Team and carry out a day’s work on the camp. The girls volunteered in the camp kindergarden looking after over 100 children all with limited English speaking. Some very amusing hand actions and games were developed by the girls allowing them to interact with the children without verbal communication allowing them to complete their assigned tasks as well as providing a happy and fun environment for both the children and themselves.

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The camp finished with a closing ceremony and a reflection evening within our camp unit. This provided us with the opportunity to reflect on our experiences and access our personal development through the jamboree.

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After the jamboree we travelled back to a camp site on the outskirts of Helsinki to spend some time relaxing. The first day consisted of sleeping, unpacking and making our way through the mountain of washing! We then planned our program for the next week and ensured we completed the essential open top bus tour! While in Helsinki we visited the Suomenlinna Islands to learn some more about Finish culture and also enjoy the beautiful weather. The other days were filled with trips to the Zoo, Serena Water Park, Linnammaki theme park and plenty of shopping and eating.

Overall we all had a fantastic trip experiencing such a unique event and being given the opportunity to represent Girlguiding North East England.

Estonia, Latvia and Finland 2016

A Girlguiding North East England delegation of girls and Leaders travelled to Latvia, Estonia and Finland at the end of July 2016 to take part in community work and deliver Free Being Me training! Here’s a diary of their trip so far…

Day 2 – Lydia

After not sleeping particularly well, we all woke up at 8.30 in my room so we could get breakfastELF1 on time in the leaders apartment. We all made our packed lunches for the day and headed out into Helsinki. Our apartments were quite central which I liked as when we were walking to Senate Square, we passed huge, beautiful buildings all around us. It made me really love Helsinki as it is so light and open (the buildings in the area where we stayed were all painted in creams and whites). After looking around Senate Square, we continued being directed by Jazz to Market Square which was filled with stalls and people. We split into groups and I went around with Meg, Anna, Rebekah and Sophie and looked at souvenirs and badges. I was really surprised to find a lot of Moomin memorabilia around but I later found out that it is because the creator is Finnish. Some of us also went on the Helsinki Wheel while I sat and took lots of photos. After having explored the square, we reconvened at the fountain to go on a boat tour around all of Helsinki’s islands for an hour and a half. It was really hot and I even put on my sun hat despite my aversion to wearing it! Once we returned to dry land, we ate lunch and had a stop at McDonalds to buy McFlurry’s. We had a break while enjoying our ice creams and formulated a plan as to what to do for the rest of the afternoon. We decided we all wanted to go to the island fortress, Suommelinna, which is one of the most visited sites in Helsinki. It took 15/20 to get to the island and then we split up into groups to wander around. It was beautiful with lots of battlements and old stone buildings as well as small beaches and coves. Meg and Anna even went paddling before we headed back to get the ferry back to Market Square. We all had to be quick though as we were meeting up with the NE England Jamboree group who had finished the camp and were ELF2visiting Helsinki. We walked for ages until we found the pizzeria where we were eating. I don’t usually eat pizza but the ham and pineapple pizza I had was really good. After chatting for a long time and finding out about the Jamboree, our group returned to our accommodation to get some sleep for sightseeing and travelling the next day.

 

Day 3 – Rebekah

After a very long sleep in the lovely Helsinki apartments we woke up at about 9 ready to have some delicious breakfast and face the whole malarkey of packing our bags again. At around 10:30 we finally said out last goodbyes to the apartments as we set off to go on one of the open top buses. The walk into the centre (where the bus stop was) took about 15 minutes and we passed of beautiful buildings and scenery which we were able to take lots of photos of. There was also lots of fire engines that went racing past, their sirens ringing in our ears as they went. Anyway, after the lovely (but very painful) walk, we finally arrived at the bus stop. It was about 10:50 and the bus was due to arrive at 11. However, at the bus stop there were two women who informed us that there was a technical problem with the bus and we were to move to another bus stop. With our backpacks on, we crawled all the way to the other bus stop, which was essentially 2 minutes away, but felt like an eternity. After arriving at the right bus stop, we waited ‘patiently’ for the bus with our bags dumped on the floor. When the bus arrived (5 minutes later) we all loaded our bags on and got seated comfortably, the leaders on the bottom of the bus and us girls sat in the open top section. The bus journey lasted roughly an hour and a bit and we got to see some of Helsinki’s most famous buildings and sights. This included the cathedral, the theatre and some statues. After the wonderful and relaxing bus journey, we ELF3made our way to the ferry port in order to set sail to Tallinn (Estonia). The ferry set off at around 3:30 and took around 2 and a half hours. On the ferry, we got the chance to go to the shops, buy ourselves a refreshing drink and rest our legs. The ferry arrived in Tallinn at around 5:45 and we had a 15 minute walk to the hostel which we are staying in. Once we had arrived at the hostel, we all went for a walk to explore the local area and we went to find somewhere to get tea. At around 7, we found a restaurant where we sat down and ate. At the restaurant, me, Inés and Megan shared a platter of bread and cheese which was lovely and really filled me up, and we had some really tasty lemonade with it. At around 9:30 we headed back to the hostel and to our rooms, ready to get a good nights sleep. On our way back, we bumped into some Austrian scouts in the middle of Tallinn who stopped to take a selfie with us. They were very happy and excited to see us and stopped to have a small conversation.

Day 4 – Inés 

ELF4After settling into our new place to stay, MoHostel, and rested overnight, we woke up and had breakfast at 10:30. After our croissants and other pastries, we finished getting ready and we were told our activities for the day. We split into groups and were able to go explore in Tallinn, many of us stayed in the old town of Tallinn as it is full of history and Has many things to do there. I was in a group with Evie and Jess, as a group we decided we wanted to walk along the streets and if we spotted something we wanted to do, we’d do it. We spent most of the morning in and out of souvenir shops where one of the shopkeepers told us about the viewing points of Tallinn and where to find them. We had lunch in the local park and then decided to check the viewing points out. We had to climb many steps to get there but it was totally worth it once we saw the views of Tallinn. From there we went to visit the other viewing point which showed most of the city. While on the way to the points, we saw many historical monuments and cathedrals including the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Alexander Nevski. From the view points ELF5we walked down a couple of steps until we were outside the old city walls, there we found the Tallinn flower festival where people from all over the world had come to decorate there gardens. After that, we made our way back to the hostel for some resting time before we went out for a traditional Estonian meal. After the meal, we went on a walk to show the rest of our group the spectacular views we had found that day. By the time we had finished our walk, we were ready for bed and for an exciting day ahead. 

Day 5 – Evie 

It’s our last morning in Pärnu! 

ELF6We hired loads of bikes (and a tandem for 10 seconds before Amber and Cassy realised it is very hard to ride a tandem) and went riding round the town for an hour, some of us were better than others! Then we packed all our bags and went to the beach for a few hours. This mainly consisted of sleeping and applying lots of sun cream to keep Cassy happy. After that, we went back to the hostel only to get booted out again by the cleaner, but luckily our bus driver wasn’t too long to pick us up to take us to Sigulda!

After a 2 hour bus journey we finally arrived at our lodge – it’s so pretty but the toilets were soooo smelly. We freshened up and went on the hunt for some food. We finally found a shopping centre with a restaurant. Full from our massive pizza’s, we went shopping in the supermarket- not remembering the long walk it took to get there! Very sweaty and hot we got back to the lodge, unpacked the shopping then went to bed ready for the next adventurous day!

To be continued…

Lyke Wake Walk in Memory of Greta Fowler 11 – 12 June 2016

40 miles of walking and 5000 feet of climbing all completed within twenty-four hours just to earn a badge and the title of  “witch” – would any members of Girlguiding North East England be mad enough to take up the challenge?

Indeed eight members were and their adventure started at 5.00 am on a damp, muggy Saturday as they touched the Lyke Wake stone in Osmotherley and wondered if they would eventually touch a similar stone 40 miles away across the North Yorkshire Moors in Ravenscar before 5.00 am on Sunday morning.

The walk starts off following the Cleveland Way which we followed full of energy and chatting away getting to know everyone in the group.  Sadly a very grey cloudy morning meant the views were virtually non-existent but at least the rain just about kept away.

Happy walkers despite the poor visibility!

Happy walkers despite the poor visibility!

Having climbed up over the Wain Stones we eventually descended to our first check point and were met by Angie Goddard (Region Archivist) and her husband.  They walked with us for some distance and showed us some photos of Greta Fowler completing the walk in the 1970’s to raise funds for the region standard we still use today.

The weather lifted somewhat and as the miles passed we had views over Westerdale Moor and Farndale Moor and after five miles walking on a disused railway line we reached the Lion Inn at Blakey Ridge.  We had a well-earned rest in the car park while having our lunch and giving our feet some freedom from socks and walking boots!  Not quite sure what the wedding guests made of us as we made use of the pub facilities though!

Refuelled by fresh socks, a short rest and some food and knowing we were nearly half way there, we set off again with renewed energy.  At this point we were beginning to think we may see some sunshine – bit too optimistic though!

Lyke Wake Walk 2Soon after lunch we were due to meet the “boggy section”.  Reading the guidebook while walking along, it is recommended that you travel fairly light over this section if possible leaving heavy rucksacks with the back-up crew”.  Well too late for that so we just had to soldier on and hope for the best!  We were going to either bounce over the boggy section or sink in up to our knees.  Luckily for us the weather had been kind and most of the time we bounced over the peat which was quite a welcome change for our weary feet!

On we trekked over Rosedale Moor, Wheeldale Moor, passing the “famous” Blue Man-i’-th’-Moss standing stone.  We could just about make out RAF Fylingdales on the distant horizon   and did wonder if it would every get any closer.   Eventually we could see the smoke from the steam train which was passing on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway as we made our way down to Eller Beck.  Another quick rest and refuel here although some of us didn’t dare sit down in case we could not get up again and off we went again.

Soon conditions began to deteriorate and visibility became very poor and it was difficult to pinpoint landmarks from the map so we needed to rely on the expert map and compass work of Amy and Hazel who got us all safely across the next stage.

As night fell, the rain started and things became very slippery underfoot.  It was about 10.30 pm before we eventually had to resort to using torches to see where we were going.  Conversations became almost non-existent as everyone concentrated on keeping upright while trying to negotiate very narrow muddy tracks through the heather and uneven slippery stones as we made some steep descents, all by torch light.

Our route had been over 7 printed out maps and a cheer went up as it was announced we had reached map 7, the very last map so we could not be that far from the end at last!  One advantage of walking in the dark and poor visibility, you cannot judge how steep some of the ascents are as you cannot see the top which is quite useful when your legs are weary!  We eventually met the A171 road and knew the end was really in sight, only about 2 miles away.  A quick refuel here while trying to keep moving around so we did not stiffen up completely and off we went for the last stretch.

Still in the pouring rain, we eventually reached and touched the Lyke Wake stone in Ravenscar at 1.10 am on the Sunday morning, elated but exhausted.  Had we really been walking for 20 hours, it seemed unbelievable.  We were then ferried to Ravenscar village hall where we all collapsed into our sleeping bags after being given our Lyke Wake walk badges (we all know all Guiding members love a badge)!

Huge thanks have to go to Debbie Sherratt, the Region walking adviser for making this event possible and for all the hours she spend sitting in her car in an area with mobile phone reception, Jane Murray and Anne Esslemont for their fantastic work as our back up team and Angie Goddard for giving her support  by walking with us.  Equally huge thanks go to Hazel Stancliffe and Amy Chilvers for their fantastic night navigation skills for getting us across the Moors when the visibility was non-existent.

Would I do the walk again?  Not sure I need to, been there, done that and have the badge and the blisters to prove I have done it and am really pleased I have completed the challenge.  I have offered to be part of the back-up crew next year though so if anyone else is up for the challenge………………..

Rachel Lamond, Region Outdoor Adviser

A day sailing on the Black Diamond

 

The Adult Day Sail 2016 took place on the Black Diamond based in Hartlepool on 30 April. Below is a summary of the day from one of the participants, Lindsay Monaghan.

After meeting at the marina and cup of tea and safety brief on board, we learnt how to prepare the yacht’s fenders and mooring lines for sailing (some of us learning the round turn and two half hitches in the process), we donned our sailing kit and life jackets and left the marBlackDiamond1ina through the lock gates.  Once out of the harbour and in the bay, Calvyn, the Black Diamond’s Skipper explained the importance of the navigational instruments in the cockpit and particularly emphasising the importance of the depth of the water and rate of knots we were sailing at.  We set the main sail and each took a turn at the helm, circling the bay a couple of times.  There was one problem however, there was very little wind (but we did have snow)!!

 

After some lunch and many, many ginger nut biscuits, the wind picked up, sun came out and we were soon sailing at six knots and tacking around the bay each one of us having a specific job to do.  Due to the tide we were unable to return to the marina at the end of the day, so insteadBlackDiamond2 moored alongside a fishing vessel in Old Hartlepool and helped the Skipper put the main sail away and tidy the yacht for the evening.  Reluctant to leave the new friends we had all made, we spent the next couple of hours with the Skipper relaxing in one of the bars in the Marina…discussing our next passage on the Black Diamond.

 

Lindsay Monaghan

Unit Leader

1st Barnard Castle Rainbows

Nepal Trip 2016

See below a “diary” and photos from our members trekking in Nepal

Chapter 1

We arrive at last on Friday (11 March) at 16.30 to be met by Abhi at the airport.  The flight was good but long and tiring.  The group enjoyed a very interesting trip through the streets of Kathmandu, cars, bikes, buses, cows coming from all direction.  After 40 minutes we arrived at the haven, our hotel.  Beautiful hotel with lovely gardens, renovated after the earth quake. We had our evening meal and a briefing meeting and then went out to a local bar, led by Abhi. Some stayed late and some were too tired and left early.

Abhi, our trek leader in Nepal

Abhi, our trek leader in Nepal

Breakfast in the sun

Breakfast in the sun

In the morning we had a great breakfast, fill your boots time. At 9am we left for the airport to Pokhara.  The plane was 2 hours delayed but in true guiding spirit we sat on the floor in a group and made the most of our time people watching and chatting to travellers.  Heather met someone who had been to Pateley Bridge!  Most went to sleep on the plane but were woken up quickly by a big thump; landing.  The airport was really quaint with basically a glamorous hut as baggage claim. The Nepalese take pride in their public spaces, the garden was beautiful. With luggage loaded into the minibus it was just a short drive to the hotel, again another very pleasant surprise.  This time it was only 10 minutes from the airport. Pokhara is a quiet city built around a lake.  It is less manic

than Kathmandu and more manageable.  Kathmandu is crazy.  We spent an afternoon in small groups, shopping trips on the lake, or just sitting in the sun..  Now we are sat outside having just had a super dinner wondering what the trek has in store for us.  The adventure starts tomorrow at 7 am.  We then have a bumpy ride in old buses to the start of our trek…

 

Chapter 2

Steps and steps and steps....Nepali flat

Steps and steps and steps….Nepali flat

Sat in a tea house, no one can hear anything due to the hail on the tin roof.  Today we had a scary bus ride for an hour and a half and then started the trek by walking along the river.  Then we climbed 1300 meters. It started raining about 2 hours ago, it’s even heavier than our practice walks. We are just 30 minutes from the camp site but no one wants to go in this rain.

 

 

 

Chapter 3

Well what can I say about today… The morning started of quite chilly but we had a lovely

Breakfast with a view

Breakfast with a view

breakfast outside, the porters took down the tents and bundled everything up to take to the next camp site. We set of in waterproofs as it was spitting and during the day changed from those to shorts and shirts and back again depending on the weather. We walked up hill all day through jungle and then through woods similar to those in England with violets and primulas. Lunch stop was near a stream, it was amazing. We had fried potatoes, salad, cooked veg, rice and chocolate pastries, tea, coffee and fruit… They do all this before we get to them and we just get it served to us…. Fabulous.

After lunch more up hill but not for too long which is a good job as the rain started….then the hail…and it turned really cold. The last bit of the walk was on amazing edge with shear drops down both sides, which were disguised by the fog. We arrived at camp all set up for us. This was Tarahill top, with the most amazing 360 degree view from the top…or so Ann tells us ….all we could see was fog and then the snow started…. What do you expect when a bunch of guiders go anywhere, we can’t have good weather can we? We are now in the mess tent with snow around us and as I type this the rest of the group are singing songs to Andy on his ukulele while waiting for our  tea. Oh no it must be time to go as they have started on kumbayah and Pizza Hut! And tea is ready… We are eating tea at 2800 meters in the snow… How many other people can say that.

So grateful for this experience. But we would love some amazing weather.

Caroline on behalf of the group

Chapter 4

Tuesday day 3 of our Trek …. It was a cold night,  about -8, but lucky it wasn’t windy on Tara Top. 5.50 am and we all got woken up by our icy tents being rattled, but it was worth as we all made our way outside all you could hear was the wows! What a sight words can’t describe the magnificent  panoramic  views, we were surrounded by mountains of the Annapurna range, the one that stuck of the most was Fish Tail it was towering above Annapurna 1. As the sun came up the snow began to melt but the clouds soon arrived and started to spoil our view but the camera were at the ready we managed to get some amazing shots including a group picture with all the porters.

Gorgeous view for the Nepal crew!

Gorgeous view for the Nepal crew!

Breakfast was al fresco it gave us all time to reflect on how lucky we all were again to be in the amazing place, with amazing people and the incredible views. 9.10 am everything was packed away and we began to make our way down hill trough the Jungle passing Rhododendron, Magnolias, Orchids, Gentian, edelweiss and many more. We were even followed by our camp dog, after 4 hours of walking down steps of all sizes we made to our camp site. Lunch was soon served, we now have a free afternoon some of us are enjoying the sunshine and Caroline has even been with a run with Sheba.

Taking it all in

Taking it all in

Chapter 5

Our fourth day of trekking started with a heart breaking descent to the base of the huge mountain opposite the campsite in order to begin the very long ascent. We passed through a beautiful village and paused to watch baby goats herded past us, a lady chopping turmeric and school children playing in the dusty playground who shouted “namaste” as we passed. The locals took great interest in us too and paused to watch us pass them. Many were herding cows, children chewing on sugar cane and ladies hanging out washing. A motorbike pulled up alongside us and it turned out this was a mobile shop which the locals used to buy chocolate and other goods they could not produce on the mountainside.

We were soon faced with a wobbly wooden suspension bridge and each passed over the river one by one. Our doggie companion who has been following us for two days needed a bit of encouragement from Deryk to cross over! We ascended the hill in the 36 degree heat and were helped up the ridge by the Sherpas as it was extremely steep (almost vertical) with sheer drops at either side! Following us were two local ladies who we bought drinks and biscuits from to give us extra energy. We paused for lunch under a large tree and were served toasties to our shock and awe. Harry the cook surpassed himself again! We have no idea how he can make toasties half way up a mountain on an open fire. True to the wonderfully kind nature of the Nepalis it was no surprise that the two village ladies and our doggie companion were also served some lunch. We have learnt very quickly how generous and considerate Nepalis are.

The walk continued to our campsite via a farm where Cassie could not resist picking up the farmers very cute little puppy! We had been climbing for over 4.5 hours in the heat (now 25 degrees) and our spirits were kept up by the wonderful Sherpas and many renditions of Frank Sinatra classics. Finally, we rounded the corner to the campsite where we all froze in complete wonder at the stunning Fishtail mountain providing the backdrop to the campsite. We were lost for words as the sun shone on Fishtail, Annapurna 2,3 and 4 in the distance (which does not seem so far away due to their size!) We were glad to rest and before lunch the porters built us a fabulous campfire. We all sat around the fire with the porters and took it in turns to sing Guiding and Nepali songs. In true Guiding spirit Ann opened a large packet of marshmallows and one of our Sherpas cut bamboo skewers. We offered a marshmallow to the porters and we soon realised they had no idea what the toasted marshmallows were. Their faces lit up as they bit in to the American sized giant marshmallows and we soon had toasted the whole bag for all the Sherpas, porters and kitchen team. It was a true highlight of the trip to see the trek crew enjoy something so much that we take for granted, many were covered in the sticky marshmallow and found the whole experience hilarious. After a few more songs accompanied by the ukulele’s we headed in to the big tent for dinner. For main course we were treated to Mo Mo’s which are Nepali pastry parcels filled with vegetables and spices. A long day tomorrow so we spent another hour by the fire before heading to bed 2600m high.

Amazing views and happy people

Amazing views and happy people

Chapter 6

We woke up to a beautiful view of the mountains surrounding camp so yet more photos were taken. Even though we were 30 minutes late setting off we were still earlier than the other days ready to face the long walk ahead. Starting off in glorious sunshine we walked along the ridge with stunning scenery on both sides. To the north of us the snowy mountains towered majestically and to the south the valley looked a long way down. Gradually we entered the jungle with pretty primroses poking out of crevices. The path was steep and rocky in places but always interesting and slowly we headed past the tree line. Cassie was leading the way with Pan (today’s lead guide) using his machete to clear the path of overhanging branches. Small patches of snow turned into larger areas and there was a noticeable drop in the temperature so time to put on extra layers.

After a bit of a pep talk by Ann and Isswor we continued up the hill and into the descending mist. Everyone was ecstatic to reach the summit of 3300 meters even though we could not see more than a few meters in front of us. It had taken about 5 hours. For the group photos our purple t-shirts were worn over the top of waterproofs as it was too cold to strip off! The guides whipped out a fantastic picnic packed lunch for each of us: Nepali bread with salami, chunk of cheese, boiled egg, apple and carton of mango juice. The guides passed round a celebratory local drink of fermented millet, which was met with varying opinions. Now it was time to start the long descent back to camp. Part way down we were met by Hari, some of his team and Panting the dog. Much to our pleasure they were waiting with hot lemon juice and supplies of extra drinking water. This helped to keep us going for the last couple of hours.

Tonight’s tea was amazing; veg soup with popcorn for starters then pizza(!), spicy veg noodles, boiled veg and pakoras with apple pie and custard for dessert. How Hari and his team create these dishes on an open fire and a gas burner is unbelievable.

The evening finished sat chatting round the glowing campfire again.

Chapter 7

Today dawned clear and sunny and as we emerged from out tents refreshed from a good

A wee break

A wee break

night’s sleep we were greeted by yet another splendid view of Fishtail and the other Annapurna mountains. We ate breakfast of apple porridge and cheese omelette while watching a lammergeier falcon circling above us. The trek crew held up the prayer flag which we had all decorated so we could take photos then they strung it over the path leading to yesterday’s walk.

Prayer flag

Prayer flag

As the crew were packing up camp, some of us tried on one of their loads which are carried suspended from a band over the forehead which gave us even more admiration for them, especially as we see them almost running past us with huge loads on the mountain tracks. We set off on today’s walk down the hill in hot sun, with great views of previous days’ walks. Lunch was in a cardamom farmer’s hut perched on the end of a ridge with fantastic views. Afterwards he showed us the field where they grow the new cardamom plants protected by bamboo plants.

Trying on the Sherpas' load...

Trying on the Sherpas’ load…

We set off again down a wide, gently sloping track through a terraced elm forest which shelters the older cardamom plants, the pods are a valuable cash crop. We arrived at our camp site mid afternoon, to find we are sleeping on the village volleyball pitch. Tibetan refugees arrived to sell us their handicrafts then Sheba, one of the trek guides took us round the village. Each house has a small vegetable garden, a cow shelter and chickens running loose. Bamboo is woven to make matting for roofs, garden fences, floor matting and chicken coops. Mother hens are in little skeps with their chicks. We saw the communal treadle operated rice mill, beehives which are in the walls of the house, a man peeling turmeric with a sickle as well as a satellite dish and a solar panel. We were invited into a house, with a wood fire which hasn’t gone out since it was built. It was very dark as there were no windows to keep the house warm. Shaun impressed the villagers by talking to them in Nepali. Children were playing jacks with pebbles with great skill and speed on the village meeting point next to our camp, a stone platform built around two trees. Caroline then taught them clapping games. Yet another special day in a very special place.

Chapter 8

On Friday, 18 March: The last day of the trek was down and down again. We had to concentrate hard so that we didn’t fall. We stopped in the village where we got given flowers and our face was painted, this is for good luck. Last night the villagers came up to our camp site and danced for us. We all joined in. We got down to the river and crossed a bridge followed the river until we came to a hot spring. Some of the group went in, after we crossed another bridge to our lunch stop and a welcome by the porters because our trek was over. We had another scary bus journey back to Pokhara travelling through villages on narrow roads with steep drops on both sides. We made it back to Pokhara very tired but very proud of each other for what we had just achieved.. Everyone of us in the group played a very important part, perhaps they didn’t know that… But it was because we were a team that we succeeded. We climbed 4740 met, 15800 feet, over the trek.

An overnight stay in Pokhara and then fly back to Kathmandu. When we arrived we left the bags at the hotel and jumped on another bus to go to the old city. We saw here the devastation from the earth quake and also Prince Harry. The old Temples and the beautiful wood carvings were beautiful. Back to the hotel for another wonderful meal.

Today is Monday and the sun is shining again. The group, apart from me (Ann), set off to fly around Everest. They have just got back saying it was a trip of a life time. They left the hotel at 6am. When they got to the airport it was closed due to Harry flying off to Pokhara. At 10 we are off for more sight seeing, monkey temple and other things.

Chapter 9

4.30 am start in amazing Kathmandu the dawn breaking as we waited for Buddha airlines flight to Everest, who would ever of thought that the Himalayan mountain range would spread out below us in the beautiful morning sunlight… we were able to almost touch the tip of Sagarmatha (8848 m 29028 ft)…. it was breathtaking and we were almost speechless as one by one we went into the cockpit for another incredible view of these mythical mountains, a truly amazing experience.

It was back to the hotel for a lovely breakfast the whole day tour of the crazy city of Kathmandu. Hare our guide lead us through a maze of small streets and bazaars with the constant tooting of motorbikes, scooters, cars and vans ringing in our ears ‘stay to the left’ shouted Hare ‘single file’ we obeyed like good guiders and reached our bus safely.

Our first stop was Swayambhunath temple known as monkey temple… it was fantastic,the cheekiest bunch of macaque monkeys ever entertained us by swimming, fighting and generally creating mayhem, the temple had been badly damaged in last years earthquake but was open and still vibrant a brilliant testament to the lovely Nepalese spirit. The next stop was Dhurbar square, again, the earthquake damage was obvious but still busy and full of life, teeming with tiny shops selling everything from dried spinach to very ugly dried fish!! and other things that we couldn’t even recognise.

Our next visit on our whistle stop tour was a Buddhist temple called Bouddhanath Stupa, a lot of rebuilding going on but after taking our shoes off we went inside and saw beautiful wall paintings and golden sculptures of all the buddhist/Hindu deities.

Our last stop was a huge Hindu temple complex called dashupati, it was vast complex of votive areas, brightly coloured  priests and we even go to see open cremations on the riverside , very different and challenging for our western sensibility but intriguing and very thought provoking.death here in Nepal is included in life in a very real way.

Hare, our lovely guide, got us on to our bus and we drove through the choking Kathmandu rush hour traffic to the welcome oasis of our hotel before getting ready for a final celebratory meal to end our last night in Nepal…. what will tomorrow bring?

Chapter 10

Today is our last day in Nepal. I in particular treated myself to a lie in then woke to the sound of loud music, shouts and screams. Kristina and I got up and packed all our bags up and just about managed to get the suitcases to close.  We attempted to venture out into Kathmandu to be faced with the festival of Holi and lots of people dancing in the streets with bags full of powdered dye and water guns. We lasted all of ten minutes before we gave up on trying to find anywhere open for lunch.

We returned to the hotel and ate some brunch with some nice cool lemon ice tea. After lunch we were prepared. We handed all our electricals to those who chose to stay in the hotel and we went out again, got our own bags of paint and got our own back on the locals. Everyone walks and dances along the streets with handfuls of powder and as the pass they throw it over you or wipe your face with it or cuddle you and wipe it all over wishing you a happy Holi. Everyone is so happy and there is so much going on around us for the celebrations (in amongst all the crazy Kathmandu traffic of course). We were covered head to toe in this amazing colourful powder and loved it. We looked like a rainbow explosion. When we came back to the hotel they gave us some old towels to get showered with and Heather ran away very quickly from a colourful cuddle. After lots of pictures (and one with the hotel manager at his request) we have attempted to get showered which was not easy as the paint stained when it got wet. The colour of the bathroom afterwards….not sure the hotel is pleased with this colourful assault.

Holi

We are mostly clean now and chilling in what was a very peaceful inner garden when we first arrived but now is full of the sounds happy people and loud live music from across the street. Still cannot get the paint out of my hair or ears. Not long now just another 3 hours of this paradise before we have to head back to the airport for a very long flight home.

‘Welcome to guiding’ Workshop – Leeds

 

‘Welcome to guiding’ Leeds  – Saturday 5 March 2016

On Saturday 5 March an enthusiastic group of local volunteers met at the Shine Centre in Leeds for North East England’s first ‘Welcome to guiding’ workshop. This event was the first of four workshops that are running throughout the spring of 2016 and was held thanks to funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

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Volunteers attended from the surrounding area in Leeds IMG_20160305_112214971and others travelled from further afield – including Mirfield and Filey. Some Leaders came with an interest in ‘Growing Guiding’ and were looking for support with local recruitment and retaining existing volunteers.

A number of local Commissioners attended with a view to receiving more information about how to encourage volunteers and getting them involved in supporting local units.

Lynne Reid, Assistant County Commissioner and local County Join Us Coordinator for Leeds County said that “I enjoyed all of the sessions today. It is so valuable to share ideas and meet people from other Counties.”

The workshop sessions included how to use local data and mapping to plan recruitment events, what resources are out there to enable your events to look and be successful, how to overcome barriers to joining Girlguiding and how to welcome new members and support their volunteering journey.IMG_20160305_120859375_HDR

Each participant was given an adaptable toolkit of resources and information to take away with them.

If you are a Leader, Commissioner or Adviser who is looking to find out more about recruitment, retention and welcoming new members into guiding, have a look at the dates for the following workshops that are taking place around the Region. Why not bring another volunteer along with you so that you can share your stories locally and meet with other Leaders?

 

Doncaster – 3 April http://girlguidingnortheast.org.uk/event/welcome-to-guiding-workshop-doncaster

Newcastle – 23 April http://girlguidingnortheast.org.uk/event/welcome-to-guiding-workshop-newcastle

Darlington – 7 May http://girlguidingnortheast.org.uk/event/welcome-to-guiding-darlington

 

Hazel Creaghan – Project and Administration Assistant, March 2016

Fresh Perspectives – Being your best in guiding

 

Fresh Perspectives – Being your best in guiding – 27 February 2016 at Shine Centre, Leeds

press release-3

More than 50 members from across North East England joined together for a day of interactive workshops showcasing the amazing opportunities open to all young women through guiding.

The Fresh Perspectives event, which took place on Saturday at the Shine Centre in Leeds, was held thanks to funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

 

(Lauren Burnett and Emma Gees)

Overall, 17 Leaders and 40 young members attended, with members travelling from Newcastle upon Tyne and Grimsby, as well as local members from West Yorkshire.

The girl-only event gave members of Girlguiding’s Senior Section (aged 14 to 25) the chance to find out more about the huge range of adventures and activities they can access through guiding.

Girlguiding’s Senior Section, which turns 100 this year, offers a host of amazing opportunities to older girls in guiding – from international travel and adventure to advocacy and leadership skills.

15 members of the Senior Section focus group for North East England’s Spectacular Ewe Senior Section Spectacular event, ‘The Flock’, also met to discuss the exciting programme for the international and spectacular event in August.

spectacular ewe

Young members and Leaders learnt about the many schemes and opportunities that are available, such as the Queen’s Guide Award, becoming a Peer Educator and doing their Duke of Edinburgh Award with Girlguiding.

Guide Eliza Adamczyk-Hedley, aged 14, from Newcastle upon Tyne said: “It was great to hear everyone’s opinions! The Peer Education session was exciting. I also found out that I can do Duke of Edinburgh with guiding, which I had no idea about and cannot wait to get started!”

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Kacey Dale, a 19-year-old Guide Leader from Scarborough, added: “I enjoyed meeting new people and learning about the Senior Section programme. I’m thinking about becoming a Peer Educator now and trying new things with the girls I lead! It’s good to go to new places and find out more about what is available for me within guiding.”

This event was the second event for members of the Senior Section to showcase opportunities; the first was held in Newcastle in November and a core group of members helped to steer the programme and communications for the February event.

The overall feeling of the day was enthusiasm and encouragement: girls left feeling inspired to try new qualifications, plan awards and lead other girls with support from their Leaders.

(Senior Section members play Twister!)

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It was a successful event and the team from North East England would like to thank the Trainers and facilitators that worked hard to make the day the successful and vibrant day that it was.

 

 

(Carol Selwyn-Jones training Leaders of Senior Section units)

If you would like to find out more about the opportunities and events available for members throughout North East England, take a look at our events calendar for 2016!

http://girlguidingnortheast.org.uk/events-trainings