Friday, May 16, 2008

Roped-activity assessments

Above : Trying out a few new ideas on the abseil wall

Each year, all the staff and volunteers who instruct roped acitvities have to undergo an assessment/workshop in order to confirm that they are still competent and also to review each of the activities and look at ways in which they may be modified or improved.

This year there were two sessions run on tuesday and wednesday night due to the numbers involved. The sessions are carried out by the centre's technical advisor, Steve Spalding, who has helped us for a number of years now. Steve is an MIC-holder who has many years of experience working both at national centres such as Glenmore Lodge and also running his own company, High Expectations, near Pitlochry, and has climbed extensively throughout the UK and abroad.

Above : Coco was the first person to try blindfolded crate-climbing (hence the misaligned crates)

The first session was quite a busy affair - possibly due to a certain minor football game which was being played the following evening in Manchester. As a bonus for the participants, a noisy group of Guides happened to be on site and were found to be ideal 'test-pilots' to use in the session (normally staff have to practice on other staff and tend to be a bit too quiet and well-behaved).

Above : Ian combining his two hobbies of crate climbing and highland dancing

Wednesday evening saw another good turnout from those who didn't really care about the football, and again the weather was perfect, if a little chilly.

The activities covered were abseiling, crate-climbing and climbing (on the tower). The basic setup of each of these was found to be fine, but Steve gave us a number of suggestions as to how we can modify the rigging and the way in which the sessions are run in order to make it easier for the staff and also more fun for the groups taking part.

Above : Technical advisor Steve doing his Bruce Forsyth impression

There was a slight feeling of smugness amongst the staff during the crate-climbing session when it transpired that Mr Spalding, although being an immensely experienced climber, was a mere beginner at the wonderful world of crate climbing - although after a few tips from the staff he soon got the hang of it. Although it is a popular activity in the Scout and Guide world, it seems it has yet to catch on elsewhere and it may be a while till it is featured in the various climbing award schemes!
It was also suggested that one way of adding a bigger challenge to the crate-climbing (for our regular visitors) would be to do it blindfolded. Coco volunteered and declared that it was much more difficult than usual but fun nonetheless (see photo above).

Steve should be coming back again in a few weeks' time in order to assess the other roped activities (Jacob's ladder and zipline) and in the meantime the staff will have the chance to try out their new techniques and ideas on visiting groups as usual.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

St. George's Day / Fellowship AGM

Above : So many at flagbreak they couldn't all fit in the photo!

Probably the busiest weekend this year with around 600 people visiting the centre over the weekend - 300 residential and another 300 (mostly beavers) having a day visit. There were 13 groups with the largest being Rosyth District who held their annual St George's camp. Fancy dress seemed to be a popular theme for some reason, with some close competition between the local (cub) sea scouts who spent the whole weekend in a second world war theme, and the local explorers who had not one but four separate disguises for the weekend, including santa ones.

Above : Archive photo of local cub sea scouts being evacuated during WW2

The staff had a great start to the weekend with a huge cooked breakfast on saturday morning - unaware that they had accidentally eaten all the Exporers' sausages which they had been keeping in the staff freezer. After everyone had finished laughing about it (except the explorers of course), a trip to Tesco was made to replenish supplies.

Above : Due to a slight calendar problem, the local explorers turned up for their Christmas party exactly 8 months early. Note hungry look on their faces from lack of breakfast.

After a full day of activities, most of the groups attended a campfire whilst the staff held the Fellowship AGM in the reception building. In traditional form, there was a review of the past year by committee members plus Bob, followed by the election of a new committee for the following year. One X-factor-style voting session later, a new(ish) committee was in place and it was time to relax, indulge in the buffet and socialise for a while (until it was time to clean the toilets). The new committee will look after a huge range of tasks on behalf of all the volunteer staff, including finance, recruitment, publicity and organising various events.

That's all for now folks, just a few more snapshots of the weekend (except the sausage one, which was taken several months ago but which I've added in order to taunt the explorer scouts)

Above : Beavers busy preparing their entry for this year's Turner prize.

Above : Dave tries to recruit some new Fellowship committee members ahead of the AGM

Above : New site activity - Lorne sausage pioneering

Above : Blair Atholl selection day - spectacular accident during spacehopper race.