Blog / September 1st, 2022

Poacher 2022: From the eyes of a Leader

As a ten-year-old Guide, I was adamant that I would never go camping. Looking back, I have no idea why I made that decision at the time but I’m glad I didn’t hold myself stubbornly to the choice I made.  As a fourteen-year-old Ranger, I started camping at ‘Stamcamp’ – a camp for our local Scouts and Guides in Burghley Park and I haven’t stopped camping since!  Stamcamp, Unit camps at Shacklewell Hollow and overnights helping at Cub Camps at Grimsthorpe Castle all became part of the camping season routine.  I was hooked already – and then camping at Poacher… a whole different level of camping and outdoor adventure was on offer. 

My first Poacher in 1992 was as a Ranger, helping our Unit to run a tuck shop.  A totally mind-blowing operation at the time with more sweets and canned drinks than I had ever seen – but totally small scale in relation to the tuck shop that was running this year!!  For anyone interested, Cherry-Coca-Cola was the in-thing that year.

I’m retelling my Poacher journey because what struck me more than ever this year as a leader, was how overwhelming attending an international camp can be for a Guide, or any young person, with little experience of camping with Guides and Scouts.  Covid has obviously taken away a lot of opportunities over the last few years and so our members will, of course, have limited experiences of Guiding outdoors.  I was in awe of everything that was happening at Poacher back in 1992, as a Ranger with quite a lot of camping experience, so I could see how mind-blowing the range of activities on offer this year was for our Guides.

During the first couple of days of activities, the Guides didn’t venture far and spent time doing similar things or just wandering as larger groups of girls.  Chatting over tea on the second day, we discovered that they didn’t have the courage to go and swap tickets at the subcamp swap shop, go alone to the activities they did have tickets for or wander to work out where things were happening.  I’m sure this will resonate with some others reading this. 

Tuesday started as a soggy day but undeterred, we took all twelve of the Guides and signed them up for the Poacher Challenge. Not one of the five essentials at this point (girl-led decision making) but something that kick-started a bit of healthy competition between some, to see who could complete it, and making them get out and about and interacting more.  As leaders, we stood in the rain that day with the one who had a high ropes ticket, we showed the one with the ticket for the planetarium where to find it and went back to meet them (and a new friend from another Unit!) when the session was over, we took the one with nothing until 12pm to the craft marquees and the circus area, whilst the rain stopped, to do something until their activity started.  We waited in the lucky line with the friend of the ones with tickets for crate stacking – with fingers crossed! Basically, we guided the Guides to activities until they didn’t need us. 

The mealtime chatter changed to ‘Have you done this yet?’, ‘Does anyone want to come to this with me and see if we can get on it together?’, ‘I’ll come with you to that and then we can go to this.’ 

By the end of the week, our bingo board of activities tackled was looking pretty full and several Guides had their challenge badge completed.  The Rangers (who had a fabulous time as 50:50 participants – a great new idea) played their part too – enthusing about what they were doing and acting as escorts to places or mopping up Guides looking for something to do and taking them along with them.

Totally cheesy, I know, but isn’t this what we all Guide for?  The Guides that left Poacher were more confident, more enthusiastic, more self-motivated, more accepting and more appreciative.  Their stories to their parents were more colourful and their memories richer. We now have Guides asking ‘What’s next?’, those who have that voice to lead in decision-making and confident enough to articulate their thoughts and ideas.  A week of our holiday is precious but look at the power we have with a bit of care for the individual.

See you in 2026 if not at a campsite or event somewhere before!

Karen Armstrong – Welland Division