Keeping core values in a modern scouting group

When the first Fulwood scout troop met 100 years ago, there’d have been a campfire involved, maybe even an occasional coconut shy, perhaps a bean bag or two. But possibly not a bouncy castle or an inflatable sumo gladiator challenge.

Wednesday, 18th September 2019, 09:00 am
Fulwood Scouts 70th anniversary celebration: Group Scout Leader Keith Pitchforth at the cutting of the 70th birthday cake

“I think scouting has moved with the times, but kept its core values,” said Victoria Dugdale of the 142nd (Sheffield) Fulwood Scout Group.

“We still promise to be kind and helpful and do your best.”

Victoria was organiser of the Fulwood Scouts 70th Anniversary Family Fun Day on Saturday - celebrating 70 continuous years of scouting in the area. The original troop in 1919 only lasted a few years, and after a couple more attempts in the 1920s and 30s, was reformed as the 142nd Fulwood in 1948.

Fulwood Scouts 70th anniversary celebration: Organiser Victoria Dugdale and Group Scout Leader Keith Pitchforth at the campfire

And in 2019, they’re thriving, said current Group Scout Leader Keith Pitchforth, with 150 young people aged from six to 18 in the various beaver, cub, scout and explorer groups, 25 or so adult leaders and a waiting list 100 strong.

Several hundred scouts and family members were enjoying a hog roast (or vegetarian alternative) and sampling traditional games in the field behind the group scout hut. Tin can alley, a coconut shy, hoopla, chucking the bean bags, castles and sumo headgear, and no mobile phones to be seen.

“What we do is enhance resilience, and the ability to get on and learn life skills,” Keith said, adding that scouting is still very popular with kids and their adults because the movement achieves all that by “doing the things that schools don’t do.”

Setting groups of 12 and 13 year olds off from the Sheffield HQ at Trippet Lane and asking them to find their way around the city to do a set of scout-worthy tasks using only a day bus pass, for example. (“The feedback from that was the exercise had changed some kids dramatically,” said Keith).

Fulwood Scouts 70th anniversary celebration: Tom (right) and Sam Sercombe (both 12) try the tin can alley

Or walking round the pathways of the Porter Valley in the dark. (“One adult who came along said ‘This is great! Normally I’d be sat at home in front of the telly!’” said Keith).

Or setting about digging their own summer camp toilets in a field. (“That was one of the best experiences,” said scouting mother Victoria Dugdale. “They were slightly horrified but excited at the same time to have the experience of doing something no other organisation can give them.”)

There have been changes over the last 70 years, said Keith. The uniform is less military now, and around 15 per cent of Fulwood scouts are now girls, which Keith said had actually changed the nature of scouting very little.

The embroidered arm badges to be achieved now include IT and media relations skills awards as well as environmental conservation and climbing.

Fulwood Scouts 70th anniversary celebration: Olivia Bishop (9) throwing bean bags

The continued draw for children, he said, is that kids still love to get outside to do things, and they like to have the opportunity to be together with other children often of different ages.

And for adults wondering about the benefits of an organisation first set up by a British army officer over 100 years ago, he said: “We’re now collecting quite a bit of evidence that scouting leads to more resilient mental health in teenagers.”

Victoria Dugdale’s teenage sons have been Fulwood Scouts since they were five.

“For me it’s about helping them enjoy the outdoors, but it also builds their confidence, their independence, and it develops their problem solving, their social skills and leadership skills,” she said. “And for today’s kids, these things are more crucial than ever.”

Fulwood Scouts 70th anniversary celebration: Alex Corbishley (9) ready to throw at the coconut shy

Some children rarely encounter difficulties when they grow up these days, she said. “And then when they do hit a problem, they don’t know how to solve it.”

In November, for example, scouts aged around 14 or 15 can choose to be sent out from Fulwood to a grid reference somewhere on the moors to spend the night in a bivouac bag.

“I remember one time it had been snowing and it was absolutely freezing,” said Victoria.

“But I wasn’t worried, and they came back buzzing. Children grow up to be adults, and we hope after the tasks we give them, they’ll end up being resilient adults.”

More info: https://scouts.org.uk/get-involved/

Fulwood Scouts on a 1970s mountain trip
Fulwood Scouts helping a visiting dignitary to the Hesley Wood scout camp