Summertime…and the living is… smokey

One morning this weekend as I headed out for a run (I scared a hare and can attest that Aesop was wrong, hares are faster than tortoises!) I had a Proust/Madeleine moment. Mbelly senses took me to a different place. I could smell summer. The dew evaporating, the birds singing, the quality of the light. I suddenly yearned for camp.

When I was a Guide, camp was the highlight of the year. For a tween/teen a whole week away from parents was a dream in itself. But I loved the traditions and rituals: bedding rolls, brailings, knots and mallets. That first moment when you emerge from your tent in the morning and the camp is so still that rabbits are grazing. The sight of ridge tents and bell tents floating and flying with only their guy ropes to tether them to the ground. That in the middle of the night you had to go to the lats in pairs, and we were so scared of what might be in the woods that one would stand with their head stuck out of the toilet tent, singing loudly to give the other some privacy, because we couldn’t bear to be stood outside by ourselves.

As an adult, camp is different. It’s a lot more hard work. Filing forms. Planning. Sorting equipment to go; packing up equipment at the end. Weather forecasts are watched fanatically to understand the best window of opportunity to strike camp in the dry, otherwise we have to hang & rehang tents until they are dry. Am I selling this?

So why do I still love camp? You get to know the girls much better, see them develop leadership & teamwork skills, gain confidence, enjoy new experiences – from sleeping under the stars or abseiling to chopping an onion. I get to see my guiding friends, enjoying stories and camaraderie around the campfire. We get to eat food that only exists properly at camp: eggy bread and sponge pudding (not together, although once we did because the sponge pudding took days to cook).

But mostly because there is something about the sound of a tent zip, the scent of the dew, the early morning light, the smoke from getting the fire going and the silence of sleeping Guides that appeals. Those few minutes each morning truly feel like the impossible dream of  getting away from it all…

Never again…

Back in March, our unit organised a Mothers’ Day Brunch. Approximately 20 Rainbows & Brownies cooked muffins, prepared fruit salads and flipped pancakes for around 75 of their friends and family. In advance leaders weighed out ingredients, typed up & laminated recipes, ordered on-line groceries & borrowed kitchen equipment. On the day a dedicated team of adults supervised enthusiastic girls. We worked from 7:30am – 1pm. We were grateful for the use of Lucy’s oven on the other side of the park, when ours was not cooking quickly enough. We were at least as grateful for Gary’s flash frying of sausages when the oven was still not cooking quickly enough and people started to arrive. Parents had a marvellous time, “the best mothers’ day ever” and “like my birthday, I was spoilt rotten and surrounded by friends”. Leaders went home to put their feet up and have a drink of something stronger than tea whilst vowing never, ever to do it again. “Flower arranging next year” I said, thinking we could get some-one in to show us how…

This week, one of our Brownies left because her family is moving abroad. She sent us a thank you note. Her favourite experience at Brownies was the Brunch. Not going canoeing, the weekend away on Brownsea Island or the sleepover at the Soft Play Centre. Her mum told me that she had loved the independence & responsibility of being given the recipe for pancakes and then just left to get on with it. Something she had never had the opportunity to do before. Something she will remember for life. And that’s what this guiding adventure is all about really…

We’re still making posies for next year’s Mothers Day.

I don’t know how she does it…

We are lucky that the parents of girls in our village unit appreciate & support us. I hear “Thank you,” (you’re welcome) “I don’t know how you do it,” (sometimes neither do I) and “I’d love to help, but I just don’t have the time” (read on). Some parents think we are superheroes with special talents and skills that make us able to give our time  to empower, educate and enthuse the girls.

We are not. We are ordinary. We are just like you. We have families. We have jobs and careers. We have homes (which in my case might be a bit messier than yours). We juggle. Sometimes we drop a ball or two.

We believe. We believe in what Girlguiding stands for, because we benefited when we were younger and/or because we see our children benefiting. We believe that individuals can make a difference – to one person, to a small group of girls, to a community.

So we promise to do our best, to keep laws about using our time and abilities wisely and about facing challenges.  We work together as teams to make more happen:

1) The outdoor boating team are organizing canoeing this weekend, all the unit leader has to do is collect consent forms & fees, thank you Heather & Mark!

2) This week our unit went to Pets at Home for their Friend to Animal badge. Not organised by me. Next week we have Guide Dogs for the Blind coming. Also not organised by me. Thank you Marianne & Katie!

3) We ran a Rainbow adventure afternoon in April. Every unit in the district brought along 2 activities, so each leader had only a little bit to do.

My belief that our daughters deserve every possible opportunity is not different from yours. What skills and time do you have? How could you help? There are many different roles that need volunteer help: as a charity all our accounts need to be checked, could you help? If DIY is your thing, many units or areas need help maintaining property – cutting grass, making minor repairs, building pizza ovens (thanks Matt Bather). Are you a web wizard or a social media guru? Could you show a group how to make sugarcraft roses or how to mend a puncture? Do you know your fungi from your mushrooms? Would you like to gain skills in any of these areas? Girlguiding has volunteer roles on offer from weekly to quarterly or annual commitments, from men, women, old, young, all backgrounds.

And what will you get back in return? Expenses covered, altruism, new skills, something for your CV. Better mental health. Better resilience to illness. Better self esteem. All proven benefits of volunteering for a cause you care about.

But also: New friends. Fun. Laughter. And having somebody think you are a superhero…

girl superhero

My Guiding Stars


Next week, 1-7 June, is National Volunteers’ Week. It’s designed both as an opportunity to thank the wonderful people who volunteer to make our community a better place, and to highlight the benefits and opportunities available through volunteering. And because I lack imagination, this blog will address the first goal, and a blog later in the week will attempt to explain why YOU(yes, you looking round hopefully for somebody else to step up, and you staring at your feet) should volunteer.

So, my list of guiding stars, the women who have made me who I am (for better and worse). Obviously my mum. My mum supported us in everything we did – she ran the local cub unit for 3 years; helped out at school events, jumble sales, coffee mornings and more. She taught me that being part of a community is to give and take, that we have a responsibility to create the community we want to live in.

I don’t remember my Brown Owl at all. I’m sure she was lovely. My Guide Captain, Chris Richards, was something else. In her care I learnt to camp, light fires, read maps, treat burns, make coconut ice, tie knots. I don’t remember her teaching me any of these things. I remember marching into a horseshoe, with Captain instructing us to salute or fall out. I remember singing. A lot. I sang those songs to lull my babies to sleep 25 years later. And with hindsight I see how special she was, to create a truly girl led space, where patrol leaders led and adults were almost invisible.

As part of my Baden-Powell trefoil, aged 14, I ran a survey of friends and family. In 1988 there was no Survey-Monkey, I wrote 20 copies of the questions out by hand. And discovered that my gran was a Guide in the 1920s, trailblazing by gaining her swimming badge. One aunt was a Guide through WWII, another gained her Queens Guide – she is still active in guiding today. They showed how guiding moves with the times, but also how our core values are constant.

My Ranger leaders were also pretty special. They gave us the support to organise our own programme and understood that life pressures limited our participation. I still have my Bere Forest Rangers sweatshirt and wear it with pride each camp.

Dawn Sedgley for showing me how to be a guider, before any mentor scheme existed. I still hope to be as good as you. One day.

And then a long list of now friends and inspirations, who over the years have shared my guiding adventures. The camping team, who now bring together Guides from Melksham, Purton & Woodside just because we can’t imagine camping with anyone else. Wiltshire North leaders, who are all so friendly and welcoming. My unit team, for bringing such enthusiasm as they start on their guiding adventure.

But most of all, my guiding stars now are the girls who amaze me with their energy, achievements, attitude and unalloyed joy.

Author: Elaine Cook

If you’d like to submit a blog please contact

The Senior Section Spectacular 2016. What’s it all about?


Hopefully, you may have heard the big news: after the Guides in 2010 and the Brownies in 2014, it’s finally The Senior Section’s turn to have their 100th birthday!

A vote was taken by members of The Senior Section a few months ago and they have decided to call their event The Senior Section Spectacular.

2016 is promising to be pretty special for all of Guiding’s 14-25 year olds, with events in the planning from National, Regional and County levels. (Also, we’re hoping Districts and units might want to organise some smaller scale events for themselves, we’d love to hear from you if you do.)

The County planning team consists of:

  • Myself (Sam Reeve), in charge of Communication and Social Media.
  • Marybeth Masters, County Senior Section Advisor and County Spectacular Champion.
  •  Rebecca Bowles, County Senior Section Advisor and County Spectacular Champion.
  • Pam Penney, our Events Advisor, who’s providing lots of advice and experience when it comes to planning big birthday style events.

As far as planning goes, we’d really like to know your ideas for a theme for the grand opening. If you’re going to be 14-25 next year, please take the couple of minutes to complete our survey. The more responses we get, the more likely we are to have a theme you’ll enjoy. Just click the image below and you’ll be taken to our Survey Monkey survey.Take the Survey

If you’d like to keep updated with what’s happening in the run up to and the course of next year, please ‘favourite’, ‘like’ and ‘follow’ the following places:

Facebook page (Senior section Spectacular- Wiltshire north)
Twitter (@SeniorSectionWN)
Blog ( 

Concerning the blog, there is a button on the right hand side that will allow you to sign up for email updates, so you don’t even have to have a WordPress/Facebook/Twitter account to follow us!
Updates will also be going out via Go! and we’d ask that Guide Leaders with girls who will be 14 by next year make sure they get to see everything too. We want everyone to be as excited as we are that this is happening!

For more information, or to get involved, please contact

Fringe Benefits: Kids say the funniest things

Recently (okay 2 years ago, but time really does fly when you’re having fun) I took over the running of our village Rainbow unit and it has given my guiding a new lease of life. Amongst the unexpected rewards are the delightful things that the girls say, which make it all worthwhile. We even have an occasional feature on our unit site called “Quote of the week” to capture and share the joy. Here are a few of my favourites:

Best Awww Quote “Please can you punch a hole in my heart?” as we were making heart-shaped Christmas decorations that needed a ribbon loop to hang from.

Best Analogy “I am as wet as an octopus” after a rather damp autumnal walk

Best quote from a first timer “Is there food every week?”

Best begrudging quote from a five year old “This is actually quite fun” – it involved lots of glue and glitter…

Best misplaced quote (also best magical moment quote) “I can see the Eiffel Tower” while on a night hike though the fields of Wiltshire. It was an electricity pylon.

Most rewarding quote for leaders, when asked for feedback two girls put “We learn to have proper fun” That’s right, guiding offers proper fun not half-hearted or pretend fun!

What wonderful words have you overheard? We’d love to hear from you!

The perks of being a Commissioner – it’s more than just another badge

Guest Blogger: Jo Sully

Today I had the pleasure of visiting a group of Guides from a range of units across the County. They were enjoying the final day of the annual Wet ‘n’ Wild weekend staged by our County Boating Advisers. Today’s activities were kayaking, orienteering and a scavenger hunt and, if the sounds of laughter from the lake were anything to judge by, they were having a great time. I couldn’t tell who had come from which unit and who didn’t know each other before the weekend. This is the beauty of guiding – that you can turn up to a guiding event and have a connection with others straight away. The friendships we form in guiding often last a lifetime, as do the memories.
I was never an adventurous Guide myself. Weekend camps a couple of miles from home were my limit and my only week-long camp was as a Young Leader; my best friend who was a Ranger brow-beat me into going! Guiding is for all girls though, whatever their interests and comfort zone and that’s what I enjoy seeing when I go along to events as a guest.
Some visits stick in my mind: meeting girls and Leaders in Portsmouth returning from a challenging week of sailing with the Tall Ships Youth Trust was one. Another was visiting a Big Brownie Birthday celebration camp and seeing the exhilaration on the girls’ faces as they talked about the mammoth thunderstorm the night before. Sometimes, there’s something funny that sticks in my mind; on a visit to a unit Guide camp a first-time camper told me, “The accommodation’s not what I expected.” The mind boggles!

To submit a blog to this site please contact

Teamwork is a wonderful thing (or I love it when a plan comes together)

Rainbows from Corsham, Colerne & Neston enjoyed an afternoon of pirate fun this afternoon. Challenges included a treasure hunt, obstacle course, gunge tank, shrink art, ship’s biscuits, pirate masks and raft building (from lollipop sticks – they are only 5 & 6 and we only had 10 minutes per rotation). The girls collected jewels for each successful mission, like in CBeebies’ popular gameshow Swashbuckle. Girls from the three units mixed well, made new friends and had fun. And around £20 was raised for district funds.

The leaders began talking about this event almost 6 months ago. That’s not to say it took 6 months of planning. Suggested at one district meeting, e-mails circulated, activities volunteered and then each unit team took responsibility for one or two of those activities. The work load was spread. We got on and did.  It took each of us a couple of hours to prepare.

This afternoon the adults also had fun. We chatted, shared experiences, poked fun at each other. We thanked each other. We watched our girls relish the opportunity.

So ladies of Corsham, this blog salutes you. It was a pleasure working with you. I look forward to many more afternoons of solidarity & swashbuckling!

And it just goes to show, what can be done when a team knows what needs to be done and pulls in different directions to get it done. No lengthy committee meetings, no arduous list of actions. Just good honest (as some of the Brownies would say “proper”) fun.

If you’d like to get involved in such fun, go to

Author: Elaine Cook


Hello world!

We’re slowly getting there. In late December we launched a Twitter account @GirlguidingWN (we now also have @SeniorsectionWN). In January we added a Facebook page: Our new website will be launched any day now

So this is our blog. We hope to show how much fun we have, not just as Rainbows, Brownies, Guides & Senior Section, but also as grown-ups who occasionally ought to know better!

If you’d like to contribute a blog post, photos, or you have an event you think should be here, please let us know at: