SCOUTING activities are proving more popular in the association’s Castle Morpeth district.
More than 640 young people are now involved in its troops, packs and colonies – including 4th Morpeth, 6th Morpeth, 1st Ponteland, Stannington Ridley and Pegswood Beavers – and the total is 13 per cent higher than the figure for the previous year.
All the sections have seen an increase and there has been an rise in adult leaders (up from 74 to 84), although officials hope that more people will come forward so they can expand their provision.
Having developed their skills through the different stages of Scouting, a number of those at Explorer (14-18) and Network level (18-25) have successfully completed various tasks and challenges for the bronze, silver and gold Duke of Edinburgh Award and some have gone on to achieve the highest accolade available, the Queen’s Scout Award.
District commissioner Clive Rich said: “These figures are great. They show that Scouting is still popular and relevant and we are delivering the sort of activity that young people enjoy.
“I would like to thank all our volunteers for their part in providing these activities and contributing to this increase.”
He added: “However, the rise could be even greater if more adult volunteers would come forward to help.
“We know that there are more young people in the area who want to take up the adventure that Scouting offers and there are places where we would like to start new groups, but we just don’t always have the adults to support these aims.
“Adults often think that Scout volunteering is all about weekly commitment and taking young people camping and hiking, but Scouting is very diverse in the activities it provides – there are many roles which do not require working directly with young people and timing can be very flexible.
“Of course, we always need leaders and activity instructors, but we also need managers, administrators, IT, media and other support too.”
The 4th Morpeth group increase (more than 30 per cent) was the largest in the district. A recent census revealed that it now has more than 200 young people, making it the biggest group in Northumberland.
Leader Liam Walsh said: “We do everything from abseiling to zorbing – there are plenty of adventurous activities and the young people learn a range of important life-skills.
“Our members are telling their mates about what they are doing in Beavers, Cubs or Scouts and many of these children have decided that they want to have a go themselves.
“The extension to the headquarters in 2012 has made a big difference because previously, we had to artificially hold back the numbers.
“This year, we are re-starting our week-long summer camp trip and there will be other nights away as well.
“Hopefully, the growth in numbers means that we will be able to start a third Scout group in Morpeth, although this will require more adult volunteers.”
The 1st Ponteland group grew by 12 per cent in the last year and it now has 120 members.
Chairman Bob Skelly said: “The attractions of learning great life-skills such as orienteering and cooking over open fires and enjoying fun experiences, including sleeping out under the stars, are drawing our young people away from their computers and into the countryside.
“Once involved, we usually see them move from Beavers to Cubs, then Scouts and onto explorers, very often culminating in major achievements and awards that are highly valued by potential employers who see candidates demonstrating valuable skills that others cannot match.
“We have around 20 adult helpers giving our Ponteland scouts over 9,000 hours of entertainment and adventure each year, while having a good time themselves.
“We could do with a few more assistants, not only as weekly group leaders but to help with other administrative tasks – a couple of hours a week or just occasional help.
“We currently have young people waiting to join all the sections, but there are not enough adults at the moment. Just a few more in the team would mean many more young people being able to join and enjoy the benefits of Scouting.”
Andrew Clough and Robert Naylor, both Year 13 students at King Edward VI School, have been part of the Castle Morpeth Scouting network since Beavers and they are now assisting the 4th Morpeth group as young leaders.
Robert said: “I jumped at the chance to join the young leaders programme and I enjoyed it so much that it was an easy decision to help out in Morpeth.
“It’s useful for the Beavers, Cubs and younger Scouts to have someone closer to them in age. They can ask us about our experiences going through the sections and hopefully, we will inspire some of them to become young leaders in the future.”
Andrew added: “At the moment, we’re helping to run games, crafts, tasks and other activities at one of the Beaver colonies. It’s very rewarding when we help these children develop new skills.”
Scouting offers young people the chance to develop a range of practical life-skills and experience adventurous activities while having fun and achieving awards.
If you would like to find out more or volunteer some of your time to help more young people enjoy it, call or text 07982 495577 or visit www.castlemorpethscouts.org.uk