As I sit typing this, my eyes feel really heavy and even a strong Costa coffee isn’t helping. Daylight saving time coupled with an action-packed Brownie holiday is taking it’s toll! Feel like the walking dead! This blog post is for mainly my guiding friends to talk about my experiences of organising my first ever Brownie pack holiday. It may, however, inspire others to do something different and get involved in volunteering or Girl Guiding. Due to data protection of the girls on the trip photos will be rather lacking. But I’ll chuck in some of the gorgeous views we witnessed in the unseasonably sunny weather at Cheviot View.
The planning of this trip started in June 2016. Brownie pack holiday held great memories for me as a kid back in the 80’s so I was keen to give that experience to Imogen. I remember the fun, laughter and bizarrely the lush tea of Hot Pot which I had never eaten before or since. It’s funny what sticks in your mind! I started to research venues and came up with a short list. Top of the list was Cheviot View, which had been recommended by our local guide group. I was keen to explore this option further and organised a reccy to suss out the layout. They say first impressions are everything and I was blown away by the location in the hamlet of Kirknewton, high in the Cheviots. Such a pretty spot.
The month of March was chosen as it gave us plenty of time to collect money, and decide on activities. March is usually a fairly quiet month in the school calendar and weather starts to improve . March 24-26th was free, so a provisional booking with Girl Guiding North Tyneside (who own the house was made). No going back now. In hindsight, this was the weekend the clocks went back which was a slight rookie error. Losing an hour sleep is not what you need.
Due to lack of “Going Away with Licence”, I needed to find a qualified leader to come with us. Natalie (a local Rainbow and Guide leader) offered to help us out and was my mentor in the planning process. Natalie’s support throughout the whole process and during the weekend were invaluable. The team was then made of myself, Jo and Victoria. Jo taking on the role of First Aider and Victoria our chef and caterer.
Paperwork and Costs
Anyone completing the Going Away with Licence will know that there is a lot of paperwork to complete such as:
- Risk Assessments
- Health and Consent forms for the girls
- First Aid sheets to note down any medication
- Letters to parents
- Packing Lists
- Duties Rota
The Going Away with book is hefty, but breaks all of these down so you can work through it and ensure you aren’t missing anything out. Throughout the planning process I met with Natalie three times and had extra meetings with the leadership team too. There were also lots of PM’s to Natalie when I was panicking or needing help! Once we were in flow, it wasn’t really that time consuming. I had some minor panics at the responsibility of it all at points though.
After the initial interest letter was set out, we had 15 girls decide they were interested and wanted to hear more. We based our costs on 15 children. Adding coach costs, accomodation, food, and activities we worked out that we would need to charge £80 per girl. By October we had taken £30 as a non-refundable deposit which we could then work on. Balance of £50 was due by the end of January.
Theme and Activities
Just before Christmas we asked the girls to come up with a theme for the holiday. Options mooted were sports, popstars, beach but the theme with most votes was Under the Sea. As leaders we were pleased with this as there was a lot of simple ideas on Pinterest. We promise we didn’t sell this idea to them a little bit more than the others..lol!
As time ticked on we realised that the Sunday we left was Mother’s Day so decided to add in a little gift for the girls to take home. The activities we would cover over the weekend would be:
- Decorating a bag (to put in their souvenirs)
- Hillfort walk in the Cheviots (a three mile low lying walk on a track)
- Crafts-felt heart cushions and jellyfish suncatchers
- Baking-chocolates and decorated cupcakes
- Stargazing (we were blessed with a clear sky)
- Performing-girls came up with their own Under the sea plays.
Despite the hectic schedule there was still plenty of time for the girls to hang out and play in the sunshine. Our girls love badges so I had pre-ordered the Cheviot View badges, Under the Sea challange badge and we completed our stargazer. All of the Brownies came away with their Brownie holiday badge too.
Yes it’s a hard going weekend. Even with the Brownies helping to clear and wash up there is so much to do. The pace is relentless and you don’t really relax or sleep like you would at home. But would I do it again? Yes definitely. The girls absolutely loved it and it showed in their beaming faces. This is what it’s all about, why I became a leader in the first place. The Brownies embraced the walking, sat patiently completing their crafts and went wild when performing their skits. Most of all they loved being outside, chatting in the bunks and hanging out with their friends. Being girls together.
I was worried about the girls being upset or homesick and dealing with this. But fortunately on this trip, all of them settled well. They were asleep around 11.30pm on Friday and 10.30pm on the Saturday. The leaders were not far behind. A weekend like this only works if you are in a great team, where tasks can be delegated and the work can be split. There is a lot of planning and hard work before you go, but the real hard work is when you are there. I can honestly say I had the BEST team around me. I’m truly grateful for them!
I am not usually the sentimental type (Alan will vouch for this ha ha) but I personally gained a lot from the experience. Northumberland is a gorgeous county and the village of Kirknewton is very special and will always stay in my memories. From a personal point of view it was lovely to see Imogen develop into a fantastic girl. She was confident, helpful and never asked for special attention from me. I’m proud of the girl she is becoming and hope she continues her guiding journey throughout her life. Personally, I was proud that the weekend went off without a hitch. I don’t think the next trip will be half as daunting!