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Wild Wicklow Backwoods Weekend

On Saturday last 24th March, eleven hardy sea scouts and their seven leaders gathered in the very popular and picturesque village of Laragh, Co Wicklow as their nominated starting point for an epic and memorable weekend away in the Wicklow Mountains. Once again it was the members of Tiller Troop, 9th Arklow Sea Scout Group that set out on the Scouting Trail. This time the task at hand was to follow up on the bush craft skills they had participated in over the previous weeks in their den on Harbour Road, Arklow.

Under the stalwart leadership of their Skipper Declan Pluck from Avoca village, the Scouts hiked up to the slopes of Paddock Hill and set up camp for the night using bivouacs made from very basic materials. The newest members, some only twelve years old, had certainly looked forward to this exciting activity. As the morning progressed the Scouts got stuck into a wide variety of practical skills, for example, demonstrating proficiency in the use of camp tools such as the pocket knife, hand axe and bow saw. Here leaders Gerard Sheridan, Sandra and Jim Hoare assessed their ability and awarded the much coveted Blade Licence to the worthy recipients.

The afternoon proved a sunny affair where Rover Scout Killian Lambert from Shillelagh mesmerised his audience with a practical demonstration on how to find direction using the shadow cast by the sun, shining on a stick. Later that night Jim used The Plough and Polaris, the north-star, to similar effect.

Local scouter Joshua McAnaspie from Arklow, very much at home either at sea in a sailing boat or on dry land in the woods, had a number of completely different lightweight camping cookers laid out on the forest floor. Ably assisted by skipper Declan and good friend and supporter of the Troop, Donie Forrester from Celbridge, Co Kildare, the scouts got a fantastic hands on experience in how to operate cookers of varying fuel types. This trio of scouters also made up some diverse and unusual shelter types, one of which the scouts themselves had to emulate for a warm and comfortable night on the ground. The Tiller Troop outdoor pursuits programme is designed to be progressive, but sometimes scouts just have to jump in at the deep end. Those who had never camped out under the stars before this, certainly survived a baptism of fire.

The main event on Saturday evening was entrusted to the Skipper Declan Pluck who enthralled all with his interactive workshop on how to bake a huge variety of tasty treats on an open fire. Mouth-watering goodies such as baked chocolate bananas and the ever popular cinnamon apples were wolfed down.

Leave No Trace (LNT) is an educational tool intended to promote responsible outdoor recreation. In the weeks prior to Tiller Troops’ backwoods adventure, several scouters underwent a workshop in the ethics of LNT coordinated by Scouter Kevin Connaughton of the 3rd Wicklow Newtownmountkennedy. This was delivered in Lough Dan by Roundwood native Damien Cashin and Tim Orr of Vagabond Tours. Inspired by this knowledge, Sandra Hoare held a very interactive and thought provoking exchange on the seven principles.

Without doubt the main event of the weekend involved a sunrise hike and an investiture. Even though daylight saving time officially began in the early hours of Sunday morning, the scouts were not a bit perturbed at losing a valuable hour sleep. To an individual, they rose before dawn and were led out cross country by Watch Leader (WL) Conor Nugent to the unobtrusive megalithic stone alignment that is ‘The Gossan Stones’ near Scarr Mountain. Here, at the exact moment the morning sun pierced the horizon, the Troops’ latest member, Ciara Hallam from Arklow placed her hand on the unfurled World Scout Flag. With an assembly of her peers observing and flanked by her brother Ryan and WL Ruby Cantwell, Ciara recited the Scout Promise and became the latest member of the nearly 40 million strong World Organisation of the Scout Movement (WOSM).

The presentation of badges and awards is an intrinsic part of the scouting experience. To this end, all the scout leaders would like to congratulate the Tiller Troop youth members on earning their Backwoods Adventure Skill Badge including Ailbhe Sheridan, Aíne Ní Chonchúir, Ciara Hallam, Jodie Weldon, WL Ruby Cantwell, WL Conor Nugent, Dylan Hayden, Eoin Scanlon, AWL John O’Neill, Owen Byrne and Ryan Hallam.

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