In the spring, although we were still locked down, and scouting was only happening on-line, the leadership team decided to provisionally book a campsite on Dartmoor in the hope that we would be able to camp this year.
As the lockdown eased the camp became possible; the next challenge was how the explorers were to get there, with no car sharing permitted, the decision was made that the explorers would travel by public transport to the site, as a practice for our international trip next year. Although the lock down was eased even more the train was going to be the way for the Explorers.
Finally, with the trailer packed with all the equipment, and the leaders on their way, the explorers met at Three Bridges train station for their trip, via Reading, to Exeter where they then caught the bus to the site.
The campsite, owned by Devon Guides, included a hut with catering facilities and a covered seating area, meaning we could travel light using their facilities. It also gave a great area for meal and meeting times. It was used on the Sunday for the explorers, split into two teams to plan their two-day hike onto the moors, including creating a menu. Members from each team then went to the supermarket, with their budgets, to buy the food.
The following morning saw them head off onto Dartmoor for a night of wild camping.
The route took them over High Willhays, camping near the West Okement. The Explorers was amazed at the fact they could stop anywhere and just camp. The return to the campsite on the Tuesday took them across Belstone Common
The Wednesday was planned as relaxed day at the beach, the weather forecast was not good but, as any good Brit does, if the beach is planned we go. Lucky we did as it turned out to be the best weather of the week. The Explorers set off by bus and train, while the leaders travelled by car, but ended up on the train as well due to the traffic and lack of car parking at Dawlish Warren. All the Explorers ventured into the sea and spent time in the sand, and ice creams were eaten (as is the tradition for Venture/Explorer expeditions).
Thursday was back to activities; a trip to Exeter to collect the canoes, and a paddle on the “Exeter Loop”, going down the canal, returning the River Exe with the incoming tide. The trip started in rain and very strong head winds, but the Explorers carried on paddling, with only a couple of moans, with the knowledge that they will be returning with the wind behind them. The canal was also a struggle due to some very thick patches of algae that would stop any momentum of the boat. The rain stopped by the time we had stopped for lunch just before we dropped onto the river for the return trip. Along with the rain stopping the wind dropped, so no chance of sail back! Not only did they have to work as teams in the boats, but with three portages the whole group worked together to move the boats around a lock, and between the canal and river.
Friday was the last day of activities, and day out on bikes. The bikes were hired at Oakhampton Station and we all headed off along the Granite Way (National Cycle route 27). They split into three groups; with the faster cyclists making it to Lydford and back (16½ miles /26km), and the other groups getting close to that distance.
Once back on the site, it was the sad time of thinking about clearing the camp and returning home. Most of the packing was done Friday night, with just the tents to pack away early Saturday morning, and yes Explorers can get themselves up at 6am! Once packed just a chance for a team photo before heading off to get the bus and trains home.
Many thanks must go to the Explorer Scout Leadership Team, who provided a great opportunity for the young people in the current COVID situation; with a special thanks to Helen Haymes for keeping us full with the catering.
Plans are already underway for next year’s expedition, and it is looking like a very exciting experience for the young people.