Over the weekend in a lucky break in the weather 132 intrepid Scouts and Explorers from across Northamptonshire split into 28 teams took part in the annual Backwoods Challenge at Overstone Scout Activity Centre. Over the course of the weekend the Scouts (with minimal input from their leaders) were faced with two challenges – to prepare three edible meals from a selection of ingredients that they had not seen, and to build a shelter in which to spend Saturday night. And what a night it was! Whilst it wasn’t a storm as such the forecast wind and rain meant that the organisers patrolled all night and places of safety were made available if the worst were to happen. But, 100 young people braved the elements and slept soundly, keeping warm and (mostly!) dry throughout the night.
The aim of the weekend is to encourage teamwork rather than competition, sharing and supporting each other in a challenging and sometimes difficult environment, and the Scouts came through brilliantly! The organisers went home for a shower and rest quietly content that the weekend had gone well, but the young people were buzzing – the feedback has shown what a great success the event had been, “tonight [he’s] still talking about the friends he’s made, the food he’d cooked, the decisions he’d made at night in the cold as to whether get his balaclava out, or lift his bivvy bag over his head” and “they came back very stinky but both said they had a fantastic time and can’t wait til next year”
Even though competition is secondary to the challenge we do reward those who show good camp craft and culinary skill; the site is patrolled throughout the weekend (I covered 10 miles on Saturday alone!) and each campsite is assessed and where necessary encouragement is given. The meals that are prepared are sampled, and some dishes are marked – this year the task was to make pancakes for lunch, bread and butter pudding for tea and stuffed peppers for breakfast. The weather meant that breakfast for some groups was a bit tricky but 18 of the teams brought a hot dish to be marked, a fabulous achievement. The other 10 teams had breakfast cooked for them by the brilliant service team from our Jamboree contingent.
There were some highly commended Scout teams, from Isham and Orlingbury, from 49th Northampton and from 2nd Raunds, but the overall winners were a team from 1st Higham Ferrers, and their Explorer team also scooped first place for their age group – many congratulations to them and to their leaders for a great weekend
Finally, after the weekend the food that we did not use has been accepted by the Hope Centre. Some will help to provide hot and cold meals for people in need, and some will be distributed through their food club to help people on low incomes.