Shropshire Girl Guides centenary camp

PUBLISHED: 17:03 19 October 2010 | UPDATED: 18:01 20 February 2013

Shropshire Girl Guides centenary camp

Shropshire Girl Guides centenary camp

What does it mean to be a Girl Guide in 2010? Debbie Graham went to camp to find out

Girls just want to have fun

What does it mean to be a Girl Guide in 2010? Debbie Graham went to camp to find out

When a group of girls invaded the first scouting rally in 1909 demanding to be allowed to join the Scouts, Agnes, sister of Lord Baden-Powell, took up their cause. That was the start of the Girl Guides and 100 years later it is a worldwide movement with more than 10 million members although nowadays it goes by the trendy sobriquet Girlguiding UK. Shropshire Guides celebrated the milestone by joining with Guides from Worcestershire and Herefordshire for a special camp at Ombersley Court, near Droitwich, at the invitation of Lord and Lady Sandys. The historic estate has strong connections with the Guides. Lady Sandys, mother of the current Lord Sandys, was Lady Baden-Powells travel companion and Lady BP, as she was known, took over as Chief Guide in 1918 and was a frequent visitor to Ombersley. Lord Sandys therefore grew up with Guiding in his blood. He believes the movement is all about developing independent girls who help each other, and even though the Guiding movement has changed with the times it still holds true to that ideal. Through the century a vast change has taken place, not only in uniforms, but the way Guiding has moved out into sports and every type of activity and of course hugely through international contact with other guides, he said. And to prove this point a group of Russian Guides were guests of honour at the centenary camp.

For Lord Sandys the best thing about the event was gathering everybody together. To suddenly find yourself among nearly 1,000 taking part is quite wonderful.

For the Guides themselves, the camp was, simply, great fun. The chance to be semi-independent among friends and sleep under canvas has never lost its appeal.I love camping, said 14-year-old Danni Farrier from Malvern, who says she prefers Guides to Brownies because it is more grown-up as you get to do cooking on fires and things. Going camping is really fun, agreed Tilly Doody-Henshaw, also 14, from Marden near Hereford. This one is very different to the normal camp we do as we normally go by ourselves, but it has been really good fun. All camps are fab. The centenary camp was more like a canvas town than a camp site, with enough tents for 500 Guides and more than 200 helpers. Within the camp were four smaller camps fire, earth, water and air containing Guides from each county, ensuring they got to know each other and mix. The organisers had plenty to keep an eye on with talent shows to organise, supervising the never-ending routine camping jobs and keeping an ear to the ground for rumours of secret midnight feasts.
Katie Lobley, 12 from Shrewsbury said: I went up to the shop the other day and I bought lots and lots of sweets, and the shopkeeper said are they all for you? I was like no they are for the midnight feast on the last night.

Camp life began at 7.30am with a hearty breakfast at 8am and then the days activities started. On the timetable was everything from archery and kayaking, where, said Tilly, they got very wet, very, very wet, to crafts and dancing.

The best think about Guides is that you can try out new and exciting things that you never have done before and have a go at stuff, said Katie. You can just try out lots of different activities it and you get to sleep in a tent, which I love because it is just so different from sleeping in your bed, plus you get to make new friends. Its just really exciting, I love being a Guide.

Girls are also busy working for the famous badges which nowadays include such modern subjects as computing. (Someone once suggested a Guide badge for assembling flat-pack furniture.) Danni thinks earning badges is one of the best things about being in the Guides. Now they have the chocolate and the glamour go-for-its, she said enthusiastically, proving that girlie stuff is very in vogue with todays Guides.

However developing traditional, practical and leadership skills are still an important part of Guides. I liked coming to camp this year because I am patrol leader, said Katie. I am in charge of the group and am responsible for the gadgets, tent, bag, camp inspections and the jobs, and says that it is seen as quite an honour to be chosen.
Yet Tilly is very dismissive of any suggestion that Guiding is old-fashioned. Its not what people think it is, she said. They still think it is about tying knots, lighting fires without matches and all the old-fashioned stuff, but it is about having fun. We leave all that survival stuff to the Scouts.

So, that begs the question, now that the Scouts have let the girls in, is it not about time Guides return the favour?

The boys are not coming into Guides, Tilly said emphatically. At camp no-ones got any make-up on or worries about their hair, and if boys were here then everybody would be like: Ooh! People are more relaxed without boys. Katie agreed: We are all girls, we are all the same and we dont have to be like fussy, if there are no boys in the tents, about getting changed.

And it seems that belonging to Guides is addictive with many staying on long after they should have left.

Susie Baldwin, from Shrewsbury, has been involved since being a Rainbow aged seven and now, on the eve of going to university, is a young leader. They are expected to help run activities, catering and be a mediator between the Guides and Guiders.

I really enjoyed the guides so thought I would help out. I thought I could do my bit, she said and reveals Guides has helped her a lot in the past.

When I was doing my Baden Powell (the highest badge) at Guides I was quite shy and I managed to gain confidence around people. So now when I come to camp I can talk to other random people and make friends quicker. It has helped me a lot; it helped me get a job at work, to just be more confident with adults and working with everyone.
And Susie is not finished with badges yet.

I am working towards my leadership award and I am going to do my Queens Award.

She, and others like her, remain an inspiration for this generation of Guides and many, including Katie, say it is their ambition to follow in their footsteps; making it now cool to be a Guider, not something you may have heard 10-15 years ago.

So after a week of fun, laughter and games, it was back to real life and proper beds and Lord Sandys said: I was delighted they all went home singing. One hundred years may have passed, hemlines may have risen, trendy polo shirts have replaced stiff, uncomfortable, uniforms and 21st century activities added, but the Girl Guides ethos of helping others and developing practical skills has not altered. And what would Lady BP have thought of the centenary? Well I think she would have said straight away lets have more of it, said Lord Sandys. Lady Sandys agreed: Although guiding has modernised, the principle of Guiding has never changed. I personally think that if every child in this country had either been either a Boy Scout or Girl Guide, the country would be a very different place today.

Did you know?

Girl Guides were named after a regiment of the British Indian Army, stationed in the North West Frontier, known as Guides in India

Did you know?
When Guiding began in Edwardian Britain some angry critics called it a mischievous new development, a foolish and pernicious movement and an idiotic sport

Guideto the guides

The Girl Guides Association was formed in 1910 and led by Agnes Baden-Powell, sister of Lord Robert Baden-Powell who started the Scouting movement. A junior section for girls under 11 was introduced in 1914, originally called Rosebuds it changed its name to Brownies in 1915. The Rainbow section for girls between five and seven was formed in 1987.

There are five sections today: Rainbows (5-7 years); Brownies (7-10 years); Guides (10-14 years); Senior Section (14-26 years) and the Trefoil Guild (anyone over 18).The Guide Association was renamed Girlguiding UK in 2002.

HRH Sophie, Countess of Wessex, became President of Girlguiding UK in 2003. She follows in the shoes of HRH Princess Margaret who became President in 1965.

At 20:10 on 20th October 2010 Girl Guides, Brownies and Rainbows everywhere renewed their promise.

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