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A slightly eccentric bit of scouting history


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#1 Cambridgeskip

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Posted 06 April 2017 - 06:29 AM

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So I thought I’d share a fascinating bit of scouting history from this side of the pond, about an impossibly eccentric place called Lochearnhead Scout Station, somewhere I have just come back from. Some of my scouts ae attending a mountaineering course there and I’ve spent a few days on the staff there, mostly cooking, cleaning and maintenance. The life of a scouter is a glamorous one!

 

Lochearnhead is a small village in the Scottish Highlands which, until 1951 was served by a railway line. The railway closed and the station was abandoned. Around the same time Melville Basille, the County Commissioner for Hertfordshire Scouts, down at the other end of the country just north of London, had started organising mountaineering trips to the Highlands for scouts from Hertfordshire. At the time they would camp but he was looking for a site to have a dedicated building to use as a base for these trips.

 

After a few recce trips he stumbled upon the old railway station. It was acquired on a lease by Hertfordshire Scouts and later purchased outright and the process of turning it into a dedicated centre began finally opening in 1962. There’s a bit more history on how it developed here. The station buildings themselves have been turned into a dining room, lounge, kitchen and office. Log cabins are on the old good yard and track bed providing accommodation. They’ve maintained the railway theme with lots of rail memorabilia all over the walls, the warden is known as the station master as well! Do a google image search on the place and you’ll see what a weird and wonderful place it is.

 

There’s a few bits of history though that are not included at the link above.

 

Melville Basille’s middle name was Nicolson, one of the great Scottish clans and he was descended from them. He arranged for the clan tartan to be officially used by scouts who came to the station and to this day anyone who stays there either on a mountaineering course or on a more general camp can wear a necker made out of it. The Nicolson hunting tartan is worn by the chief mountaineering instructor at the station.

 

Also at the time the station opened there was a second railway line that ran past the village, just a few hundred yards from the station. The nearest station on that line was several miles away. In the early days of it opening scouts visiting used to have to camp. Special arrangement was made with what was by then British Rail for trains to stop on the line where it was closest to the station to unload the tents and scouts and to walk down the hill. Quite extraordinary and the kind of thing that would never happen in modern times! Especially as the second railway line has itself now closed J

 

I’ve been there several times and can describe it only as the most eccentric scout campsite of any sort I have seen anywhere. I did both the initial course held over Easter and the advanced course held over a new year as a teenager. You can see some photos from then here including an 18 year old me! Fast forward 20 years from then and although I am a scouter in a different county I have still been able to send some of my scouts on courses there. They are still there now (I had to be back at work today!) but here’s a couple of photos from earlier in the week that I think sum up what the place is like. Two 13 year old scouts at the top of their first mountain in -12C wind chill and horizontal snow. And then back at the station for a well earned brew. The neckers they are wearing are the wonderful Nicolson tartan mentioned above.

 

The best bit of history is that one of the staff from the opening in 1962 is still there 55 years later. He’s getting a bit long in the tooth to get out in the hills much and instead spends most of his time producing the colossal meals that hungry scouts who have been out in the hills eat their way through. Long may it continue.


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#2 TAHAWK

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Posted 06 April 2017 - 10:53 PM

The cotton tartan cloth I bought to have the mums make into 33" x 33" neckerchiefs for Troop 83 was Wallace Tartan.  Seemed to fit as we had a piper for a few years - one of the dads.  Not that the rest of the district thought WE were eccentric.  Never in the World !


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#3 David CO

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Posted 07 April 2017 - 09:33 AM

Could its proximity to a fairy knoll have something to do with the eccentricity of the scout station? 


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#4 Cambridgeskip

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Posted 13 April 2017 - 08:46 AM

There's fairy knolls everywhere in Scotland!

 

Just wanted to add.... as well  as the 5 scouts I had on the course there I also had 2 explorer scouts who had done the course several times before and who had volunteered to go back as staff for the week. They had a week of peeling potatoes, cleaning toilets and other equally glamorous jobs. It's a common gig for explorer scouts to have! The chap who had been there 55 years took me aside to describe them as "the nicest and most useful pair I've ever had here".


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#5 qwazse

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Posted 13 April 2017 - 09:13 AM

...  I also had 2 explorer scouts who had done the course several times before and who had volunteered to go back as staff for the week. They had a week of peeling potatoes, cleaning toilets and other equally glamorous jobs. It's a common gig for explorer scouts to have! The chap who had been there 55 years took me aside to describe them as "the nicest and most useful pair I've ever had here".

Paycheck!


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#6 Tampa Turtle

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Posted 17 April 2017 - 12:28 PM

I once recall two new scouts at Summer Camp (who always volunteered to help) step up the first day at Summer Camp to clean the Latrine. (Each campsite had an old school latrine house on site--the bath house with civilized toilets were a 10 minute walk away).

 

One of those fresh faced lads was my son; and I basked in the glory of what a wonderful father and role model I must have been.

 

A couple years later both boys said the reason was it was better to volunteer the first day when the Latrine was clean than be 'Volun-told' later in the week when it became a horror. Oh well, enlightened self interest is better than nothing.


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#7 Cambridgeskip

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Posted 09 May 2017 - 12:42 AM

Hopefully the final time I'll resurrect this thread but.... piccies! Took a while to colate then. How many times it's possible for one scout to bring their camera in for me to download their photos but for them to forget the cable is beyond me. But here they are!

Mostly it's photos from out on the hills but there's a few taken at the station itself.

http://12thcambridge...high-adventure/
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#8 Tampa Turtle

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Posted 09 May 2017 - 07:00 AM

The pictures are brilliant (did I get that right?). I hope you show them to the younger scouts to inspire them to plan on going someday. We found that worked when we showed our Appalachian Trail pictures at a Court of Honor. It gives kids (and parents) ideas. The ones that went start joking around and everyone sees the camaraderie of the shared adventure, the parents see either the spectacular vistas or misery their youth went on, and a few mutter "how hard can it be if 'x' went on that trip."

 

That trip looked pretty rugged. Like you train astronauts on that.

 

Kudos for actually getting the pictures--my experience is that for every 8-10 pictures taken maybe only 1 gets shared. I have suggested assigning a photographer to such trips (like the Historian) to no avail.


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#9 perdidochas

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Posted 09 May 2017 - 11:15 AM

The pictures are brilliant (did I get that right?). I hope you show them to the younger scouts to inspire them to plan on going someday. We found that worked when we showed our Appalachian Trail pictures at a Court of Honor. It gives kids (and parents) ideas. The ones that went start joking around and everyone sees the camaraderie of the shared adventure, the parents see either the spectacular vistas or misery their youth went on, and a few mutter "how hard can it be if 'x' went on that trip."

 

That trip looked pretty rugged. Like you train astronauts on that.

 

Kudos for actually getting the pictures--my experience is that for every 8-10 pictures taken maybe only 1 gets shared. I have suggested assigning a photographer to such trips (like the Historian) to no avail.

Our Troop has a dedicated Troop camera--a rugged type digital camera (shockproof (up to 10 ft drop), freezeproof, waterproof (to 30 feet)).  The Historian or the SM or one of the ASM's use it.  We post the pictures on Troopwebhost and on our Facebook  page.  It's great come Eagle COH time, as we usually set up a slide show of pics from the Scout's scouting career. 


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#10 Cambridgeskip

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Posted 10 May 2017 - 06:12 AM

The pictures are brilliant (did I get that right?). I hope you show them to the younger scouts to inspire them to plan on going someday. We found that worked when we showed our Appalachian Trail pictures at a Court of Honor. It gives kids (and parents) ideas. The ones that went start joking around and everyone sees the camaraderie of the shared adventure, the parents see either the spectacular vistas or misery their youth went on, and a few mutter "how hard can it be if 'x' went on that trip."

 

That trip looked pretty rugged. Like you train astronauts on that.

 

Kudos for actually getting the pictures--my experience is that for every 8-10 pictures taken maybe only 1 gets shared. I have suggested assigning a photographer to such trips (like the Historian) to no avail.

 

We have an evening at the end of each year where we show them off and dish out various prizes. The leaders come in dinner jackets/posh dresses. It's quite fun!

 

The photos are the edited down selection, there were quite a few taken that weren't really that great. That's kids for you :)

 

The going wasn't quite as rugged as it could be. Normally in early April there would still be a lot of snow on the mountains, albeit thawing, but this year Scotland had a very mild winter meaning by April there was next to no snow left which is a real shame. 


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#11 Ankylus

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Posted 10 May 2017 - 04:22 PM

Also at the time the station opened there was a second railway line that ran past the village, just a few hundred yards from the station. The nearest station on that line was several miles away. In the early days of it opening scouts visiting used to have to camp. Special arrangement was made with what was by then British Rail for trains to stop on the line where it was closest to the station to unload the tents and scouts and to walk down the hill. Quite extraordinary and the kind of thing that would never happen in modern times! Especially as the second railway line has itself now closed J

 

 

Thank you for the story and the pictures. It looks like a wonderful adventure for your scouts.

 

There is actually a train called the "Narrow Gauge Railway" that runs between the towns of Durango and Silverton in Colorado. Every time I have been on it (twice?) they have stopped midway to let backpackers off the train or pick up backpackers waiting on the train. I understand it is by special arrangement beforehand. Kind of neat, actually, and a good way to get into the back country. Not to mention both Durango and Silverton are nice visits.

 

http://www.durangotrain.com


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