Remembering some great times at scout camp

Five members of the 7th South Shields Scout Group studying for the Northern Junior orienteering championships.  Left to right:  Stephen Mitchell, David Cunningham, Michael Alder, Michael Bishop and Peter Gardner.
Five members of the 7th South Shields Scout Group studying for the Northern Junior orienteering championships. Left to right: Stephen Mitchell, David Cunningham, Michael Alder, Michael Bishop and Peter Gardner.
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Having unearthed a treasure trove of old photos featuring cub scouts from South Tyneside from down the years, I asked former scout David Rose to recall his times with the ever-popular group, created by war hero and writer Baden-Powell.

You will remember that David wrote a series of articles for Time Of Our Lives relating to his days travelling the world with the RAF, in the company of his teddy bear eraser, Rubber Willy.

Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts.

Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts.

Today we feature the first part of David’s wonderfully colourful look back at his days of scouting in South Shields – and further afield.

“I started attending the St Francis Scout Group, in Garwood Street, in the mid 1950s with the scoutmaster Bob Glenwright,” says David.

“It was pretty much all demolished in the ‘70s and ‘80s. I lived in Corbridge Street at the time, and this area was near Readhead’s Shipyard.

“When my family moved to Whiteleas, in 1959, I started attending the St Cuthbert group, which was led by my uncle, Bill Pattison. It was a short cycle ride across the fields to King George Road where the scout hut was located.

“We had some great times camping, sometimes weekends at Westhall, which is still going, near Whitburn, and other times for two weeks when we would travel further afield to areas such as the Pennines, Blanchland, Otterburn and around Haltwhistle.

“I don’t remember exactly where the camp sites were, it was a very long time ago, but one place we used to camp regularly for short periods of time, up to a week, was Chipchase, which was about 11 miles north of Hexham.”

David recalls it being a “wonderful spot, with a lovely stretch of the North Tyne River for canoeing and swimming.”

“These camps would involve each patrol setting up their campsite, with fenced-off kitchen area, where open fire cooking would produce some amazingly good meals, including snacks such as twists.

“Small branches, about half an inch thick, would be stripped of their bark, then a snake-like dough of flour and water would be twisted around the bark and toasted over the open fire.

“This would often be accompanied with singing such favourites like Ging Gang Gooly, Row Row Row Your Boat, and many others.”

David explains that points (or clams, as they were called) would be awarded for the best-equipped camp areas, the fences, boot racks, fireplace, mug trees, and all sorts of other things.

“Camp would be quite exciting, with rope bridge building, and it had to work because we would cross the river using the bridge, canoeing, hiking, orienteering (map reading for non-scouts) and activities of all sorts, like games and competitions between the patrols.

“On the longer camps, a coach would be arranged for parents to come and visit for the day.

“As I got older, into my teens, and I was promoted to Patrol Leader (Badger Patrol), I would accompany a small group of the more senior scouts to Crossfell. This is part of the Pennines, south of Alston.

“There was a shepherd’s stone-built cottage, more of a shelter really, with a pen for the sheep when they were gathered together off the fells.

“A lot of work was carried out on the shelter, including manually carrying a cast iron grate/oven across the fells, brooks and streams to install in the shelter.

“The shepherds were very grateful for a proper fireplace where they could safely set a fire to keep warm in the winter months.”

* Next time: David recalls the gang show and the scout law.

* What do you remember about your scouting or girl guiding days? Please get in touch with your memories.

* Watch out for more photos of local scouts, guides and other youth organisations from the past.