Young people

ABOVE ground, under ground or through water was the challenge for 37 Explorer Scouts from Woking and their leaders during the half-term holiday.

READY FOR THE CHALLENGE – The Explorer Scout group readies to take on a variety of activities and challenges

The Scouts, aged 14 to 18, traveled up to Derbyshire’s Dark Peak and began their weekend with caving.

CREST OF A WAVE: Two Scouts get their fist taste of sailing on Gorton Lower Reservoir

They were taken through a number of introductory and then more challenging caves at Bagshaw Caverns, near Bradwell, where they made their way through features such as the Elephant’s Throat and the Grotto of Paradise.

The other main activities during their stay included a seven-hour navigation exercise around Cats Tor and Shining Tor, and sailing on Gorton Lower Reservoir.

For the Full story get the 21 November edition of the News & Mail

THE Mayor of Woking, Cllr Beryl Hunwicks, declared the Eikon Hopes and Dreams Garden at Fullbrook School “most inspiring” on a recent visit.

Eikon, an award-winning charity, works with pupils who need additional learning support and a safe environment in which to thrive.

TEAM EFFORT – The Mayor of Woking, Cllr Beryl Hunwicks, with (left to right) Becky Hughes, Eikon fundraising and community manager; Nigel Blair, trustee of Eikon;  Lucia Amabile, Eikon youth specialist; and David Playfoot, student volunteer

As the mayor noted: “With help from youth workers and staff from RHS Wisley, the pupils have created the most wonderful space where they can reflect, sow seeds, grow plants, care for the land and learn new skills. I found it most inspiring.”

POSITIVE MESSAGE – A carved tree carrying the motto “Inspiring young people, transforming young lives”

Cllr Hunwicks met student volunteers David Playfoot and Jed Denny, who explained their role as volunteer youth leaders.  Both are sixth-form pupils at the Addlestone school and have been supported by the Eikon programme.

David was asked how Eikon had helped him.  “It was a huge support to me throughout school,” he said.  “It was a place to go every lunchtime if I needed to talk to someone about the issues I was facing.  I always knew someone would be there.”

Cllr Hunwicks was particularly taken with the Darkness into Light area. The first element is planted with dark plants and is under the shade of a tree, which then, through an archway of light, gives way to sunlight and brightly-coloured plants. It signifies how young people can walk out of the darkness and into the light if they face their feelings head on.

To find out more about Eikon’s work with young people in Surrey, or to donate, please visit

For the full story get the 21 November edition of the News & Mail

IT’S been a busy and successful summer for Woking Air Cadets, who are holding open evenings next week.

Members of 1349 (Woking) Squadron have flown in Chinooks and gliders, practised target shooting on short and long ranges, visited HMS Alliance and HMS Victory, and completed the four-day Nijmegen March in the Netherlands.

Members of 1349 (Woking) Squadron on the shooting range

Cadet Sergeant Jessica Hallam said: “I can’t imagine what my life would be like now if I hadn’t joined cadets. I have grown so much as a person, learning new skills and meeting other people. People might think our squadron is dominated by male cadets but that isn’t true as most of our senior cadets are female. We all look out for each other. The things we learn in school simply can’t compare to the life skills we develop during our cadet career.”

The squadron is holding open evenings on Tuesday 24 and Thursday 26 September from 8pm to 9pm in the Hoe Valley Community Building next to Woking Leisure Centre. Boys and girls aged 12 and in Year 8 or over are welcome to join.

For more information, email or visit @Pride1349 on Facebook or 1349woking on Instagram.

For the full story get the 19 September edition of the News & Mail

A COUNSELLING charity usually associated with helping couples solve relationship problems has started a service for young people.

Those aged from 10 to 18 who are having difficulties in their life can turn to iRelate for confidential advice.

Young people with overwhelming problems can find help at the new iRelate service

The service has been launched by Relate West Surrey, which helps individuals and families as well as couples.

Children with issues such as low mood, anxiety, problems at home or at school or with friends which they are finding overwhelming and which are interfering with their home life or school can contact iRelate.

Discussions will be kept confidential unless there are concerns about a young person’s safety.

Relate West Surrey chief executive Jill Rawling said: “Growing up can be tough and there are lots of reasons at home or at school that can make life difficult, so it can help to have someone to talk to.

“Whether it’s about coping with exam stress, parents splitting up, bullying or low mood, Relate can provide a safe space to talk. We treat the protection and safeguarding of children with the utmost priority.”

Children aged over 16 can contact iRelate themselves and under 16s can be referred by parents or guardians.

For more information, call Relate on 01483 602998 or email Relate

For the full story get the 5 September edition of the News & Mail

A 17-year-old from Woking, who is in recovery from cancer, is more optimistic for her future after the sailing trip of a lifetime with the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust.

Emmie Smith was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia when she was seven and had three years of treatment at Southampton General Hospital.

TIDE OF OPTIMISM – A four-day sailing trip has transformed Emmie Smith’s outlook on life as she continues in recovery from cancer

She was among 22 young people in recovery that took part in a four-day Trust sailing adventure around the Isle of Wight recently.

Started in 2003, the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust is a national charity that rebuilds confidence after cancer, using sailing to support and inspire people aged 8-24.

Emmie revealed that she had felt quite lonely during her treatment as she spent long periods in isolation because of her weakened immune system. She now believes the Trust trip has given her more confidence to make new friends.

“I’ve been waiting for so long to talk to someone similar, I feel like coming here all my worries have just drifted away, which really helps,” she said. “I just feel like this massive, heavy weight has fallen away.

“I feel different now, I’ve definitely got more confidence to try and do more things. It’s definitely the best thing I could have ever chosen to do.”

For more information, or to refer a young person who may need support, please visit

For the full story get the 15 August edition of the News & Mail

FIVE members of Woking’s Explorer units have achieved the highest award for a youth member of the Scout Association.

The five, aged 17 and 18, recently became Queen’s Scouts, the culmination of two years of completing a series of tasks to qualify for the accolade.

The five new Woking area Queen’s Scouts cut a celebratory cake with Shahid Azeem and Cllr Beryl Hunwicks

They are Bethany Williamson of the Weyahead Unit in Pyrford, Hannah Crook and James Barber from the Martian Unit in Horsell, Tom Newling Ward of the Maverick Unit in Kingfield and Thomas Faulkner from the Challenger Unit in Knaphill.

An audience of 120 friends, family and VIP guests attended a special ceremony St John’s Church in St John’s to see the new Queen’s Scouts presented with their awards and give detailed presentations of the 10 tasks they had to complete.

Among the audience were the High Sheriff of Surrey in Nomination, Shahid Azeem, and the Mayor of Woking Cllr Beryl Hunwicks.

This year, approximately 300 Scouts in the UK will achieve the Queen’s Scout Award, and all will be invited to the annual St George’s Parade at Windsor Castle.

Activities they undertook included a 100 kilometre, four-day expedition on Dartmoor. This was done after 12 months of training in navigation, lightweight camping and cooking, plus numerous safety courses, to ensure they could be self-sufficient in uninhabited terrain.

Other major requirements for the award included community service, learning new skills, physical activities and learning about religions such as Buddhism, and Christian festivals.

For the accolade’s International section, Tom climbed Kilimanjaro and helped build a school in the area and Hannah went to Zambia to help teach rugby to local children. Thomas joined scouts from around the world at the World Scout Jamboree in Japan.

The new Queen’s Scouts have also gained their Duke of Edinburgh Gold Awards, which were presented to them by Mr Azeem.

The Explorer Scout Commissioner for Woking, Brian Pinto, commented: “To gain these awards the young people have to show extremely high standards, motivation, self-discipline, leadership and commitment in the range of activities and interests as well as community service while building their self-confidence and having fun.”

For the full story get the 18 July edition of the News & Mail

AFTER  training for six months to achieve the Expedition section of the DofE Award, covering navigation, cooking skills and emergency aid, 46 Explorer scouts aged 14 to 18 from the five units in Woking,  together with 22 leaders, made their way to Brecon for a weekend of fun and challenging hikes over the May bank holiday.

Top of the World: A triumphant team of scouts pause to celebrate on a Brecon peak

Having arrived at their campsite in Llangorse, near Brecon, at around 11pm on the Friday, the Scouts pitched camp and bedded down for the night, ready for an early start.  Despite low temperatures and snow on the top of the mountains, Scouts in teams of four or five completed high-level walks, including Pen y Fan and Waun Fach.

Three teams of Explorer Scouts completed their three-day Expedition, covering a distance of about 50 kilometres, walking from Talgarth, around Waun Fach to Crickhowell and Talybont, then back up to Llangors.

During the weekend, two other teams of younger Explorers completed a two-day, 25-kilometre Expedition, walking from Crickhowell, following part of the Beacons Way to Cwmdu and back to Llangorse Lake.

Another team take a quick break to catch their breath

En route the Scouts had to complete their chosen projects, on subjects such as the effect of tourism on the paths, historic buildings and the effects rivers and lakes have on the community. One team carried out their project on the local thoughts of Brexit.

The Expedition was the final part of their Chief Scout’s Award and the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme’s Bronze and Silver Expedition section.

Another group of five Explorers completed a gruelling three-day Expedition as part of their official practice for the Queen’s Scout and DofE Gold Awards, covering around 25km a day in the wildest parts of the Black Mountains. They will now go on to complete a four-day Expedition on Dartmoor in August.

The Expedition section enables the Scouts to gain confidence. “It was a super and fun weekend for all the Scouts,” said Brian Pinto, Explorer Scout Commissioner for Woking. “The terrain was much more challenging than the Surrey Hills and their training in the last two terms certainly paid off, putting their navigation skills to the test.”

Sixty Explorer Scouts took part recently in Woking District’s annual two-day Expedition Challenge.

The route led competitive teams of four or five scouts, aged 14 to 18, on a 45-kilometre hike. They carried all their equipment, including food and cooking gear for the weekend, and wore costumes of their team’s choice, such as the Spice Girls, French onion sellers and bananas.

Whimsically dressed Explorer Scouts enjoy a well earned meal after the first day of the expedition

The teams had to catch a train early on Saturday, from Woking to their start point at Liphook station. They then had to navigate onto the South Downs and to West Harting Down, before ending the day at their campsite in Rogate. There they cooked and enjoyed meals such as spicy chorizo sausages and pasta, and meatballs and rice.

After a cold but frost-free night’s sleep and surviving the clocks going forward, the teams spent a damp and overcast second day hiking back to Liphook and the return train to Woking.

During the expedition, the Scouts had to complete a project based on their observations of the countryside and then give a humorous account of their findings.

The winning team represented the Explorer scouts at the Phoenix Unit in Byfleet.

For the special picture feature get the 11 April edition of the News & Mail

INLINE hockey is making its mark in north west Surrey, thanks to the exploits of the Avalanche club.

Based on the outskirts of Brookwood, Avalanche are fast becoming a hit with freestyle roller skaters, as well as more seasoned ice hockey players.

Members of Bisley-based Avalanche Inline Hockey club with their coaches at the Lord Roberts Centre

While inline hockey may not necessarily be on the tip of most people’s tongue, the sport is one of the fastest growing local sports.

Founded in the 1960s in Texas, USA, inline hockey is proving to be complimentary and an attractive alternative to field hockey and ice hockey disciplines in the UK.

Ashley Tombs, owner and head coach Avalanche at the Lord Roberts Centre in Brookwood, believes that inline puck hockey, which is non-contact, could become common place if more investment is forthcoming.

He said: “I used to watch Guildford Flames (ice hockey) when I was younger, but when I found out about Ash Avalanche, as it was known then, I became hooked on inline (hockey).

“Due to the limited number of inline rinks in the country, it doesn’t receive the same attention as other sports. 

“However, Woking is lucky, as there are two dedicated venues within just a short drive of the town, so there’s plenty of opportunity to try it out,” he added. 

Although the concept of inline hockey is akin to the common rules used in ice hockey, players use inline rollerblades on a hardened rubber surface instead of ice-skates.

Inline hockey is also a unisex sport and is played with four outfield players and one goaltender, which differs from ice hockey and field hockey teams that contain six and eleven players respectively. 

“A lot of players that play inline have come from ice hockey, as opposed to the other way around,” explained Tombs.

Young Avalanche players during a Friday training session

“I’m a big believer that I can improve the performance of ice hockey players through playing inline, not least of all be able to hone their strength and skating abilities.  After all, a lot of players who play ice hockey don’t experience full contact (body checking) until they’re 15 years old now.”

Since taking over at Ash Avalanche five years ago, Tombs morphed the old club into its new incarnation in 2017, which has seen the club grow exponentially.

Such is the rising popularity of the sport locally, Tombs is now working to a five-year goal for Avalanche to have its own purpose-built inline rink within Woking or a neighbouring borough by 2024.

For more information about Avalanche, please inquire via their Facebook page at

For the full story get the 4 April edition of the News & Mail

A NEW £6 million sports hall and all-weather pitch at Gordon’s School will be available for use by residents to play sports such as badminton, basketball and indoor cricket.

The hall at the secondary school in West End will have enough space for four badminton courts, changing rooms, a café, first aid room and storage.

The new sports hall will allow the school to take part in more competitive events at all levels and will enable students to participate in a sporting activity whatever the weather

The development, which will be funded by the Gordon Foundation, was approved Environment Secretary Michael Gove last week.

Plans had been passed by Surrey Heath Borough Council and then had to go to Mr Gove because the development is above the size permitted on Green Belt Land and not in the local plan.

A spokesman for the school said the new facilities will allow its pupils to take part in more competitive events at all levels, whatever the weather.

“Students currently take part in over 22 extracurricular sporting activities,” she added. “The all-weather floodlit pitch will enable the PE programme to be expanded to include sports such as basketball, badminton and volleyball.”

Jamie Sinclair, the school’s head of house, will be taking part in the London Marathon to raise funds for the facility.

For the full story, see the 21 February edition of the News & Mail