THE 7th Woking Scout Group has responded with enthusiasm and creativity to the challenges of COVID-19.

Inspired by forward-thinking and “can do” leadership, an array of ventures has been tackled with gusto despite the great outdoors being out of bounds.

These are not trivial pursuits either, not when climbing Mount Snowdon is among them. The ascent has been deployed as a fitness exercise involving clambering up and down stairs at home. Each flight counts as 10 feet, with Snowdon at 3,560ft and Everest 29,029ft.

So far, 14 members are past the top of Snowdon and setting their sights on Ben Nevis (4,413ft), Mont Blanc (15,780ft) and beyond. One is three quarters of the way up Everest – reaching the summit may well entail a trip to a carpet outlet for the parents.

The cancellation of long-weekend adventures, expeditions and a summer camp in the Brecon Beacons have been a blow, as was stopping face-to-face Scout meetings in March.

However, 7th Woking was determined to lead the way in ensuring Scouting was not lost. The group embraced technology instead, using Zoom to keep members feeling involved and ready to tackle anything.

“More than 75% of our group aged six to 14 have regularly been joining weekly Zoom meetings with a range of activities including scavenger hunts, baking, falconry, code-breaking, escape rooms, computer programming, modelling and navigation, and even robotics,” said group Scout leader Jess Wright. 

“Outside the weekly meetings, badge work has continued at home. Cub leader Jan Parker and Beaver leader Clare Grigsby have been busy awarding badges by reviewing evidence including photos and clips of cooking, gardening, performing science experiments and much more presented by the Cubs and Beavers.”

Another leader, Nick Betterley, has been amazed by the attendance and enthusiasm, especially of the older Scouts, who have developed their own leadership skills.

“Our online Scout meetings have been great fun and well received,” he said. “We’ve done all sorts of activities, from pioneering to online pizza-making, not to mention a few camps at home.

“Attendance has been high and the Scouts and parents have been really positive with their feedback.  It’s not quite Scouting as normal but as the Scout Promise goes, we are doing our best and having lots of fun at the same time.”

Cub parent Tracy Hampton is equally enthused about her youngest daughter Abbie’s involvement, and the positive effect of the activities.

“Abbie is always buzzing when she gets off her Zoom call and loves the variety of activities each week,” said Tracy.

Abbie added: “It's good fun because there are lots of activities to do at home and my favourite game is where we are timed to do challenges.”

The 7th Woking Group has certainly been keeping ahead of the pack. In April, more than 80 members took part in a “camp at home” with 95,000 Scouts, Cubs and Beavers from 68 countries setting a world record for the number of Scouts camping overnight.

And instead of the postponed Scoutabout event, scheduled for last month, there was a Bivvyabout as youngsters camped out in gardens using shelters made from natural or man-made materials, or a mixture of the two.

Perhaps most poignantly, 7th Woking's consideration for people’s mental health came to the fore. During a “Kindness Week” youngsters made cards and sent them to the town's Kingsleigh Care Home as a way of encouraging thoughts of others in the community.

Neville Pike, chairman of 7th Woking, praised the hard work of all leaders. He said: “They have done an amazing job of helping to keep Scouting going and keeping young people in touch and active during these challenging times. The 7th Woking will continue Scouting at home until we can get back to providing skills for life face to face.”

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