The largest ever North West gathering of Scouts under canvas took place recently at the Baronscourt Estate, home of the Duke of Abercorn, on the outskirts of Newtownstewart, with many local Scouting groups included in the festivities.
Around 1,500 young people from all over Ireland - all aged between 6 and 26 years-old - took part in the Northern Provincial Camp in the first weekend of June alongside over 300 adult volunteers. As well as scouts from all over Ulster, the Camp included groups from Dublin, Louth and Sligo coming together.
Some of the scouting activities included kayaking, raft building, shelter building, backwoods cooking (cooking in the forest) and Orienteering, while the non-scouting activities included a mountain bike challenge, archery, rope climbing and paint balling.
The programme of activities were designed to facilitate the various age ranges attending.
This was the first camp to adopt an Inter-Agency approach where external agencies such as companies with Adventure expertise were used as well as other agencies such as NIFRS, NIAS and the PSNI.
This was also the first Camp to have a Camp Chief’s Challenge where scouts could complete a number of challenges to earn a much sought after special badge that could only be presented by the Camp Chief, Joe Boland.
Dessie Taylor, County Commissioner of Errigal County and Group Leader of St Eugene’s Scout Group in Derry, praised all those who made the Camp Carnival such a resounding success.
“The camp was actually made up of different age groups, so you had beaver scouts, cub scouts, scouts and venture scouts all there together,” he told the ‘Sunday’.
All the local agencies were involved too, including the PSNI and St. John’s Ambulance, and Dessie explained that while at the camp, the various ages and levels are broken into different groups. “For instance, the venture scouts built shelters in the forest and slept under the stars. They also learned how to cook rabbit and live off the land!”
“Joe Boland was the Camp Chief and there’s obviously a lot of planning that goes into organising a camp this size, a lot of meetings and a lot of volunteers needed. So full praise to Joe and all the volunteers who helped out too, without them this camp would simply not work. Few realise just how much work goes into organising an event of this size.”
Francine Moran, Group Leader of Springtown Scouts, took two groups to Camp Carnival - her own Springtown Scouts and those from Culmore Scouts, totalling 27 young people altogether.
“This camp only happens every four years,” Francine says. “All the activities included tasks that they would not normally do. For instance, the Emergency Services came to camp and did a reconstruction of a car accident to teach the young people about the importance of wearing seatbelts and the consequences of not being car-safe. It was also great for the young people to meet and get to know new people from all over Ireland.”
“We also had a Camp Chief Challenge which involved earning points for specific tasks, and there were 600 limited edition badges given out afterwards to the 600 highest points.
“We also had goody bags for everyone who attended the camp, including the leaders, with a neckerchief, water bottle and other stuff all inside too.
“Everyone involved had an amazing time.”
Derry man Charlie McCrystal attended the camp with 12 young people aged 10-17 years-old from St Mary’s Creggan Scouts and group leader Gerry Doherty.
“St Mary’s Scouts only reformed two years ago when Gerry Doherty realised there was a demand for scouts again in Creggan and I agreed to help him set it up,” Charlie reveals.
“We made the decision to take scouts from 10 years-old onwards because so many younger ones were interested. So now we have a mixture of cubs, scouts and venture scouts. We believe that if you start them young, you’ll keep them interested.”
Charlie, alongside so many other leaders, spent a great deal of time preparing the camp in the week leading up to Camp Carnival.
“Some of the young people had never been camping before and to land at Baronscourt estate and have everything ready to go was just unbelievable. And the camp itself was excellent, everything ran so smoothly.”
“We had a brilliant fireworks display the first evening, and on the second night we music groups play. They also had the real carnival stuff like bouncy castles, clowns, people doing body flips and gymnastic performances and a man working with fire! Then of course we had canoeing on the lake and we had a zip line.
“We also had a demonstration planned from the Irish Coastguard but then they had to detour for a real emergency and so a police helicopter came in its place and landed on site for the young people to see inside, which was just amazing for them!
The helicopter then did a flyby and circled the camp. “It was brilliant! Two of the young people are actually critically ill and it was arranged that they would be invited to go visit the Irish Coastguard for the day some time and they’ll look after them”
“All in all, it was a fantastic weekend. Everybody just pulled together and made it something special. Camp Chief Joe Boland deserves a lot of credit as does everyone else who helped prepare the camp. We are already looking forward to the next camp because this year was just second to none!”
Charlie also reminds everybody that St Mary’s Scouts meet at the old Trojan building at Cromore Gardens every Wednesday night at 7.30pm and all are welcome.
Camp organiser, Joe Boland was also delighted the camp was so successful and expressed thanks to all the external agencies for their support.“Without their efforts and the services they provided the young people would not have had such a fantastic experience. It took 11 months to organise the camp so thanks as well to all the staff who helped in any way”
For more information on the Camp, check out facebook: www.facebook.com/campcarnival2012