The following notes have been assembled from records which had not been intended at the time to form a comprehensive history. Suggestions for corrections or additions will always be welcomed. The Group is deeply grateful for the contributions of a huge number of people at different times; but it is not feasible to mention everyone ! As a rule of thumb, we have attempted to record by name everyone who has been a Section Leader running the Beavers, Cubs, or Scouts, and others who gave service of 5 years or more.
OUR FIRST DECADE
Heslington Scout Group was begun in 1974, through Don Saxton of Heslington, who was District Commissioner for York (East). There were 14 Scouts led by Michael Moore assisted by Harry Telfer, plus 25 Cubs led by Pam Saxton assisted by Minnie Craig. Tom Craig was the Group Scout Leader. Meetings took place in the Parish Room off Main Street in Heslington, behind “Massey’s” shop (which later became the Sinclair Properties office).
A few years later, Stuart Turner became Scout Leader and “Leader-in-Charge” with Brenda Turner being Cub Leader. They were joined by Steve Saxton, who became a Leader when he reached 18, after having been a Scout at Heslington. Andrew Eccles joined the Group towards the end of 1983.
Stuart had begun the long practice of running a Group minibus, when he purchased an elderly Transit from the Students’ Union for £50. The Group celebrated its 10th anniversary at Heslington Church in 1984.
BUILDING OUR OWN SCOUT HUT.
The Parish Room was proving rather small for Scouting purposes, and had very limited display or storage facilities for Scouts. So with Andrew’s background as a Chartered Surveyor, conversations took place about the possibility of securing our own Scout Hut — facilitated by the Vicar, Geoffrey Hunter, whose own sons had been in the Group. The University offered to donate a vandalised site hut — (left over from building the Campus in 1965)— provided that the Scout Group could dismantle it and move the components to School Lane.
The new Scout Hut was designed by Andrew Eccles and was erected at School Lane on new foundations using components from the original building. This was done by a small team working at weekends and some evenings for 6 months between September 1985 and March 1986. The “regulars” were Andrew, Stuart Turner, Steve Saxton, Don Saxton, and Adrian Faiers (ASL 1986 to 1992) and Mike Hirst. The Group had no large amount of money and the project was helped by donations including earthworks by William Birch Ltd and plasterboard from British Gypsum.
When the Hut first opened for meetings in March 1986 it was only a shell, with no toilets. These were added later, and the total cost went up to £1700 (!!!).
The felt roof had many joins in it, and on wet nights, a number of Scout Meetings were conducted by Stuart and Steve: whilst Andrew worked on the roof outside, trying to stop the rainwater dripping in onto the electic lights…..
The building has been treated to continuous improvements since then.
AND TOMORROW THE WORLD
Features of Scouting in the late ’80’s included a Church Parade at Heslington on the third Sunday in every month, plus a monthly collection of newspapers (for fund-raising) around the village and estates. (The collection was eventually dropped when the paper price fell, combined with low participation from parents). Other fund-raising was through our Executive Committee which held an annnual barbeque and a sponsored walk, and sometimes a Barn Dance. There were some good Christmas parties in the Hut. Stuart and Andrew used canoes in these years:- the Group acquired about 6 fibreglass kyaks and the Leaders obtained BCU Training and Charge Certificates to take Scouts on the water. In addition to the Summer Camp, Andrew led a series of backpack expeditions, several in the Lake District, and obtained a Mountain Leadership Certificate in 1990.
Heslington Main Street was closed off for the Village Show on a Saturday each June, and the Scout Group provided a display and hot dogs for sale every year. Another annual social event was the “Brain of Heslington” quiz, run by Steve Saxton in the Church.
Meanwhile the North Yorkshire Scout County ran a selection process for the International Scouts 16th World Jamboree at Cataract Scout Park, South Australia in 1987-88. Scout Andrew Campbell from Heslington qualified for this, and funds were raised to get him to the Jamboree as part of the UK contingent. Claire Robinson (nee Garnett) was ACL for several years up to 1990, and the Cubs formed a Guard of Honour at her wedding in Heslington in 1989.
At the end of 1989 Stuart and Brenda Turner stood down from the Group. Steve Saxton became Scout Leader and Scouter-in-Charge, later Group Scout Leader, and Pam Saxton returned as Akela in Cubs until late 1992.
Some prominent members of our Committee from these years included John Smith, Lee Crosby, Sue Robinson, Lee Maloney, Alison Weir, Margaret Dillon, Gill Macdonald, Marion Briggs and Joan Train.
SPREADING UPWARDS AND DOWNWARDS Historically, Scouts had been for boys up to 15.5 years, and indeed this was so until 2002. A number of Heslington Scouts reached 15.5 in 1987-1988 and were reluctant to leave or move to Units across the City. The Group thus formed a Venture Scout Unit in September 1987 and this operated for a few years, including a period as a joint Unit with Heworth Ranger Guides from January 1989. Andrew Eccles was initially Venture Scout Leader, succeeded by Bob Campbell from 1990.
At the opposite end of the age range, The UK Scout Association had formally recognised Beaver Scouts for the 6 to 8 year olds, from 1986. In February 1992 Heslington Beavers was started by Sandra Bennett and Brenda Walkington.
CLIMBING AND MOUNTAINEERING
From about 1992 until 1999, the Scout Section was led by Andrew Eccles assisted by Antony Wright and Mark Draper, who had “graduated” via the Venture Unit and became Warranted Leaders in 1991.
Antony began to understudy Andrew in hillwalking from 1992, and a mountaineering partnership sprang up. This included 54 of the Scottish “Munro” summits and from 1993 included various snow and ice climbing trips, helped by joining the County winter weekends at Aviemore. Antony achieved a Summer ML and both leaders took a Winter Mountain Leader course at Glenmore Lodge.
Mark was keenly interested in rock climbing and regular “cragging” sessions developed. All three obtained the Single Pitch Award as rock climbing supervisors in 1994.
These enthusiastic pursuits were reflected in the Scout Troop, where rock climbing was enjoyed by many Scouts; and additionally the Troop had numerous Duke of Edinburgh Awards in addition to Chief Scouts Awards. From 1992 the Troop began its (still continuing) spring weekends at Hag Dyke and other mountain hostels.
To our immense sadness, Antony fell whilst leading a climb in the Llanberis Pass on 25th August 1996, and died in hospital on 31st August. He was enormously missed, and is always remembered.
Mark Draper moved to take over leading the Cubs, beginning a long partnership with Graeme Taylor who had become Akela from October 1992. Paul Walkington became an adult Leader after being in Cubs and Scouts.
Alan Walkington served across the 1990’s as Treasurer from 1988 to early 2000.
OUR SILVER JUBILEE
The Group celebrated its first 25 years in 1999 with a specially large camp at Huttons Ambo.
In addition to Scouts, Cubs, and Beavers we had events and camping for Parents and Old Ex-Members, with up to 70 people under canvas. Sue Green succeeded Andrew Eccles this year as Scout Leader, (1999-2002) after several years as Assistant from 1995.
THE NEW MILLENNIUM
Steve Saxton stood down after about 19 years’ service, and Andrew Eccles became Group Scout Leader in 2000.
We had experienced a year without a vehicle, since our minibus conclusively failed its MoT in ’99.
This showed clearly that to run our type of outdoor programme, some transport was necessary: so early in 2000 we bought a Land Rover Safari station wagon, which we ran for 6 years. Andrew consulted the Department of Transport at Wetherby, and designed and installed a forward-facing set of seats to DoT specifications.
The twenty-first century brought with it increases in complexity. Gift Aid was introduced in 2001, and along with the very welcome cash, required more administration. Stemming from events often in Education Authorities outside Scouting, lapses elsewhere in the running of activities brought about increased formality and bureaucracy in the control and authorisation of our day-to-day activities. Similarly the vetting of adults to work in Scouting came under statutory control, with an increase in form-filling and delays. However the Group was also able to benefit from changes in technology. We were an early exponent of a Scout Website, when our first one was constructed by Darren Buttle in 2001. Darren succeeded Sue Green as Scout Leader from 2002 to 2004.
In the 80’s and 90’s, communication often used to be by hard copy, with Leaders commonly driving round to various houses to drop notes off during evenings. We moved as soon as practicable to emailing !!
Subscriptions had always been collected in cash at weekly meetings, with a sponsored walk to raise “capitation” money paid per Member to Headquarters. We moved over a period to termly Subscription payments, inclusive of capitation: and as life got ever busier, small fund-raising events no longer seemed to be “worth the candle”
However we did begin Christmas bag-packing (at Sainsbury’s) from 2001.
Brenda Walkington stood down from Beavers 2002 after 10 years. Debbie Plaxton took over as Beaver Leader. (2002 to 2006). Others joining the Group early in the millennium were Gary Peterson from 2001, Scott Swinton from 2003 (Scout Leader 2004 to 2007) and Matt Matravers recruited by Andrew as Chair from 2003.
The Scout Association nationally had opened up membership to girls, and at Heslington we opened first the Scout Troop to girl members in 2004-2005, which was an immediate success.
A regrettable moment was the ending of Heslington Bonfire from 2006. For thirty years or more, the Village had held a bonfire near Heslington Church, at which diffrent organisations in the parish ran stalls to help church funds. The Scouts had traditionally served Hot Dogs, and over the years (as the attendances grew) we improved the operation so that we could sell some 700 hot dogs in 90 minutes. Many of our adult Leaders (led by Steve for many years) also provided a huge firework display. Sadly, it was decided that the organisers could no longer cope with the ever-tightening H&S regulations.
Mark Draper moved from being Akela to Assistant GSL in 2006 and Simon Page who had joined in 2005 , took over from Debbie to become Beaver Leader.
EXPLORING SOME ALTERNATIVES
From late 2002 the Association changed its composition so that young people ended their time in Scouts at age 14: and beyond 14 became separate Explorer Scouts. Andrew played a leading role together with the Scout District in the formation of Tri-ton Explorer Unit which began in late 2002 to provide for 14-17 year-old’s from Heslington, Dunnington, and Elvington, and we donated money and use of our minibus equipment, and facilities. Paul Walkington left Heslington to help run this Unit.
Unfortunately, the travelling between the three villages proved awkward, and when other adult support fell away, it was unrealistic for Paul to run the Unit all alone, so operations ceased in 2005.
An alternative for the 14+ age range is the Young Leader Scheme, so once Triton Explorers was no longer available, we began to develop this scheme for young people to help in the Beaver, Cub, and Scout Sections. This alternative has proved very successful, with benefits both for the Young leaders and for the Sections. Two Young Leaders from Heslington formed part of our District “Mission to Malawi” in 2009, when a group travelled to Malawi and gave service in helping to refurbish part of a hospital.
In 2011, one of our Young Leaders – Ed Coop – became the first Heslington Scout to achieve the Queens Scout Award. This is Scouting’s highest Award for young people, and was presented in a ceremony at Windsor Castle.
A SECOND CENTURY
In 2007, Scouting entered its second century, with the 100th Anniversary of the first experimental camp organised by Baden-Powell on Brownsea Island. Heslington joined Groups across the UK in having a “sunrise” event to mark this. As it was near to midsummer, we had to be up at 4.00 am from Summer Camp to walk to a nearby Trig Point. Scott Franklin became Scout Leader from 2007 to 2010.
Having stood for 20 years, our timber-framed building was beginning to need revitalisation at this time. Fortunately we found Sue Broderick to be our Treasurer from 2005 to 2010; and with the help of Yvonne Birks keeping membership records, Sue was able to harvest several years’ worth of Gift Aid reclaims. This provided funds to repair the building, renew the minibus, and to purchase a good new trailer (for which Simon built a special secure body).
Mellody Clarke served on our Committe and with her expertise secured grants to fund new double-glazed windows and other modernisation works, so that we spent £11,000 in 2008-2009.
The Group faced a difficult year in 2010 with Graeme Taylor’s decision to stand down as Cub Leader (becoming Training Manager) after around 20 years’ service with Heslington, plus Scott Franklin’s leaving as Scout Leader. Fortunately the situation was resolved when Simon Page moved to lead the Scouts, Geoff Faiers agreed to be Cub Leader, (till 2013) and Matt Matravers donned uniform after 7 years as Chair, to run Beavers with the help of Lauren Husband. Alex Wade took leadership of the Beaver Section in 2013.