Teenagers from the north of England and Scotland gave up the chance of a warm, relaxed and comfortable weekend to travel to Twizel, near Belford, to take part in a cold and frosty two-day escape and evasion exercise.
Groups travelled from as far afield as Manchester to join in with Northumbria Area’s Survival Badge part two weekend which took place from November 16-18. 1st Flodden B-P Scout Group provided five senior scouts and three leaders for the exercise.
The criteria of this part of the survival badge requirements is that participants carry out a journey of at least 15km in an escape style exercise in ‘difficult’ country without equipment other than light survival packs over at least two days and one night.
Seniors, with a minimum of equipment, were therefore taken to a drop off point on the Saturday morning from where they were to use their skills in navigation, camouflage and concealment to avoid being captured and reach a defined yet ‘insecure’ area in which they had to remain overnight.
Teams of searchers were deployed to track down and pursue patrols of three or four senior scouts who would lose one of their allocated five lives whenever they were caught. If all ‘lives’ were lost then the patrol would have to return to base.
The overnight rain and cloud cover had dissipated leaving a crisp and clear November day graced with glorious sunshine; wonderful for a day of relaxed walking in the countryside with incredible views of moorland and the Cheviots to the west and the breathtaking Northumberland coastline with Holy Island and Bamburgh Castle and the Farne Islands to the east.
However, this was not the time to savour the wonderful countryside but to avoid capture. Patrols varied in their approach; careful use of dead ground or hedges and woodland to give cover, selecting routes away from those expected to be followed, breaking up ‘unnatural’ shapes by use of camouflage and irregular spacing while moving.
Euan from 1st Flodden said: “Most of the time the going was good, but once you knew you had been seen it was difficult to escape.”
Night time was somewhat different. All the patrols were somewhere within a defined area consisting of woodland and fields, meandering burns and undulating terrain. It was also pitch black, but to avoid capture, patrols needed to remain silent and avoid the use of fire or torchlight. Buckets of goodies were positioned to entice the seniors out of their hiding places.
Meanwhile, searchers could be noisy and use torches while they worked their ways throughout the night scouring the area listening and looking for any giveaway signs. One patrol was even found fast asleep in their survival bags!
Chris from 1st Flodden commented: “It was really irritating being caught, especially when we thought we’d found the ideal way to avoid being captured at night.”
The following day, each patrol had to reach a specific location within a given time window, so it was back to daylight evasion techniques again.
All patrols were caught at least twice over the weekend, with others on their last lives on the final day.
Mistakes were made and lessons learned but all participants said they had a thoroughly good time. Local scouting did the area proud with two male Seniors of 1st Flodden making up half of the winning patrol along with two young men from 1st Milbrook from near Manchester. A female trio from 1st Flodden finished equal second with 1st North Ormesby from Middlesborough.