Scout’s Photo Gallery

Ever since my Scout Group has had its own website, we’ve put photos on it to show what we get up to. This is a great way to show potential new members what activities we do and, of course, the Beavers, Cubs and Scouts like to see pictures of themselves doing stuff. If this is done in the correct way and according to Scout Association guidelines, then it is a fantastic resource.

Initially when we had a straight HTML website, putting photos on the site require the photos to be resized, thumbnails to be created, the pictures inserted into a table and the pictures and thumbnails to be uploaded to the correct places (see here for an example on the archived version of our website). To be honest, it was a pain and time consuming! So once I changed the site to a content management system, I was looking for a different way of showing the photos.

I found a nice hosted site called Fotopic which had a number of options for photo galleries. I chose the free one! It worked well for us since 2005 (I hadn’t realised I’d used it for so long!) and I even changed to a paid for account as that gave more features and removed the adverts (some of which could, on occasions, be unsuitable for a Scout’s site!).

However, three weeks ago it just vanished. And there has been no official word as to why, although reading some online forums (especially the railway ones – a lot of railway photographers used Fotopic), I could get some idea of what was happening as Fotopic’s former owner has been very helpful in trying to keep people updated. But it appears that today the company owning Fotopic has gone into administration.

Bearing in mind that it’s never a good sign if a website just vanishes overnight, I started to look at alternatives. One possibility was to set up a gallery on the Group’s own webspace, but I couldn’t find a suitable package I liked. Also, I don’t think there wouldn’t be enough room on the Group’s webspace for all the photos. So I looked at commercial and free providers and as with most things, there were pros and cons with each. Eventually the one I liked the most was SmugMug (even though is has a very odd name if you ask me). It has features and looks that I like, and I can even add videos to the site which may remove the need to use YouTube (got to check this one out though).

Luckily I didn’t lose any photos so I’m in the process of populating the site with photos, but it is taking some time! This means that it will be a while before I can all the photos back up, but at least nothing is lost.

So here it is, our new Photo Gallery. Please take a look!

Camping in London!

Scouts are well know for their eagerness to camp in odd places, so as I sit on the train returning home from a weekend in London, let me give you four interesting places where Scouts can stay, and indeed, camp in London.

Firstly are the two most obvious ones, Baden Powell House and Gilwell Park. BP House is run as a youth hostel and is convenient for central London. Gilwell, is of course, the ‘home’ of Scouting and is an excellent place to camp.

The other two are, perhaps, a little less obvious.

HMS Belfast is a World War 2 Cruiser which is moored on the Thames near to Tower Bridge and is open to the public as a museum ship. As part of their educational department, school groups and youth organisations can spend a night aboard the ship. Unfortunately, you can’t sleep in a hammock, but instead in a 1950’s mess deck. I took our Scouts there some years ago and it certainly is a talking point for the Scouts (and the Leaders of course) to say they spent the night on a WW2 ship in the middle of London.

The last place to stay is probably the least known. In the Bounds Green area of North London is Scout Park camp site. And yes, it is a camp site! If you are not from the area, you wouldn’t know it was there! I only found out about it because I have relatives who live close by. Staying there is an odd experience as you know you’re in the middle of suburban London, but the site itself gives the impression of being on a site in the country. In fact, the only give away is the low flying aircraft on their way to or from Heathrow or the sound of the traffic in the rush hour! It’s a really great place to stay and it is really close to Bounds Green Tube Station, so you can have easy access to the centre of London.

So if you’re thinking of going to London check out these places to stay.

An Old Scouting Postcard

A while back I borrowed an album of old postcards from my Uncle He has some postcards of the area where I (and he used to) live, as I wanted to copy them. Amongst these I found a postcard that I’d actually found for him many years ago.

NS Scout

It’s a postcard produced by the North Staffordshire Railway to promote the little narrow gauge Leek and Manifold Light Railway which used to run through the Staffordshire Moorlands. Railways often produced these type of postcards to show the beauty of the areas through which their railways travelled. If you click on the image you will get a larger version and you can see the beauty of the landscape. However, notice the two figures. Yes, they’re Scouts, and  in the old traditional uniform from when Scouting started. This would be because the postcard was issued before 1923 when the North Staffordshire Railway ceased to exist.

Of course it’s interesting to think that Scouts were walking in that area over 90 years ago and still do to this day. If you area ever around North Staffordshire, I would highly recommend a visit.

The rail fan in me also loves this film of the Leek and Manifold Railway before it closed!

Don’t Raise Our Rents

The Scout Association has just launched a campaign regarding the raising of the rent paid by Scout Groups for the land that their Scout Huts are built upon.

Many Group’s own their own building, and have done for many years, but the land they are built upon is often owned by their local council (County, District, Borough – you get the idea).Often these were built many years ago and the ground they stand upon is leased for a peppercorn rent or on terms that are generally below the ‘commercial rate’.

However, times are tough and councils are having their budgets cut and are they having to look at ways of increasing their incomes. to do this they are looking at increasing the payments Scout Groups (and other youth organisations, including the Guides) are having to make. An extreme example of this is one quoted on the BBC

In a further two cases cited by the Scout Association the 23rd Camberwell Group in south London faced a £7,000 bill this year having previously rented school rooms for free, and the 9th Watford Group’s rent was going up from a nominal £7.50 to £650.

To go from nothing to £7000 pa is appalling. And while to go from £7.50 to £650 pa might not sound much, if you’re a Group without much income, it is a lot of money to find all of a sudden.


As usual the councils are targeting the wrong areas. Scouting (and again many other youth organisations) does not receive money directly from government, either locally or nationally. It does receive grants and awards, but these are always awarded on the merit of the individual project and Scouting gets ‘charity discounts’ on their land rental.

About 10 – 11% of the UK’s 60 or so million population are under 18 – I am not using accurate figures here, just approximates. Of that 10 – 11%, over 1 million young people are in Scouting or Guiding in the UK. Quite what that figure would be if the Boys Brigade, Girls Brigade, Baden Powell Scouts, Youth Clubs, Cadets etc. were taken into account, I don’t know. But all these organisations are providing things for young people to do without a direct cost to the taxpayer.

In the worst case scenario, if a Group is forced to close or move away from their building, what will happen to it? Will the landlord (council) be able to lease the land at commercial rates or will it stand empty and become derelict? Who knows, but I would imagine that it would not be reused in the immediate future.

Also, what will happen to the young people if a Group closes? They won’t learn new skills or meet up with friends from different schools and could end up on the streets causing a nuisance of themselves, which would cost, in the long term, more money to put right! So this does seem like a policy of ‘penny wise pound foolish’.

My Group is lucky as this will not affect us, but I know of a number of Groups in our area which this could affect, so please visit the Don’t Raise Our Rents website and sign the petition.

Responsible Internet Providers

A couple of weeks ago I went to do the CEOP Ambassador training as a follow on to the Think U Know internet safety training I did in January. Over lunch, we had the usual time to ‘network’ and I got chatting to a lady from the mobile phone and broadband company O2 (quite what mobile phones have to do with an oxygen molecule is beyond me). She was doing the training as she goes out to schools and helps to inform kids about safety on the internet, either on mobile phones or on PCs. She told me that it wasn’t just an O2 thing, but they were partners with Microsoft (funny how I can’t find much about Apple being proactive about child internet safety) and a couple of other companies whose names escape me. One of the things she told me was that they didn’t go into a school and say ‘we’re O2 / Microsoft, we do this, aren’t we great?’, but they educated the kids about online safety without blowing their own trumpets. Very commendable.

Then last week I got an email telling me about a conference O2 is holding about online safety, especially with regard to mobile phones. This is quite timely as O2 have taken a bit of flack recently as they’ve decided to stop mobile phone users accessing certain website unless the user is proven over 18. I mentioned this to my dinner companion and she told me that this was being applied to all their customers both new and existing. We discussed the merits of the idea and I have to say I agree that it’s a good idea. It may be slightly inconvenient that I cannot access something ‘adult’ on my phone when using the mobile broadband (the block isn’t in place if you use Wi-Fi of course), but it means that I have a choice. And to be honest I’ll choose to keep it in place.

The conference O2 are running is on the morning of the 22nd March at their head office in Slough. I must admit I’d like to go, but I have to be at work. However, I will be able to watch some of it as it is being streamed. From the agenda, it looks like some big cheeses from the worlds of both content (Facebook, the BBC, O2) and childcare / safety (CEOP, NSPCC, Ofcom) are attending. O2 are taking the subject of internet safety for young people and they can only be congratulated for raising awareness of this important area. They even have a website aimed at parents to help them keep their kids safe.

Online safety for young people is an important area these days and whether we are parents or Scout Leaders (or both) we ought to make ourselves aware of the potential dangers out there on this wonderful resource the internet. Companies like O2 and Microsoft should be applauded for the work they do, trying to educate their customers.

Shelterbox and Scouting

imageI was reading this post by Scouter Doug in which he talks about donating to Shelterbox. This is an organisation that “provides emergency shelter and lifesaving supplies for families around the world who are affected by disasters at the time when they need it the most”. And they send all the stuff needed in a box! This is of course a time when such items are needed in Japan.

I was going to make a donation through Doug’s FirstGiving page, but didn’t when I realised I’d heard of them before and that they are actually an organisation based in Cornwall (one of my favourite parts of the country. And I’m not saying that because my Aunty is Cornish!). So I checked out their site and gave some money (it’s better for me donating in the UK as they can get Gift Aid which means free money from the Tax Man – sorry Doug. USA people please use Doug’s link).

On the menu list the bit that said ‘Scout Association’ caught my eye. It appears that since 2009 the SA and Shelterbox have been in partnership (this has, I’m embarrassed to say, passed me by) to engage Scouts of all ages about the needs of disaster relief. As well as Scouts raising money they work with Scouts across the world to help deliver the relief. You can read more here.

But, importantly, it’s not just the UK Scout Association they work with, it’s the BSA as well – see here (although they do seem to have our logo on the top of the page and not the BSA!).

So please give a donation to this worthy cause and take a look at the various Scouting resources and maybe think about what your Beavers, Cubs and / or Scouts can do to help. I will be mentioning this to my Group’s Leaders.

Slight aside: Scouter Doug and many other BSA Leaders (Jerry, Shawn & Steve to name but a few) are marking the BSA’s 100 Days of Scouting, by making a Scouting based post every day for 100 days. I’m very impressed at their dedication and the ability to write that much! So please take a look at the blogs and be inspired!

The Beaver’s 25th Birthday

Beavers 25thThis year marks the 25th Birthday of the Beaver section. Beavers have been official members of the Scout Association since 1986, but had in fact been around for some time before that.

A younger section than Cubs was seen to be needed for some time and was done so in a similar way to which the Cubs were started (younger brothers of Scouts wanting to get involved) . The concept was started in Canada and / or Northern Ireland in the 1960’s. Within the SA, Beavers were only in Northern Ireland until the the late 1970’s / early 1980’s when Beavers were then trialled in Scotland. By 1982 Beavers were introduced to the rest of the UK (in fact our friends down the road had been running Beavers for some time at that point see here), but they were not yet full members of the SA. That had to wait until 1986, hence the 25th Birthday this year.

Beavers is a great section as the kids are so young and energetic and every activity is new to them. Going on a Beaver sleepover, for example, is a very exciting experience for them!

We’ve had Beavers in my Group sine 1990 and it’s interesting to see that some of our young Leaders and older Scouts started with us as little 6 year old Beavers. It also makes me feel old! Just think, that those Beavers who started in 1986 are now in their early 30’s!

There are lots of activities planned to make this a special year for the Beavers and a special badge has been issued (see above). However, the badge is not very well liked and is a bit vague. Some of the comments I’ve heard are ‘what does it show?’, ‘that’s a Beaver????’ etc. Not the best badge the SA have ever produced!

Never mind, lets hope that Beavers who are celebrating this year remember ‘their’ birthday and go on all the way through to Network and the Queen’s Scout Award!


The Scout Association has closed down the Scoutbase website this last week and transferred its content to the Member Resources section of the main SA site.

Scoutbase was the SA’s first presence on the internet and was started way back in 1996! Here is a short history of the site written in 1998, which I lifted from Google’s cache of the site (I guess this will soon go).

ScoutBase UK — Our own site on the World Wide Web.
A long time ago … in a far away galaxy…

Oops, that’s another story – but sometimes it feels that way. ScoutBase UK is now well established as the Scout Association’s official Web Site, and this is perhaps as good a time as any to look back at how this communications initiative came into being and why. This is not the place to write a history of the Internet or the World Wide Web (WWW), fascinating though it is.

No, let’s just accept that there is this enormous network of computers which now covers the whole World and which can be of use to us.
Smoke signals.

Scouts have always been fascinated by communications, after all the subject was part of our regular training programme for years – hands up all those who still remember a bit of Morse or semaphore.

It’s hardly surprising then that from the earliest days of home computers you could find Scouts attaching early modems to their Sinclair Spectrums, and starting to communicate with one another by means of electronic bulletin boards. It needed a couple of good solid Scouting character traits to stay with that early technology – patience with the slow and unreliable connections and extreme bravery when it came to facing one’s phone bill! But the pace of technology snowballed and those connections became faster and more reliable, and the phone bills need no longer be life-threatening. Or to put it another way, the time had arrived to put the Scout Association on the Web.

If you were strong enough to have survived the early IT Strategy papers, you will remember that a presence on the Web was always part of the Association’s forward thinking; but provision of the necessary finance and staffing was another matter. And this is where the story really starts….
The Vision.

Back in the dark days of the early 1990s (pre – ScoutBase you might say) several Leaders and Venture Scouts were already putting information up on the fledgling Web with a view to assisting others in their day-to-day Scouting, and creating electronic links to exchange ideas and information with other Scouts around the World. It soon became obvious that there was a duplication of effort and considerable scope for confusion. Looking back it now seems incredible that these various efforts could so easily and quickly be brought under one roof; perhaps this says a lot for the ability of Scouts to work together in a common cause.

The newly formed grouping – which gave its embryo site the name ‘ScoutBase UK’ – then took the step of offering its vision, its services, and the site, to the Scout Association. It wasn’t a walkover – you try living through a four-o-clock in the morning rehearsal for a presentation to the IT Steering Committee! But, finally, in October 1996 the Committee of the Council took the step of accepting ScoutBase UK as the Association’s official Web Site. And this is where the story really starts ….

The original grouping was of just four individuals, but there was no way they could cope with the vision that was to be ScoutBase UK. Editors were quickly recruited for each of the eight main sections of the Site; they in turn recruited their own staff members. These staff were found from all over the country and contact was (and still is) almost entirely electronic; in a very short space of time ScoutBase had become what was probably one of the earliest ‘virtual’ organisations in the UK, if not the World. It saves the Scout Association a fortune on office space!

So now Scoutbase is no more. Which is a shame. It was the ‘go to’ place when you needed information no matter how obscure. Of course there were some problems with it, the main one being the searches, which could throw up all sorts of odd results!

Hopefully its replacement will make finding what you actually want a lot easier!

Of course, as I’ve mentioned previously, you can always use the the Wayback Machine.

Scoutbase is no more, long live Scoutbase.