Smoke Signals 3rd Edition 2021

The third quarter is always a busy one, as the Troop tries to do as much as possible before the exam pressures of term four.

Our Meerkats Den has been busy with numerous activities – fun around the Olympics and under the sea, and a chance for the Meerkats to get out and about in Claremont and the park. As always, the enthusiasm of the adults is key in engaging our youngest troop members and getting them hooked on the scouting world!

Cubs have had a busy term as well: working on their badges – for gardening and science and conservation – as well as doing a cub hike in the rain, proof that scouting fun can be had, whatever the weather.

1st Claremont is a busy, well-loved group which is booming – we see more demand than places! And to manage this, we are helping to relaunch a new Scout Group – 4th Claremont / Fernwood Scouts!

In this quarter, our scouts have engaged in various activities that are core to scouting: as Tim recounts, orienteering is a key scouting skill and a formidable challenge to master. Community service is also a crucial part of scouts – a chance to live out Baden-Powell’s advice to ‘leave the world a better place than you found it’ – and this quarter saw two projects: Ethan and team helped repair a board walk at the Kildare Nature Reserve, and another group helped build steps down to Smitswinkel Bay.

COVID has had an impact on many things, including competitions. This year’s Gordon’s Shield had a reduced format – only one team of five scouts was entered.

And as always, the scouts have done some hiking – up Chapman’s Peak and Lion’s Head...

Sadly, in this edition we also pay tribute to the late Peter Niddrie, who will be sorely missed by the scouting community.

And finally, we close as always with Reflections on Scouting.

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Meerkats out and about in Claremont

The Meerkats went on a treasure hunt in Arderne Gardens at the end of July. They set off in burrows with maps and compasses to follow sound clues – waterfalls, hadedas, barking dogs and of course frogs! Finding the Treasure at a Champion Tree, racing to base and enjoying a picnic together before the rain came made for a memorable morning out. We were very fortunate thereafter to arrange an evening walk in Keurboom Park with renowned UCT frog expert, Tania Morkel. Decked out in wellies and head torches, followed by their parents, the intrepid Meerkats burrowed in the muddy streams and caught adult (but small) frogs. They learnt how to examine their gender and the importance of conserving frogs in our area. Some Meerkats just revelled in the experience of running in the park at night. Our new pups and their parents are hooked on scouting now!

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Cubs in the Third Term

During the term, there were a series of meetings that focused on ‘conservation’ and ‘scientist’ badges.

Cubs in their various sixes produced posters showing simple ways in which they could reduce their carbon footprint.

Elton le Roux [Assistant Pack Scouter], and estate manager of Kirstenbosch Gardens, presented a slideshow on how us as humans have been destroying the planet throughout our history, what rangers busy themselves with on a day-to-day basis, and how protected areas are important in limiting the ecological damage by conserving not only our fauna and flora but all the associated habitats.

Chemistry and kinetic energy were covered over two meetings in August where Kath Kenyon exposed cubs to the terms ‘crystals’, ‘solutions’, ‘acids’, ‘bases’ and ‘pH’ among others. Cubs created their own sherbet, made their own wind up car charged by kinetic energy and were involved in a tou-trek activity.

During an on line meeting on 27th August, Naas van Jaarsveld of the Cape Leopard Trust gave a thought provoking presentation on the plight of the leopard in the Cape Fold Mountains and what their extinction would mean to the biology of the region, thereby covering an animal in SA that is in danger of extinction.

To round off the conservation badge, on the 3rd of Septembe, cubs walked from Cecilia car park in the direction of Kirstenbosch visiting the Table Mountain National Park.

During the end-of-term meeting on 17th September, the gardening badge was covered by sourcing compost, soil and plants from Kirstenbosch Gardens. Cubs were involved with plantings in tyres at the scout hall during this activity.

Two cubs, namely Matthew D’arcy-Evans and James Sullivan, were awarded the much revered ‘Leaping Wolf’ badge during term 3. Well done to the boys for some excellent work. Unfortunately for us, James has decided to join 2nd Rondebosch Scout Troop but we wish him all success during his scouting journey there.

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Holly attends community service in Smitswinkel Bay

Alex’s community service was a fun way of doing what we all normally hate. It was a creative idea and beach view was incredible!
We were in Smitswinkel Bay and our job was to put steps on an eroding pathway that went down to the beach . It was rewarding to be able to see our progress whenever we stopped; we were able to do the job fast because we all did different jobs that contributed to the project. A few of those jobs were: fetching sand from to fill the steps with, fetching rocks from the beach to fill the steps and hammering in metal poles to hold the wooden planks in.

The steps’ design was simple and effective: there was a plank placed vertically with metal poles holding it in and sand and rocks were packed behind it to create the step. Halfway through we stopped for a lunch break and sat on the beach and ate. I thoroughly enjoyed this community service and I’m sure the rest of the Eagles patrol did too!

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4th Claremont Fernwood Scout Group relaunches

During the 4th term, we are re-launching 4th Claremont Fernwood Scout Group. Their hall is in Almond Street, just above the Upper Liesbeek River Garden, which is a perfect location for the new Cub and Meerkat branches which will open there this term. The plan is for the Scout Troop to open next year. The group has been closed for around 20 years and is the first newly established group in our District for many years.

Since we announced the launch, we have successfully recruited and trained a team of adult leaders for the new group, and rapidly built a list of enthusiastic potential Scout families from the surrounding community. We have held a range of Scout and training activities at the hall, as well as hall work parties to tidy the grounds and get the hall ready for Scout activities. We are really looking forward to the first meetings in the next few weeks!

If you were at 4th Claremont or know someone who was, please get in touch. We’re especially interested in any stories, photos or memorabilia from before the group closed.

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The value of scouting for our youth is not in direct experience and the memories it creates but in the life skills that those experiences impart – the benefits of which are only fully realised years later. Without an indepth understanding of how this works, it is easy to deride scouts as a anachronistic organisation – teaching outdated skills with little or know application in the modern world. Some scout organisations have gone this path – they have ditched traditional scout activities and made themselves “relevant”. They teach skills such as software coding and no longer teach the skills in which we lay such store, such as knotting. Is it the right path? Only time will tell.

Scouts SA is still quite a conservative organisation and change is slow. While this has frustrations and negative consequences all of its own, it also can be beneficial. While we have thankfully largely moved on from the “we have always done it this way” mantra, still we retain, in large part, many of our traditional activities. Pioneering, First Aid, Survival and other traditional skills are combined with more modern concerns – conservation, stemming the tide of plastic, and sustainable development goals.

In all these matters, we should not lose sight of one of the real reasons for these activities, traditional or not. It is not to teach scouts a skill that will make them more employable. It is to give them life skills that will last a life time – leadership, responsibility, teamwork, collaboration and the other associated skills which are so difficult to acquire. It is, in short, to make them better citizens. These skills will, as a by product, make them more employable but they will also help them in every facet of life – school, university, work, volunteering, family and life in general. It is important, in all we do, that we do not lose sight of this. To lose sight of this aim, and critically the methods by which we reach this aim, would mean that scouts would become just another youth organisation, one of many, struggling for survival in a sea of sameness.

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Tim takes a team orienteering

Going into the competition I had no idea what I was in for as it was my first orienteering competition. Although I had done map work and had taken bearings before during my years at scouts, I still didn’t know what we were going to need to do in this competition.

We arrived at the hall, waited outside till the rest of our scouts joined us, moved inside and got registration done, and then waited for the competition to start. We were split into junior and senior sections — I was in the senior section and we were one of the youngest or very possibly the youngest. We were given our map of the area and they explained what to do.

Our objective was to get to as many allocated points as possible, and at each point we had to answer a question about that place. The points further away from the scout hall were worth more points than the ones closer. I took this orienteering competition as a learning experience as I didn’t know how these competitions worked and neither did my partner but we both learnt what we were meant to do, the best plan for how to do it and what to do next time.

We never ended up winning but it was still a fun experience and one I hope to have again.

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Tribute to Peter Niddrie

The long awaited District First Aid course had started that Saturday morning and I was in a bookshop in Tokai, planning to visit the course later in the day when the phone rang. Looking at the caller I knew that it was a problem of some sort, given that the caller was Jonathan who was helping Peter run the course and that he would only phone me with news that required my personal intervention. I was not prepared for the news that he would impart – who would be prepared to be told that our District Commissioner, colleague and friend, Peter Niddrie, had suffered a massive heart attack and had passed away on the first aid course at Gilpine. Within hours the news had travelled the length and breadth of the scout community in South Africa – scouters in Gauteng were messaging me with condolences and seeking confirmation.

Peter was a man who lived his life in service – Rotary and then scouts. Scouts in so many facets that it is impossible to list them all. District Commissioner of the Liesbeek District, Committee Member and Camp Chief at the Cederberg Senior Scout Adventure, assistant for the SA contingent of the World Scout Jamboree and many more endless acts of kindness and assistance that, now that he is gone, we remember more vividly.

I first encountered Peter when I attended my first District meeting – something that 1st Claremont had largely been absent from over the past few years. Within a short space of time Peter became, not a hindrance, but a key shoulder to lean on to answer questions and provide guidance. His evident kindness and wisdom and his willingness to give of his time and expertise meant that Peter was a man worthy of respect – it was impossible to not see that this was a person whose true object was to assist. Honesty and integrity shone through and his enthusiasm for first aid was simply disarming.

In the following 10 or so years, my interactions with Peter grew. He became, not only the District Commissioner, but a friend and close colleague over multiple interactions in multiple forums. He was willing not only to give advice but to listen to my complaints and general futuristic and often wishful thinking without complaint. Not only for me but for many unit leaders in the Liesbeek District, he became an essential part of our scout lives – a solid and reliable, always available presence with wise words and a sympathetic ear.

Peter had stated his intention to step down as District Commissioner having been in the position for more than a decade. He was looking forward to taking a “break” from scouts by which he meant that he would continue to run First Aid courses – 14 weekends a year – and be on the Adventure Committee and doubtless he would have ended up assisting on many other matters. A lifetime of service is a habit hard to break. In the end he passed doing things he loved – doing first aid, helping others, giving of himself to make the world a better place.

His passing at the age of 63 robbed everyone of something. Lynda and his sons of a husband and father; scouters of our District Commissioner; for many of us a wise mentor; for others a friend. Some of the 1st Claremont scouters were privileged to attend his memorial service and it was a chance to say goodbye to an exceptional man and and a great servant of scouting. Though we have had time to say goodbye, still I have this temptation to talk to Peter about some issue. He could be just there – at the other end of the phone or Whatsapp – with a ready ear, wise words and a subtle jest.

Ave atque Vale

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