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1st Class Journey: Sunday

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By the time you have finished reading this book, which is really an account of a First Class Journey undertaken by Peter and Bill, I expect you will be feeling, as I felt when I had read it, that you would like to have been with them. Obviously they had a grand time. I think they had a grand time for several reasons, of which the chief are that they got on well together, which is the basis of any good hike, they set out on their journey in a spirit of real adventure and not just to pass a test and so be able to put new badges on their arms, they went into country which was strange to them so that it was a real adventure, and, very important, this was not the first hike they had undertaken together - they had done many practice hikes together and they knew their Scouting.

Now a word about the book; don't think that it is meant to be a model report. When you go on your First Class Hike you will not be expected to write quite so much as Peter and Bill have done and you need not necessarily use the exact method of setting out things as they have done. In their report they not only say what they have done but often say why they have done it; they record several conversations which they had together and with other people. What I hope you are going to capture from this book is the grand spirit in which they adventured out from their headquarters and dealt with all the problems and seized all the opportunities with which their hike route and, indeed, any hike route is surrounded if only we will take the trouble to look.

There are other things to which I should like to draw your attention. Peter and Bill did not just fulfil the conditions of the test; they really did carry it out in the spirit in which it was meant to be carried out. You will find no mention of primus stoves or elaborate equipment, no mention of packets of sandwiches and shop-made meat pies. They went as Scouts are meant to go, completely self-contained, relying on their previous training and experience as Scouts and prepared to cope with whatever the gods had to offer. You will find, too, that they remembered many important things which I am afraid are sometimes overlooked, not least, their prayers at morning and evening, going quietly through the woodlands and noticing the birds and animals. They remembered to be courteous in the countryside and to be a credit to their Troop so that the places they passed through would say, "Scouting is a good thing". They remembered to greet other Scouts as they met them and not slink by as though they belonged to some strange unknown race. In short, Peter and Bill did a pretty good job and obviously enjoyed it, but they did not do a better job or a better hike than you can do if you set about it in the same way and in the same spirit.

Lastly, I would like to say to you that hiking remains the finest way of seeing your own countryside and that of any other country; it doss not cost very much except in the effort we make to do it properly; it is far better than speeding through the countryside in a car and it is something you can go on doing through the years. I hope that every Scout who reads this book and who makes his own First Class Journey will regard it as the real beginning of the hundreds of hikes that are open to him. Peter and Bill have blazed a trail for all Scouts and it is up to all of us to try to follow.


Camp Chief, Gilwell Park.


Policy Organisation and Rules, Rule No. 431.

6. (b) Go on foot, alone or with another Scout, a 24-hour journey of at least 14 miles. In the course of the journey he must cook his own meals, one of which must include meat, over a wood fire in the open; find his camp site and camp for the night. He must carry out any instructions given by the Examiner as to things to be observed en route, and make a log of his journey. A Sea Scout may do this journey partly by water and partly by land - at least five miles of the 14 to be done on foot. This test should be taken last.



Area: Bybridge, Mercia. 

Map: O.S. Sheet 159. 

To: The Examiner.

From: Peter .

Object: To study the First Class Journey, and report on anything which might help others in doing their hikes.

Date: 18th/19th September.

Companion: Bill .

Weather: Showery with bright intervals. Sunny and warm at time of starting. Approximate temperature 65. Wind SSW, rate 2.

Time 14.00 (2 PM): Bill and I arrived at BYBRIDGE STATION and opened our sealed instructions, which read as follows:-

"Proceed direct to West Bybridge, and from there continue through Madmenton. Find a camp site and camp in the vicinity of Walter's Oak. Follow Grym's Dyke up to Macey Common, then cut across to Upper Icknield Way. Follow this, ascend High Leaf Cross, and then proceed via Lectern Hill and Cymbal's Mount, and finish at Little Bimble. During your hike you will make a report on any special objectives which you think could profitably be set for other Scouts doing their hikes in the same area, and give some idea how you would tackle each. Cook for each other and report on the other's cooking. Try and do a good turn to someone during the hike."

After reading our instructions, we studied the map at some length and traced out what we considered to be the best route on the transparent face of our map case. We felt it would be better to work out our whole route at the start rather than go from point to point, as we might thereby avoid having to double back on ourselves. 

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Higher Resolution

14.30 (2:30 PM): At last we were ready and started off. We were very happy to be actually on our way at last, as we felt that we were not so much on a test as an adventure. We were quite prepared to believe what Skipper had told us: that the First Class Hike is the climax of Scout training, embracing all that has been previously learnt; and that as it is the most important test, so it should also be the most enjoyable.

We had to follow the main road for the first three miles to West Bybridge, as unfortunately no route across country was available. We had not quite done two miles when we had to stop, because the sharp corner of a billie was sticking out of Bill's backpack, prodding him in the back. He had packed in a hurry, just throwing everything in, and now he was suffering for it. We stopped by the roadside, near Road Junction MR 843942, took everything out of his backpack, and then repacked it, carefully folding everything neatly instead of chucking it all in anyhow. We put the blankets and clothing up the back of the backpack, so that nothing could stick out. We also put the things we should not need until last - pyjamas, billie, the bulk of the food, etc. - at the bottom, and things we might need during the hike - fruit, cape, first aid kit - at the top easy to hand.

3 Miles

15.20: We set off again and soon reached the ancient village of WEST BYBRIDGE. We climbed up the hill above the village and had a look at the church. 

3.25 Miles

15.30: We decided to sketch it. This took us some time, as when one wishes to draw  sketches in rough, it is necessary to include at least as much detail (and all in proportion and perspective) as one will wish to include in the final copy. When writing rough notes for one's account of the hike, only the barest essentials need be noted: place-names and times at which they were reached, and odd phrases here and there; just enough to remind one what happened, and where and when, and the memory will fill in the details; but only a brilliant photographic memory can recall the exact details of a building or object for sketching.

The church appeared to have had a fairly interesting history, and we thought that a report on it might well be set as an object in a First Class Hike. Had we had something of this kind to cope with, we should have tried to contact the Verger, or better still the Vicar of the church in order to glean the necessary information. Indeed, wherever an historical object is set on a hike - be it a church, a castle, an old house, an ancient track, a barrow or tumulus, or a whole village - the vicar of the nearest church, politely approached, is the person who is most likely to be able to help. If he doesn't know the answers himself, he will be well acquainted with everyone in the locality and will be able to advise as to the best local historian. We should also consult the clergy, or perhaps the police, if we were asked to report on local industries or some aspect of country life.

3.5 miles

15.50:  After leaving the Church, we followed a footpath across a green and into a large wood mainly comprised of beech trees. 

16.00: As we entered, a fairly large bird flew from a hole in a tree directly above us, which, with the aid of an Observer's Series book on Birds, we identified as a Green Woodpecker. Objects concerned with Nature Study are often set on hikes: one may be asked, for instance, to report on the types of trees, or the bird or insect or plant-life observed during the Journey. We had no desire to cart a library about with us, but thinking that we might get something of this kind, we debated which of the branches of Nature Study we were weakest at; and of those which were likely to be set, we decided we knew least about birds, so brought just a bird-book with us. Shortly after this we noticed a wild flower with which we were unfamiliar, so we took it back and identified it later at home. It turned out to be an Helleborine, or Epipactis.

4.5 miles

When we reached the centre of the wood, we turned right on to another path down to the village of MADMENTON passing through Averingdon Farm and under the railway, before striking the main road. 

5 miles

We turned right in the village, and near the church we came upon a car halted and apparently broken down, with the driver peering 5 in at the engine. Thinking this would be an opportunity to do our good miles turn, we saluted smartly and asked if we could be of assistance, but met with a very cold reception. "Not blinking likely. I don't want you messing my car about!" We continued on our way, feeling rather abashed.

16.45: We thought we really ought to start looking for a camp site before long, so just out of Madmenton we asked at a cottage on the right of the road if we could camp, but the owner couldn't oblige us. He advised us to go up the road for about another mile and take a path to the left through the woods. "There's a small farm there where I know they take campers sometimes - you'll be able to get milk there too".

"It's not a big camping site, is it?" I asked, for we had been warned about such sites, which get crowded with family campers and all sorts of people - many of them bad campers - where they charge you so much per tent, and we were determined to keep well away from such places.

"Oh no! It's only a small place; but they let Scouts camp there sometimes."

"Oh, that's different" - and we thanked him and went our way. We carefully followed his directions, and were soon at the farm to which he had referred.

17.15: We found the farmer in the dairy behind the house. "Excuse me, Sir. Could we please camp here just for one night? We miles shall be leaving miles in the morning". 

"I dare say we can fix you up", he replied. "What kind of spot would you like?" 

Bill, who always rather likes to hear himself speak, and air such knowledge as he has, made use of the occasion to give forth the following requirements of an ideal camp site, which he had learnt by heart. "Well, sir, it ought to be well sheltered from wind and rain and close to a supply of fresh drinking water. The grass should be ordinary plain turf, springy, and soft to lie on, but not rich dark green grass, as this is an indication that the ground easily gets water-logged: and it shouldn't be too long; it's so wet in the morning if there is a heavy dew. Another thing: damp areas, thick undergrowth and woodlands, and particularly streams and ponds, always seem to harbor midges, gnats and other insects which can make a site sheer misery, so we should not be too close either to water or the woods, although the woods should be close enough to provide some shelter by breaking the wind. Also, of course, there must be plenty of good, dry, well-burning wood around, preferably ash or birch, and the closer the better. The soil should be easy for digging and should drain well, and the ground wants to be smooth and level, not broken or stony. We oughtn't to be directly under any trees, in case of falling branches, and there shouldn't be any cattle about on the site; they're so inquisitive and might damage the tent while we are asleep. H'm - oh, yes - we ought to be close enough to the house for milk and water, but not too close; we should have privacy and we want to be well away from any roads. Also, it's very nice if the site can be sheltered to the West and North, but fairly open to the East and South - unless there's a strong East wind - so that we get the sun in the early morning. I think that's about all! "

The farmer grinned. "Really?" he said. "And is there such a place in England? Still, I suppose I did ask what you would like, not what you expect! Now come with me and I'll show you what we've got and you can take it or leave it".

He took us round the house and across a field, and indicated a spot in the corner near the wood. It was a high, bleak, exposed spot, the ground rough and broken by the activities of moles, and chunks of chalk and stone lying about all over the place.

Although there was plenty of wood it was quite a long way from the house for water and it looked as if digging would be the world's worst job. However, it was dry ground and there would be little danger of getting water-logged. Moreover, it was coming on to rain, so we decided to clinch the matter.

"Yes, thank you sir. This will be excellent."

"Good," said the farmer. "You can get what fresh water you need from the farm. Only don't come after 9 o'clock. We go to bed early, and you would wake the dogs."

"Can you please sell us a little milk?"

"How much?"

"A pint tonight, and the same in the morning, please?"

"Yes, all right, come over for it when you're ready", and he walked off.

It was beginning to rain fairly heavily, so we unpacked the tent and pitched it without further ado, ensuring that it was square but not too taut in case it should tighten in the rain. 

17.45: We then laid down our groundsheets inside the tent, put our kits inside, took off our uniforms, and donned ourselves in sweaters, P.T. shorts and plimsolls by way of camp kit. Bill then went off to gather wood and put it into the tent before it should get any wetter, while I concentrated on the fireplace. We were using an ordinary garden hand trowel as an entrenching tool, this being the lightest and least bulky article which can conveniently be used for such a purpose. It is very efficient for turfing, digging pits, and also for digging holes for latrines. The stony nature of the ground made it very difficult to get the turf up cleanly but this was eventually achieved, by which time Bill had gathered sufficient wood. I turfed an area of about 18 in. by 2 ft. 6 in.

It is necessary to turf an area quite a bit bigger than that which the fire will occupy otherwise the grass all round the fire will become singed.

When I had finished, I went to the farm for milk and water, while Bill dug a wet pit. For two campers, staying only one night on a site, one pit only is really sufficient. This should be used as a wet pit and all dry rubbish burnt. Then, when clearing the site, anything which has not burnt away-bashed out tins, etc. - can be buried in the pit before it is filled in.

The pit proved even more difficult than the fireplace, and Bill was still at it when I returned. By the time he had finished, I had sorted out the tent and got everything into some semblance of order, putting all the food into one backpack by way of a larder, and placing everything else tidily about the tent so that we would know exactly where everything was. We then debated whether it would be necessary to dig a trench around the tent - not an enviable task in such soil - in case it should set in really wet for the night; but as we had pitched on a fold in the ground so that the water would tend to drain away from us on all sides, and as in any case the rain had eased off quite considerably, we decided this would not be necessary. We therefore turned our attentions towards supper. In our desire to cut down weight, the only cooking utensils we had brought were a Gilwell and two small billies, and this somewhat complicated the requirement that we should cook for each other.

We decided that we should have to eat one at a time and therefore tossed up. I won the toss and elected to eat first.

While Bill was peeling the spuds and preparing the sprouts, I lit the fire. This was not too easy as even though we had gathered the wood as soon as we could and put it in the dry, it had still got fairly wet. I managed it, however, by using paper and plenty of very thin kindling wood and also some dry bracken which we had managed to find in a sheltered spot in the wood, and by cutting open with our small hand axe one or two dead pieces of ash and chopping up the dry interior of the wood into small shavings. Soon I had quite a good fire going. Bill then cooked, while I gathered more wood. Our menu was as follows:

Tomato soup (from a packet); Lamb chop with mint sauce, sprouts and potatoes; Stewed Plums and Custard; Coffee.

We had brought packet soup, in preference to tinned, as tins are so bulky and heavy and have to be got rid of when empty! The mint sauce we had prepared at home and brought with us in a small bottle.

While I ate, Bill washed up, ready for me to start cooking. The meal was very satisfying. Quite apart from the rules of the test, it is essential to have a good grilling meal during the week-end hike. To try to cook up for the Sunday lunch is rather a waste of time: getting permission to light a fire, gathering wood, turfing, cooking, washing up and covering up the fireplace, and in any case one can always ask one's mother to keep the Sunday dinner until one gets home! It is much better to have a big hot breakfast on the Sunday, and a light snack mid-day - a picnic lunch - and have a meal Sat. evening, so that the one fireplace can be used both for supper and breakfast. As to the menu, if something original can be prepared, so much the better. What is most important is to decide the menu for the whole week-end beforehand and work out exactly how much of each commodity will be needed and who will bring what and hence avoid duplication. It is bad Scouting to take either too little food and go hungry, or too much and have to waste some or take it home.

19.15:  Bill went for more wood while I cooked his meal. 

20.00:  By eight o'clock we had both eaten and washed up and had got enough wood in for the morning.

We spent the next twenty minutes writing up our notes, and then went for a run round the site before turning in. By this time it had stopped raining altogether and was beginning to look as though we might have a fine night after all. A short way from the site, round the wood and near the road, was a small chalk quarry, so we ran off to have a look at it. 

20.30: We enjoyed ourselves sliding down the quarry on bits of tin for a while and then we had a fight, with Bill defending the cliff at the top of the quarry and trying to stop me from storming up and taking possession.

When we got back to the site, we took a look at our grazes and scratches. The fire was still burning, so we heated some water and bathed them. They weren't very bad, so we covered them with Acri-flavine from our First Aid kit: they didn't need bandaging. It is absolutely essential to take a First Aid kit to any hike or camp: quite a small one will do, the essentials being a triangular and a roller bandage, boracic lint, and some Acri-flavine - by far the best antiseptic for general use, being suitable for small burns as well as cuts and grazes. Possibly bicarbonate of soda could also be included for bad burns or scalds such as one might get by spilling a boiling dixie over one's foot, and there should be a few Elastoplasts.

By the time we had finished treating ourselves it was getting late and quite dark, so we prepared ourselves for bed.

We put the fire out, spreading earth over the ashes to prevent it from burning up again and sparks flying about setting fire to things. Our larder, the backpack containing all the food, we elevated on stones at the rear end of our tent to keep it off the ground. There wasn't enough room in our tent for our morning's wood supply, so we wrapped this in our capes and placed it in a well-sheltered fork in a tree. Our washed-up dixies and plates, etc., we stacked neatly near the kitchen, the dixies upside down and on sticks off the ground. We had a last look round to see if we had left anything out which ought to be in for the night and sure enough found our small hand-axe, masked in a log in the chopping area near the fire-place. We didn't possess a leather shield, so we masked it by tying rag round the bit, which is how we usually carry it, and put it in a backpack in the tent. We then got our bedding ready and tidied up again in the tent. On a journey there is little point in spending valuable time last thing at night making gadgets only to take them down again first thing in the morning, but at the same time there is no excuse for slovenliness and all the principles which gadgets serve can be carried out without actually making gadgets. These are neatness and tidiness, with everything easy to hand, so that valuable time isn't wasted in looking for things; no dirt or rubbish about, food covered so flies can't get at it and food and cooking utensils off the ground away from rats and other vermin. If the weather is warm, any milk should be boiled over-night, and milk and fats should be kept cool by being immersed in water - either a stream or the water-bucket - or by being partly buried in a shady spot. The divisions of the kitchen - fireplace, washing-up area, and chopping area - can be maintained even if they aren't roped off. Having checked the site, we had a last look at the guy lines, making sure that they were neither too tight nor too slack and that all the pegs were in firmly. We then pegged out our doors, to be sure of ventilation, and after washing ourselves were at last ready for bed.

21.30: Before changing into pyjamas, we knelt on the floor of the tent and I took prayers.

"O Heavenly Father, who hast put us into this splendid world of Thine, we thank Thee for all Thy goodness to us; for the beauty of the sky, the woods and of the fields; and for all things in which we may see Thy hand, and by which we come to love Thee.

"We thank Thee for health and strength and freedom, that we are able to carry a home and our food on our backs, and hike through the country exploring Thy wonders. Grant that, guided and directed by Thee, we may make the best use of all the opportunities before us; fill us with the Spirit of Adventure; give us strength sufficient for each task, and the will to persevere, and to succeed: We pray for our brother Scouts all over the world. Help all of us to keep true to our aims and our ideals. And we pray for all people everywhere, particularly those who are ill or anxious or troubled, and ask for Thy blessing on them all. Amen."

Before we fell asleep, we heard a nightingale singing.

1st Class Journey: Continued on Sunday

See Also:

How-To Set Up a First Class Journey (For Adult Leaders)


Traditional Scouting

Outdoor Adventure








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1st Class Journey: Sunday ]

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