Our experience 1984 – 2004

Dedicated to Matthew Seaward 1976 to 2021, Matthew sadly died of Coronavirus.
Mathew is the tall person at the back of the picture below taken in 1993/4

Hillfields in Scouting 1983 to 2004 – Section one Cubs 1983 to 1986 – writing for Hillfields 100.

Memories but a rounded knowledge based on location of our houses near to two Hillfields based scout huts and the transition to both groups moving in to one at St John’s Church Hall on Lodge Causeway in Fishponds from January 1984.

1983. At 52 Beechen Drive my aunty and Uncle had been helping to run Hillfields Youth Club for over a decade already and now aged seven we moved to 69 Beechen Drive based opposite to our family to live as close to them as possible when this house became available and was ideal for us. Two doors from 69 and opposite 52 was the 66th St John’s Scout Hut and next to 52 and opposite that scout hut was the entrance to Hillfields Park. At the top of this main path in to the park was another Scout Group based in the old Hillfields Baptist Church main building which became a scouts hut and church hall after the new church was built post WWII. That Scout group like the 66th was a popular group in the early 1980s and a group which the Seawards attended who lived in Kelston Walk.

Six months after moving to Beechen Drive and now approaching seven and a half I wanted to join the cubs at 66th St Johns. Carol Gollop (this is her name today) kindly let me join the evening on Tuesday’s sometimes to have a taste of cub scouting, the hall was popular with about 20 cubs from memory. Scouts met on Thursday’s there and being local I met Geoff Godsell who was the scout leader and I’d often join in when they were there on weekends with upkeep of the hall. It helped to get to know a few cubs sharing that my aunty was a youth leader who most people knew, it was a talking point and lots of the cubs attended youth club as well on Thursdays for 8s to 12s..

In the autumn of 1983 Geoff Godsell and others including Mark Gollop, Carol Gollop, Brian Bolley, Dave Wyatt, Pat Wyatt and some scouts spent the weekend digging away a trench around the walls of the 66th Scout Hut; the building used by the Home Guard in WWII and re-roofed by scouts and parents in about 1955-60 (Eddie semi retired who I worked with years later shared his parents worked on the new roof) was now leaking and badly damaged. The trench was to allow water to drain away. I helped with brushing away rubble but got to know a few more people that day.

With my name down to join the cubs my memory is missing for the next 5 months but now in February 1984 on my birthday which was on a Tuesday I joined the cubs properly but now based at St John’s Church Hall along Lodge Causeway. “What’s happened though I wondered”, this once popular cubs group was now just three people, myself Daniel Parrett and Marcus Hoy but I discovered Pat Wyatt ran another cub pack ’66th A Pack’ which was popular and Carol ran ’66th B Pack’. I quickly had a few friends from Hillfields Primary School join 66th B Pack as well and then their friends joined and then others joined and within a time we were up to about 25 people including Lee Brimble, a future leader. Julie lived in Beechen Drive as well (still involved today) walked myself, Chris Morgan and Simon Blandford down to the church for the first year before we felt old enough to go alone as friends along with others. That following year we took part in the Bristol Christmas Guy Fawkes Carnival dressed as clowns where it rained all evening and we took part in the Gang Show for our badge work.
Brian Bolley (Group Scout Leader of 66th) also started a Monday evening swimming group at Speedwell Swimming Pool from 6pm until 7.30pm where once we arrived at the pool, leaders would keep an eye on us while keeping fit themselves by swimming laps of the pool and teaching us to swim. Cubs for us was certainly an adventure and by late 1985 about 15 of us attending went to Hillfields School with most others at Chester Park. The two cub packs in 1986 had merged in to the one pack ran by Carol and Pat became assistant GSL but that may have happened later. I can’t remember the 66th A Pack after I joined the Scouts.

An example of the carnival today

By the age of 10 we were now close to leaving the cubs and although cubs is only 8 to 10½ years even today looking back it seemed so much longer. In summer 1986 there were eight of us on a strong branch of a tree in St John’s Church grounds and Julie (helper) telling us to get down and then suddenly the tree started moving, then in panic we all held on in fear about 10 feet off the ground and the tree fell over but thankfully nobody was hurt and Brian Bolley was not amused while tasked with cutting the tree in to logs and then removing the middle railings and hedgerow altogether to open up the church grounds. In the summer holiday we went on our last day trip in the cubs to the Tropicana in Weston and crab fishing in Brean where we tried unsuccessfully to lose Mark Gollop by leaping along the rocks, Mark secretly enjoyed this, he loved watching us explore and gradually turn from cubs in to scouts. Mark even to this day is the ultimate scout leader from the model scouting family.

During summer of 1986 the building of the Hillfields Baptist Church scout group had by now also come to the end of its life, this once main church building was open and exposed to the park. Children from the park used it to build dens under the building and were running around in the hall. We also all knew each other from attending Hillfields Youth Club and the weekly children’s disco at the community centre. Mr Holmes who was the Scout Leader of this scout group had hoped to continue in the hall and repair it but within weeks that Scout Group closed never to reopen after the summer holidays and with no building. Members of this group who included Gary Wilkinson, Kevin Wilkinson, David Knight, Mark Seaward, Matthew Seaward (up from cubs) Stuart Littlefield and several more whose names have escaped me had no building now. They could all share their own stories of scouting in Hillfields from this group which I never belonged or knew much about. In the community centre nearby Martial Arts started that summer as well on Sundays and quickly grew popular.

In September 1986 those of us who joined the 66th cubs aged eight were now attending the scouts as well as the cubs at the same time for a month long transition. Geoff Godsell had by now left as Scout Leader and become assistant district commissioner of scouting for activities. Geoff worked at BAC in Filton in Human Resources so promoted apprenticeships to the scouting community as well. The new Scout leader was now Alan Kingdom, Alan had three sons who had come through the 66th Scout Group during the 1970s and 1980s and as a dad and very keen in the Great Outdoors from Hiking, Kayaking and Caving, Alan was an ideal leader. Brian Bolley and Alan quickly decided to try and contact as many scouts as possible from the now closed Hillfields Baptist Church Scouts and bring them in to the 66th. Gary, Kevin and young Matthew Seaward and others joined straight away and the 66th was now a unit of 25 people with several of us coming up from the cubs at the same time.

The old scout hut in Beechen Drive was from 1984 until 1986 used as a stores for the scouts equipment but no longer as a hall. However in summer 1986 at the same time as the Baptist Church building was demolished, the 66th called it a day on their old building as well because of the state of the building, only using it for a stores but two years later after park users had got in to the building and wreaked the inside and stole some of the scout equipment. The new stores would now be the vicarage at St Johns Church which is today developed in to part of a nursing home.

Hillfields had a third group as well which is connected with St Joseph’s, the 69th and like the Holmes of the Baptist Church, the Gollops, Bolleys, Wyatts, Kingdoms and more of the 66th, here at the 69th there’s the Patela’s. Meric, his wife and his mum are lifelong scouting volunteers (69th facebook page). Meric a few years after the 66th left their building in Beechen Drive took it on for the 69th as a stores and for indoor activities but sadly the vandalism again from park users by now using the building as a public toilet was too much and the building was handed back to Bristol Council and sold for £40,000 to a small builder who developed two houses on the site. While clearing the site the builders found an underground air raid shelter under what had been for more than 40 years used as a camp fire area with scouts and cubs all walking over the land never realising what was beneath their feet. Today it is under the garden of two homes and filled with rubble from the demolished scout hut.
Like the the other groups you’d need to meet with Meric to elicit memories of the 69th. I think Mark Gollop, Meric and Nigel Barnes and more of the now 13th All Saints in Fishponds were in the scouts together and all lifelong scouts and volunteers going back 50 years. By 1983 they were all scouting leader helpers and still are today but leaders and district commissioners. They had done so much and by 1983 were ready to offer deprived people from Hillfields and surrounding areas the same opportunities that they’d had themselves through the world of Scouting.

Now in the 66th scouts in 1987 other leaders helped including Wilf who had been a scout many years before and under Alan Kingdom both Mark Gollop and Steve Gregory worked well together as younger leaders to develop all of us through the five years of scouts following the two years of cubs. Some left the scouts and joined Speedwell Army Cadets instead which again is still popular today. In 1987 Gary Wilkinson who came across from the closed Hillfields group reached the age of 16 and left to join the Army for a career. Last time I looked in the 2010s he was a training officer at Sandhurst. Gary was a role model for us, we knew him as a good person who was always in the park and to have him join our scouts as well was a bonus even though it was only for several months, that was the last time I ever saw Gary but other role models such as James Kingdom and Richard Wyatt still had a year in the scouts.
In 1987 we also started at Speedwell School and Downend School while other members of the scouts were in Lockleaze School, St Mary Redcliffe, Whitfield School, Hanham High School and The Grange.

In 1987 I also learnt that Alan Kingdoms’s wife, Sue Kingdom, had started the 66th Scout Group Beavers Unit from 1984 which was a major feed in to our cubs, something I’d have loved to have joined while on the waiting list for cubs so as I was joining cubs, a whole bunch of future mates were soon joining the Beavers and the beavers are still hugely popular to this day in 2021.

For those first to join and experience Hillfields Beavers contact would need to be made to Philip Mayhew, James Blanim, David Shoreland and Christian Lewis. Whereas I’d be amongst the first to ever go from Cubs through to completing Venture Scouts in the 66th (Neil Wyman being the first) with Lee Brimble and I closely following and Matthew Seaward with us from Scouts to Ventures (only because ventures wasn’t started until 1991), this early record was soon replaced by David Shoreland, Philip Mayhew and Christian Lewis going from Beavers all the way through to completing venture scouts a year later. That’s the kind of group the 66th was for us, you start as a child and leave in your 20s. It was a big family of fantastic memories and members.

Easter Camp at Upton Cheney in 1988. We cycled along the fairly newly laid Railway Path from Hillfields where the scout minibus was driven to checkpoints with our camping gear and the scout equipment and along the way and we arrived at camp at about noon; this was for us the first real exposure to proper camping, learning about equipment and hoping to one day be able to afford a warm sleeping bag and kept awake all night to the sound of owls and the smell of a pigs farm alongside our bodies shivering in the cold. We were discovering what members of 66th Scouts had been discovering for almost the past 70 years! It was now our time and this will all lead up to centenary of the 66th Scout Group in 2015.

Following Easter Camp 1988 we were quickly learning to abseil and Kayak in Oldbury Court Estate in the Frenchay area and we entered two teams in the annual raft race along the River Frome from Frenchay Bridge to Sleads Stream; other Thursday evenings included wide games (open field events such as Foxes & Hounds and Bits of Bomb at Thingwall Park field and at Coombe Brook Nature Reserve and scouting skills behind the church hall in a small woodland which today is the site of a nursing home.
Summer Camp 1988 was at Lyme Regis and included wide games in the coastal countryside, one scout named Matthew Waite was chasing another and slipped on a cow pat while dressed in his waterproofs and slid through the next cow pat from shoulder to boots. That camp included an evening of beachcombing, fossil searches and my first ever beach fire in to the the night after we all searched for drift wood for about a mile and a half just before dusk and built a fire to cook supper, I can still remember the waves silently approaching the shore then breaking in to the pebbly beach and producing music of moving pebbles behind the crackling sounds of draft wood burning in to embers as the fire was kept hot & us all talking like almost teenagers and friends while sausages cooked on sticks and fish cooked in foil & marshmallows melted on sticks and enjoyed as treats and baked potatoes in foil deep deep in the fire embers for a bit later with the soup and by which time the only things we could see were the fire and ourselves, the rest as black as black with just the moon and the stars. Mark Gollop’s uncle lived in Lyme Regis and had a fishing boat (today similar trips at https://www.lymeregismackerelfishing.com; another evening was our first ever fishing trip where we caught mackerel for over an hour and again memories gained from that are long lasting, fun and competitive amongst friends, a calm evening at sea.

To this day I love beach fires and repeating this amazing experience.

There was a third camp available in 66th Scouts during autumn called PL & APLS weekend. (Patrol leaders and assistant patrol leaders weekend). This was a camp of merit and training for people who had progressed through scouts to help lead & lead a group of scouts, nearly every scout would become this in their time, usually within two and half years to be APL and three and half years or before for PL. Younger scouts would aspire to be able to go on the third camp but they’d have to wait until their time had come. Now in autumn people we’d looked up to like James Kingdom, Richard Wyatt, Richard Cottrell and Gary Dorall had all left to progress in to the Fromeside Venture Scouts (today Fromeside Explorer Scouts www.fromesideesu.co.uk) and this left a lot of PL and APL opportunities and by 1989 we were also able to attend the PLs & APLs weekend which opened up for us starting the Explorers Award badge.
In winter 1988 we attended our last Bristol Carnival as well dressed as Ghosts for the Ghostbusters Theme. The last ever Bristol Carnival was in about 1992 but our participation ended in 1988.
Ref of the 1987 event, one of the last we participated in is below. http://www.bbc.co.uk/bristol/content/articles/2005/11/04/pwaod_bristol_carnival_feature.shtml

Mark Gollop loved Caving and Steve Gregory enjoyed Kayaking and both enjoyed lifesaving and first aid. 1988 saw all kinds of opportunities to teach us what these younger leaders had been taught themselves from scouting, they’d been there, read the book and wore the t-shirts. We’d now enjoy caving in the Mendip Hills and Kayaking on local rivers and after swimming on Monday evenings then an hour at St Johns Ambulance for the First Aid Badge for three months.

Today some of our younger scouts who came all the way through the 66th from Beavers to Ventures included James Callen, Dean Southcott, Richard Jay, Tristan Bawn and Adam Sullivan who were three school years younger along with and others, James Callen later joined the TA at Speedwell and later went on to become a fire fighter in the RAF regiment where he spent 18 months of his career based in Iraq & Afghanistan and today lives with his family in Poland with his family where he teaches mixed martial arts and is a property developer.Visit https://www.facebook.com/British-Krav-Maga-Warsaw-104966937742647 . Dean is a mainly aircraft engineer, Richard is a personal trainer also after a hobby in martial arts and Adam is an IT teacher in Bude.
Tristan today runs his own Outdoors Activities company and still enjoys those caving experiences. Visit https://ukactiveoutdoors.co.uk/2017/12/13/exploring-swildons-hole-for-treasure
From Brownies and Guides and in to Ventures at St Johns were Joanne Blanim who today lives in Australia and teaches at University, Helen Pimm is a primary school teacher, Melissa Issa still leads scouting, Nicola Stone happily married to a popular musician and lives in Winterbourne and later Jennifer Shoreland who lives in Portishead (four years younger). Whereas the first Aquila Ventures also including Mark Tanner Engineer and Neil Wyman now of Gloucestershire Constabulary started only four years before Jenny, the ventures ended with Jenny and friends and no scouts and guides to come through for a time.

1989 included survival weekend, we’d heard all about this from people like James Kingdom from their experience years before and now Neil Wyman who is today Gloucestershire Constabulary, was the oldest scout and and this was his second survival weekend, few came back for a second experience of this, that’s for sure. We started the Friday evening at Yate leisure centre learning lifesaving skills then quickly finding our bags searched, all food taken off us, extra clothing taken away and handed a map and compass and our rucksacks contained our waterproofs and sleeping bag and the issued survival bag. We were now under the charge of an RAF officer and he didn’t play with words. After mostly drying off from the swimming pool and having a tiny amount of food, we were driven in to Gloucestershire and dropped off and helped to plan the 6 miles hike to a monument on a hill, with our water bottles filled with stream water but purified with puritabs. Later a bit hungry, there was no supper, this was all about survival. We all joined up with the leaders and RAF officer and slept in a cave system. The next morning and some bread and water for breakfast, we’re now given a chocolate bar and another 6 miles hike to where we’d sleep that night in the woodlands near a stream. On arrival we are quickly shown how to build three types of shelter and reuse of a parachute as a bivi tent. Now for the next four hours we had to build our own shelters in teams of three and we were allowed one tin of food chosen from our rations during that time for dinner but as much stream water as we liked.
Summoned to the stream about 4pm and with the shelters built, we were shown how to build traps to catch fish for food to eat tomorrow and taught about contamination of water flow then once we built our own traps, all exhausted we were allowed to sleep until the next morning. We woke up feeling unwell, we’d had an insight in to survival, we’d had a shock for a day and a half and to think those in the trenches in WW1 had this life for six years.
Leaders had delivered survival weekend for many years so they knew how it all felt and now it was time to start returning our bodies to normal, everyone was expecting another Saturday experience but actually now on Sunday it was great, we had fish put in our traps and now we’d start the day by learning ways to light a fire then cook our fish and lots of different kinds of survival food from the woodlands while we drank nettle tea and you soon learnt to boil it for several minutes or it stings your tongue. Matthew Seaward has shared a picture of this weekend to live here when we can find it.

1989 was Summer Camp on Dartmoor and included orienteering to learn letterboxing and more map reading skills, through to quarry climbing and abseiling, pioneering to build a bridge across the River Dart and so much more. We were now on finishing our Explorers Award which included a days hike on Dartmoor and to sleep out in the moor in survival bags. We quickly learnt that when you set a map bearing to walk up a Tor on Dartmoor that you need to set a new baring afterwards and you don’t continue walking on that old baring. A very concerned and annoyed Steve Gregory soon caught up with us as we headed out into the moor in the wrong direction and towards bogs or magic carpet as it’s otherwise known, you walk on bog but eventually you can fall through and it can be very deep. Dartmoor isn’t somewhere you make mistakes.
For letterboxing visit https://www.visitdartmoor.co.uk/get-active/letterboxing

Ten Tors by the Army was always spoken about by Alan Kingdom, he always wanted us to do this event. His sons had done this and a parent was one of the first many years earlier to complete Ten Tors. The leaders really believed in Ten Tors and by winter 1989 six of us had all signed up for the May 1990 event. In December we’d meet Geoff Godsall again who now led Ten Tors for Bristol North East District Scouting as well (today it’s named Brunel District), this was an informal meet, we walked about 7 miles on Lansdown then home to Hillfields along the Bristol & Bath Railway Path and others collected by family from Lodge Causeway shops. It was great for us in Hillfields because Lodge Causeway was seen as the centre of the district so friends from Troopers Hill had to get to Lodge Causeway for 6am on Sunday mornings and for us in 66th St Johns Scouts we’d walk there in under 10 minutes. Ten Tors training always set off from Lodge Causeway at Lloyds Bank car park and between January and May from 6am every two weeks to Mendip Hills, Brecon Beacons, Black Mountains, Forest of Dean and Dartmoor. Every walk for Bronze Ten Tors training was about 20 miles that day, some days focussed more on map reading skills i.e. Forest of Dean, others on stamina i.e. Black Mountains & Brecons while the Mendips and Dartmoor are all of these things but also distance for endurance and ability. By April 1990 three of the 66th had dropped out and two had been dropped from Bristol North East Team of six to join a team with Gordano Scouts. Now myself and Matthew found ourselves with a district we didn’t know and with another three youngsters like us who weren’t very good at map reading. The first weekend of May 1990 was Ten Tors Training weekend on Dartmoor, we walked all weekend with District Commissioner of activities for Gordano Scouts Richard Ivans who further taught map reading skills. Then two weeks later we completed Ten Tors after starting the event by walking up the wrong Tor thanks to a group leader called Justin who forgot how to map read but did the event the year before. Suddenly we all got together and knew if we didn’t get this right then half a year of training was for nothing at all. That day we did seven of ten tors by 6.30pm, Matthew Seaward and Richard sat on the seventh tor for a well earned rest and it was a special moment (one remembered when recalling memories of Matthew in 2021 after he died). We arrived in to Okehampton at 13.22 (deadline is 5pm) on the Sunday after we’d walked well over the 35 miles and to the clapping of over 4000 adults, it felt the biggest achievement of our lives and there was nothing like that experience at the finish, it would be like being clapped live on Britain’s Got Talent, you felt like life couldn’t get any better, suddenly the blisters all over your feet and your aching legs didn’t matter, you found the energy to look good even though you were the walking dead with tiredness after the Army had woke you up at 4.30am to the sound of Chariots of Fire across the army camp yesterday and you were walking to finish Ten Tors today from 6am.
Ten Tors connected us with new sets of friends and now we had really good friends as well in the Troopers Hill area of the district. In 1991 we completed silver Ten Tors of 45 miles after some really good map reading by Tim when we woke up to find thick fog all around us from 5am and it stayed until 11am before clearing, that training especially in the Forest of Dean had really paid off. My map skills were ok for Bronze but for what we faced in Silver, it was a case of thank goodness for the talent we had in our team. Ten Tors website https://www.tentors.org.uk

A nice film by a school showing the event https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1XwLMOCp5o

We also left the Scouts in 1991 after fantastic camps, amazing experiences and lots of new friends, everything listed above was experienced in our years in the Scouts many times over and plus the Duke of Edinburgh’s award where volunteering to help run cubs and all these activities comfortably covered the Bronze Award.
We’d experienced so much, not from just being in the scouts but because we had amazing scout leaders and district team; a good scout leader is worth so much and we were so fortunate to have had all of these opportunities shared with us by those who had done it all themselves fifteen and more years earlier, even now we think back and are forever grateful.

Aquila Venture Scouts Unit.

I left the Scouts after the summer camp in 1991 after reaching the age to progress. People like James Kingdom (today a retired MD of an engineering firm) automatically joined Fromeside Venture Scouts but Mark Gollop had a vision a year earlier and asked us if we would like to join a new 66th Venture Scouts if he started the unit. We all liked the idea and Mark quickly recruited several people from St John’s Guides and 66th Scouts who had recently left or were leaving to join what became Aquila Venture Scout Unit in Hillfields. (a member was learning Latin at University and shared Aquila is Latin for Eagle so that’s how the name was chosen by us all). Neil Wyman who left a year earlier now returned and Neil was good, he’d been with us through the scouts and he drove us to Saltford for kayaking on Thursdays, Neil saved my life in Saltford, I capsized in a kayak and couldn’t get out, I gave up battling after well over a minute and seconds from unconsciousness, I peacefully took in water but then Neil pulled me over, that was the last time I ever got in to a Kayak, it was Open canoeing only from there, I coughed out river water for over two minutes. A couple from St John’s Church named Darren and Karen took us Caving as well in Aquila and I got stuck in a cave when my body slipped in to a gap and trapped for nearly half an hour. You soon learn and start to taking fewer risks and realise your body is growing with age when trapped in a cave and unable to move, the team nearly called Cave Rescue and then by some miracle I wormed free but in panic tears. A year later Karen slipped in Manor Farm cave and I was holding her 30 ft off the rocks below for some minutes, that was scary for Karen and worrying for us, we were cold, wet and hungry by now. Thankfully again we didn’t need the https://www.mendipcaverescue.org
Matthew Seaward loved his caving trips and again good memories of his wording when we wound him up at times in good humour on the cave ladders.

Aquila VSU joined us at the 66th Scouts camp in summer 1991 and for me that was the transitional progression from Scouts to Venture Scouts, it was a great transition and three of us returned once more on a Thursday to scouts to collect our Chief Scouts Award from Alan Kingdom and Brian Bolley (Group Scout leader).

We’d already done so much thanks to all the leaders named above but now we were becoming young adults, it was definitely the time to leave scouts and ventures was amazing. The 66th wasn’t a wealthy group by any means and couldn’t afford a modern standard of minibus, so hard-working career man at Roll Royce as well as amazing volunteer, Mark Gollop bought his own minibus and used it to vehicle share during the day to get 10 friends to work and then take all of us on activities and adventures during the evenings. After everything he’d done already for us in Scouting, he now bought the transport to take us on adventures as we grew in to young adults. “Still to this day as a middle aged adult, I look back at all of this generosity with emotion and gratitude, Mark and other leaders never asked for reward, they never asked for charity or even for thanks, they just dedicated their lives to local scouting and guiding in any way they could, even if spending their own money to make it all happen and to this day they’ve never stopped, they’ve never slowed and they’ve never given up on what they do for others. They are the best of us in our communities and probably looking back we didn’t appreciate it, we just took it all for granted and kept taking it for granted right up to the early 00s”. Mark changed careers during the mid 00s to become Avon and Somerset Constabulary, only adding to long long community service.

With 1991 summer camp on Dartmoor now behind us and great friends made in the years below who will become venture scouts themselves in the years ahead we left the scouts to start Ventures and now met on Thursdays at the same time as Scouts but under the church hall stage and in the Kitchen with Scouts using the main hall and only the kitchen sometimes. Under the stage was flooded up to 3 ft so we had to create a floor on tables. There were huge trees in the woodland behind the church hall and they drank all the water and other water will have drained away in the woodland floor but by autumn 1991 our once ideal scouting woodland was replaced by a nursing home, the trees cut down and the old vicarage made in to the main entrance and a new vicarage built next door. So with nowhere for the water to go it found its way in to the church hall and the water rose and was pumped away throughout the week but only when the pump decided to work. The new nursing home built in about 1990 also meant the scout stores had to move, a new store was built above the church hall toilets in about 1989 and the gas store at the back of the church was given for all those items which couldn’t live in the church hall itself. The stores was also a meeting room as well as Mark Gollops’ minibus because Aquila Ventures only had about 12 members.

From 1988 Monday evenings were Stores night for Quartermaster’s badge while in the scouts. Mark and Steve would always be in the stores from 7.30pm until 9pm and we’d be there as well most of the time, this was to maintain and clean the equipment for 66th Scouts and Guides throughout the year and when equipment was borrowed by other groups to make sure it was cleaned and signed off. When the 1st Bristol Muslim Scout Group started they had no funds at first and no equipment and although Scouting equipment is bought and looked after by each group, it belongs to the Scout Movement and Mark in particular was very clear that this equipment is as much a district store as it is a scout group store and so actually the 1st Muslim Scout Group in Eastville had all the equipment they could ever wish for, it was all theirs as well for the family of scouting.
Aquila Venture Scouts carried on meeting on Monday’s for stores as well as Thursday’s for Ventures, this was another evening to meet up as mates, Stores was just the excuse, of course we did the work as well but both were equally important.
An opportunity to change Aquila Ventures to a Wednesday evening came a year after joining so in 1992 every other Wednesday the hall was available so we changed our programme to be off on adventures meeting in Mark’s minibus outside the hall every other Wednesday and the other week an activity within the hall, we’d also soon be joined by our mates a year younger who progressed in to Ventures as well, Activities before and after they joined included: Hiking, Cinema, Bowling, Quasar, Skittles, Caving, Canoeing & Kayaking, Climbing & Abseiling, Swimming including Swindon Oasis, Quizzes and games with other venture scout units such as baseball in Oldbury Court Estate; Guest Speakers and demonstrations from martial arts to policing, trips to work places such as BAE Systems where Michael now worked as an apprentice and his dad showed us all around as the director of the company and convinced at that time that Filton would be the chosen Bristol Airport; police dogs and through to demonstrations. It was more of a case that we were all working slowly towards Awards which meant by the time we’d reach the age to leave Aquila VSU we’d have secured Queen Scout Award and most of Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award so it was left to each of us to organise the evenings and that organising would pass off sections of award work and we’d now help run other sections such as cubs, beavers and guides to pass off up 18 months of service towards those awards as well. Andy, Mike, Joanne, James and Dawn volunteered on Sundays cleaning the sides of the SS Great Britain using abseiling equipment from the scout stores, others helped remove objects from local lakes and rivers.
Camps in the Ventures were similar to scouts but included award work as well so Summer camp worked around four members doing their Queen Scout expedition on Dartmoor, the leadership kept checkpoints but the hours between those checkpoints would be on other activities such as sailing for a few hours and swimming or little hikes as well. Other expeditions by different groups and ages in ventures included cycling for four days in France in 1996, up to 100 miles a day with all of their equipment. Two canoeing expeditions the length of the River Wye in 1994 and 1995 but whereas 1994 was easy because the water flowed fast, in 1995 it was a drought year and 88% of the water was missing so it was really hard work compared, Matthew Seaward, Lee Brimble and I had to start 5 miles in from where the group started in 1994 and we had to walk carrying or where possible dragging the Open Canoes while treading water for over 6 miles of the 90 miles during those four days and because the water wasn’t flowing in most parts it was all spent working the canoe with skills learnt on courses up to level three training which also passed off award work for the skill section.
River Wye Expeditions today at https://windingrivercanoe.co.uk/trip/wye-valley-expedition

Every winter between Christmas and New Year the Ventures went on a hike in the Black Mountains and every February a weekend in the Brecons in a barn with an open fire, every summer a main camp and every autumn another long weekend away on an official South West Ventures together camp called The Moot. The Moot was like a mini Glastonbury with live bands, people meeting new people, activities galore and coach loads of people just arriving and filling up camp sites or on one occasion even use of a static caravan site so you can imagine the site owners were very brave and the cleaning bill must have been a small fortune, you were excited from the second you set off towards the south every year to attend The Moot. Other activities and weekends away were organised regularly as mates but outside of Aquila Ventures as well including camps last minute at Woodhouse Park in South Gloucestershire, we were now a large group of mates and those three years below who’d come up through the 66th from Beavers, Cubs, Scouts had joined Ventures in autumn 1994.

1994 was also the year of Gold Ten Tors for Matthew Seaward, David Shoreland and I, this was the ultimate challenge, at least 55 miles on Dartmoor between 7am on Saturday and 5pm on Sunday. We walked in to the night on Saturday with blisters under blisters and at 12.15am exhausted and in pain we could walk no further and camped until 4am on boggy uneven ground but we slept like logs. 04.15 we were packed away and walking in to the morning sunrise. Trevor Stone was our walking team leader in 1994, he had done Gold Ten Tors before and was an action man who would have made a successful career in the forces but chose an engineering career as an apprentice in Filton. Trevor did all the timings and had everything spot on, he was a member of Fromeside Ventures and a very popular person in local scouting, today he lives in France with his family. Training for Gold Ten Tors was the same as Bronze and Silver from younger days but instead of 18 and 24 miles a day to train, we had to achieve 33 miles a day to be selected for the team. It’s said that although Gold is 55 miles, by the time you have walked around areas and planned the route it’s nearer 65 miles. We did a river crossing an hour from the finish line where Matthew Seaward slipped deeper in to the fast flowing water but we had a storing team chain and laughed it all off, we crossed the finish line at 15.45 and even now looking back at the route plan and timings I can still smell the moor between each Tor and taste the air, it was amongst the biggest achievement of my life and not one I’d ever want to repeat. Three of us from the 66th St Johns Aquila VSU were on that expedition and myself and Matthew Seaward were the two who were dropped back in Bronze aged 14 to walk with Gordano Scouts but finished Gold together at the earliest opportunity, David Shoreland the first from the Beavers to Ventures in 66th history was with us and three from Fromeside meeting at St Michaels Church of Two Mile Hill nearby. By Gold Ten Tors the man who I first met while aged 7 Geoff Godsell had moved up to the North of England to start his own outdoor activity company and Steve Gregory who was our younger assistant scout leader when we first joined was now Geoff’s replacement as Assistant District Commissioner for Activities and ran Ten Tors as well as part of his new role. Steve and his mate Coffee (nickname) were really good as well making sure we could achieve Gold Ten Tors and looking after us. Today Steve is a volunteer for one of the Somerset Carnival floats and lives in Cheddar, his other hobby which he did for the 66th from right back when I was aged just 8 and dressed as a clown at the Bristol event.

By Winter 1994 Mark Gollop hired Lockleaze School swimming pool every Thursday for pool kayaking and every other Friday he took us Caving in the Mendip Hills and a trip to OFD cave system in Swansea. Some of the caves were amazing especially Swildon’s Hole and Manor Farm Swallet, both have underground waterfalls and steams running all the way through. Spring and summer carried on with those experiences but now kayaking and Canoeing instead on the River Avon in Saltford and sometimes on the River Wye. 1995 was my last full year in the 66th as a Venture and it was the ultimate year for my Scouting. Mark Gollop invited us to join him on his adventures so we went to Snowdonia for hiking weekends at the National Scout Centre Yr Hafod https://www.scoutadventures.org.uk/centre/yr-hafod to learn from the best, usually ex military; we learnt Open Canoeing to 3* training in Wales by the South Avon Canoe Club http://www.sacc.co.uk, Shooting at Rolls Royce, Scouting leadership skills to help lead and even help others with Duke of Edinburgh’s Award which I helped with for others starting out at Soundwell College next to Hillfields in the same year.

Summer camp 1995 was in Bude on Bude Town Football Club, this was the best camp I’d ever been on, it was amazing, the weather was great, the people were amazing, the activities were perfect. Mark and Carol had planned the ultimate camp for us, activities included Surfing, River Challenge (hrs of fun), Archery, Bar-B-Q in to the night just like Lyme Regis back in the scouts, loads of swimming in the sea, visits, coastal hikes, sailing and even a nightclub (no alcohol for Adam aged 17) Today Adam lives in Bude and is a teacher of IT. Maybe that amazing camp decided his future, we all loved Bude and as a group of mates we returned outside of Scouting staying in the same place for some years thereafter.
Bude Camping https://www.budetownfc.com/camping, Mark arranged most activities through Sureline Extreme Sports in Bude http://www.shorelineactivities.co.uk

By the time 1995 ended we’d achieved the highest awards in Scouting as a young person, the Queen Scout Award and most of the Gold DofE Award as well. 1994 and 1995 was probably the best years of my life for evenings and weekends, a student during the day and thanks to 66th leaders an affordable year of Scouting with amazing experiences during the evenings as weekends. Our Queen Scout Award and Gold DofE Expedition was with Alex Grimaldi, the grandson of Dr Grimaldi who lived on the edge of Southmead and dedicated his whole life to scouting and a Doctor of Medicine for Southmead for decades and served as a medic in Africa during WWII. Dr Grimaldi was a distant cousin of the Monaco Royal Family, he spoke the Queens English and was widely respected by everyone who knew him, he joined us throughout the expedition where his car was stolen from the side of the road and the Police kindly drove him around to do check pointing for the two days that followed. Alex Grimadli and his grandfather were two lovely people. Dr Grimaldi called us during the years following expedition with opportunities as well, one which was three weeks Outward Bound in the Lake District for £199 instead of £699 but we couldn’t get the time off work. That’s what you get in scouting, just meeting loads of lovely people offering you hope, support and opportunities. Alex to this day has dedicated his life to the church and still lives in East Sussex, Dr Grimaldi lived until aged over 100, he was still lifting canoes until aged 90 and took us on expedition aged 83. After expedition Mark and Carol Gollop were there to meet us at the finish with their minibus to bring us all home after learning about Dr Grimaldi’s car.

Lee Brimble, Matthew Seaward and I attended Windsor Castle in 1996 to collect our Queen Scout Awards and again Mark Gollop kindly let us use his minibus to take us with family members.

Later I returned when Mark Gollop was asked by Pat Wyatt to please take over the Scouts which needed a new leader, Clifford Lee had called it a day after several years (I’d helped him with a camp the year before and on some evenings but nobody else wanted to be scout leader at that time and Aquila Venture Scout Unit was struggling now for members attending. People younger than me had started University and some had completed Queen Scout Award after their own Queen Scout Expedition was completed in summer 1996. There were just three of us with Mark asking if I could consider running Ventures until the scouts could join but the scouts were very young with the oldest aged only 13. The ventures who attended that evening decided it wouldn’t work so it was agreed with Mark to freeze Aquila VSU for a few years but with all good intentions to start again in 1999 but it never did plus scouting was now changing as well, Ventures would be replaced by Explorer Scouts and Fromeside Explorers was born. It was sad but what Aquila had done for up to 30 of us over those years was amazing. People today even living as far away as Australia remember it all well and are forever grateful. We have been given the same opportunities and achieved the same awards as those leaders had many years earlier and they made sure they gave us all the same chances to do the same.

On my birthday in 1984 aged 8 the cubs met on a Tuesday and on my birthday in 1996 Ventures met on a Wednesday. It fell to me to organise my last night in 66th Aquila Ventures so I chose a skittles night in a local pub. I shook hands with Mark Gollop as he said goodbye at the end of the evening and I walked home after we all went our own ways at 10pm and it hit me like a sledgehammer, something that had always been there had suddenly ended, a massive part of my life was over and I was lost. I wasn’t ready to leave but it was all over, mates still had a good one to three years if they wanted it but aged 20 I had to face the next stage in the trials of life. Lee Brimble was now helping with the scouts so I started helping there as well.

Weeks after Aquila had closed, Nicky McDermott, the cub leader asked if Helen who had finished at Plymouth University and was in ventures years earlier would help with cubs and if I would as well so we joined Melissa who was already helping with cubs and attended Aquila VSU, this was the perfect fit for me, I would return as a member of the 66th properly again and it felt good. I stayed helping cubs and met Dave Higham and other cub leaders and worked with them for the next two years, it was great to learn cub leadership and start giving something back, far different to ventures though, all these little darlings and teaching badge work and arranging games. Camping at Woodhouse Park and a sleepover in the church hall where on both camps you left the weekend to return home like a zombie, lucky to have been allowed to sleep a few hours but it was good fun all the same. Nicky and her cousin Melissa were 66th Scouts and Guides through and through, their mum and Aunt Toni was Guide leader for years and still was at that time, they’d also been there from an early age and it was a way of life for them. Dave was church warden and to this day is still heavily involved now as the scout leader as well. Mark Gollop started a taking Dave, myself and two parents caving in the Mendips on a Friday evening and looked to start a new 66th Adult Group but the general committee didn’t really feel it was for the 66th to get involved with this so it never took off but the opportunity has always remained if someone wished to start this up from the St Johns base. Later Gemma Gollop started helping with cubs as well, we’d known Gemma from when she was born, we took her Caving age 3 and even stuck her in a rucksack and walked with her on Dartmoor. Today Gemma is the cub leader and just like her parents the ideal leader after a lifetime in scouting and Dave is the Scout leader with his son Edward.

My evening job meant I couldn’t help with cubs any longer so I left and later popped down to help Mark Gollop with the scouts in about march 1998 and he’d arranged for Tony Spooner who’d recently finished being an Army Cadet Leader after 35 years service to give a talk on taking the 66th Scouts to the Bavarian Alps in August. Tony worked for Scout Enterprises, a charity which existed in the neighbouring district to do everything possible in the name of Scouting with projects and funds. Scout Enterprises spanned England and Wales and had fleet of minibuses so arranging an international camp in Bavaria was possible without huge expense at £200 each. By helping to lead overseas I could complete my Gold DofE Award section so in August 1998 older scouts and four leaders went to Bavaria by minibus. We were soon being taken in to the mountains by Cable Car and going on great walks, enjoying a taste of Bavarian life and seeing another culture at work. Not as energetic as Mark was used to organising but this this a different kind of enjoyment and far more laid back. We weren’t allowed to wear scout uniform because even by 1998 there was still checkpoints at European borders and scouts were once associated with Hitler Youth so it was sensitive however by 2000 that was all quickly changing. By 2010 We’d returned to Bavaria with Tony Spooner 8 times and in winter he taught me to ski down mountains within a few days so I joined him again a few years later. Skiing holidays cost a fortune yet thanks to Tony Spooner I leant to ski and hired all the equipment and stayed in Bavaria for under £260 for a fortnight. All thanks to local scouting and the opportunities we had available.
Welcome to the Haus am Brunnenbach where we stayed http://www.bavarianholiday.com

Bavaria trips from 1998 to 2007

I was later attending university, I started after returning from Bavaria in 1998 and didn’t miss 66th at all by then, I didn’t even think about it but in early 2000 Mark Gollop was ready for a change and just like when he took over from Clifford Lee there wasn’t anyone interested in the role so the scouts section faced uncertainty, Lee Brimble was still helping and I said I’d take on the role of Scout Leader until a new leader is found and soon discovered Mark had built up a healthy group, there were about 28 scouts and to my amazement although they nearly all lived in the ward of Hillfields 13 of them attended the best schools in Bristol. This was a far different Hillfields area Scout group to the one I’d started at 14 years earlier and left 9 years ago at that time, some of these scouts were Oxbridge material like Tom Lovering whose father was a maths teacher, Tom is today Dr Tom Lovering with Oxbridge and Harvard to his name and lives in America. Then there was the son of Dr Peacock who lived in the Mayfield Park area of Hillfields, these scouts are really clever young people but they were all equal, they were all friends regardless of the schools they attended and they were all a joy to look after, I guess no just like Philip Mayhew and friends who were clever in my time in the scouts; but I was no Mark Gollop, Steve Gregory, Alan Kingdom or Geoff Godsell, for those fantastic people being a scout leader is a way of life, I tried my best but I was soon working full time, doing a degree and trying to run the scouts and Lee Brimble working 14 hr days as well as a chef and Richard Smith. I was told by Mr Bolley who was 66th group treasurer by now that I could spend up to 60% of the monthly subs on activities so I made sure that the young people had an activity away from the hall once a month and used Scout Enterprises minibuses to take them to activities such as Cinema, Bowling, Quasar, Swimming, Activity Centres, events such as Steam Festival at Castle Coombe and more. Soon after taking over the scouts a father who we now know as Paul Marshall started helping as well, Paul is ex Army from https://www.nam.ac.uk/explore/gloucestershire-regiment and came with good experience and enthusiasm, just what we needed then weeks later Steve Jones was another father who started helping, we knew Steve well from the church generally and Steve later became Group Scout Leader of Eastville Scouts for nearly ten years and all along Lee Brimble had been a helper with the scouts since 1994. In early 2000 was the Avon Jamboree in Tyntesfield Estate hosted by Lord Wraxall and it was as muddy as Glastonbury, it rained continuously all weekend but for the scouts who attended it was great fun, Paul Marshall was soon helping groups all day on Sunday with his landrover to clear the campsite and dozens of vehicles were stuck in the mud.. In 2001 we’d planned Easter Camp at Woodhouse Park but foot and mouth disease had made the UK countryside in to a no go area so we changed this camp to a day trip to Weymouth with various activities, later we learnt that Woodhouse Park wasn’t closed so we could have had Easter Camp after all.
Lee Brimble and I were invited to the Garden Party or St James Palace which we chose in 2001 to collect Gold DofE and meet Prince Philip as well, a huge honour for us, Mark Gollop had now given us everything he’d achieved himself as a young person and we were now the age of 25.
For summer camp 2001 three helpers took the scouts to PGL https://www.pgl.co.uk for a week which was a fantastic week for the young people who attended and the following year in 2002 a new Scout Leader was found and took over called Kevin Smith, Lee’s brother-in-law and who organised weekends at Woodhouse Park https://www.scoutadventures.org.uk/centre/woodhouse-park where the 66th adopted and cleared an area of land and helped look after the scout camp site so often stayed in the cabins for free which meant free weekends away for the scouts which helped those poorer members a lot and we used fundraising to cover food, we even sold mistletoe to a local university for their Christmas Ball Event and made £150 and in November of that year the 66th Scouts organised the bonfire for November 5th which took the whole weekend to build and put 100s of flyers through doors in Almondsbury and the night event was so successful that it made the campsite over £1500 profit after a really impressive fireworks display as well.
Easter camp 2003 was also at Woodhouse Park then summer camp was organised for Bude where we all helped during that week which included a sea fishing trip, visits to other resorts including Newquay, coastal walks, surfing, swimming, bowling, mini golf and so much more.

I left the 66th Scout Group at the beginning of 2004 after 20 years to help set up a new Explorer Scout Unit in Littlestoke and because football which I played now clashed with Scouts and later that year moved to Korea to teach but Lee Brimble and Paul Marshall carried on helping with scouts until 2007 and Steve Jones ran Eastville Scouts until 2015.

Melisa, Pat, Toni, Carol, Dave and Mark and more are still helping in 2021 and they are amazing people and those along the way like Nicky and Diane Stone in the guides and all others.

66th St John’s Scouts will always hold a special place in our lives, nobody could have asked for more support, encouragement and opportunities. We are forever grateful.

RIP Matthew Seaward 1976 to 2021

Fromeside Explorers from 1991 is a reminder of our Aquila experiences as well. They were and are again the natural unit to progress to from 66th Scouts and I can relate to friends as members and sharing activities between 1990 and 1996. Some in our Ten Tors teams.

Aquila can relate to Fromeside as friends and teamwork from this date.

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