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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
"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
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?"
"A pint tonight, and the same in the morning, please?"
"Yes, all right, come over for it when you're ready", and he walked
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.
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
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.
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
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
21.30: Before changing into pyjamas, we knelt on the floor of the tent and I
"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