Winter Survival 2023
This is generally regarded as the toughest event in Kent Scouting and last weekend four teams of Explorer Scouts from Gravesham took part in the 2023 edition.
Now, I think the teams will agree that this time the weather conditions for February were rather milder than in earlier years, but nevertheless an event which requires teams to navigate a 40 mile course from Friday night through to the early hours of Sunday morning, with only a short opportunity for sleep in survival bags (no tents or sleeping bags allowed) for about 4 hours on a Saturday morning is a test of endurance, stamina and sheer determination which is not matched anywhere else in local Scouting.
If you ask the Explorers what is the worst part of Winter Survival, then I think they will vote for the overnight stop for sleep – which is so uncomfortable and cold that you can’t actually sleep.
The four Gravesham teams were made up of a mix of Explorers from Apollo, Kipling and Sputnik units. The teams were Alpha One (Ben Woodgate, Josh Rayfield (Kipling) and Katie Sawyer, Callum Fooks (Sputnik)), Bravo One (Ember Vincent, Daisy Drewett, Bradley Emery (Apollo) and Alif Khan (Sputnik)), Juliet One (Ted Jackson (Sputnik), Jennifer Reeves (Apollo) and Jack Williams (Kipling)) and November One (Evan Hinks (Sputnik), Morgan Wade (Kipling) and Grace Lynch (Apollo)).
This years event was held in the Herne Bay area, with the base being a primary school in Herne Bay and the overnight stop on Saturday was Ross Wood Camp Site.
The scoring for the event is mainly based on the elapsed time between checkpoints and once teams book onto a checkpoint their time stops, which gives them a chance to rest and eat. However, you don’t want to spend too long on checkpoints because if you make it to the near the end of the route, but are too far behind to make the finish by around the midnight cut off, the organisers may “bus you forward” a couple of checkpoints and that means you immediately fall behind the non-bussed teams in the final result.
Usually very few teams make it to the finish – in 2022, there were just two finishers. This year Chris Austin and myself arrived to do a checkpoint at 8am on Saturday morning and already 8 of the 38 teams had pulled out during the night. By the time our checkpoint closed at 1pm (the field spread is huge) a further 4 teams had retired. However, the good news at the end of the Saturday afternoon was that all 4 Gravesham teams were still going.
However, 3 of the Gravesham teams stopped in the early evening around checkpoint 17 and Alpha One got to checkpoint 21, when they stopped. This year, no team completed the full route of 28 checkpoints.
We will not know the result for a few weeks as the organisers take time to carefully compile the results. However, I believe our Explorers should be congratulated on persevering and achieving excellent personal results, particularly Ben Woodgate, who had to drop out on Saturday afternoon because of a physical issue, but had already supported and encouraged his team with his experience through their pre-event training. It’s also worth noting that teams Bravo, Juliet and November were all “first timers” on Survival and had no idea what they were letting themselves in for.
Finally, you’ll appreciate that an event such as this with entries from all over the County demands a large number of leaders to support it. In Gravesham’s case the following leaders helped on the event, Graham Edwards, John Valsler, Lesley Northam, Darren Stanford, Chris Austin, Callum Bosley, Fraser Patrick, Dan Griggs and Hannah Booth. My thanks to this team and to the other leaders who helped with the Explorer’s pre-event training.
District Explorer Scout Commissioner