Venue Review: Runway’s End Outdoors Centre

8th Alton Scout Group selected a reasonably local activity centre for its biannual Family Group Camp. This is 8th Alton Scout Group’s review of Runway’s End.

Venue Review of Runway’s End Outdoor Centre

Overview

The Group Camp

8th Alton Scout Group selected a reasonably local activity centre for its biannual Family Group Camp. With the potential of having over 200 Scouts across all sections from its group attend, there was a need for somewhere with space and the ability to run multiple activities simultaneously. Thankfully not all young people were able to go (can you imagine the headache?!). Approximately 100 Scouts attended, plus leaders, parents and siblings.

Runway’s End is a council run activity and Scout centre surrounded by military ground and nature between Farnborough and the home of the British Army, Aldershot.

The desire was to put on a camp that took advantage of the site, the on-site activities and its position on the Basingstoke Canal over the course of a weekend.  

The Campsite

Runway’s End used to be a purely Scout managed facility. In fact, the one camp I did as a Cub many years ago, was at Runway’s End. The site is not how I remember it! It recently has received investment from Hampshire County Council and is now administered by the council. More about that below.

The camp site is brilliantly laid out into defined areas. This allowed us to set one pitch up for Beavers and their leaders, another for Cubs and their leaders, while Scouts took two areas opposite each other. Explorers were tucked away off the games field. Also next to the games field were two marqees; one for cooking and one for eating and activities.  

Cubs and Scouts were camped in tents while Explorers slept in Hammocks for two nights. Beavers joined on the Saturday and stayed one night in Bell Tents. Parents stayed in Pods or camped on site.

Centre-led Activities

Since the massive investment a few years ago, the quality of Runway’s End’s facilities has improved immeasurably. Buildings still look great with their wooden cladding and the activity equipment is all top notch.

We had hoped to run two centre activities per section however, staff availability and the size of our group meant that we could only fit one activity per section. Between all groups we took part in: abseiling, air rifle shooting, archery and leap of faith, a high-ropes activity. Also available are: caving, climbing, bouldering, (other) high ropes and some watersports. As we are blessed with a kayak and canoe instructors, we brought our own team and kit to run kayaking sessions for Cubs and Scouts.

Self-led Activities

Having permitted kayak instructors is great! We have invested in kayak equipment and permits to allow up to 12 young people on the water at any one time. The instructors, all leaders, provide activities at the level that the young people are at. For Cubs, for many of whom it was their first experience, the process starts on land. The group is taken through a familiarity process before playing games on the water. Scouts are pushed with some doing capsize drills or swapping seats when rafted together. The site made it easy for us to safely store our kit and access the canal, which is located over a rarely used road opposite the site.

In addition to kayaking, we set up other activities around the games field, including soft archery, craft (under event shelters) and led wide games including a form of orienteering and Ultimate Frisbee.

Verdict

The centre is well located; near enough to the M3 and A331 for accessibility and, as indicated in its name, near Farnborough Airport making it reasonably easy to find. (It also means that if you time it right, you get fly pasts from the pride of The RAF, the Red Arrows!)

The centre was in the process of changing the way that it administrated activities, meaning that there were some delays and miscommunication. We believe that administration is now handled on site which should make a big difference. Another delay was that we weren’t asked for copies of medical forms in advance which meant that a leader spent over an hour photocopying forms for the centre. A task that could / should have been done electronically or in advance. These were the negatives.

The duty staff and instructors were great, supportive and helped the young people have a great time. Inevitably, there will be some youngsters that get to the top of the tower and struggle to step off; these were dealt with very well and successfully.

Star rating: 

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