Suffolk: Chief Scout Bear Grylls seeks to inspire Suffolk volunteers

Bear Grylls drops in at the Scout camp at Bradfield Combust.

Bear Grylls drops in at the Scout camp at Bradfield Combust. - Credit: Archant

He is famed for his extreme survival techniques honed in some of the world’s harshest climates.

Bear Grylls gives Scouts a few tips on the rifle range

Bear Grylls gives Scouts a few tips on the rifle range - Credit: Archant

So international adventurer and Britain’s Chief Scout Bear Grylls was never going to let the wet, windy weather prevent him from making a scheduled flying visit to Suffolk at the weekend.

He dropped in by helicopter to scouting events in three different locations on Saturday to meet young scouts and drum up support for the movement. In Suffolk, there are currently around 500 youngsters on a waiting list to join the Scouts, due to the shortage of adult leaders.

Grylls, 39, visited a water activity day at Lowestoft, a weekend camp at Bradfield Combust near Bury St Edmunds and an activity day at Languard Fort in Felixstowe as part of a whistle-stop tour of 13 sites in the east of England.

The ‘Bear in the Air’ tour is part of Grylls’ mission to meet and inspire as many scouts as possible, and encourage more volunteer helpers to come forward.

At the Bradfield Park camp, Grylls helped youngsters to put up ‘bivouac’ shelters, advised on wood chopping skills, tried his hand at archery and rifle shooting, and even passed on a few cooking tips.

He said he was impressed by what he had seen in Suffolk, although he feared some of the youngsters might be in for a “wet night” on Saturday.

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He said: “(I have seen) a few great shelters and a few that look a bit like soggy handkerchiefs. But we’ve all had a few sleepless nights with bad shelters – I certainly have over the years – and this is how you learn.

“I get so many kids saying to me ‘how can I do the stuff we see you do on TV?’ and the Scouts is a great place to start.”

One of the main objectives of Grylls’ tour is to encourage adults to volunteer a few hours of their time to become Scout leaders.

He continued: “There are more youngsters wanting to join the scouts than ever before. We are seeing a massive surge in interest and the size of the waiting list is something like 35,000 kids (in the UK) wanting to join up – and the reason for that is because we need more adult volunteers to keep up with that growth.”

The Scout’s County Commissioner for Suffolk, Jenny Mullan, described the Chief Scout’s visit as “inspiring”.

She said: “Having Bear here today is absolutely fabulous for the young people. It’s particularly relevant for the Scouts and Explorers who are doing a survival skills weekend here – they can really relate to what he does. Hopefully he will also inspire adults with a couple of hours a week to spare to get involved.”

Like most of the youngsters who met Grylls – including Beavers, Cubs, Scouts and Explorer Scouts from more than 30 units across Suffolk - Keri John, 14, from Mildenhall’s Endeavour Explorer unit was impressed.

She said: “He cooked some noodles for me and then he tried some of them. I think they were a bit nicer than some of the things I have seen him eat on TV.”

As he headed off on the final leg of his East Anglian tour, Grylls added: “When you see a big camp like this with kids doing all the things they love - like making camps and zip wiring - you see big smiles even when it’s been raining.

“It reminds me of everything that I love about scouting, seeing these young people building the type of adventures that life wouldn’t normally give them.”

SCOUT FACTS:

The Scouting movement has experienced growth in the eastern region for eight consecutive years

It has gone from 54,358 members in 2004 to 65,064 in 2013

In East Anglia, there are 14,000 Beavers, 18,500 Cubs, 14,500 Scouts, and 5,000 Explorers

In Suffolk, membership is currently at 7,384 with a further 518 on a waiting list to join

In the eastern region, the number of girls in the Scouts has trebled in the last ten years to almost 10,000

The number of adults involved in the region has gone up by 20% during the past 10 years