Q. Our children are Tom, aged 10, and Grace, aged seven. We'd love them to go off on a Cubs or Brownies-type holiday, but of course they are all single sex and we'd prefer something mixed.
Q. Our children are Tom, aged 10, and Grace, aged seven. We'd love them to go off on a Cubs or Brownies-type holiday, but of course they are all single sex and we'd prefer something mixed. I've heard mention of an organisation called the Woodcraft Folk; there doesn't seem to be a local branch here in deepest Devon, but can we sign them up for a holiday anyway?
S Warner, via e-mail
A. The Woodcraft Folk (020-8672 6031, www.woodcraft.org.uk), sounds like an ideal solution. The organisation shares its historical roots with the Scouts, but welcomes both boys and girls. There are 18,000 members across the UK between the ages of four and 20, with more than 600 local branches. These groups are mainly located in urban areas, but there are some in rural areas, including Devon; groups meet regularly in Crediton, Exeter, Lustleigh and Newton Abbot.
Woodcraft Folk was established as an educational movement and charity in 1925, and was run entirely by young people, with 19-year-old Leslie Paul as its original leader. It aims to create a world built on equality, friendship, peace and co-operation. Through its activities, Woodcraft Folk tries to give its members an understanding of important issues such as the environment, world debt and global conflict.
Members at local branches are divided into four age groups. Children aged four to six belong to the "Woodchips", those between six and nine are "Elfins", 10- to 12-year-olds are the "Pioneers", 13- to 15-year-olds the "Venturers" and "District Fellows", or DFs, are members aged from 16 to 20. DFs are slightly more autonomous and arrange their own activities.
Groups meet weekly for an hour or two, depending on the age. Members pay a weekly subscription, ranging from 50p to £2, which goes towards the cost of activities and trips away. Some of the actitivies include games, drama, craftwork, singing, dancing and an educational programme. Members contribute their ideas and are encouraged to make suggestions for activities, camps and group trips.
Membership is required to take part in camping trips organised by the Woodcraft Folk, but this will entitle your children to choose from a variety of nights away, including camping and hostelling for two nights at weekends throughout the year, and two week-long trips during the summer holidays.
These breaks take place at specially selected campsites and hostels around the country. One of these is the Cudham environmental activities centre in Kent, which combines hostel and campsite accommodation with a mini-farm and an adventure playground, set in a three-acre, woodland site in the North Downs.
On these trips away, young "woodies" participate in recreational activities and educational programmes, which are all supervised by volunteer leaders and helpers associated with the Woodcraft Folk.
The Woodcraft Folk also venture further afield. These trips are organised by a federation of progressive youth organisations named the International Falcon Movement (IFM-SEI) of which Woodcraft Folk is a member. For instance, this year the IFM-SEI gave members the opportunity to visit Peru. The children, aged between 12 and 18, each made a contribution of around £800 for the two-week trip, with the remaining cost being funded by grants. Trips this year have taken "woodies" to a variety of destinations, including Spain and Sweden.
In addition to these exciting travel opportunities it also holds an "international camp" in Britain every six years - the last one, in 2001, attracted 3,500 participants from around the world who spent a fortnight camping in Nottinghamshire. The next international camp or "Global Village", to give it its official title, will take place in Maidstone, Kent in 2006 and promises to be an even bigger event. More than 5,000 participants from 50 different nations are expected to attend.
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