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The End of a Trail

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When we started this vignette series of the history of the 7th Cheltenham B.P. Scouts, we hoped that we might succeed in bringing out something of the character of the troop as well as some of its history. This could perhaps, in part, explain why we have had a Youth organisation in the village which has gone from strength to strength for some 70 years, while so many other groups have fallen by the wayside. I trust that to some extent we have done so, and I say that now, because this may be the last of the collection that I shall write. No, the copy hasn’t run out – far from it. But enough is enough, and the first commandment of the religion of this generation is “thou shalt not bore”. He who bores is damned, let us not court our own destruction.

I was going to talk of tracking. Tracking is a wonderful asset. As one walks through the country, one is never alone. There, all round one, nature has opened a wonderful book which one can learn to read. I was a very keen tracker myself and the 7th had several of whom BENJI’s younger brother was not the least. Even when I still played golf, the first round in the morning was a wealth of information. That vixen has been down again foraging at MOOREND, the two badgers have a cub they bring down from Mountain Knoll each night to feed – he’s getting quite sturdy. The sand in the bunkers tells me all this, and after a fall of snow I could hardly get through my breakfast fast enough to get to Mountain Knoll. There the snow would give me the census of most that lived in the wood.

But this standard of tracking is not acquired in a day. The young and successful tracker has to be trained. This we do with tracking games where certain simple shapes and arrangements have definite meanings. To the tracker it is the shape that counts, not the material. Thus a St. Andrew’s cross, placed on the ground, any size, made of any material, means “Don’t go this way”; while if the shape were an arrowhead, it means “Continue. You are on the right way.” There are numbers of them a language in themselves – and they should be known by the tracker. Thus the tracker must be observant, carefully search out the signs left by the one tracked, translate their meaning, and act. In a way, tracker and tracked are communicating all the time – rather like a “hare and hounds” game.

That year was a sad year for me – 1933. Early in the year, Billie died when my younger son Nicholas came into the world. I felt a great loss and desolation. The interests in many of my activities seemed to die immediately, all that was joyful and beautiful seemed to die for ever and a hopelessness settled upon me which felt as if it would last for ever.

Oh, the Seventh stood by me. They could and they did – but how could they help? Certainly they were there – certainly in all the many little things that had to be done, they helped. What could be done, they did, but nothing, I felt, would ever lift the great world of loneliness that had settled upon me. Billie had gone. I had lost her for ever. Of course the Seventh were at the funeral, their final tributes were there in a poetic farewell. But if anything I felt lonelier in my eternal desolation

As we walked up the slight rise towards the open grave, the coffin was carried before me, and a few chosen tributes decorated the top. Involuntarily my mind became fixed on one at the back. A ribbon among the flowers showed it to be the troop emblem. A wreath – but no, was it a wreath? I looked again, and saw it was two wreaths, concentrically designed. My eyes opened wider, and a strange comfort and a wonderful hopefulness replaced my black desolation. The Seventh had given Billie the last word, the hope that destroys all desolation, for to the initiated tracker, the sign of the concentric circles read “I have gone home”.

Extract from Charlton Kings Local History Society Spring 1983 Volume 9 pages 1-2 Author: George Ryland