If you are thinking of running weekend or a longer trip into the countryside or seaside, you might find a few of the following points helpful (apologies if you find some of these points rather obvious):
Food: if you are using YHA youth hostels (we recommend them), you can have meals provided. However, this adds to the cost and misses out on the learning experiences of self-cooking. On weekend trips, Postellers brought their own food (important to have a leader in the kitchen during cooking). On longer trips, it was communal cooking with food bought by the organizer in advance. For our standard groups of 12, we formed two cooking groups who took turns. YHA kitchens for self-cookers vary in size and layout, and we would recommend a prior visit to familiarize yourself.
Accommodation: it is important to have leaders’ rooms close to the young people’s rooms (i.e. female leaders near the girls and male leaders near the boys). The young people should be told where their leaders are sleeping in case they are needed. YHA youth hostels often (but not always) provide board games and sometimes a pool table. However, when the group is too high spirited for these, going outside is the answer. Depending on time of year and circumstances, possibilities are: a spooky walk (leader at front and back of group), a walk to a chip shop, a game of run outs (or similar), an adventure playground, etc.
Travel: it is useful having a minibus, but not essential as quite a few hostels can be reached by train, followed by a walk. Owning a minibus is expensive and ideally it would need to be shared to spread the cost. Some insurance companies require drivers to have been on a MIDAS course and passed the test. Unless the distance to be travelled is very short, there should be more than one qualified driver with a minibus.
Outside activities: there are many places that provide kayaking, a climbing wall, caving (even in the London area), sailing, snow tubing, etc., but Postellers have always tried to minimize the use of organized activities (keeps the cost down too). A walk (packing a football and frisbee) can be just as much fun and leaders should be alert to opportunities. A fallen tree can be climbed over, horses can be fed with grass, dogs can be admired (with owner’s permission), even a simple adventure playground is popular, beaches are like magnets, grassy slopes can be slid down and much more.
Being careful: when walking, there should always be a leader at the front and one at the back, whether it is the wilds of the Peak District or the streets of Canterbury. Road crossing procedure should be agreed between leaders in advance. A first aid kit should be with the group at all times as should a qualified emergency first-aider. Swimming in the sea as a group is too hazardous under most situations and should be avoided. Paddling in the sea is enormous fun, but leaders must be very alert to the risks (rip tides, currents, sudden large waves) and almost inevitably at least one of the group will need dry clothes afterwards.
Getting support: Throughout its years of organising trips for young people, many of whom were disadvantaged, the Postellers Group received small grants from the Gatliff Trust to enable those of limited means to participate in trips in the countryside. Without this support, many young people would have been unable to take part and would have missed out on valuable times away. For further information go to www.gatliff.org.uk
More information: the Posteller Co-ordinator, Diane Nightingale, would be happy to answer queries and give further advice. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Good luck, you will have lots of fun!