The unit is on holiday this week and, contrary to the belief of many a Brownie, Leaders are not stored in cupboards but are real people – who have lives, families, jobs and other demands outside of Guiding.

It was just over a year ago when this Eagle Owl decided to try to the Duke of Edinburgh Diamond Challenge – aware that full time caring duties were taking up pretty much every other bit of her life when she was not Guiding, a simple challenge was undertaken – to set aside the time each day to get outside and do a walk of a mile for 60 days.

Does not sound a lot, but during that 60 days, her mum was taken into Blackburn Hospital 3 times very ill and fitting in the time was certainly very challenging – cue the midnight walk around the hospital perimeter to get the daily walk in!

So walking was done, money was raised and task was accomplished. Winter set in and the cold dark nights put Eagle Owl back to hiding away and being a rather lazy owl to be honest.

January came and mum once more was very ill, not expected to live more than a week or two and Eagle Owl was pre-occupied when she made a blase agreement to support her cousin in a 50km walk for MIND in September.  The distance and challenge involved was not really considered and life revolved around care for mum, The Unit and church activities.  A week or two later, mum was still hanging on when an equally blase agreement was made to walk 45km with Granny Owl in October to help raise funds to replace the Mother’s Union Caravan.

February came, mum rallied (and is still very much with us) and Eagle Owl had forgotten about the walks!

March 18! The pack hit the doormat and the reality hit home hard!  A step on the scales told an accusing truth – fat and unfit!  A Fitbit was purchased that evening on the way to Lancashire East Singing Circle as surely that would tell a different story – but no, the next few days it accusingly said “couch potato”.

Eagle Owl utilised the help of The Unit with them doing the Agility Badge to help her on her way to getting fit and grimly the walking commenced – slowly and surely improving fitness.

By May, confidence was increasing when letter 2 arrived – the Ascent – 370 ft climbs (and Eagle Owl had been doing flat walks!).  A look showed the 1km walk to her house from the bottom was the same and grimly the hill, which became known as the hill of attrition, was tackled until Eagle Owl could get up in one continuous walk without feeling a sense of death.  Pack 3 arrived and showed that, unlike her 1km walk, the ascent involved in the big walk was spread over the entire 50km.

September arrived and with the team (who have raised over £8,000 for MIND) the walk along the Thames Pathway was completed. It was great! A challenge completed in 9 hours 47 mins walking time (and energy to spare at the end).  October saw the walk along the Leeds Liverpool – complete with the thickest mud ever seen, also completed in 9 hrs 30 mins.

So Leaders do have life outside of Guiding, but sometimes their challenges still have a Guiding link because it would be true to say there is a golden thread which runs from the point of starting the Duke of Edinburgh Diamond Challenge (only known about because of Guiding) to a far healthier Eagle Owl who can now outrun quite a lot of The Unit.