Entry of the WAGGGS ... and not a football star in sight

FORGET WAGS... here come the WAGGGS.

It's hard to imagine the wives and girlfriends of England's football team buckling down to a week's camping in muddy conditions under the stars but for thousands of members of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, (WAGGGS) – they are enjoying the time of their lives.

About 5,000 of them from 40 countries, some as far away as Alaska, Barbados, Sudan, New Zealand and Nigeria, began arriving on Saturday on part of the Harewood estate near Leeds for the biggest guide camp ever held in the UK.

Over the next week they will be able to take part in activities such as go-karting, bungee trampolining and even sledging, courtesy of eight tonnes of snow brought in from Glasshoughton's Xscape complex.

A further highlight will be a visit from members of the England Women's Cricket

team today who will be sharing their skills in a cricket master-class.

And for any of the Guides who secretly yearn for WAG-style entertainment there is always "Aquapamper" – a chance to soak their feet, freshen up and paint their nails.

Impressively, Guides from the Falkland Islands travelled over 15,000 miles to join in the celebrations. None of the girls have attended an international camp before and this is their first visit to the UK.

A group from St Helena, a small island off the west coast of Africa, showed their pluck by starting their journey on July 22 with a five-day journey on a mail boat to South Africa before flying here.

The event, which involves a mind-boggling degree of military planning, marks 100 years of the Girl Guides' Association, now known as Girlguiding UK.

The decision to hold the celebrations in the Earl of Harewood's back garden provides a link to the past, as his mother, Princess Mary, the Princess Royal, was president of the association from 1920 to 1965.

Inevitably, after 100 years some of the practices have changed.

"We used to have badges for Homemaker, Laundress and Thrift. Today we offer Communicator, Team Leader, Independent Living, World Issues, Healthy Lifestyles, Science, Film Lover and many more," a Centenary Camp spokesman said.

"Last year Girlguiding UK took 400,000 girls into the wild for camping and outside adventures: 6,500 girls tried out canoeing, 6,000 learned to climb, 3,000 tried their hands at abseiling."

One of the first to arrive on Friday was Halima Michael, 15, St Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean. She said: "It's the first time I have been to England and it's a bit chilly, especially as it is really hot in St Vincent at the moment.

"I've come over with five friends and I'm very excited about the chance to meet new people and take part in all the activities.''

Her friend Leniecia Doyle, also 15, added: "I have been hanging out with Guides from different countries and have started to make new friends already."

Rather nearer to home, Roisin Swainston-Rainford, 11, from Harrogate, added: "I'm looking forward to camp fires, making new friends and all the activities such as scuba diving and skiing.''

Roisin and her fellow Guides owe their fun this week to a small group of courageous girls who stepped forward at the 1909 Boy Scouts Rally in Crystal Palace Park and asked its founder, Robert Baden-Powell, for "something for the girls, Mister".

Guiding has come a long way since then – the movement has travelled all over the globe with over 10 million members worldwide and over 500,000 in the UK.

The highlight of the event is on Wednesday. The 5,000 campers will be joined for the day by another 15,000 Guides and Brownies for an entertainment extravaganza called Fusion. It will feature more than 1,000 professional street theatre artists.

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