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Wow....Babble Rock!! You guys are amazing!! As I sit here tonight, the group has grown to 1603 members, with a huge jump in the last couple of weeks. This is partly because I did some sharing on other group pages such as WOK parents, Home Education Support Scotland, and Brilliant Bartering and had a fantastic response. By the way....can I say something here about you guys who came over from Brilliant Bartering?! I've shared Babble on a few groups but I've never had such an enthusiastic response as I had from you guys who came over via that group! Not just in terms of how many of you joined, but in terms of your comments, folk putting posts up to introduce themselves and thank us for the add, and all this lovely 'extra jazz'. I said to Graeme, "In the Venn diagram of people who love the outdoors and people who like to barter, it feels like there is a huge, enthusiastic HUG right in the intersection!!" And as the group membership has increased in size, all of the existing members have continued to be wonderful, posting links and memes and commenting on stuff, and I'm so grateful and glad :-)

Graeme and I love Babble Rock: it's our baby which has grown alongside our last human baby, and we love doing the events and seeing folk have fun. But it IS hard work and even though the events are free to members to attend, Babble does cost us money in terms of buying equipment like kayaking kit for folk to use, petrol to get to events, the costs of the website hosting, and recently the time we've given to take folk climbing for free where they'd normally be charged lesson fees by the climbing centres. However, when we get enthusiastic responses like we've had recently in the comments on the Fb group, the lovely reviews from folk who we've taken climbing, plus people simply taking the trouble to attend the events and allow my kids and I the chance to make new friends, it is soooo worthwhile. Thank you all for being such a vibrant, amazing, enthusiastic community!

So as I said on the Fb group, I'd like other members to feel like they can make and host events too, and I put up a post last year, which I'll link to here, about how to actually make an event and CRUCIALLY, the importance of putting a legal disclaimer on it, as, being a voluntary peer-to-peer group, we are not insured. However, even with that post, I think folk are shy or wary about hosting an event. I discussed this with a friend recently: she pointed out that it's hard when you're used to doing a walk at your own pace, with your own kids, to suddenly manage a group, especially if you're a bit shy. As a shy person continually beset by self-doubt who spends a lot of each day worrying that I'm not taking care of everyone right.... I can say she's absolutely spot-on!!! But Graeme and I have learnt a lot doing these events and they are so much fun to do - just look at the pics to see! - so I thought I'd share with you all a few things we've gathered along the way these last few years.

It's a buzz to make events like the ones in the photos above happen, and it would be great if other folk tried their hand at hosting so we can have even more brilliant days out! So this post is partly to give you some guidelines as to how to make it stress-free for yourself if you do host!

1) Make the event page. PLEASE refer to my other post on how to do this, especially in terms of the disclaimer! And include the bit about folk letting you know if they can't come as it's frustrating to wait for no-shows!

2) In the weeks before the event, re-post it on the Fb page to remind people they have signed up! This helps avoid no-shows too. If I make an event a month in advance, I repost it at least once a week in the lead-up.

3) The day or two before, put a post on both the Babble main page and inside the event page asking everyone to let you know if they are NOT coming after signing up that they are. You are really only focussing on the definite i.e. "going" attendees letting you know, not the "maybes". Add your phone number, as folk often text me to say they are late.

4) On the day, I usually arrive 10 minutes early so I can be out of the car and ready. Folk then pull up but quite often they are shy too, so you really do have to give a bright cheery smile and ask "Are you here for Babble?" if you see family-shaped humans hovering ;-)

5) I tell people on the event page that we will wait for 15 minutes extra and then set off....however if someone texts you from a car and says "Sorry - I'll be 20 minutes late!", I'd definitely still wait. But explain to the other attendees with apologies that this is a rare exception but that the person really is coming. The kids like to mingle and play at the start of an event anyway and the adults can also begin to get to know each other.

6) Once you've all gathered, I think it's nice to get in a wee circle and all introduce yourselves before you set off or start your event. That way when folk start to walk in 2s or 3s according to their speed, they know who people are.

7) If your event is a walk: People WILL walk at different speeds....you are not obliged to keep them together; that will make the faster people frustrated and the slower ones feel guilty! People can peel off into pairs or small groups to walk together and we all usually catch up around lunchtime. That is the biggest lesson I've learned: not to worry if you're walking separated by a bit of distance. You've facilitated the others meeting friends who they can walk with; job done! You can even say before you set off "Around 1pm, start slowing down/looking back to see if we're gathering for lunch!"

8) If you're going to take pictures, ask the group if anyone minds and particularly if anyone minds if you plan on posting them to Babble (no one has minded yet but I understand completely if someone does!) In fact it's worth asking, even if you're not personally going to snap away, for the following reason: you're not just asking for yourself; you're asking because some other people in the group will take pictures and probably post without thinking to ask, so you're making sure everyone is happy with that. Also when I post a picture to Babble, I try and make sure EVERYONE in that picture looks good*....nothing worse than someone posting a picture of a group where everyone is smiling but I've been caught in the second I was scowling at my kids or yanking my knickers out of my bum ;-) *By "good" I don't mean perfect, I just mean look at the picture and think, "Would I be OK if someone posted me with that expression or not?"

  • And that is pretty much it! There are all kinds of events you can host...here are some ideas:

  • Walks - the obvious one. Depending on your ability/your kids, you can do Munros, smaller hills (Campsies etc), forest walks, beach/coastal walks...we are completely spoilt for choice in this amazing country! Look on the Walk Highlands website for some great suggestions. They have walks all over Scotland, not just in the Highlands, and in all categories listed above: hill, beach, forest etc. They grade them by difficulty, taking into account gradient, time taken, bog-factor etc. If you choose one of their routes, it's good to post a link to the Walk Highlands page inside your event page too!

  • Park-based activity: treasure hunts, outdoor craft sessions, story-telling, children's yoga. These are great, especially for tots. However we want to keep Babble events free, so don't do anything that involves you spending a huge amount of money on materials!

  • A campfire day - find a loch, beach or similar location that allows campfires. Make clear to folk that they must bring a few pieces of firewood each! This is really important, otherwise you will have fire for an hour and then nothing, as your bag will have run out. But a few sticks from everyone keeps it going for the whole day.

  • A cyle event: these have been popular in the past - attendees bring their bikes and you choose the route.

  • A "themed" city walk such as "Bumps and Babies" for people on maternity leave, or "Tots and Scooters" for the preschool crowd.

  • Climbing events: We'd like to keep Babble as an outdoors group, but we make an exception for a rock climbing/bouldering, as kids need indoor practice before they can climb outdoors. Hosting an event at GCC or Climbzone is hard as non-members need to be signed in. But TCA has a kiddie area where beginners can go, and we've hosted events there before!

  • Overnight camps - you need to choose a site, post the booking link on your event and then it is first come, first served as folk book and pay for themselves. As host, you then do an evening sit-around by your tent etc.

It goes without saying that you can contact me for help or even co-hosting if you'd like!

So it just remains for me to reiterate my thanks to all the members, old and new, for your enthusiasm and love for the group! Please share us, either via this website or by copying and pasting the group link to add to your Fb feed. Plus - my latest thing - please follow us on Instagram as we'd like a bigger presence on there if we can. Being a free group, we are aware that Instagram popularity sometimes amounts to corporate help (perhaps things like extra kayaking life-jackets etc.), so we can continue to offer free stuff to our members but start to recoup costs elsewhere!

With all our love and thanks for being an awesome group!

Fibie and Graeme

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