2018 Note– It has been decided for 2018 to permit all sections to carry a mobile phone. The penalties for using a phone to contact anyone else other than hike control remain.
There has long been a clamor for mobile phones to be permitted on Cheshire Hike, and I would like to illustrate some of the reasons for the committee’s resistance to permitting them.
When Cheshire Hike was founded mobile phones had not been invented, and the only way of the teams contacting control was using call boxes. Scouts were required to carry change for the phone with them on the hike.
Over the last few years mobile phones have become a universal gadget few people are without. At the same time the number of call boxes has diminished significantly.
We have had two hikes in the last few years where we have trialled allowing phones to be carried. The results have not been a success.
The worst case was when a team rang home, and asked their parents to pick them up, without informing control. The result of this is we believed we had a missing team and a lot of time and effort that should have been used for support for other needy teams was diverted needlessly looking for them.
A mobile Phone is not a substitute for training and practice. The biggest problem we have had is that teams loose their way, and instead of resolving the problem themselves, ring the emergency number. This blocks the line for any genuine emergencies.
Last year with only the Junior section having phones, the emergency line was tied up almost continuously by two or three teams who had evidently not done sufficient practice. My favourite reply to the question “What can you see that we can use to identify where you are?” is “If you see that aircraft that has just taken off, it went right over our heads”. Genuine.
If a team is to carry a Mobile phone then it must be made clear to them that it is for emergency calls to control only. Other use will result in severe penalties.