Meet the Team

Paul Willis

Explorer Leader

I was once asked when did I join Scouting - The answer is age 8 as a cub scout and nobody has said leave. So I'm still here, enjoying every moment. I have been a Scout leader, Group Scout leader. Assistant District Commissioner, District Commissioner, not necessarily in that order. I am currently in the best job as District Explorer Scout Commissioner, working with a great team and lots of brilliant young people.

Bev Willis

Explorer Leader

Hi, I'm Bev. I joined Scouting at 16 as a Guide young leader with my local cub scout pack in Yorkshire. At 18 I came to college and joined the 5th Whitley Bay Scout Group in Cullercoats as an Assistant Cub Scout leader. I stayed with the group for another 25 years as a Cub Scout leader, Assistant Group Scout leader and Group Scout leader. In 2000 I joined the newly formed Explorer Scout Unit as an Assistant Explorer Scout Leader. My main role is administration which normally involves collecting forms and money (and getting the money mixed up!), helping with activities, camps and international trips.

I am married to Paul (DESC) and have two daughters Vicky and Katie, both of whom gained their Queen's Scout Award and D of E Awards. I gained my Queen's Guide, D of E Bronze, Silver and Gold through Guiding (as scouting didn't accept girls in those days) and these allowed me to develop skills which I have used both in my professional and personal life.

My hobbies include music, gardening and traveling.

Katie Willis

Explorer Leader

Having been born into a 'Scouting family', I attended many Scouting events and camps as a young child whilst going through the Guide movement as a Rainbow, Brownie, Guide and then Ranger. I decided to join Whitley Bay Explorer Scout Unit at the age of 14 years just as the unit was being set up. So far in my Scouting I have had the opportunity to enjoy numerous trips to Switzerland as an Explorer and as a leader. On one of these trips as an Explorer I was able to complete my explorer belt award.

I also travelled to Uganda with Northumberland County Scouts in 2008 to work on a community project which led me to return to Uganda with a team of Networks Scouts in 2014 to work in a different part of the country. One of my highlights was achieving my Queen Scout Award and Gold Duke of Edinburgh's Award, and I now help lead the Silver Duke of Edinburgh Award team within the unit with Katie Winter. I run many of our weekly activity programmes, which tend to follow the theme of food, making a mess or general chaos! Outside of Scouting I work as a Primary School Teacher and am interested in skiing, hillwalking and music.

Mike Alderson

Explorer Leader

Having been involved in scouting in Whitley Bay since I was a cub and scout (13th WB) and then a Venture Scout (Beacon VSU), and a few years spent as an assistant youth leader with the team that ran the DofE Unit at what was and still is the great emporium of wisdom and learning that is Whitley Bay High School, as well as a brief spell in a similar role at St Benedicts High School, Bedlington, I was persuaded by Mr Willis to jump ship and to join the Whitley Bay Explorer Scout Unit.

As a Unit instructor I am mostly involved with assisting in the running the DofE programme and related activities such as indoor climbing. I also take a lead on the technical side of our entertainments, including the transporting, setting up, operation, taking down , transporting (again) and the fixing of the Units’ expanding PA and luminaire systems.

In between the above and a smattering of personal interests, including most adventurous activities such as indoor sports and outdoor lead climbing, mountaineering, road and off road biking, an expanding and some might say annoying repertoire of electric and acoustic based guitar melodies and a passing interest in geopolitical shenanigans, I manage to fill the remainder of my waking hours as a Chartered Surveyor (I’ve even got letters after my name and everything).

Katie Winter

Explorer Leader

Hi my name is Katie and I am a unit helper at the Whitley Bay Explorer Scout Unit. At a young age I joined the Brownies and moved up to Guides and Rangers. Through the Rangers I gained my Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award, the adventures and fun I had through this scheme inspired me to work with others to help them through their awards. The activities I help with at Explorers are centred around the Silver Duke of Edinburgh Award and particularly the expedition session. Outside Scouting I enjoy having good times with family and friends and walking my dog, Tara.

Nick Coulson

Explorer Leader

Nick has been involved in Scouting for quite some time, first as a cub and a scout with the 1st Whitley Bay then as a leader with the same group. Having had a few years out when he was running other groups at the schools where he taught he got back into Scouting when his own children joined cubs about twelve years ago. Now he seems to be the Jack of all Trades at the unit: he helps with the Bronze section of the D of E, runs kayaking in the summer and electronics in the winter, has helped with climbing and has been known to help with sailing. If he has some spare time he will asist with repairs and maintenance at the quarry centre and has helped with the refurbishment at Chesters. Just don't ask him to go on the stage (although he used to work backstage at the Gang Show and the Whitley Bay Pantomime in his youth). He has also been known to cycle.

Ania Swann

Explorer Leader

I am one of the Explorer Scout Leaders responsible for the Explorer Scout Young Leaders in Whitley Bay District. Along with Tony Bennett, I plan and deliver the training programme for Young Leaders, and help to prepare them for their potential future leadership roles in Scouting but also hopefully with skills for life in general. I try and encourage all our Young Leaders and Explorers to complete a recognised First Aid qualification, something I feel very passionately about that everyone should do. I also help with the regular weekly Explorer programme of activities and as one of the District Archery Leaders I also deliver archery as part of the Explorer programme, which is always enjoyable. I am also a Group Scout Leader of one of the Scout Groups in Whitley Bay so I get to see the progression of the young people through the sections, from Beavers to Cubs, to Scouts and then into Explorers.

I became involved in Scouting and the Explorer Scout Unit because of my children, so I have them to blame/thank for all the fun I have! For the past ten years I have been the unofficial catering manager/Auntie for the Explorer Unit for the annual week long Expedition Week based at Powburn and I have worked out that over that time, myself and the rest of the catering team have probably fed about a thousand Explorers, Leaders and Helpers (give or take one or two) and I have gained a reputation for my legendary portion sizes. Shopping for Explorer Camps is an interesting experience and always a source of amusement for the local supermarket assistants. I often joke that I have an extended family of about 160!!

Outside of Scouting I love traveling with my family, particularly abroad, and my favourite country visited so far has to be New Zealand. I also love visiting the theatre and enjoy the arts. I have an eclectic taste in music and constantly have Radio 2 on in the house or car. I am most proud of my four children who are all independent, adventurous, spirited and fun loving individuals who have all gained a wealth of experiences from their time in Scouting.

Tony Bennet

Explorer Leader

I joined Whitley Bay & District Scouts in 2003 as a Young Leader, I worked within the Scout section at the 6th Whitley Bay where I completed all of my YL training and volunteer work. I then joined the Explorer Scout Unit as a Young Leader Trainer in 2010 taking over from Scott Blackett. Since 2010 I have been working with Ania Swann to provide regular training and assessments of our Young Leaders.

When we took over the Young Leader Unit we had just under 20 Young Leaders working in 11 groups and 33 sections across the district, today we have over 50 Young Leaders helping in those sections and delivering a fun scouting experience.

Whilst I do this role I also run the 6th Whitley Bay (St Mary's) Cub Pack and I am Assistant District Commissioner for Cub Scouts.

I thoroughly enjoy the challenges each role brings and I am 100% committed to delivering a fun, safe Scouting experience for all of our young people.

Vicky Ross

Explorer Leader

I joined the Scout Association at the age of 16, having previously been a Rainbow, Brownie, Guide and Young Leader in the Guide Association, but as both my parents (Bev and Paul) have been Cub Scout, Scout, Venture Scout and Explorer Scout leaders for many years, I actually went on my first scout camp at the age of 6 months! As a member of Whitley Bay Explorer Scout Unit I completed my Queen's Scout Award and undertook an Explorer Belt expedition in Switzerland.

Having lived outside of the North East for a number of years, first at University in Scotland and then in London, I often joined Whitley Bay Explorers for many of their weekend and holiday activities before returning to live in the Whitley Bay area a couple of years ago. I now help with running many of the weekly activities for Whitley Bay Explorers and along with Ania Swann and Tony Bennett, I also plan and deliver the training programme for our Young Leaders.

Clive Ducker

Explorer Leader

I started life in the 15th Whitley Bay Cubs and progressed to the 7th Whitley Bay Sea Scouts. Although I left the scouts I remained active as a volunteer, for example I was part of the team arranging the lighting for Gang Shows for many years. Over the years I've also had considerable input into the Chesters refurbishment project. My role with the Explorers has mainly been supervision of D of E . More recently I have been involved in running the DIY nights.

Outside of scouting my main interests are walking, cycling & motorcyling.

Chris Reay

Explorer Leader

Chris joined Whitley Bay Explorer Scouts approximately 10 years ago as a Unit Assistant. Previous to that he had been in Cubs and Sea Scouts and had been involved in Newcastle Gang Show as a youngster. Chris has run various activities at Explorers, most notably "Cooking with Chris" where he teaches the basics of cooking at his business premises, Epicurus. In his spare time Chris enjoys playing squash and being a volunteer crewman for Tynemouth Lifeboat.

Simon Finlayson

Explorer Leader

I started scouting as a Cub many years ago in Annfield plain. But after a long absence I rejoined as a occasional helper at the 8th Whitley Bay scouts. I started helping with Whitley Bay Explorer Scouts about 12 years ago as the group needed more assistants and the range of activities they do, especially the outdoor activities, are very similar to my own.

Since joining the unit I've been to Switzerland, been to various camps, mountain biked, led and instructed climbing courses at Burnside climbing wall. I am also one of the leaders within Bronze DofE leader team and have assessed all levels of DofE expeditions. I also regularly help to improve and maintain the headquarters grounds.

Charlie Ross

Explorer Leader

I joined the Scout Association at the age of 6, joining the 6th Blyth Beaver Scout Colony and continuing through Cubs and Scouts before joining Spartan Venture Scouts in Blyth. As a member of Whitley Bay Network I completed my Queen's Scout Award and undertook an Explorer Belt expedition in Switzerland. After a number of years as an occasional helper with Whitley Bay Explorers, whilst I was living in London and working abroad, during which time I would often join the group for many of their weekend and holiday activities, I now help out with some of the Unit's weekly activities as well as being a member of Whitley Bay & District Scouts Appointments Committee.

Jack Swann

Explorer Leader

Jack has been in scouting since he was a little beaver and is now one of the Whitley Bay Explorer Scouts unit assistants when he is not at university in Bangor. Throughout his scouting career he has been lucky enough to go to Sweden for the World Scout Jamboree, enjoy numerous trips to Switzerland (including one time to complete his explorer belt award) and achieve his gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and Queen Scout Award. The main activities Jack runs for the unit are kayaking and canoeing, and the expedition section of the Duke of Edinburgh’s award. Outside of scouting Jack has massive interest in outdoor pursuits, in particular white water kayaking.

Graham Oakes

Explorer Leader

After going through Cubs and Scouts, Graham joined the Whitley Bay Explorer Scout unit at the age of 15 and then stayed on at the unit as a Unit Assistant at the age of 18. So far in Scouting Graham has had the privilege of attending the World Scout Jamboree in Thailand, working on a community project in Uganda, enjoying numerous trips to Switzerland (one time to achieve the Explorer Belt award) and achieving his Queen Scout Award. The activities Graham runs at Explorers are varied and in the past have included website design, improvised comedy, drama, stop motion animation and art. Outside of Scouting Graham has interests in climbing, mountain biking, performing comedy and acting.

Want to join us?

Does this sound like something you want to be a part of? We're always looking for more people to join our team and with growing numbers, we need you! Get in touch with us for more details!

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