SEVEN scouts from the Wantage area have completed the prestigious Stuart Rae Challenge, after a year of hard work.

The group finished a two-day hike - the culmination of the challenge - in mid Wales’ Elan Valley, in memory of former marine Captain Stuart Rae.

Now in its 47th year, the challenge involves navigation lessons, a navigational training exercise and an overnight practice hike in local down land.

It is in memory of Mr Rae, a former district scout member, who died aged just 24 in 1971, while serving in Oman.

He loved climbing and mountaineering, which is recognised in the challenge, which has been run ever since his death to ‘commemorate his personality, drive and enthusiasm’.

During the year, each scout gains an outdoor activity scout badge, a Hill Walker’s badge, Chief Scouts Gold award, Emergency Aid Stage four and Navigator Stage five badges.

And this year's group - made up of young teens James Kent, Bruce Webb and Burt Staunton-Lamb, from 4th King Alfred Scout Group; Oliver Fletcher, from 1st Faringdon Scout Group; Roan Stillion and Harry Barber from 1st Standford Explorer Unit; and Tom Russell, from 1st Watchfield and Shrivenham Scout Group - all had to pass a navigation and safety exam and complete a personal hike log for 11 days.

But the highlight was their Welsh expedition, in which they backpacked independently over wild and rugged terrain for 30kms and nearly 1,000m of climbing.

According to King Alfred District Scouter Anna Harris, wet weather meant the paths ‘were frequently more like streams’, while overnight temperatures plummeted to well below freezing.

Ms Harris said the fact that the group finished the challenge - and in ‘good cheer’ - was ‘incredible considering they are all barely 14 years old.’

She explained: “The purpose of the challenge is to allow today’s scouts to taste some of the adventure that Stuart loved.

"To give them the experience of working as a team in a remote and rugged environment and to have the opportunity to take on a tough challenge and work hard to achieve it.

Ms Harris continued: “The fact that 47 years on this same challenge is still running is a testament to the ongoing relevance of these skills.”

The group were presented with their awards on November 10, when they had to present their experiences of the year to an audience of their parents, grandparents and scout leaders.

Stuart Rae’s sister Liz Keevill presented the award, while her husband Alan watching on with their son and grandchildren.

Mrs Harris said the family still “support this challenge in many, many ways, including meeting up with the scouts during expedition in Wales.”