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Volunteering at Scouts is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing to help us reach more young people

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Knot your average pioneer

Be dope with rope and build to your heart's content with these smashing knots and lashings.

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You’ll need

  • Device to show photos, videos, or slides
  • Access to the internet
  • Rope
  • Spars, poles, broom handles or staves to practise lashings

Before you begin

  • Decide how best to run this activity for your group. Larger groups could set up bases and work in small groups, with a particular knot or lashing at each base and groups rotating between them throughout the session. Smaller groups could work on the knots and lashings all together.
  • Before starting any pioneering projects, take a look at the safety guidance on pioneering.
  • Have a look through the suggested knots and lashings below and try them out, if you’re going to use these ones in your session. Learn how to tie them properly and see what they’re used for in practice. If you can find any video tutorials online to share with your group, even better.
  • Set up areas for everyone to try the knots and lashings. Make sure there are enough spars or similar objects, and enough suitable rope for everyone to use.

Run the activity

  1. Start by demonstrating each knot or lashing. Play an online video or tutorial that everyone can see if this is easier. We’ve provided some suggestions for knots, some instructions and weblinks to animations online below.
  2. Work through each knot or lashing slowly, explaining each move as it’s done. Repeat moves (or rewind the video) if anyone needs to see a move again.
  3. Give everyone some rope and something to knot or lash. They could start by tying the knot on a small object, like a pencil, then move on to tying it on a spar that you’d use in a pioneering project.
  4. Check that everyone understands the basic knots or lashing you’ve covered. Everyone should now try to tie one of the knots or lashings again with a partner. Their partner should try to guess which knot or lashing they’re tying as they’re doing it. See who can guess first.

This is also a perfect opportunity for those who are hot with knots and dashing through their lashings to help anyone who might be struggling with a particular technique. Encourage everyone to ask for help when they need it.

  1. When you’re done with the rope and spars, explain how important it is to tidy everything away. Have everyone unknot their ropes and coil them neatly to be put away, and collect up the spars.

Ropes and spars that are left lying around are a notorious trip hazard!

  1. Have a quick look over all the ropes and spars. They’ll need to be in good condition if they’re to be used safely for any pioneering projects.

The following knots have a wide range of uses, but are mostly used to start or finish lashings when used in pioneering projects:

  • Reef knot – One of the most familiar knots, used to fasten a rope or connect two lengths of rope, but shouldn’t be used under strain as it can come undone.
  • Clove hitch – A quick hitch used to start a lashing, the knot can bind or slip and so shouldn’t be relied upon.
  • Timber hitch – Usually an alternative to the clove hitch and very easy to tie or tighten. Holds well under strain but doesn’t hold its structure if the tension is loosened.
  • Round turn and two half hitches – A good way to secure a rope to a pole. The half hitches on their own are also a good way to tie off loose ends.
  • Overhand knot – The overhand knot is a stopper knot when tied in the end of a rope and can be tied with two ends of the same rope to fasten things, but shouldn’t be used alone as it can easily loosen and slip. Used alongside lots of other overhand knots, it can be used to create West Country lashing or whipping.
  • Midshipman’s hitch - Can be used to tie adjustable guy lines and is more reliable than some other gripping hitches.

These lashings can be used to bind components in a wide range of projects, helping you to build everything from a table to a windmill:

  • A diagonal lashing can be used to join two crossing spars at almost any angle when building projects or bracing structures. The diagonal lashing is more versatile than a square lashing, as it can be used on a wider range of angles, while the square lashing is best used just for right angles. Start by tying a timber hitch diagonally over both spars you’re connecting. This allows them to be pulled tight together and tidies the end of the lashing away. Then, wind the running end of the rope around the spars in the same direction as the timber hitch three times. You can add more but make sure there are at least three. After the third turn, wind three more turns, this time crossing your lashing in the other direction over the spars, making a cross shape. Finish the lashing with a clove hitch on the most convenient spar.
  • The West Country lashing is a much stronger lashing than the round lashing. It can be used to firmly fix two overlapping spars, as you might when making a flagpole. It’s based on the West Country whipping, which is used to secure the end of a rope to keep it from fraying. Start with an overhand knot. Turn to the other side of the two spars and tie another overhand knot on the opposing side, then pull it tight. Keep tying overhand knots on alternating sides until the lashing is firm. Make sure you tie each overhand knot the same way (right over left and through or left over right and through) for a consistent pattern that keeps the lashing neat and tight.
  • The floor lashing can be used to create a tabletop or the floor of a raft without having to individually lash each pole. This method doesn’t require you to feed the whole rope through with each turn, but instead make a bight (loop) in the rope and weave the poles in place. Start the lashing with a timber hitch or a clove hitch on the base spar. Make a bight in the working end (the loose end) and pass it over the first spar on the inside of the base spar. Take the bight and pass it under the base spar to the outside of your platform. Pass the bight over the end of the first spar and pull the working end to tighten your lashing, then repeat for each spar until you reach the end. Finish with two tight half hitches to secure your work.


This activity gave you a chance to practise lashings and knots used in pioneering. Learning a new knot takes perseverance, as you might not get it right the first time, but as with all things the more you practise, the better you’ll get at it. Did anyone find a particular knot or lashing especially difficult? Was it easier to see someone else next to you doing it, so you could watch how they did it? If you watched a video or animation, was that more or less helpful than watching a person knotting?

Once you’ve learnt to use these knots and lashings, you can build almost anything you can imagine. It might be tough at first, but the results will almost certainly be worth the effort.


All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

Outdoor activities

You must have permission to use the location. Always check the weather forecast, and inform parents and carers of any change in venue.

Heavy and awkward objects

Never lift or move heavy or awkward items alone. Ask for help or, if possible, break them down into smaller parts.

Poles and long objects

Be careful when moving poles or long items. Take care if the ends are sharp. Have appropriate supervision for this activity.

The complexity of knots and lashings used, as well as the rope and objects for tying you have available, will make this challenge more or less difficult.

  • Make use of different ways of teaching. Give everyone a chance to watch, listen and physically try the lashings and knots. Make use of the internet to find videos and illustrations that help get the idea across.
  • Some types of cord or rope are more fiddly than others to knot. You could colour-code the ends of your rope with tape so that the user can remember which end is which.
  • When demonstrating, it’s a good idea to use a thick, solid rope, so that the structure of the knot can clearly be seen by everyone.

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

Now you’ve practised these knots and lashings, put them to use and make something!

Encourage young people who are confident with knots or lashings to support those who are less confident.