Friday, 27 October 2017

Scarefest 2017. Prelude.

It's Halloween weekend which means it's Scarefest at Gilwell Park.

We were in two minds whether to come or not this year. The last 2 years, Scarefest has fallen on the last weekend of the Welsh half term meaning we could leave early on the Friday and have an easy drive up. This year it's at the beginning of half term so we couldn't get away until much later.

We mulled it over and decided that we would send an advance party to get the tents up etc with the Scouts arriving by minibus later on. Well, that was the plan, anyway.

Since the only leader with a tow bar was working nights and needed at least some sleep before heading off on camp, the advance party couldn't leave until lunchtime. No problem. Sat Nav says 4 hours, we'll be there by 5pm. Plenty of time.

The motorway network had different ideas. Jam after jam saw the eta drifting later and later. Then, at well after 6pm and only 30 miles away from camp, there's a bang. A tyre blown on the trailer. No drama. On to the hard shoulder, change the wheel and we're away. Not!

Turns out, the nut securing the spare wheel to its bracket is not the same size as the wheel nuts. Not one single tool in the car fits it. Call for assistance  then. Nope. "We can't change the tyre safely on the motorway. We will have to recover you off and fix it somewhere safer. Oh by the way, because of the size of the trailer, it will be 2 hours before we can get a vehicle there to get you off."

A quick check on Google maps shows a nice safe layby just off the motorway. Only half a mile from where we are. Since the tyre is dead anyway, we'll limp to that layby and call again. Luckily though, there's houses by the layby and one good Samaritan  has a spanner the right size. 10 minutes later, the wheel is changed and we're on the way. Finally on camp after a 7 hour epic.

Things are no better on the minibus. 90 minutes gets them from Cowbridge to Newport!

The advance party heads for Chubbys for dinner  (can't beat Chubbys 1/2lb bacon burger with cheese - proper grated cheddar, none of this processed burger cheese rubbish) before getting on with the job of pitching 3 patrol tents and a mess tent. A blatant Facebook appeal rustles up some help in the form of a few Sea Scouts, Explorers and a leader from a local (ish) group and the tents are up in no time. Just in time for the minibus to arrive after their own 5 and a half hour battle with the motorway network. They don't even have the joy of a Chubbys meal and have to settle for motorway services fast food - not that that ever seems to bother Scouts.

Personal kit is all stowed away and the Scouts are asleep relatively quickly and looking forward to a long day and night if fun tomorrow.

Massive thanks to the unnamed helper in the layby and to 1st North Fambridge Sea Scouts.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Parc Le Breos Day 5 (The last day 😓)

Well that's it for this camp.
It's a novelty for us to camp this close to home, meaning a short travel time and therefore a decadently late lie in. 9am we sat down for breakfast!

After spending an hour packing up, our nicely dry tents were suddenly soaked by a short, heavy, shower so we abandoned them.

A quick check on the weather showed clear sky's and bright sun following the shower so we decided to leave the tents up to dry for a bit. Since we've been passing it all weekend without going in, the obvious place to go while we waited was the Gower Heritage Centre a few hundred metres from the campsite. It's a great place, much bigger than it looks from the road with loads to see and do for kids of all ages (even the grown up ones).

After a tour around the centre it was back to camp to strike and fold the tents, load the trailer and head for home.

We've had a great time at the Gower Scout Campsite with a great bunch of Scouts. Back to basics, or Greenfield, camping is physically hard work but they've just got on an done it all, usually with a smile. In between the hard work and even alongside it, we've had great fun and some great experiences.

Everybody learnt something new and everybody, leaders included, got to try at least one thing they'd never done before.

Most importantly, every single participant said yes when asked if they would like to do more "working" camps.

Watch this space!

Monday, 21 August 2017

Parc Le Breos Day 4

Today was the big activity day. The rain was forecast to stop overnight but was well and truly still in when we got up, dampening spirits a little and slowing down the getting up process.
In the end, we got away on time for a drive up into the Brecon Beacons for a morning of Gorge Walking led by some excellent instructors from Hawk Adventures
The Scouts and Leaders had a great time, jumping into pools and climbing on waterfalls. All of yesterday's rain made the rivers really fun and the sun came out half way through making the gorges around Dinas Rock look really spectacular.
After a late, well earned, lunch, we made our way slowly back, stopping at the supermarket to stock up for the camp fire BBQ in the way.

Before we could BBQ though, it was all hands to wood collecting to build up a big enough supply for the evening.

With that done, the fire was  (eventually) lit and the BBQ commenced. There's really  something about burgers cooked over an open fire.

The big advantage of a BBQ of course is that there's little washing up so the Scouts were able to have an hour or two to run a wide game while the cooking fire was being upgraded to a full on camp fire.

The camp fire began with something special. It's not often we get to invest new Scouts on camp so it was really nice to invest 3 in one go tonight. I hope it's something they'll remember for a long time.

After the camp fire entertainment, out  came the marshmallows and a new campfire treat. Our 2 vegetarians can't eat marshmallows because of the gelatine so one of the leaders had done some research and discovered that marzipan makes a good alternative.

I think toasted marzipan smores  (a sandwich of chocolate digestives and half melted marzipan) may be my new favourite camp food!

Despite the relatively early hour, the Scouts are all in bed, quiet, with the lights out. There's obviously something good about a back to basics working camp!

Last day tomorrow. Although I'll be back camping at Gilwell in 10 days time.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Parc Le Breos Day 3

We must have tired the Scouts out. Despite all the excitement of sleeping out in their own bivouacs they were soon off to sleep last night and stayed in bed until just before the planned getting up time.

With breakfast sorted and kit packed, the Scouts were off on today's activity, a hike along the coast path to Port Eynon.

The plan was that they would hike while the leaders did a few jobs around the site and went shopping to top up on perishables before meeting them at Port Eynon with the minibus to bring them back after some time on the beach. However, even though the navigation seemed simple enough - " keep the sea on your left til you find the minibus" - they managed to make in into an epic 7 hour trek. Apparently the need for all 9 Scouts to stroke every single dog they met may have had something to do with the delay, along with the unplanned stop at the chip shop in Oxwich.
The end result was that the leaders spent 4 hours sitting in Port Eynon waiting for the Scouts to arrive. There's only so many cups of tea you can drink so we all ended up having an afternoon snooze in the minibus, after partaking in what is becoming a camp tradition. The leader team has managed to find a Cream Tea on every UK summer camp for the last 4 years!

Since the time and tide had caught up with us, there was no beach to play on by the time the Scouts arrived so, after an Ice Cream we headed back to camp.

Our Patrol Leaders put a great deal of thought into the menu and were not going to let the small matter of torrential rain stop tonight's dessert being cooked on the fire so it was all hands to fetching wood. We did cheat a bit. Due to the late start and some rain enforced delays getting the fire going, dinner was cooked on gas but dessert - chocolate orange cakes cooked inside the oranges - went on the fire as planned.

While the cooking was happening,  we did a quick check on the bivvys. We'd placed 2 sheets of newspaper in each before we went out to see how much rain water the collected. Surprisingly, one of the bivvys was still dry. Probably even dry enough to sleep in although there were no volunteers willing to test this.

Bed time came with a minor disaster. A tent door had been left open and one sleeping bag was now far to wet to sleep in. After some tent reshuffling and the loan of a spare sleeping bag all is well and the Scouts are asleep, getting plenty of rest ready for tomorrow's adventure in the Brecon Beacons.

As for me, I'm enjoying the sounds of a forest on a rainy night writing this from my hammock in the trees.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Parc Le Breos day 2

We changed the programme today after a review of the weather.

We had planned to hike today and build bivouacs tomorrow but it looks like tomorrow night is going to be wet so we we brought the bivvying forwards.

After having a full safety brief on knives, saws and axes along with some supervised practice, we had a short walk to Parkmill to check out the shops and visitor centre before heading back for lunch.

After lunch, the Scouts set off to find their bivvy sites and start building. It's taken all afternoon but they've come up with a pair of pretty impressive shelters.

Things happen much slower on a back to basics camp - 2 hours to prep dinner allowing for lighting the fire and keeping it up to temperature long enough to boil the water and cook the spuds - but in the end we had another great meal from the excellent menu designed by our Patrol Leaders.

The last hour and a half of light was put to good use adding the finishing touches to the bivvys before heading back to the fire for cocoa and biscuits.

After a few games around the fire, the Scouts have now got themselves settled in their shelters.

Hopefully they'll overcome the novelty and get enough sleep to prepare them for the hike tomorrow (unless we can find another reason to put it off!)

Friday, 18 August 2017

Parc Le Breos - Day One

Welcome to 1st Cowbridge summer camp part two.
We're a little closer to home this time,  on the Gower peninsula.
So far it's been pretty laid back. The Scouts, when we held a planning meeting, asked for a "back to basics" camp so that's what we've got. It's over a quarter of a mile from our site to the toilet block so we're using Elsan toilets on site - a first for this group in this millennium I think.
After arriving and unloading, our 2 patrols made short work of pitching the site before being sent out to find wood. Not many of them have cooked a meal over an open fire before so it was quite an eye opener how much wood you need to cook a meal for 13 people. With dinner cooked and eaten, we made our way over to the neighbouring site where we'd been invited to join in the camp fire to find that they were still running a wide game. Our Scouts lost no time in showing their expertise at "capture the flag" before we headed back to the camp fire for some cake and a sing song with new friends.

We'll be up nice and early to get ready for a hike taking in some spectacular Gower scenery.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Nord 17. Day 12. The End

Well that's it for now. The end of our trip of a lifetime.
A relatively early start this morning meant that we were all fed and packed with plenty of time to spare.
We had planned to take a walk to see the Swords in the Fell, a local historic landmark, but were forced indoors by the weather. Instead, we spent a couple of hours on some fun teambuilding games.
After lunch,  our lifts arrived and we were driven to the airport.
Many wazzock points were earned when one Scout managed to lose a passport in the 20 minutes between leaving the Scout House and checking in at the airport.
We were within minutes of implementing emergency protocols at a potential cost of £5k to the parents, when a phonecall was received to confirm that the passport was safe and well in the footwell of one of the cars and was on its way to us.
The rest of the trip passed without incident and we arrived back at Cowbridge where our reception party was waiting.

All in all a fantastic camp.
There are comments from the Scouts which will be added in due course.