Summer camp at Collard Bridge
We left the hut at 0610, and took the M4 and the M5. We stopped at Sedgemoor on the M4, and again briefly along the the M5, and arrived at the site at 1115. The gear van took the A303 route and had they not got lost near the site, would have arrived even earlier at 1045. Access to the site was via a mile and a half of twisty Devon lane, with very high banks – rather like Jackass Lane near Tandridge, only narrower, longer, and with fewer passing places.
Site number 7 was being mown as we arrived; the tents were all put up and everyone was relaxed by 4pm. The weather was lovely. One Scout tripped and fell head over heels down a steep shale embankment, neatly illustrating the great importance of tying your shoelaces. A groceries order from Tesco arrived. Supper was Mexican style spicy mince with wraps, sour cream, salsa, lettuce and tomatoes and guacamole. The Scouts cooked the mince over open fires.
When we woke up it was raining, which was an unwelcome surprise. After the usual cooked breakfast (this morning it was hash browns, sausages and beans) the Scouts made their lunches – fresh baguettes – and we set off for Lynton.. On the way there was some heavy rain, but at Lynton it was sunny. We went down the Cliff Railway to Lynmouth, where the Scouts played for a time on the stony strand, though the tide was far out. Then, back up the Cliff Railway and then for a walk to the Valley of the Rocks. We walked along a narrow edge with great views and exposure, then down to the road, up the other side and back to the van. A good opening day! Back to the site for a rest by 4pm or so, and the water slide came out. Builders plastic sheeting, lots of water, cheap washing up liquid – and lots of fun!
Supper was chicken curry in three strengths: mild, regular and Chernobyl. I prepared the curry spices, but the Scouts cooked the dish from scratch over open fires – an outstanding achievement. For some, even the mild one was the hottest thing they’d ever had, but the lot got eaten up, and not only by the leaders.
Tuesday dawned fine. In the “morning” (that is, from 1000 til 1300 or so) there were various workshops for pioneering, knots, making woggles and wooden spoons, and how to work stoves etc. In the afternoon we went for a walk: half the Troop went one way, half the Troop went the other, with the intent of meeting in the middle for an “ambush”. It was a lovely walk through a green lane in remote Devon countryside. Some of our Scouts managed to get lost in quite the most spectacular fashion – but as a team building exercise it was brilliant, even if the map-reading was not of the highest standard. The main thing is that we have fun.
Supper was Lebanese style meatballs with cous cous. Catherine made the meatballs, but the Scouts cooked them on open fires again. This dish was less popular than it had been in the past; it’s been a camp staple for six years now since we discovered the recipe. Pudding was “Fruit corner” yoghurts.
Wednesday was “cooking day”. We always hold a cooking competition at summer camp, even if we don’t name an actual winner and award prizes. This annual competition is keenly anticipated by the Scouts. On the previous evening, the patrols are told to sit down with pen and paper and cookery books, and design their meal. Teamwork is looked for, as is originality and enthusiasm. That they cook tasty food is also slightly important – these young people are cooking OUR dinner was well!
After breakfast, each of the Patrol leaders were given a sum of money (£25 this year, for cooking for seven people) and the Troop driven into Barnstaple. There, they were told to hop it and buy the food they needed – remaining together in patrols, but working with no adult intervention or oversight at all. This works a treat every year; the Scouts relish the chance to show that they can walk round a town and shop safely without adults. The leaders tend to wander at random through the streets, proffering advice to the youngsters as required or requested.
This year’s offerings included starters of garlic mushrooms on french bread, spicy chicken legs, and fried sweet potato chips. Main courses included Chicken Kiev, breadcrumb coated chicken pieces, sweet potato and potato chips served in newspaper cones, and Pasta with Salmon. For dessert – well! We had delightful sweet filled pancakes, a kind of Eton Mess, and a pie of summer fruits served on a pastry base lined with chocolate. At the same time we had table cloths, candles, nice (but alcohol free) drinks, and one youngster bought a waistcoat (50p) and was easily the best dressed of the cooks and waiters. It sounds grand and it was.
The Troop were got out of bed “early” and after breakfast, driven to Hele Bay bear Ilfracombe. Watersports provider www.pointbreaks.com provided sea kayaking and coasteering for us. This was great fun, and tested some of the Scouts (and some of the leaders!) who were challenged by the height of the jumps that were asked of them – but they toughed it out. One young person slipped whilst playing on the rocks on the beach, after the kayaking, and suffered a gash to the ankle requiring some stitches. But that Scout made a swift recovery and was back from A&E with two leaders not much later than we were back from Hele Bay.
Supper was frankfurters and rolls, and potato salad, and other salads, followed by Eton Mess. All these suppers and breakfasts, save the cooking competition, were taken outside on a long row of three tables – good for all the Troop to eat together as a community.
After supper some of the Troop (about ten with five leaders) went on a night hike in the woods, and up onto the moor, but turned back in the face of some marauding cattle. Cows we do not mess with, especially when we are in charge of other people’s kids. Cattle are heavy and do not stop when they are running. We retreated sharply in the gathering gloom – but we were not downcast. It was a good evening hike even having turned back.
Rain had been forecast but did not materialise. We drove through to Croyde, and the Troop (eighteen youngsters at this stage, and three adults) walked up and over the down to the next beach, Putsborough Beach. It took an hour or so and is a lovely walk. At Putsborough we had a take-away lunch (cheesy chips, or baps, or chips, or baked potatoes) and remained there playing happily until rain drove us off about 3pm.
Back at the site, the rain came down; for the first time, the Scouts had to sit in the mess tent to stay dry, and were quite happy playing cards and chatting. Ron and Catie made a giant batch of extra-thick Canadian style pancakes. To serve these for supper was Ali’s idea and it was inspired. Everyone loved them.
Later, we went to a camp fire in the pouring rain. The fire blazed away though, and our Scouts did well singing and shouting the usual classic songs. A good ending to the week.
We struck the camp in good time, but it was the first serious Wet Strike for the Troop since the Tons of Fun weekend camp in 2007. Very heavy showers continued throughout the morning, rising to a crescendo as we packed the van near to 11a.m. All the gear got wet but we were not downcast – because we had a great camp.
Leaders on camp were: Nick Hough, Ali Millington, Ron Bochard
They were very ably assisted by Catherine Hough in the mess tent, and by Bernie Mullen and Paul D’Alessandro driving and helping out in every possible way. and also by Ollie Daly and Nat Hough, and by Catie Harley at the very end of the camp.
Thanks also to Luke Capel who joined us as an Explorer Scout and assisted ably as a “Young Leader”.