Scout Camp near Devil’s Bridge

Group Photo

Group Photo

Phew, we survived – and as far as I know the Scouts enjoyed themselves too.

We have all just got back from a Scout camp that Anna and I organised. Since becoming Scout Leaders we have been on a couple of camps but this was the first one that we had organised and run on our own so the pressure was on. The initial plan had been for us to run the camp but that our Group Scout Leader would be there too to see how it went and offer back-up should we have any problems. She has organised plenty of camps in the past so should know what she was doing.

Over the past few weeks we had been busy planning activities, sorting out permission forms, planning menu’s and shopping lists, checking equipment, booking camp sites etc etc etc. All of that is fairly straight forward. It takes a lot of time and effort but was nothing we couldn’t work out on our own – We have after all been camping ourselves before, it’s just a little more involved when taking a group of 10-14 year olds along with you!

What we didn’t know and needed help with were any Scout specific rules. We told our Group Scout Leader what our plans were and asked who we needed to inform about the camp and if there were any restrictions on where we could camp etc. We were told that all was OK and when we specifically asked if we needed to tell the District Commissioner were told that we didn’t. It wasn’t until a week before the camp that we found out ourselves about thing such as the ‘Form NAN’ that we were supposed to have completed and the fact that we were (as we had thought) supposed to have told the District Commissioner about the event. We also found out that our Group Scout Leader was now not coming on the camp with us as she had booked something else that clashed with it!

This of course threw a spanner in the works. Now there would only be two leaders (Anna and I) on the camp which isn’t really enough and none of us had a Scouts ‘Nights Away Permit’ – It is a requirement that at least one adult on a camp has such a permit. The running of this camp was supposed to be a way of proving to the powers-that-be within Scouting that we were capable of such things so that we could get the nights away permit for future events. Thankfully, after some frantic phone calls it was agreed that we could still run the camp. After a bit of quizzing and an assessment from the District Commissioner I was granted a Nights Away Permit and it was arranged that the District Commissioner would come out to see the camp to make sure we were OK and to check up on how we were running things. Phew, we weren’t going to have to cancel at the last minute. We still needed an extra adult though.

We e-mailed around all of the helpers and parents to find people with the relevant CRB checks who could help out, but finding people at such late notice wasn’t easy. We did manage to get one parent to help out by staying overnight on Saturday – Thanks Leasa! So that was it, the camp was almost upon us. We, and what turned out to be 10 Scouts were ready to go. We also had Morgan with us so had 11 children in total – a number we wouldn’t forget as we spent all weekend counting heads to make sure we still had them all!

Campsite

Campsite

We had drafted in Dave and Sarah our neighbours to tow the trailer to the camp site as we don’t have a tow bar and after a hectic few days set off on Friday afternoon towards Devil’s Bridge. We were staying at Erwbarfe Camp Site, a site that I knew about having built their website but we had never stayed there. We did pop up to do a site inspection as part of the planning and all looked perfect, and that’s the way we found it on arrival. We had our own little field just off to the side of the rest of the site. It had a gentle slope to help with drainage but was perfectly flat for the erection of tents. There was a water tap in the field which made life really easy and plenty of room. The toilet and shower block was just down the track a little and we had a second field that the Scouts could play football, rounders and generally run around in. The campsite have quite a few Duke of Edinburgh groups stay here so there were various notices pinned to fence posts pertaining to kit lists and such like which made it feel more ‘Scouty’ too.

We had arrived before the Scouts were due so that we could take stock of our surroundings and get the kitchen tent set up. One of the Explorers Tomas had come with us to help and Dave and Sarah stayed to help as well. It didn’t take too long despite the howling wind and occasional driving rain storm for us to get the kitchen tent and the shelter up and then the Scouts started to arrive so it was time to get our tent up and help them with theirs. A few of the parents stayed to lend a hand here and there as well and before long – just as the rain and wind stopped – we had everything up and ready to go.

Kitchen Calmness

Kitchen Calmness

The kitchen tent and shelter were at one end of the field and the various stoves, water bottles, pots, pans and utensils were all in place. We had our tent near the field entrance and not too far from the kitchen tent. The trailer was being used as a larder and store and the Scouts had their tents at the top of the field in a little group near to the chicken run. It was actually quite nice that Anna and I were here running it on our own as we were able to set things up just the way we wanted them and do things our way.

The Scouts were quite excited too. The wind and rain had now eased, but as it started to get dark it also got very cold. We had Hot Dogs and Hot Chocolate for supper and sat around chatting and playing cards and discussing various camp rules. Then, before we knew it it was bedtime – Would we get any sleep? The answer to that was an emphatic no! Most of the Scouts did go off to bed and go to sleep well, but the occupants of one tent were up giggling and playing and keeping us awake until about 3am. It then got light at 4am so the birds and sheep started up with their morning routine and by 5:30am some of the Scouts that had slept were up and started playing football!

We probably should have got out of our tent at 1am and told the noisy Scouts to go to sleep but it was cold out there and very cosy in our sleeping bags. The temperature had dropped below freezing and there was ice covering the tents so we stayed where we were and kept thinking and hoping that they would drift off to sleep soon. We did have to get up at 5:30am though to tell the others to stop playing football and thought we’d better get up and start with the morning chores anyway. The Scouts that were up moaned about the others keeping them awake so we all decided to change the rota a little and wake them up at 7am so that they could be the ones to cook breakfast. That’s exactly what we did and therefore we had several grumpy Scouts helping us in the kitchen with sausage sandwiches, cereals and drinks for breakfast.

The plan for the day was a nice long walk – something that the Scouts were both looking forward to and dreading in equal measures after the coast walk we’d taken them on the previous week. After breakfast was cleared away we made them tidy their tents and had a tent inspection and then prepared things so that they could make packed lunches to take with them on the hike. The usual fare here, ham, chicken and cheese sandwiches, salad, fruit, crisps and chocolate biscuits. A few of the Scouts didn’t have rucksacks with them so there was a bit of re-organising and sharing of resources going on but we were soon ready to go. Every one and been fed and watered, the tents had passed the inspection, rucksacks were packed with lunches  waterproofs, first aid kits etc. and we were ready to go half an hour earlier than planned.

The route we were taking wasn’t difficult but I hadn’t walked it recently so didn’t know exactly how far it was or how long it would take – especially seeing as I didn’t really know how fast the Scouts would travel over such ground. I’d guessed that it would be somewhere in the region of 5-6 miles with the option of a slightly longer route if we wanted and had planned for it to take up to 5 hours with plenty of stops. It was nice and varied for them with interesting bridge crossings over Parsons Bridge, high above the River Rheidol, some steep climbs and some nice hill top walking over Bryn Bras with amazing views. We went on towards Ponterwyd before returning over the top of Bryn Bras and back down into the Rheidol Valley.

As always, some of the Scouts were rushing off at the front and others were straggling at the back but we kept them together as best we could, stopped often for water breaks, snacks and chats and stopped for lunch pretty early too. Quite a few of them were beginning to flag by the time we got to the point where we could choose the longer route though so they opted for the more direct route back to the camp site. The promise of ice-creams when we got back – if they could name one native British tree for each of us – kept them going and we were back at the camp-site 4 and half hours after setting off having covered just over 5 miles. Pretty much spot on with my estimations.

The afternoon was spent chilling in the sunshine as it was a glorious day. I think the Scouts may have liked a few more organised activities here but we had always planned things so that there would be plenty of downtime for them (and maybe some for us) so that they could amuse themselves and get on with camping as an activity rather than rushing headlong from one activity to another. I don’t think our Scouts are quite ready for this yet though. They could have constructed something useful for the camp or invented a game but instead they kicked a football about and had a half-hearted attempt at a game of rounders when we gave them a rounders bat and ball. Something we’ll have to work on with them.

We did get some of them helping to prepare dinner and some of them put up another tent for Leasa (our 3rd adult helper) to stay overnight in. They did all perk up when I suggested that we ask Priscilla and Bryn, the campsite owners, if there were any jobs they could help with around the site that would provide a service and go towards the ‘Adventure Challenge’ badge as well.

They ended up collecting eggs from the hens and doing some litter picking – although there was very little litter anywhere on the site for them to find. Maybe next time we’ll ask Priscilla and Bryn to save up some more taxing jobs for them! The District Commissioner arrived just as I was off collecting the eggs with them. Dinner was on the stove pretty much ready and smelling delicious – We’d made a massive bean ragu with fresh onions, carrots, swede, tinned tomatoes, lots of beans and herbs that we were going to have with pasta and cheese. The camp was tidy, the Scouts were helping out on the site, all was calm and we couldn’t have looked more in control. I think he was impressed! The Scouts were on their best behaviour too and gathered around in a circle while he asked them what they’d been up to. We served up dinner whilst he was there and he inspected and photographed the kitchen. Again he was most impressed and liked the layout and wanted to use the photos as an example of how a kitchen should be run. Fire blankets, first aid kits and safety equipment was all in place, the kitchen was clean and tidy and the camp was perfect! Not that we had ever thought it wouldn’t be, but it’s good to show off now and then as well.

Leasa turned up to help and we sat around as the temperature dropped drinking hot drinks and eating cake – we all had plenty of cake throughout the camp as we had asked each Scout to bring a cake along to share. There was soup on offer too but everyone had eaten loads at dinner time and most were pretty tired. In fact I think we’d worn them out as they were all in their tents and asleep by 10pm. Anna and I didn’t get a lot of sleep though thanks to the odd incident overnight that I had to deal with. It meant that Anna had to give up one of her sleeping bags so she was freezing all night and you can’t really sleep anyway whilst being responsible for a group of Scouts.

It was only a short weekend camp so Sunday morning was spent preparing and eating breakfast – Sausages, Eggs, Soup, Cereals etc and then we started packing up and also prepared and ate lunch so as to finish off as much of the food as possible and the rest of the cake too. Tents were taken down – some taking MUCH longer than others, the kitchen was dismantled and everything packed away. We made the most of the sunshine and took the chance to dry out all of the tents, pack them away really well and tidied organised and re-packed the trailer better than ever. We were all ready to go when parents arrived to collect their children in the early afternoon.

It had been a success, hopefully the Scouts enjoyed themselves, there were no real incidents – although there were a few things that we had to deal with that we weren’t really expecting with children of this age-group. I won’t go into details but they involved the clearing up of fairly unpleasant material after what we can only assume (and certainly hope) were accidents – first of the liquid type during the night and then of the even more unpleasant type the following morning. Needless to say, much scrubbing and cleaning was necessary. Apart from that I think Anna, Morgan and myself had a good time too.

We now have the task of  sorting and cleaning everything ready for the next one. I just hope the weather is as kind to us again.

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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