Camping in November
We’ve decided that the Scouts should try to get their Bronze Dragon Award Badge. In order to do so, they need to camp outside under canvas in every month of the year. It can be done over the course of a few years, but it does mean sleeping under canvas in the winter months. The summer months should be easy to do, but camping out between November and March in Wales is always a little more challenging.
Of course, what Anna and I forgot when we challenged them to this and decided it was a good thing for them to do was that as their Scout Leaders we would also therefore have to camp out in the winter as we couldn’t let the Scouts do it on their own.
Rather than go for proper camps during the winter months we decided that a sleepover format would be better and if we could do it somewhere that had indoor facilities for other acivities, games, cooking and toilet facilities then all the better. The idea was to turn up somewhere where we could all spend the long, cold, dark evenings indoors (especially if it was raining) and then simply head to our tents to sleep. Limiting the sleepover to just one night sounded like a good idea too and doing in place of a normal Friday evening Scout meeting would make thing easier as the Scouts should be free and we wouldn’t have to give up a whole weekend to it.
We did the first of these on Friday out at Cwm Newyddion Woods, near Abermagwr.
Anna took the day off on Friday to prepare things. I had already been out to the cabin in the woods (owned by Penparcau Scouts) the previous Friday to check things out, and organise a few bits and pieces. It’s these planning and organising stages that take the most time. Anna went shopping for supplies and packed the cars on Friday morning. We had already extracted some tents for the Scouts from the Borth Scout stores a few days before so these all went in the car. After lunch we then both headed out to the cabin in order to unload the car and set up our tent in the daylight. We also put up a fews signs to help parents find us in the woods.
We then headed back into Aberystwyth, collected Morgan from school, filled some water canisters up and had a good feed at KFC! Next we had to go shopping again for a few things we had discovered we needed but didn’t have. We then collected one of the Scouts (Cameron) from Plascrug leisure centre before heading back to Cwm Newyddion to meet the others. We were of course there an hour or so before the other Scouts started arriving as I wanted to get a fire going ready for them, unlock the toilets and get the generator going.
It was dark by now and away from any light pollution the stars were already looking amazing. We soon had a nice fire going in a raised basket under a canopy in the woods. The generator was fired up so there was light in the cabin and we had boiled plenty of water that was now in flasks ready for hot drinks. With clear skies the temperature was dropping rapidly so we were concerned about keeping them all warm. The Scouts range in age from 10-14 so the last thing we need is a group of cold, grumpy Scouts!
They soon arrived complete with all their kit, and our two adult helpers Kath and Nia. Anna set a few ground rules and I was off chopping wood for the fire. Some Scouts were sent off to gather more wood whilst the others put up their tents. We hadn’t used these tents before as we had used bigger ones on summer camps but decided that smaller tents would be easier to set up in the dark, easier to transport and warmer. This would have been true had the tents been in better working order. We had already decided against a few as they had poles missing or inners missing but the ones we had didn’t seem to go together too well either. We’re sure some of them had mismatched inners and one of them in particular was in a pretty bad way. We got them up in the end though and then had hot dogs and hot chocolate in the cabin to keep people going before sitting around the fire for a while toasting marshmallows and making Smores with chocolate biscuits.
As the evening wore on, the moon rose above the trees, followed by the constellation of Orion which was looking spectacular. The Scouts then pretty much took themselves off to bed and climbed into their sleeping bags. We had 11 Scouts plus Morgan as an honorary Scout for the night and had taken 10 spare sleeping bags to provide them with extra insulation against the cold. This was on top of the two sleeping bags each that they had been told to bring. We used all 10 spares as the temperature was now well below freezing with ice on the ground as we headed off to bed.
Not long after they had gone to bed Ann and I wandered around to make sure they were all OK, only to find one of the Scouts hanging out the end of the tent where the inner had ripped. We decided they couldn’t sleep in this tent so ended up having to relinquish our nice cosy looking tent and put them in that. We then had to climb into a cold and uncomfortable car for the night. Needless to say we didn’t get any sleep, but we hadn’t really expected to anyway.
Anna actually got up before me though as she needed the toilet but I soon followed and we wandered around the frosty, moon lit camp making sure all was in order. The Scouts all started getting up at dawn and we treated them to more pancakes than they could eat, before packing up camp, playing a fews games and heading home.
Other then the debacle with the tents – many of which we decided to just take to the tip afterwards, we think it went pretty well. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, there were no incidents and the Scouts have managed to sleep out in the month of November. It was easily the coldest night of the year so far though so a little bit of a shock to the system but they all coped well. The weather station at our house said that the temperature had dropped to -2.3ºC but that was at the coast. The weather station at Ysbyty Ystwyth had read a low of -4.8ºC which is probably closer to what we endured in the woods. We did note that quite a few of the parents were there earlier than they normally would be to collect them – maybe they were just a little worried about their offspring seeing as it had been such a cold night! We looked after them well though and they all had fun, They especially liked sitting around the fire and poking it with sticks – who doesn’t!