8th Worcester Scout Troop
Summer Camp 2015
Packing on Friday
As is normal for our summer camps we met on the Friday immediately before we set off so that we could pack the Troop's kit and leave it out ready for the next day. The amount of kit that we require for a five night camp is quite impressive with each Patrol having its own tent and equipment, as well as the Troop's equipment on top of that. All told it took the majority of the time on Friday to sort out kit with the remainder being set aside for sorting out Patrols, setting out ground rules and establishing expectations.
We met on Saturday morning to load up the van with all of our kit and then set out on the long journey down to Buckinghamshire.
The Paccar Scout Camp site is well placed, with only half of the site given over to camping sites and the remainder being a wood that can be used for wide games (with difficulty as a lot of it is overgrown), gets used for shelter building, and has a zip-wire and high ropes course through it.
Most of the pitches on the site are either on the two main fields or in the woods, separated by trees. The pitches in the woods have the slight downside of sharing three widely spaced water taps between them; this wasn't a particular problem for us as we had booked a site with a tap, but it did mean that our neighbours occasionally popped in to use the tap rather than taking the extended walk to the next nearest.
We arrived and set up our site in a remarkably short amount of time, with a combination of the threat of rain and the higher-than-usual level of efficiency that we got from the Scouts for the vast majority of this camp getting us off to a good start.
With the tents up and everything ready, we had a brief chance to rest before our food delivery turned up (we order food in for the first day, and then go shopping after that). Dinner followed, after which we moved onto the first actual activity of the camp.
With two leaders qualified as archery instructors, running archery is easier than some other activities (cheaper to run because we don't need an instructor, and easier because we know better than site instructors who is already capable and who needs a bit more help). We therefore had this as our starting activity.
Pioneering Prep Work
Sunday opened with rain and didn't particularly stop for the morning. It wasn't the wettest day that the site had (that was the one immediately before we turned up apparently), but it was the wettest day that we had, which was complicated by the fact that we had intended to do pioneering prep work in order to get things better ready for the afternoon.
The prep work had already been decided on as sedan chairs. This part could be accomplished in the bungalow with each of the Patrols taking one chair and two poles and tying them together in order to create the chair. The quality of the knots when tied around the legs of these chairs is always a bit dubious, given the shapes and angles involved in them. In this case the rigs were as tight as could be expected in the circumstances, and the races had to go ahead.
The original plan for the races was across our pitch and back, or maybe around the edge of our pitch. For reasons best known to them, the Scouts chose instead to race across our site, along the track to the roundabout at reception, and then back from there.
In the rain and mud the race was interesting. The original plan was to race across our pitch and back again, or maybe as an extreme measure to race around the perimeter of the pitch; that might not have worked too well given how far back the guy-ropes were, but the thought was there.
Instead the Scouts decided to head out of the pitch, down the muddy track to reception (swapping riders and carriers on the way) and then back again. We had no one being dropped, though there were moments when co-ordination became an issue with one end of the chair being picked up before the other was ready.
With the morning's prep work concluded successfully we had lunch and then headed out for the afternoon's activities at a local water activity centre. The first task of course was finding the place; the post-code leads you to a different centre just round the corner, and so we had to search around a bit in order to find it.
Once they were sorted in terms of their personal kit, the Scouts were given their equipment: poles, barrels and ropes, with some tyres to assist. They were also provided with some paper so that they could produce a plan before starting work. The eventual design was a familiar one: two lines of barrels with poles to hold them in place and poles across to hold the whole thing together.
One crucial aspect of this design is that the poles should be close enough together to hold the barrels underneath the raft when it is turned over. Unfortunately the poles weren't put close enough together, and we ended up with a self-unrighting raft. Despite this the whole thing was pronounced lake-worthy and the Scouts headed off for buoyancy aids and helmets before the launch.
The launch, which was apparently a lot further than some groups manage to get, went fairly well, with the Scouts managing to get the raft down to the water without any damage to it and boarding it without incident.
From here things proceeded fairly well, with the Scouts struggling to co-ordinate their paddling (we did at one point have the side with five Scouts paddling full strength while the other side waited for instructions) before getting themselves together and setting off for the next jetty along. At this point the raft was holding together quite well, with only the usual problems with ropes sliding off the ends of barrels to slow it down.
Then they started falling in.
And then the raft came apart in sympathy.
After a certain amount of fuss where the Scouts tried to repair the raft, they eventually had to swim it around to their starting jetty, and then offload it to the stores. From there they had a new activity: a barrel slide. The object was to run down the jetty and slide along the barrels as far as possible. The sudden weight of a person tended to make the line fall apart, and in the end only the lightest Scout was able to make it all the way along.
Proposed method for cooking meatballs:
On-Site Activities (Morning)
Monday saw us on site for activities, starting with the climbing wall. This was an unusual design as it doesn't feature any handholds as per a normal climbing wall, instead being built entirely out of bricks arranged in various routes.
The Scouts each had a chance to climb up the various routes, including setting themselves challenges such as sticking to a specific colour, following a particular route, or something similar. One in particular decided to try the particularly hard purple route on the left wall, then couldn't manage it and ended up traversing half way across the main wall before working his way up to the top.
The final challenge, which only a couple of people attempted, was the Cheesgrater. Set up as a series of very narrow steps, this was particularly hard, with the best effort getting maybe a metre off the ground.
Crate stacking is a familiar activity on camps; milk bottle crates and a suitable frame to hold the ropes are required. Steady ground to set the crates on is a nice optional extra, but not a requirement.
The Scouts paired off for this, taking it in turns to be on the crates and to stack. Some sites require the Scouts on the crates to stack them; in this case the Scouts on the ground were doing the stacking for them, while the ones on the crates concentrated on keeping their balance and trying not to obviously hug each other.
Being set on gravel it was slightly harder to keep the crates from toppling than usual. Despite this the Scouts did quite well on the towers.
Everyone eventually had two goes aside from the two Scouts who had managed the highest tower on their first go.
On-Site Activities (Afternoon)
We returned to our tents for lunch after the morning's activities, and took a brief time for a game before setting off for the afternoon's activities.
Take a normal (out of use) bus. Build a faux-rock wall around one side of it. Fill it with wooden walls and floors to create fifty metres of tunnel. It's certainly a different idea for building a cave.
The site's indoor cave was an interesting experience; a couple of the Scouts weren't physically able to make it round, while several leaders had a go. The cave was narrow and had some places where it doubled back on itself quite sharply. On top of that it was hot with minimal ventilation, and so making it all the way around the cave was an achievement in itself.
Following this we had air rifles. For this most of the Scouts were back onto familiar territory, having done this at least once before at some time. The shooting was done in groups of five (with two of the leaders alternating to fill the tenth space), with everyone having five shots per round. Everyone ended up with at least four rounds of shooting in the end.
While the other Patrol was off at Go Ape, the Patrol that stayed behind worked on making Ash Cakes. The first part of this process was finding wood; Ash Cakes are cooked on embers, and so a decent fire was required before the cooking could begin. Branches had to be gathered and broken up into suitable piles before we could start that.
Both Patrols had plenty of dry tinder in the form of leaves, twigs and whittling from kindling blocks to get the fire going. The first Patrol managed to get a fire from one match with some effort, while the second Patrol managed to get an initial fire going from the first Patrol's embers, and then started their own fire to use in the second altar fire after some more effort.
While their fires were burning down both Patrols made the ash cakes in the mess tent. These are a very basic recipe which they were able to make quickly and easily. These were then placed on foil and then onto the grill on the altar fire; they can be placed directly onto the ashes, but the extra fuss of picking the ash off when foil is available isn't worth it.
Traditionally ash cakes are served with jam. Our supply had run out, and so the Scouts made do with honey (which went very runny on the hot cakes) and BBQ sauce. They were pronounced to be a success by both groups.
On summer camp we always aim to get at least one hike in over the course of our time there. In this case we looked over several routes that the site was able to provide, all of which involved an unfortunate amount of road walking, before settling on a route of our own.
This route led us off roads wherever possible (despite which roads are unavoidable, and the M25 cuts straight across the area making it almost impossible to avoid), along various footpaths which did occasionally seem to run out; one footpath didn't appear to exist at all, while another appeared to have been detoured around the other three sides of the field that it had previously gone along one side of.
Along the way the Scouts each had to keep track of not only where they were, but several had to manage the route along the way (this being a job that is easier to assign to a couple of more experienced Scouts). Navigation stops were frequent in order to ensure that everyone was keeping on top of things, and by the end of it even the younger and less experienced Scouts were getting the hang of it very well.
As our final site activity before the campfire we made use of the site's pedal karts. With four karts everyone split into four teams (with teams changing as leaders swapped in and out) with races where everyone in the team had to go around the course twice, but couldn't do successive laps.
Eventually the races became less formal and more simply a case of ensuring that everyone got a turn. The entire process worked well, and we eventually overran before heading back for the campfire.
The campfire began as the twilight came in. Each of the Patrols had been asked to provide some kind of skit or stunt for the campfire (they failed, but all of them managed to get together and do a song about one of the leaders instead) while other songs and games took their normal place. We finished on a repeat of last year's "how to garnish a scout leader" stunt and marshmallows.
Thursday is the day of packing away. Normally we would have some other activity such as swimming in the morning, however this time it was decided to skip this and settle for a slightly more relaxed approach to tidying up which allowed things to go at a nicer pace and a few games to be thrown into the mix.
Overall we had a very good camp, with the Scouts being well behaved and working both alone and together very well. In spite of the weather the camp was very good, with nearly all of our activities being completed and running smoothly. We would like to thank the Scouts for their efforts during the camp, and for making it a success.
Rockets and Repairs
For the last few nights of the term the Scouts have been working on two projects. Firstly, they have been finishing off the DIY work that that were doing to repair the benches. This involved some efforts to reinforce them so that they didn't wobble any more, as well as making sure that the seats were secure.
For the other parts of these evenings the Scouts had a chance to work on making a rocket from a kit, including assembling the rocket, equipping it with fins and the like, and building the launcher for it.
For the final night we had a number of different types of home rocket set up: Alka-Seltzer and water, coke and menthos, vinegar and bicarbonate of soda, and a variant of match-heads wrapped in foil. These were each set up on different tables that the Scouts should have been rotating around. In practise some of these worked better than others, and the Scouts moved around as each base drew their attention.
The launch of the rockets was delayed by some technical problems, but in the end we had three successful launches.
Hobbies and Interests - 3rd July
The final night of the Fitness Challenge was also taken up with giving the Scouts a chance to talk about some of their hobbies and interests. Partly this was a chance for the Scouts to get some experience talking in front of a group, and partly it was a chance for some of them to get signed off for some other badges. Some of these were finalised on the night, while others were sorted out over the next few weeks as the Scouts provided further evidence of specifics (grades, levels, etc) in order to back this up.
Fitness/ Skills Challenge
For the first part of the second half of the term we worked on the Fitness and Skills challenges. These have similar requirements, with the Skills challenge (part of the scheme being used from 2015 onwards) requiring slightly more to complete.
Both challenges had the following in common: discuss and demonstrate an understanding of the harmful effects of drink, drugs and smoking; discuss and demonstrate an understanding of the need for getting a proper amount of sleep and of a sensible diet; undertake a physical activity for four to six weeks, keeping a record of the results, and demonstrating improvement over the time of records being taken.
The first two were covered quickly during the first night back after half term; these are generally covered in depth at schools and so it was a simple matter of ensuring that the Scouts had been paying attention. Any of the Scouts who attended this night was signed off for these.
The third requirement was handled over four weeks, based around a series of exercises that tested different aspects of fitness such as sit ups, press ups, and running on the spot. Each of the Scouts was judged against their own level of progress and progression over the weeks. All of them showed some form of progress, however only a few managed to complete the minimum four week requirement. A couple of others have been signed off for this based on other activities (sports and so forth).
Testing Go Karts - 22nd May
We finally got around to doing a proper testing of the go karts to end the half term by taking them around to one of the Scout's home in order to make use of their garden. For this we met at Claines Church at the normal time for our meeting, and then walked from there.
The Scouts had free run of the garden for the evening, using the grass to test out the karts initially, before moving onto using the road (in a cul-de-sac, with Scouts stationed downhill in order to give warning if a car turned up). Both slopes proved to be successful, with the smoother and steeper slope of the road being best. The Scouts arranged a patch of fir cones at the bottom of the road to act as a brake for the karts if they got that far.
In the end the only damage done was when one of the Scouts managed to roll the kart (twice in fact, once in the middle of the road, which was impressive, especially since he was unhurt both times), and when one of the other Scouts tried taking the kart from the road onto the grass and managed to detach the front axle. Overall, we all had a good time.
Backwoods Cooking - 1st May
With the District Backwoods Cooking competition due this term, we set to putting some practise into what we would need to be ready for this. For the first evening we focused on building fires and getting the basics down, before cooking the starter as a trial run.
The day before the competition we did a final practise session, with the team for the day being split off to practise the starter and main course. As part of this they had to prepare the two courses while the rest of the Troop was outside working on the fires and having a go at the dessert.
Wide Game - 8th May
In an effort to open up our options for holding wide games, we've returned to an old site that we used to use on a regular basis. This is a wood owned by a former leader at our Troop which has been used for wide games and camps in the past.
Located on the road to Hereford, this can be reached fairly easily, though parking presents something of an issue when too many cars turn up. The wood itself is a decent size for a wide game, being large enough for a fair sized game, but small enough for it to be reasonably hard for get lost.
We opened with a basic game of capture the flag, giving the Scouts a chance to get used to the wood. After a second round of that we changed to the pegs game, which operates on a similar kind of principle to capture the flag, but with five tent pegs in each base which needed to be collected one at a time. We ended the evening on a game of tag.
DIY Afternoon - 25th April
Following the work that we did during the spring term on the DIY badge, we picked this afternoon to sign off any theory work that had been missed, and to complete the final requirements: two DIY tasks or projects.
We based this at the hut, picking a variety of jobs around the building that had been left undone for a while because no one had got around to them yet. We drew up a list of these in advance so that we could arrange for materials and supplies as necessary. The jobs that were completed included:
We also completed the final parts of the DIY badge theory work with the Scouts who attended, ensuring that all of those who were present completed the requirements for the badge. Overall, with the various tasks completed, we had a productive afternoon.
Local Quiz - 24th April
Getting back into more serious matters for our second night, we presented the Scouts with a map of the local area, a series of grid references, and a question to answer at each location. They had to plot the locations onto the map, determine a route (having been told where they needed to start from), and then head out to those locations.
The grid references proved to be something harder than we had hoped for them to be, and it became clear that we need to cover the basics of these again before we attempt anything too serious. The Patrols left as soon as they were satisfied that they had the locations and route sorted out.
Each of the Patrols made it back in time, with varying degrees of success on the quiz. While the Scouts had fun it is clear that we need to look at back to basics again.
First Night Back - 17th April
Our first night back for this term picked up some of the items from the previous term, where we made an effort to finish the go karts that we had been building. Two of these were finished already and needed only minor work to be fully functional. The third needed the front axle attaching, and was then completed. The fourth go kart was abandoned partway through the evening when some of the parts turned out to be missing.
With everything packed away, the Scouts had a chance to race their karts on the field before we moved back indoors.
Under the new badge scheme that has been introduced this year there is now a lot more emphasis on teamwork and leadership than there was under the previous scheme, and the transition guidelines specify that the challenge badges relating specifically to these two (the Teamwork and Team Leader challenges) are compulsory parts of the Gold Award for anyone who will complete the Gold Award after September 2015.
To aid in getting properly started on this we ran some teambuilder and problem solving activities as the next part of the evening. The first of these involved a groundsheet on which all but one of the Scouts stood. The remaining Scout then had to direct the others in folding the groundsheet into the smallest possible area without anyone falling off. We only intended to run this once, but it was quite amusing watching how it happened. The Scouts all got a demonstration of how hard it can be to get people's attention and to co-ordinate them; even something as basic as getting everyone to jump at the same time so that the groundsheet could be pulled into place proved to be tricky.
To follow this the Scouts had a problem to solve: four cursed bridges, each of which had to be crossed in a specific manner in order to bypass the curse. Anyone caught by the curse was frozen in place. For this part one of the other Scouts was given charge, and he took up the job very well, making sure that everyone had heard the clues that were provided and doing his best to organise everyone. The task proved to be tricky, with a lot of Scouts spread out across the four bridges, and he handled it well despite that. Everyone was signed off for an item on the Creative Challenge (Problem Solving).