Category Archives: Camps and holidays

Nights away

I’ve updated my list of nights away with Girlguiding  (because I’ve recently filled in a form that asked for them). It now covers 11 years, goodness gracious.

2006 – Briefing weekend for region international trip (2); region trip to the Netherlands (14).  Total 16

2007 – Weekend Guide camp (The Sound of Music theme) (2); Guide camp (Grease theme) (6); Brownie pack holiday (Robin Hood theme) (2).  Total 10

2008 – Region trip to Switzerland (14); Guide camp in Italy (7).  Total 21

2009 – SSAGO rally (can’t remember the theme!) (2); Guide camp (Big Brother theme) (2); Guide camp (circus theme) (6); SSAGO group Christmas trip (1).  Total 11

2010 – Guide camp (Malvern Challenge) (2); SSAGO rally (medieval theme) (2); county centenary camp (6); another county centenary camp (6); INTOPS (2).  Total 18

2011 – County training weekend (2); Guides night hike (1); 3 GOLD briefings (6); GOLD project in Russia (21); Guide camp (Alice in Wonderland theme) (2). Total 32

2012 – District Brownie holiday (Ancient Egyptian theme) (2); County Brownie holiday (Queen’s diamond jubilee theme) (2); Guide camp (Queen’s diamond jubilee theme) (6).  Total 10

2013 – Guides night hike (1); Guide camp in Spain (7); region camp (7).  Total 15

2014 – Brownie pack holiday (circus theme) (2); Guides night hike/sleepover (1); Brownie & Rainbow holiday (Down on the Farm theme) (2); Guide camp (Wild West theme) (5); Leaders’ sleepover (1); Queen’s Guide Award exploration in York (4).  Total 15

2015 – Guides night hike (1); Guides county camp (5); Brownie holiday (Around the World theme) (2); Leaders’ sleepover (1). Total 9

2016 – Brownie/Guide holiday (Gingerbread theme) (3); Guide night hike (1); Guide camp (adventure holiday in France (5); Rainbow sleepover (teddy bear theme) (1); Rainbow sleepover (Peter Rabbit theme) (1); Leaders’ sleepover (1). Total 12

Grand total: 169

 

A camp meeting and a night hike

Let’s flash back to last summer, when my Division combined a parents’ meeting for camp with a night hike.

We met in the village hall we normally use for our night hikes (because it works very well). First we had a meeting for the Guides and Senior Section coming on camp a few weeks later and their parents. It was a camp for a whole county, with a subcamp for each Division. The subcamp leader (and others where relevant) went through the usual sort of things: arrangements for sleeping, food, first aid, activities, kit required, etc etc. Afterwards, parents had the chance to speak to individual leaders, and the girls told a leader who they did/did not want to share a tent with. She wrote this down discreetly, of course! But it’s better to know this outright, rather than accidentally put together girls who really don’t want to share a confined space for a week.

After that, everyone left except leaders and girls who were going on the night hike, and other girls arrived who were hiking but not coming on camp. We originally meant it to be a chance for the girls on our subcamp to get to know each other, but only about 1/3 of them came, mostly from 2 or 3 units, so we opened it up to everyone.

Have I ever mentioned that I love a night hike?

Oh yes, last year. Well, I do. I love walking in the dark (as long as I know where I’m going), letting my mind and my senses open up, and showing the girls that they needn’t be afraid of being out in the dark.

It followed the same format as always. We set off from the village hall around 9:30pm, walked through the village, up a hill, along a ridge, admired the view, did a Promise ceremony, walked down a hill, through the village, and got back to the hall around midnight. The only thing different this year was the weather. It was moist and foggy so there wasn’t actually much view to admire, but we were lucky it wasn’t raining, as it had been for most of the day.

Back at the hall we enjoyed some lovely hot chocolate made by a leader who’d stayed there. The girls put their beds down, got into pyjamas, and settled down for chatter, games and nibbles. The leaders put out chairs and also settled down for chatter and nibbles. After an hour or two some of the girls (and adults) dropped off to sleep naturally, and we started shushing and settling the rest. I slept from about 2:00-6:30, which is better than some years!

In the morning we had cereal and toast for breakfast and the girls were collected at 8am. Another good night hike in the tried and tested way!

Hilltop picnic

It was a beautiful evening to be up on the downs

It was a beautiful evening to be up on the downs

It’s Flashback Friday!

My Guides started the summer term with a picnic for all the division at a local beauty spot.

The motivation was that we were passing on the county camp baton to the next division. It was like a relay in the run up to camp: the baton was passed round every division in the county, so the girls could see it and get thinking about camp. It visited my Guide unit before Easter.

We wanted the handover to include everyone in the division, and all sections, and a “bring your own picnic” evening worked out as the simplest option.

We were very lucky with the weather. You never know in April (or at any time of year, really!), and if it had been cold/raining/cloudy and therefore dark early, it could have been a bit miserable. Instead, it was glorious being up there at sunset.

There were probably a couple of hundred girls there, not every unit, but every section and every district was represented.

We gathered in a big circle for a welcome, then QGB and I led a game where they had to get into groups and make shapes. For example, “get into a group of 10 people, where not everyone is the same age, and make a bus”.

Then we broke off and had a picnic, then got back together at the end to hand over the baton to some leaders from another division. Did we sing anything? I can’t remember now!

I do remember I was glad that lots of my Guides came, including a few brand new ones. And that afterwards, the other Guide leaders and I drove to a village pub and had a nice hot chocolate and planned meetings up to half term.

Edible Easter beasties

On our penultimate meeting of term, the Guides decorated little chocolate eggs.

We gave them a selection of ready-to-roll marzipan (for a yellow colour), ready-to-roll icing (white, some of which we put food colouring in, and also pre-coloured.  This was really popular as it was cartoonishly bright), water icing (again, white and coloured.  We didn’t have much because I forgot that I’d said I’d make some up and bring it with me – oops, bad Guider.  But we did have about half a packet, which was good for cementing the eggs onto biscuit bases), writing icing, and some leftover sweets and marshmallows we had hanging around.

I was really impressed with their creations!  As you can see, we didn’t insist on an Easter theme…20150316_194410 20150316_194416 20150316_194536 20150316_194551 20150316_194632 20150316_194653 20150316_194713 20150316_195423 20150316_195431 20150316_193950 20150316_193956 20150316_194021 - Copy 20150316_194028 - Copy 20150316_194050 20150316_194101 20150316_194112 20150316_194352 20150316_194402

In other news, I now have a smartphone (hello, 21st century) with a whizzier camera than my old broken camera, so better pictures should be forthcoming.

That kept them entertained for about an hour.  For the final part of the evening, we showed the girls a “baton” that is touring every Guide unit in our county in preparation for the county international camp in the summer.  We read out a message from the County Commissioner that went with it, about how much she was looking forward to the camp.  Those who are going wrote messages about what they hoped to get from it and stuck them inside the baton (it has a screw-top lid and was probably once a hot chocolate powder pot).

To give the non-camping Guides something to do, and to get ahead with programme-planning, we also asked them to write down what they’d enjoyed most this term and what they would like to do next term.  We had a quick look through afterwards and a lot of the suggestions were our usual summer term activities, so it should be easy to please them!

A spooky assessment

A few weeks ago, I visited another Brownie pack holiday to assess a leader for her Going Away With… qualification.  I was interested to see the venue, as it was a place I’d heard of but never seen, a Girlguiding property just outside the county.

I must admit, I had mixed feelings about it.  The house itself was cosy, a bit old-fashioned but very comfortable and full of guiding decor and nicknacks, with plenty of communal space and a good-sized kitchen.  There was a grassy area outside with a campfire circle and space for running around or a few tents, and a track ran around the whole area, making a clear boundary.

However, I found getting to the house a bit spooky!  Maybe it was just because it was getting dark at the time, but it was in the middle of remote-feeling woodland with public footpaths running through it, and the drive went past lots of run-down buildings.  No obvious site warden…not sure I’d want to stay there except in high summer, but other leaders I’ve spoken to assure me that they’ve had perfectly good holidays there.

Anyway, this leader was doing a great job of running the holiday.  It was jungle-themed, and all the girls, Young Leaders and leaders seemed to be having a fun and relaxed time.

Wild West camp: day 6 (and last!)

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Thursday morning dawned bright and cool, and I stepped out of my tent to find the five bivouacking Guides sleeping snug and sound.  We took them hot drinks to tempt them to leave their cocoon – they all said they’d had the warmest and best night’s sleep they’d had all week, probably because they were covered in so many layers, and maybe also because it’s easier to stay up chatting in a tent than it is outside lying in a line pinned down by groundsheets!

The girls in the tipi had also slept well.  We joked that we wondered why we bothered with patrol tents at all!

Breakfast was one of my favourites, camp dreams, i.e. sandwiches dipped in pancake batter and fried.  The fillings were jam and cheese this time, but I’m also partial to chocolate spread – nom!

The girls weren’t due to leave until 5:30pm, since it was a weekday and we thought it might not be convenient for some parents to pick them up in the middle of the day.  We tried hard not to make the whole day feel like we were just waiting to go home, although it was obviously on everyone’s minds.

In the morning, we split the Guides into two groups.  Just for a change from the usual activity groups, which they’d been in most of the week, we divided it by age, with the 10-11s together and the 12-14s together.  One group finished their hobby horses, because it would be a shame to leave them unfinished, and also because Co-Activity Leader was adamant that she wasn’t going to take any broom handles or foam home!

I took the other group to make edible wagons.  I divided them again, so they were working in groups of 5-6 and gave them a selection of biscuits and sweets (including, of course, Wagon Wheels) and icing, and half an hour.  They came up with very inventive creations!  This one has a mobile jail…

Summer camp 2014 (106)

…and this one is being drawn by a horse, whose smiley face has partly fallen off.

Summer camp 2014 (107)

The groups swapped over, then we had squash and cake.

Then First Aider and I took the girls off-site to give the others a leaders a chance to clear up and take the remaining tents down.  We went to the campfire circle with pens, post-it notes and the cow-shaped laundry basket, and asked the girls to write their favourite thing about camp on one colour post-it, and something they would change on another colour, and feed them into the cow’s mouth.

Next, the Guides did a trail, finding bird pictures hanging in the bushes and writing the birds’ names in a grid.  When it was filled in correctly, a line of letters going downwards spelled ORNITHOLOGY.  The first, second and third groups to finish got to go up to be served first at lunchtime.  I made the trail for region camp last year, and kept the bird pictures and blank answer sheets in the hall – fortunately, I grabbed them at the last minute as a possible filler activity!

Then First Aider ran a game – something about being baby birds flying into nests, which continued the bird theme nicely! – while I gathered up the bird pictures and played hide-and-seek with FA’s three-year-old.  He soon realised that I was easy to find in the bushes because of my bright purple cardigan!

Lunch was a “cattle drive roundup”, i.e. finishing all the leftover food.  I forgot to mention that the QMs, when drawing up the menu, gave everything themed names, like “cowgirl casserole” and “Native American hotpot”.  As you can tell, I didn’t really keep track of what we were eating when – I knew that it would be tasty, whatever it was – so it became a running joke that whenever someone asked me what was for the next meal, I’d say “cowboy surprise”.

After lunch, the Guides did a litter sweep of the site.  This was very worthwhile, since as well as finding bits of rubbish – mainly water balloon fragments and the odd sweet wrapper – someone found a figurine that had dropped off QGB’s badge tab and would have been a shame to lose.

The Guides made a final trip to the campsite shop, and I went in for the first time all week and stocked up on badges for me and other leaders who had asked for them.  Then we went to our final activity, go-karting.

There were just two pedal go-karts and a little track, so we raced in pairs and timed everyone so we could work out the fastest.  With 24 girls and a one-hour session, there was only enough time for everyone to have one go, and there was a fair bit of sitting around.  We tried to keep everyone involved by counting down to start the race, and having a few Guides doing the timing and a couple on hand to give the karts a push in the uphill part of the track.  They were generally happy to watch and talk amongst themselves.  The senior section and older Guides were getting a bit uninterested and at first said they didn’t want a go, but the younger ones managed to talk them into it.

Oh, and there were a couple of minor collisions that caught everyone’s attention.  Despite me making sure everyone knew how to brake before they started, some Guides forgot it when they reached the slightly downhill part of the track…one hit the tyre wall, sending tyres flying spectacularly, and another took a corner too fast and rolled the kart.  I’m glad they have a few more years before they can drive cars!  Fortunately both were ok – I don’t want damaged Guides at any time, but especially not an hour before the end of camp, and especially not QGB’s licence camp!  I had a go too (soundly trouncing Co-Activity Leader), and to be fair, it was quite hard to remember to pull the brake handle in the heat of the moment.

Summer camp 2014 (113)

When our time was up, we went back to our campsite – now looking very bare – and got everyone in a circle for a final piece of cake (the QMs had paced it very well, so we just about got through it all) and a closing talk.  QGB gave out camper interest badges and the badges we had made, announced some prize winners, and thanked everyone; and we thanked her and gave her three cheers for doing such a spectacular job of running the show.

That brought us to the end.  The girls collected their belongings (including hobby horses), and found their parents.  The leaders took down the tipi and packed the last bits and bobs into vehicles.  We said our goodbyes – not too sentimentally, as we all see each other quite often – and headed off.  Those who live near our hall and camp store kindly returned equipment there.  QGB and I were the last to leave the site, and she dropped me off at home to an evening of unpacking, washing, and a very early night.  Real world rehab could wait till the next day.

There’s so much about camp that I haven’t included, because I forgot it, or forgot when it happened, or it would sound ridiculous if I tried to write it out, but I’m glad I’ve at least written the main things.  That was the point of this blog, really: to record what I do in guiding, so in future I can look back and remember it, because so much gets forgotten or blurred together.  I’ve enjoyed all the camps I’ve been on, but I do think this was one of the best, for a mixture of factors but especially the lovely people in my guiding family who I was lucky enough to share it with.

Wild West camp: day 5

On Wednesday we called in the cavalry.  We like to have a themed wide game day on camp, and months ago QGB had the inspired idea of asking the Rangers to run it.

There were many advantages to this: they could be involved in camp even though they weren’t there for the whole week; they got some planning and leadership experience and it counted towards their Octants; it took the pressure of the leaders at camp to some extent; the Guides got some fresh faces leading them, as they were no doubt fed up of us by that stage in the week; and the Guides got to see the joys that await them if they move up to Rangers.

QGB gave the Rangers and their leaders an idea of what was needed, they planned it over a couple of meetings in the summer term, there was much exchange over email and Facebook about equipment, timings, who was coming, etc. etc.  Much was at the last minute when we were already on camp, so thank goodness for QGB having a clever phone that lets her use email.

Before the day’s activities began, we had another delicious breakfast – was it pancakes?  Or hash browns? – with two highlights.  Firstly, Unit Helper finally finished the leftover jelly from several days before, which she had been dutifully having with every meal.  Secondly, one of my favourite lines of the week: we were getting the Guides to complete the lyrics to campfire songs before they could go up to be served.  When we were down to just a few, I tried one from We Are the Red Men.

Me: We come home from far-off shores, greeted by our…?

Guide: ?

QGB: What’s a name for a Native American wife?

Guide: Er…the old dun cow?

Before activities started, the Guides made their bedding rolls as usual, but instead of stacking them on their gadgets, they put all their bedding rolls and bags in the big party tent, dismantled their gadgets, and took out their brailer pegs.  Although we had one more night, we decided to take the patrol tents down today, to give us more time to pack up the rest of camp the next day, and because there was a chance of rain the next day.  Oh, and here’s another favourite line.

QGB: When you’ve taken the brailers out and cleaned them, you stack them up in twos, crossing over each other.

Guide: Yeah, we know, you stack them in a hashtag.

Who says camping skills aren’t relevant to modern life?

Sporting my feather headdress…and also my 5th-day-of-camp look

Sporting my feather headdress…and also my 5th-day-of-camp look

Three Rangers came to run the wide game, although more had helped with the preparations (I think we have about eight in total at the moment?).  They divided the Guides into two groups.  In the morning, half made Native American headdresses with feathers, beads and raffia (simple but went down well) and the other half played piñatas – wonderful home-made papier-mâché cow piñatas that it was sort of a shame to smash into smithereens – and then a Wild West version of the game I call “mafia” or “werewolves”: the one where a narrator tells people when to go to sleep and wake up and some people are murderers and the others have to try to work out who it is.  The Guides loved it – they’re just at the stage where Wink Murder is no longer quite as exciting as it used to be, and this is the cool teenage next step up.

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The pinatas before…

...during...

…during…

...and after.

…and after.

We had squash and cake, the groups swapped, and then it was lunchtime.  Lunch was one of QGB’s favourite activities: cooking on trangias.  She led assembling-and-dismantling-your-trangia relay races, then the Guides fried sausages, heated sweetcorn, and mixed Angel Delight for pudding.  Yum!  This was followed by a long washing up time to get all the burnt bits off the trangias.

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In the afternoon, the wide game continued.  Again, we really appreciated having the Rangers there to run it, as it meant that some of the leaders could take down the patrol tents, and others (including me) could finish scrubbing the trangias and reunite all the parts, and fill up water balloons for later.  I felt a bit strange not seeing so much of the girls that day, but that must be what the QMs and QGB felt like all week.

In the wide game, one group of Guides went into the woods and made shelters out of groundsheets and string, and the other group did initiative exercises, passing each other through a spider’s web and lassoing a cow-shaped laundry basket (this was the “nuclear waste” challenge where you’re not allowed inside the enclosure and you have to get it out by throwing ropes around it, pulling tight and lifting as a team).  The teams swapped activities, and then they had a water fight (yes, the second of the week) with the shelters they’d made.  Each group had to get inside their shelter and they were given an equal number of water balloons.  The Rangers released one group at a time to go to the other shelters and pelt them with water balloons.  It was quite clever, because they had to decide how many balloons they would take to throw at other groups, and how many they would keep to throw in retaliation when they were under attack.  A whistle helped with keeping order, and at the end, Co-Activity Leader and I were there to make sure no group left the area until all the shelters were dismantled and all the bits of balloon were picked up.

    There are Guides in there somewhere.

There are Guides in there somewhere.

Then it was time for squash and cake and getting dry, and everyone said a big thank you to the Rangers.  They did us a great favour, did a super job, and I think learned a bit about planning and running activities.

The Guides had some time to do final practising for the evening cabaret, then it was dinner (er…something tasty…I’m writing this several weeks after camp and the details are getting hazy) and time for the evening entertainment.  It was good fun, and featured:

  • a “fashion show” – the Senior Section patrol dressed up one of the QMs, who was a very good sport, in a ridiculous outfit involving a swimsuit and a tutu, and paraded her for all to see
  • a cowgirl-themed play
  • First Aider’s five-year-old singing “ten fat sausages sizzling in the pan, one went pop and the other went bang, eight fat sausages etc.”, holding a frying pan with modelling balloons and popping them with his fork.  We all sang along and it was adorable.
  • The yoga class skit, where Guides sit on top of other Guides who are lying down, so that it looks like they have super-flexible legs
  • A medley of songs, with the lyrics changed to be camp-relevant.  Although it was upbeat, we leaders found it quite moving, as it was full of the guiding spirit and made us proud.  We captured it on video the next day.
  • The leaders’ act.  We jokingly complain about the plays that the Guides make up, because they’re often purposeless, improvised, too long, and hilarious only to the performers…and ours that night was all of those things!  We started off singing Three wheels on my wagon, carrying a box back and forth, and dropping pan lids as the wheels fell off, and then we sang a hastily-written song about camp duties to the tune of We Are the Red Men (“Pow wow, pow wow, can you come for your duties now?” etc.).  The Guides gamely laughed (probably at us) and clapped (probably with relief).  All part of the fun!

Since we had packed up the patrol tents, most of the Guides slept in the tipi, with a few choosing to sleep under the stars (and under lots of layers of blankets and groundsheets).  We tucked everyone in and said goodnight, and then the leaders had a session signing off as much as possible in QGB’s residential qualification book and discussing our favourite parts of camp, and things we would change.  I was pleased when one of the QMs said she was impressed by the variety of evening activities.  We made a valiant effort to finish all the snacks and “leader juice” we’d brought, but eventually had to admit defeat and go to bed.