It was Friday evening, and the majority of WWESU and TESU had gathered at Scout Park, complete with rucksacks, walking boots, and all the usual kit; it was time for our ‘practice summer camp’ camp, organised by Phil. In other words, this was the dry-run for Switzerland. This was your chance to forget your extra fleece, or to not know how to put up a patrol tent, or to realise that maybe you’re not quite up to that extra-challenging hike – all so that, when we actually get to KISC, you’re ready.
So. It was Friday, we were at Scout Park, and the minibuses had arrived. Megan was holed up in the shed as usual, shouting out the occasional request of ‘can someone find the aprons/axes/fairy lights?’ (as you can see, we have all the essentials covered). The rest of the Explorers milled around, lugging all our group kit out of the sheds, while some had the more challenging job of Tetris-packing it all into the van. This included all the food for the weekend: 96 hot dog rolls, an industrial sized box of jelly babies, over 50 tinned sausages, and some half price mushrooms, among other things.
Finally, the van was full, and we all piled on to the minibuses, ready for the drive down to Buddens Scout Centre in Dorset.
3½ hours and one service-station-adventure later, we arrived, and quickly got to work unpacking the kit and putting up the tents. Despite the rapidly darkening skies, we were able to get camp sorted out and all the kit stored away pretty quickly, spurred on by the thought of the supper that was waiting for us when we were done. After that, it was time for bed, in preparation for the next day’s hike.
“It was 1am, and we were walking back from the toilets to the campsite (it was a 10 minute trek, mind you – we timed it), so obviously it was pitch black and we only had three headtorches between the seven of us. So, of course, Nat took this opportunity to see if my soul could leave my body, by whispering ‘don’t look behind you’ into my ear.
Let’s just say Usain Bolt now has competition from a certain member of Wild Wolf.”
The next morning, we awoke to the promise of a rain-free day, much to everyone’s relief – it’s common knowledge that hiking in the rain is never a good thing.
Soon, after breakfast, flag break, and tent inspection, we loaded ourselves and our day bags on to the minibuses and were off to the hike’s starting point. This turned out to be the top of a hill next to a military firing range (“don’t go past the red flag and you’ll be fine…”).
Fortunately, despite the rather dense fog, all the groups managed to set off without trespassing on to Ministry of Defence territory. (Because we all know how much paperwork that would have caused…).
Several hours later, and the hike had gained a mixture of responses; although in some places it was ridiculously steep, walking along the coast provided some beautiful scenery for us to enjoy.
“Coastal paths. Beautiful, scenic views. Energetic and enthusiastic youths inhaling fresh sea air. But steps. WHY. (Please forgive the minimalist style; I’m feeling genuinely out of breath thinking about them). Imagine a JLS V-neck – plunging straight from the cliff top to beach level and back up again.
But I digress. This is meant to be about my camp highlight. Yet somehow, despite the appearance to the contrary, this was. My patrol’s enthusiastic rendition of our song and steely determination got us up those steps and all the way to the finish, via a fantastic recreation of ‘The Titanic’. As exhausted as we were at that point, we persevered and I felt extremely proud of my patrol bounding ahead of me, as I forced my undersized legs up the steps.
(Actually no. Scrap JLS. Think Ross’ custom Denmark T-shirt).”
“As one of the the newer Explorers, I thought this was a great introduction to WWESU. My favourite moment was during the hike, when at one of the checkpoints my patrol was challenged to make a promotional video for Wild Wolf. After pondering the task for a while, we decided that the natural course of action was a Titanic-themed film with positive comments provided throughout by Lawrence (who played the Spirit of WWESU, of course). I played Jack, while Joe was Rose.”
Eventually, after a long day of hiking, all the patrols made it back to camp, where we constructed a BBQ for dinner. Several Explorers decided that this was the perfect opportunity to go swimming in the FREEZING COLD campsite lake, and engage in some water acrobatics – whether this was crazy or brave I’m still not entirely sure.
“After many strenuous hours of hiking, we returned to camp and were greeted with the opportunity of jumping into a cold and slimy lake – which, as can only be expected from Explorers, many of us took eagerly. The most memorable part of that swim was when we attempted to make a human pyramid – arguably a bad idea, but very entertaining nonetheless. Marlon, Ross and Simpson made a stable base and Anton (‘I’m very slippery…’), Lawrence, and I attempted to climb on top – successfully, I might add. Eventually, we all tumbled down, and decided that that was enough cold water for one day.”
Later that evening, once everyone had eaten, we gathered round the campfire for a reflection on how the camp had gone, and ways in which we could improve for Kandersteg.
“As a newbie at Wild Wolf, I didn’t think I could accomplish much, but this camp proved me wrong. I hiked further than I ever have before, and feel like I achieved a lot of things I would never have expected to otherwise.”
On Sunday morning, we quickly got to work packing up camp and doing various other jobs, such as the industrial production of packed lunches for everyone – let’s just say, 100 sandwiches uses up A LOT of bread and butter.
After that, we were off again – this time to Poole, to get the ferry to Brownsea Island, the site of the first Scout camp. Once there we recreated the Unit photo from the last time WWESU visited Brownsea, which has been up in our shed since about forever (well, since before I joined the Unit, at least). We were given maps, and told to explore by ourselves for an hour. So, of course, we headed straight to the natural playground, where we sat down for a snack and to appreciate the peaceful beauty of the island. Once our hour of free time was up, we gathered back at the Scout Stone, for a review of camp and what we’d learnt. The responses were a mixture of though-provoking and hilarious!
“Having only been to one other camp with Explorers, I didn’t expect to enjoy the time not spent doing activities as much as I did. The first time I went on a camp, I’d been very new and not socialised with the Unit much, so when not building rafts or playing games I’d awkwardly not known what to do with myself. Since then, I’ve grown more as a person, and the fun I had while not even doing organised activities proves that. I don’t know if it was the scenery or the campfire – maybe both – but I had an amazing time, with people I can now call friends.”
We then realised that our boat back to Poole was leaving very soon, which resulted in an undignified dash back to the ferry – luckily, we made it just in time.
Soon, we were back on the mainland, and ready to head home to London, after an amazing – and useful – camp.
“I really surprised myself this trip, and made some great new friends. Although climbing the hills was extremely exhausting, the sense of achievement I felt at reaching the top was really rewarding, and the views were beautiful. Brownsea Island was also amazing – especially the natural playground and all the wonderful wildlife.
Once of the highlights was, without doubt, spending time around the campfire, and being sung ‘Happy Birthday’ by the whole Unit. This trip has definitely introduced me to Scouting in the best kind of way, and taught me some things about myself too!”