WWESU in Yorkshire: Winter Camp 2017

Nestled at the foot of Pen y Ghent, one of Yorkshire’s Three Peaks, Halton Gill was the setting for the 2012 remake of ‘The Woman in Black’. Thankfully, however, the hostel where we spent the past weekend seemed to be relatively ghost-free. Last Friday evening we set off from Scout Park for the long drive up there, for a weekend of exploration in the Yorkshire Dales. True to the Scout Law (“A Scout makes good use of time…”) we spent the journey engaged in worthy and intellectual pursuits, whether that was constructing a speech on gender identity, writing an essay on gothic literature, or sewing recently earned badges onto shirts. The rapidly growing darkness presented little problem, as we simply produced headtorches and continued (“Be Prepared”, right?). Approximately six hours later we pulled up outside our destination – a hostel quickly identified as ‘one of the classiest we’ve ever been to’ by Marlon. The presence of a drying room, pool table, and – I kid you not – a sauna, quickly confirmed this fact.

The Patrol Leaders helped to plan the hikes for Saturday

The next day we arose bright and early (well, ‘early’ at least. The ever-present fog quickly disputed the ‘bright’ element.) After a full English breakfast we headed off into the hills! We were split up into different groups, each attempting to summit one of the Three Peaks. Some of the Explorers have shared their experiences of the hikes:

“We had a totally spiffing time – the rain, hail and snow just added to the all round joyous atmosphere. The highlight was the luminous orange survival shelter that we luncheoned in, complete with Michelin star standard ham rolls (courtesy of us in the Whales Patrol…). We hiked for what seemed like twice round the hill, although with the shockingly poor visibility our sense of direction left a lot to be desired. However, despite contradictory appearances, it was my favourite hike to date.”

– Amy, whose team hiked up Ingleborough

Amy’s team on top of Ingleborough

“Today on our hike we had a great adventure. Not only did we do 20km instead of 14km, we also got very cold! It all started when we were heading down from Pen y Ghent with quite poor visibility and quite bad weather. Yep, you guessed it – we got lost. We got to a turning… and went 5km in the wrong direction. Someone (Nick, we’re looking at you…) said that we had to go to a further junction, when in reality we had missed the junction already! It was a very chilly experience, but despite that we still had a lot of fun.”

– Ned, whose team hiked up Pen y Ghent… and then hiked some more… and some more…

The great scenery provided welcome distraction from the cold weather!

Once we returned, our numbness turning to shivers, we had time for a quick try out of the sauna, before launching into our Burns’ Night celebration (yes, a bit late, we know…). It also happened to be Ellie’s 17th birthday, so she’s recounted the evening below:

“In celebration of Burns’ Night and our upcoming Summer Camp in Scotland, we dined on traditional haggis with neeps and tatties, as well as having a ceilidh. As always, we executed the different Scottish dances with typical WWESU enthusiasm, even if we had no idea what the dances were meant to look like. Dinner was led with a toast to the lassies and response, which up-and-coming public speaker Ned and our poet-in-residence Marsha expertly performed. Then came the ‘Address to the Haggis’, delivered in some rather interesting Scottish accents. When we were finally allowed to eat, there were mixed reactions to the food, although many people discovered the deliciousness of the beautiful haggis. Dinner was finished, cleaning was done, and washing up was completed. As we all chilled in the common room the lights suddenly switched off and a chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’ accompanied cake and candles being carried into the room. I blew out the candles and everyone enjoyed the cake on what will be a very memorable birthday for me.”

Everyone (well, nearly everyone!) enjoyed the Burns’ Night dinner

On Sunday morning we woke to find the surrounding hills blanketed in a layer of snow, a rare sight for us snow-deprived Londoners. We had breakfast and quickly cleaned up the hostel ready for our departure. Of course, on the day we weren’t hiking, we now had perfect visibility and beautiful sunshine, in contrast to yesterday’s fog and hail.

We all found the snow a bit of a novelty!

Once all the kit was sufficiently packed into the minibuses, the excess biscuits distributed, and the debris of 35 Explorers cleared away, we hit the road again and drove over to York, where we’d be spending the majority of the day. Lawrence has written about what we got up to there:

“After leaving the hostel that morning, we took a short drive to York. Arriving at the National Railway Museum shortly after, it was hard to contain the bubbly excitement of Tom, who took great pleasure in showing us around his second home (#tomlovestrains). Joking aside, we all enjoyed walking between the vast trains, as well as looking at all the railway memorabilia collected by the museum. Having spent a while admiring, we ate a quick lunch, before heading for the city centre.

The chance to pose with a bear was too great to pass up…

Here the fiendish Explorers and Leaders were let loose into York, vigorously cuddling teddy bears, somersaulting down streets and in one case taking an unintentional shower of hot chocolate. Once our time was up, we headed back to the meeting point near the impressive Minster, and walked back to the minibuses ready for the long drive back to Scout Park.”

Thanks to Tom for organising such a great camp!

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