What comes to mind when you think of Easter? Bunnies, too much chocolate, a few treasured days off work? Well, our Easter weekend was spent up in the Lake District, tackling activities such as sailing, canoeing, hiking and outdoor climbing.
Thursday evening saw us heading up the M1 (along with what felt like half of London – turns out Bank Holiday traffic adds quite a bit of travelling time to Google Maps predictions!), as we drove to Great Tower campsite near Windermere. Having eventually reached the Lake District, we sped along the narrow country lanes, determined to make it to the campsite before the end of the day – we arrived with one minute to spare at 11:59pm. Time for bed? You might think so, but first we needed somewhere to sleep; after grabbing our headtorches, we quickly set about unloading kit and pitching our brand new bell tents (a very exciting experience after years of leaky patrol tents). Despite having had a day at school and an almost seven hour drive, all the Explorers got involved with admirable enthusiasm, working together to get the job done. Soon we were able to collapse into our sleeping bags, looking forward to the next few days.
Approximately seven hours later we were standing on parade, ready for a full day of activities. We headed off to Ambleside, where half the group spent the morning practising their navigation, while the other half challenged themselves with some outdoor climbing, which we all enjoyed. Then it was time for a lunch of wraps, falafel, humous, and sweet chilli sauce (a WWESU classic) before the groups swapped activities for the afternoon. Eventually we headed back to camp, everyone really pleased with what they had achieved – whether that was completing a hike, conquering a particularly difficult climb, or learning how to take a bearing.
Saturday saw us really taking advantage of the beautiful Lake District countryside, with two groups making it up to the (very windy!) summit of the Old Man of Coniston, while the less experienced groups completed other hikes in the area. Despite a couple of snow flurries (at Easter?! Crazy), the weather stayed pretty good, allowing us to appreciate some stunning views.
Once back at camp it was time for a tent inspection (with generally positive results…) and an Easter Egg hunt – it was Easter weekend, after all! Clutching a torch and stumbling around in the dark in a Cumbrian wood may not be the usual way of doing an Easter Egg hunt, but we still had plenty of fun.
Our last full day on camp, Sunday presented lots of new experiences for us to try. Half the Unit did either canoeing or sailing on Lake Windermere – and, with no capsizes, it was pretty successful! The other group spent their morning running around the Great Tower campsite orienteering course, before heading in to Ambleside for some free time (the main attraction being, of course, the Alpkit shop). After a picnic lunch on the shores of Windermere, we swapped activities for the afternoon.
After a busy day we returned to camp in style: the orienteering groups thundering down the path to our site, the watersports group in a minibus with bright orange canoes strapped to the roof. We then set about dismantling camp as much as possible, in preparation for our early departure on Monday. Under the able instruction of the Patrol Leaders, we took down the jurte, one bell tent, and packed up most of the other kit.
Enthusiastic shouts of ‘THE FOOD IS HERE’ heralded the arrival of Sunday’s dinner: 37 portions of fish and chips from a local shop. Wearing many many fleeces (it was very cold), we tucked in to our much-anticipated dinner. Having finished eating, our chilled evening around the fire quickly turned into an impromptu dance session (think Cha-Cha Slide, the Macarena, YMCA – you get the idea). Eventually, we all drifted off to our tents for our last night on camp.
On Monday morning we woke to the ominous sound of rain hitting the canvas above us. However, having packed up all our personal kit and emerged from our tents, we discovered that it was in fact snow! The slushy ice clinging to the bell tents added an interesting element to our take down of camp, but eventually we squeezed the tents into their bags, heaved the barrels up the steep hill to the van, and distributed all the spare snacks among the Explorers.
We then set off for our last adventure of camp: paintballing. By this point the snow had turned into heavy rain, and, driving very slowly down a bumpy farm track, we were all slightly apprehensive about what the next few hours would entail. After arriving at the reception and pulling overalls over our many waterproof layers, we heard the safety briefing, received our guns, and headed out onto the course. The next few hours were spent embracing the competitive spirit and splattering each other with yellow paint, which we all thoroughly enjoyed! And, in the end, the rain just added to the atmosphere. It was a brilliant conclusion to a great camp, before we hit the motorway again for the long ride home.
A huge thank you to our Leaders for organising such a fun camp – we all had a great time, especially enjoying the chance to try lots of new activities. Thanks as well to Ryan, a Leader from Kidderminster, who met us back in February and decided to come up for Easter Camp – we hope you liked seeing a bit of what this crazy Unit is all about!