This year’s Autumn Camp took us to Danemead Scout Campsite in Hertfordshire. We took a spin on the traditional WWESU style Autumn camp, ditching the comfort of minibuses and making our way to our Survival Camp via train and night hike….
After a staggered congregation at Scout Park, we headed off to Bowes Park Station in our groups, ladened with exped bags on our backs. A quick train ride took us out to Bayford, where we were challenged with the first task of the weekend; navigating to Danemead in the dark! Head torches on, and we were off… An hour of hiking later we strode into the campsite, very ready to tuck into some dinner. That evening brought our only night of luxury on camp, as we cooked dinner on trangias and slept in tents.
We struck our tents bright and early on Saturday morning, followed by breakfast of porridge and brioche. And so began the true survival portion of Autumn Camp. Each of us were presented with a Mora knife, which would help us in our survival endeavours. Everyone practiced whittling some sticks to get us acquainted with our new knives, and to ensure we knew how to safely use them. In addition to this, we also learnt how to properly saw, and use axes. These skills would become essential in preparing the fire for our dinner that evening. After a bite to eat at midday, we began building our very own survival shelters. Long branches were lashed to two trees creating a bar, in which other branches could be leant against it. This structure was reinforced with more twigs in a criss-cross pattern. Unimaginable quantities of ferns were then loaded onto the shelter for insulation, before being waterproofed by mulch.
The time soon came for dinner preparation. 15 partridges and 3 rabbits had been hung earlier in the morning, so we took them down and began plucking and skinning them, ready to go in delicious stews. It was a time consuming process, but eventually we had the meat extracted, vegetables prepared and huge fires burning away. As the stews cooked, a wide game was played in the woods. The game was done just in time to tuck into the scrumptious stews, including a butternut squash option, and mountains of creamy mash. The night was concluded with steaming hot chocolate and toasted marshmallows round the remaining embers.
We awoke from our slumber by natural daylight on Sunday morning, after our nights in our shelters. Luckily we were spared a rainy night, so our shelter’s waterproofing was not tested. It was amazing to see the beautiful Danemead woodland the moment you opened your eyes, and everyone was reminded why we love Scouting, and being outdoors. The fires were immediately restarted in order to cook bannock bread for breakfast. The sweet dough is twisted around whittled sticks and held over the flames to cook, before being adorned by golden syrup and a multitude of other toppings.
As Sunday was World Mental Health Day, we spent the morning doing some relaxing activities. We made and drank peppermint tea, stretched, meditated and went on a mindfulness walk, focusing on grounding ourselves in the present moment and not in past or future worries.
After lunch, we dismantled our shelters, making sure to leave no trace, returning everything to where it was found. Groups then left site, navigating back to Bayford Station to return to Scout Park, satisfied with some new and exciting skills learnt this weekend.