If you missed the Family Camp this year read on.....
It was with some trepidation that I set off for Milton Bryan with my son Louis on the Friday night. We’d packed all the kit according to instructions and enough clothing to cope with anything that the weather could throw at us – from heatwaves to blizzards. It was our second Family Camp – having attended at Chalfont Heights two years ago. That time we brought our own tiny two-man tent but this time the 2nd Harpenden generously supplied us with something a bit more comfortable (thank God!). To my eternal shame I made a real hash of pitching it but it did the job and kept the pair of us safe and dry and occasionally warm too!
We joined the rest of the group for the flag-raising ceremony and there were lots of us: ninety or so from 25 different families. We were split into four teams and a series of ‘Break The Ice’ games were played – initially a set of 'would you rather' questions. As a result we discovered who would choose a proper night’s sleep over a cold shower (fortunately I can report that the shower facilities at Milton Bryan were nice and hot).
The following day, the team system became all important as we competed in a range of events. There was raft building – cobbling together a sea-worthy vessel from six planks of wood, four plastic drums and ropes of various lengths; paracord bracelet making; stomp rocket construction and launching and, of course, the action-packed ‘Sports Day’. If there’s an Olympic event where teams of four have to collectively walk in single file sharing two long planks strapped to each of their feet, I sense Harpenden will be able to field several teams.
All of these activities were not just fun (and often informative) for the children – the adults got a lot out of them as well. The afternoon concluded with a raft race using the vessels that we’d built earlier that day. All of them stayed afloat and none of them were responsible for tipping their crews in the water – they did that of their own accord! It was immensely satisfying to see my son paddling across the lake with his friends – when else, in today’s world, would he get the chance to experience such a thing? He could probably recreate it in Minecraft (he probably has already) but to actually do it is a memory that he will treasure.
In the evening, scout legend Ray showed us all how to start a fire with some flint and tinder. Within seconds he produced a stunning inferno that blazed away by the side of the lake – the perfect backdrop for the songs and stories that entertained us all. Hot chocolates, marshmallows – even a visit from the International Space Station flying overhead – all played their part in making everything just perfect.
On the Sunday we built ovens out of foil and cardboard boxes and then made and cooked scones. Well, some scones were cooked, others were slightly overdone as a few of the boxes ignited into infernos that dwarfed Ray's from the previous evening. However, there were enough good ones left for everyone to enjoy a well-earned homemade cream tea after a hearty walk around Woburn (the safe bit).
After a thorough tidy-up with all teams pulling together, it was time to lower the flag and head home. Congratulations to the Orange team for being the best overall - but we all felt like winners after a such a great weekend. The activities were immensely pleasurable but I also think we all enjoyed the camaraderie when the teams had to pull together for their chores. Who's ever eaten a better lasagne than the one that Valerie and the Silver team produced on Saturday night?!
Massive thanks to Phil Murray and his incredible team of Scout Leaders for all their hard work - their enthusiasm, dedication and smiling faces made Milton Bryan the special scouting experience that it was. Our tans may fade but the memories won't - can't wait for the next one!