Sunday, December 16, 2007

Xmas Party

Above : "Weebles wobble but they don't fall down"

The weekend of the annual Fordell staff party, a chance to relax and enjoy some fine food and entertainment after a busy year. This year, a few different events had been arranged and things kicked off saturday morning with a thorough testing of the new sumo suits / inflatable gladiators arena / giant boxing gloves. These had arrived the weekend before and obviously needed to be extensively evaluated before being used for paying customers.

Above : Some of the staff looking a bit bloated after eating too much at the meal

After lunch the first ever Fordell Xmas Archery Competition took place. Around 15 took part, and after an hour of intense competition and underhand tactics, Ali was declared the winner overall. The event looks likely to take place annually, giving the less-gifted ones a whole year to improve or work out how to manipulate the scoring system.

A quick trip to Dalgety Bay followed for the actual Christmas meal, which was attended by over 20 and judged a success by all. After returning to Fordell, Pete Merckel (site quartermaster) gave a great slide presentation on his recent trip to Everest basecamp as part of the 7 summits expedition, after which he was presented with a few gifts to mark his upcoming retiral from his role at the site in January after many years of service.

The rest of the evening/early morning was spent with the traditonal socialising / music / karaoke (playstation-style) and pretending to be a guitar-hero with the amazing Wii (with various degrees of success).

A fairly relaxed sunday (although some crazy explorer scouts wanted some outdoor activities which had to be provided despite the freezing cold), and it was time for a few weeks break for most and chance to recover before another busy year.

Sunday, December 09, 2007


Above : Annual Fordell silly grin competition winner.

Several days of torrential rain led to the difficult decision to cancel one the of the main events of the year, the 'Final Countdown'. This was part of the '12 camps of 2007' and had been intended to be an action-packed weekend camp for Explorer scouts from across the country; however due to the weather it was decided that the camping areas were far too wet to host the event and it was cancelled midweek. A few local explorer scouts did come in for the weekend, however, and ran their own activities from the relative warmth of the Richmond Chalet.

Above : Dave, Ginga and Stevie playing Giant Jenga

The weather was fairly dry on saturday, although the fields were waterlogged, and the staff spent the day carrying out a number of tasks on site (moving wood, trimming trees). Things got much busier in the evening when the heavy rain returned and an SOS was received from the Explorers in the Richmond Chalet that they were being flooded out. A crack response-unit was despached from the staffhut armed with spades, torches (well one) and sandbags (well bags of rocksalt), and an hour later had managed to clear up the flood and divert the water elsewhere.
In restrospect, it was realised that the correct decision had been made to cancel the camp, as it would have been chaotic if there had been hundreds of people camping on the saturday night.

Above : Emergency Response Unit in action. Bright light at top RHS is Ali - as the only person with a headtorch, he was assigned the role of Emergency Lamppost.

Sunday was altogether more relaxing with no major incidents and the only drainage problem being a significant leak from the staff urn during the day of approximately 10 cups/hour.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Scottish Conference 2007

Above : Despite a complete lack of snow, the Scottish Olympic hopefuls pressed on with their training session on the sunday morning.

An impressive turnout from the Fordell staff this weekend with a total of 17 helpers over the two days to assist with a couple of big events. First up was a visit from a local youth football club (Kelty), who arrived on saturday lunchtime for 4 hours of activities. Most of the site's activities were on offer and despite the threat of rain early on everything went well before the early demise of the sun just before 5pm called a halt to the fun.

A total of around 80 youngsters took part in the day, along with a healthy group of club coaches, helpers and parents. In between bases, each group had the chance to have some food which had been prepared by the adults - the first group of kids rather amusingly helping themselves to all the meat sandwiches and leaving the rest with the less-popular cheese ones.

After 4 hours of activities the group moved to the wet weather hall where the club coaches had an award ceremony to give out the season's trophies.

Above : All shook up - young Elvis fan gets carried away during team-building base at Aviemore.

On the sunday, the staff split into two (not literally of course) with 8 going up to run a teambuilding session at the Scottish Scout Conference in Aviemore and the others taking care of the usual work on site.
After an unheard-of early departure of 7am, the teambuilders arrived in Aviemore just after 9am and set about setting up their equipment in the carpark of the hotel. From 10am till lunchtime the staff entertained nearly 100 youngsters who were taking part in the conference with 5 different bases requiring various forms of teamwork, agility and balance, while a bemused long-distance lorry driver watched on in wonder.

Above : Innovative youngsters demonstrate their idea for the new Forth crossing to interested politicians.

After lunch, the Fordell staff participated in the 'marketplace', where a number of different activity centres and organisations had the opportunity to showcase their products and services in the main exhibition area of the hotel. A fairly sharp exit was required in order to get back down to the site and finish off a few tasks, so it wasn't possible to catch the end of the conference, but most of the staff had the chance to wander round the other bases and stalls in the hotel first.

Arriving back at Fordell just after 4pm, the teambuilders were pleasantly surprised to find most of the jobs already completed, leaving them with just the task of checking that the tea urn was still working properly and performing a statutory taste test.

Monday, November 19, 2007

GNAS Archery Leader course

Above : Course tutor Derek passing on top shooting tips to the class.

Although it's been a fairly quiet month in terms of campers and visitors, the centre has been hosting a few training courses which have been well-attended. A weekend emergency first-aid course run by staff member Brian last weekend was sandwiched between a 2-part GNAS Archery Leader course which has been a regular feature over the past few years.

The archery course is run over 4 days, the first 3 being training and the final one being an assessment. Local archery guru Derek was the main tutor as before, with regional coach Frank coming all the way down from Aberdeen on the sunday for the umpteenth time to assess the candidates.

12 people attended the course in total - a mixture of staff from Fordell and Auchengillan activity centres, regular site users Fairbridge (Edinburgh), one local leader and local guy Steve who is planning on starting up an archery club at his childrens' primary school soon.

Above : No James, I think you'll find that your arrows are the ones which are lying on the ground next to the target.

In a pretty intensive few days, Derek covered a huge range of sessions including shooting technique, coaching, equipment selection and maintenance and safety. In between the two weekends the course members had the chance to improve their technique before the assessment and also brush up on the theory side of things.

Above : Shortsighted Tristan from Auchengillan aims for the yellow, which turns out to be the sun. Surprisingly, he hits it first time but receives minor burns whilst retrieving it.

By the assessment weekend all the participants had managed to improve their own techniques considerably, now regularly hitting the target gold instead of the rest of the target / safety net / wet weather hall roof girders (delete as applicable).

After the formal training part of the course was over, some of the residentual members took the opportunity to watch Scotland's Euro 2008 hopes evaporate, although one particular course member from a well-known west-coast activity centre had the embarrassment of having to be rescued from the roof of the staffhut after trying to retrieve his football (not that we'd be cruel enough to post a photo here)

Above : Bob catches Auchengillan staff member red-handed, trying to steal the roof off the staff-hut.

On the sunday, assessor Frank spent several hours testing everyone's knowledge and practical ability, and remarked that the group had been one of the best he'd seen in recent times. All participants received their Archery Leader award and will now be entitled to instruct sessions on their own using the skills picked up during the course.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Beaver Sleepover / Indian Rope Trick

Above : The Beavers set up their base camp in the wet weather hall, where they would rest overnight before starting their expedition to the site tuckshop the following morning.

The main event of this weekend was the national Beaver Sleepover which saw over 30 beaver scouts plus their leaders and some parents arriving on saturday afternoon for 24 hours of fun and games, including the chance to camp in proper tents, albeit within the safety of the wet weather hall. This turned out to be the best option by far, as saturday night saw some wild weather which soaked the outside campers; a SSAGO group from St. Andrews University and staff member Henry's scout group from Dunfermline. Apart from this brief spot of bad weather, the rest of the weekend was good with all activities going ahead as normal. Despite having had a relatively sleepless night due to the novelty of having their first camp (and no doubt too much fizzy juice and sugary sweets), the beavers were out of their 'campsite' early sunday morning for several hours of activities including archery before being picked up mid-afternoon to go home for a proper sleep to ensure they didn't spend the next day at school sleeping.

Above : Indian Rope Trick. Ali amazes Dave with his levitation skills.

As there weren't too many activity sessions over the weekend, the Fordell staff were unsure what to do work-wise instead, but in a moment of inspiration on Friday night someone suggested that it would be good idea to enhance the climbing tower a bit by adding a 'rope ladder' of some form to the overhanging side (as if it wasn't hard enough for some already).

On saturday afternoon a suitable hefty rope was soon found in Ye Olde Rope Store and after a few experiments a knotted rope was added to the tower. Unfortunately none of the staff present were fit/agile/light enough to try it out (the best attempt getting 2 feet off the ground), so it was left to a birthday party group to become the first to try it out, most of the kids climbing effortlessly to the top. Feedback from them was good - they enjoyed climbing the rope more than using the holds on the wall - so the new addition looks set to stay.

Above : (Left) Bob wonders how he is going to carry out the necessary weight/stress tests on the new rope. (Right) Problem solved!

Sunday, September 30, 2007


Above : Rare archive photograph of Zulu warriors preparing for battle.

After a few fairly normal weekends, campers at Fordell had a bit of excitement this Sunday as Bob the warden laid on a flagbreak with a difference. It is a fairly well-known fact that his favourite film of all time is the epic 'Zulu', which tells the true story of how a small group of Welsh Guards overcame a huge Zulu army in South Africa in 1879.

Enlisting the help of dozens of cubs and scouts, Bob managed to perfectly recreate the final battle scene on flagpole hill (AKA Rorke's Drift), after telling them all about the history of the battle and the lessons which they could take from it. The Welsh Guards were made up mainly of Scouts, who treated the bystanders to a very out-of-tune-but-vaguely-recognisable version of 'Men of Harlech'. The Zulus, in contrast, were made up of Cubs who seemed to have spent most of the Saturday making spears and shields for the event.

Above : Standoff between Zulu warriors (left) and Welsh Guards (right) at Rorke's Drift.

In keeping with the historical records, the Welsh Guards managed to successfully defeat the Zulu army, with the exception of one cub who refused to give up and crawled across flagpole hill to assault the Scouts with his cardboard spear, much to everyones amusement. Those who missed out on this exciting event will be pleased to hear that it will run again on a random sunday, next year sometime.

Above : New self-fastening neckie, being tested by beaver scouts.

After the battle had died down, the cubs and scouts swapped their battle gear for bows, arrows and climbing harnesses and spent the morning taking part in more normal site activities.

Later in the morning, a huge army of Dunfermline District beavers arrived on site for a funday which lasted all afternoon. The beavers were split into small groups with an adult helper and went round the site taking part in lots of different bases. The most popular by far seemed to be in the wet weather hall, where a local pet shop had brought along a selection of reptiles for the beavers to see. Unlike most of the leaders, the Beavers seemed perfectly happy to handle the reptiles, especially the snake which seemed to be showing off by tying herself in some complicated knots, all without referring to any knot/pioneering books!

That's all for now, though visitors to Fordell next weekend should note that on Sunday morning Bob will be re-enacting the classic film '20000 Leagues under the Sea', so please bring full diving gear and cardboard submarine with you.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Gilwell Reunion

Above: Main exhibition area in "The Lid" at Gilwell.

Each year a few staff and Fellowship members travel down to the Scout Association's headquarters at Gilwell Park, outside London, to take part in the Gilwell Reunion and promote the centre and Scottish Scouting. This year was the 81st reunion and was well attended by many current and former scout leaders from all over the UK and beyond.

After rising at the ridiculous hour of 4am the team departed Fordell just after 5am armed with a car-load of display materials, some refreshments and vague directions to Gilwell. Many hours, stops and the odd unintended detour later, they arrived at Gilwell mid-afternoon just in time for the event beginning.

The campsite was already very busy but after a brief walk around a decent camping area was found. Any complaints about the length of the journey down quickly paled into insignificance when a dutch scout leader in the next tent introduced himself and mentioned that he'd cycled all the way from Holland to attend the event! (Photo below)

Above : All the way from Holland...tired bike having a rest before the return journey.

Saturday morning and another early start in order to set up the Fordell display stand for the exhibition area in "The Lid" (Gilwell's version of our wet weather hall). After a few power problems and trying to optimise the space available a reasonably functional display was created and manned from 10am till 4pm. The event was very well attended and there was a good deal of interest in the centre from many groups. A common complaint was that Fordell was too far to travel to from the south of England with young children, but it was pointed out that some groups choose to hire all their camping equipment from us and can then fly cheaply into Edinburgh with only their personal equipment where it is a short journey to the centre. Overall the event seemed to go well and many groups took away information packs and booking forms which will hopefully lead to them visiting the centre soon.

An early departure from Gilwell was made on the sunday in order to avoid any major traffic problems, ironically the roads were competely clear until the last 50 miles, with huge delays at both the Forth and Kincardine bridges. Arriving back at Fordell just after 6pm, there was little sign of any campers who, it must be presumed, had all left the site and were now sitting in the same traffic jams at both bridges.

Above : "Come to Fordell! We've got a laptop!"

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Activity Overload

Above : Bungee trampoline - best to try this before lunch, not immediately after, as some scouts quickly found out.

An earlier start than usual on saturday for the staff due to a day visit from over a hundred members of a West Lothian scout group and some of their parents. Fordell staff rushed down their breakfast of gruel and diluted water and headed off to set up all the activities and assist with parking the many cars in the car park.

At 10am everything swung into action with most site activities being run by the 13 staff present. Weather was good with some activities (such as abseiling) being very popular with the kids and their parents alike. Due to each activity lasting only one hour instead of two there was a mad rush between bases on the hour, but everyone soon got used to it. As usual there was a good competitive and friendly atmosphere between the older and younger generations, particularly at the climbing wall where some of the dads almost caused themselves injury by proving they could get to the top of the overhang.

Above : A horrified Coco looks down nervously as a huge angry spider slowly climbs up his abseil rope.

After a brief lunch break, there were a further 4 hours of activities in the afternoon, followed straight away by some more bases, food and a campfire before everyone headed back home around 9pm for a good night's sleep, staff included.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Above : New backwoods shelter area - staff pretending to be really busy for the camera!

Despite the widespread availability of cheap, waterproof tents, many campers at Fordell prefer to sleep in much more basic conditions - no doubt having been inspired by Ray Mears and others. The site has had a backwoods cooking area for many years which is well used, but this weekend the staff started work on a new backwoods area elsewhere in the site where groups will be able to bivi overnight in minimal style and hopefully still keep fairly dry.

The new area is in an unused part of land near the abseil wall and will have a large open-sided shelter (see photo above) using a big tarp, with a smaller wooden-framed shelter for sleeping in next to it (bottom photo). Although not quite blending in with the trees (since you don't tend to get pink and green trees in Fife) the tarp shelter looks like it will do the job and will also enable groups to have a small fire underneath on top of some slabs.

After numerous ideas for the smaller shelter were discussed and rejected, it was decided to build a timber-framed structure which would then have canvas stretched on top - hopefully then allowing perhaps 10 people to sleep underneath. After a few mis-measurements and non-linear sawing from the less DIY-skilled members, in stepped woodworking pro Henry to finish things off and teach the youngsters a thing or two about hammering nails in without them bending!

By sunday evening most of the work had been completed with a few more things to finish off - photos of the final shelters will appear soon and they will no doubt be thoroughly tested by groups shortly.

Above : Due to a shortage of posts, 4 of the staff had be sunk into the ground to use as uprights for the new shelter.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Activity of the Week - Climbing Tower

In the first of a series of occasional features on the many activities Fordell has to offer, one of the most popular...the climbing tower.

Above : Fordell tower on rare sunny day (or have rainclouds been digitally removed with Photoshop?)

Fordell has offered climbing as an activity for over 10 years - the original climbing tower was situated in the main field and saw many years of use by visitors, but several years ago the much-improved climbing tower was constructed between the wet weather hall and SHQ building.

The tower stands approximately 40 foot high in total, with the actual routes being just below 30 foot in length. 3 walls of the tower are used for climbing with the other being used for access (there are stairs inside to allow instructors to setup ropes before the session). There are 6 routes at present, ranging from the fairly easy to fairly hard (overhanging). Since most users will probably not be regular climbers (and most climb in trainers or boots), the routes are designed to be challenging but not so difficult that everyone can't manage at least some of them.

Rather strangely, despite the tower being completely open at the top, it also has a couple of double-glazed windows lower down! The benefit of these is somewhat questionable...

Above : doing things the hard way - doesn't the young lad realise there is a nice easy staircase on the other side which goes right to the top?

Climbing sessions generally last 2 hours with a maximum group size of 12 - the first part of the session consisting of safety/technique briefing and issuing of harnesses/helmets before actually climbing. Participants climb one at a time and are belayed by a staff member using a top-rope which ensures maximum safety for those taking part. All staff are trained and assessed by our external climbing instructor and are encouraged to take part in regular in-house training sessions.

A novel feature of the tower (apart from the double glazing) is that at the top of each route there is a good old-fashioned fire-bell. The purpose of this is to provide a means for each climber to prove to everyone that they got to the top by ringing it, something which is fairly straighforward on the 2 vertical walls but which requires unusual effort or extreme flexibility on the overhang (or freakishly long arms).

The climbing tower is also very popular with day visitors (particularly birthday party groups), and the centre is happy to provide shorter 1-hour sessions which give visitors a quick taster session of climbing and leave plenty time for other activities too.

Next time...the children's favourite and the parents' least (due to the mess)...the Challenge Course.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Family Funday

Although not a busy weekend for camping, there was lots of work to do due to a few day visits from groups on the Sunday. The largest group was from local bus company Stagecoach, whose drivers had organised their annual family fun-day for around 200 people. Arriving early on sunday morning, some of the members of their organising committee spent the whole morning setting everything up for the rest arriving, assisted by the Fordell staff.

Above : Challenge course - participants crawl through a pitch-black tunnel for 20 feet and are then dazzled by an annoying man with a camera and flashgun.

Lots of activities were set up including grass sledges, soft play area, volleyball and a slippery slide. After extensive testing by the adults (just to make sure they were safe of course), everything was ready...except for the bouncy castle. Due to a mysterious power problem with the generator, it wasn't possible to inflate the castle so Bob and the staff tried to rescue matters with a monster collection of extension leads and safety circuit breakers which were run round the perimeter of the whole main site back to one of the accomodation buildings. One hour later, the leads were all set up but still no power! Despite numerous checks and re-checks, it was decided that it would be easier to use Fordell's own bouncy castle in the wet weather hall, especially as it was starting to rain a bit.

Despite heavy rain in the afternoon, there was a good turnout for the funday, with the adults sitting under shelter and the children oblivious to it all, enjoying the slippery slope and other activities. Some of the bus drivers spent the whole afternoon manning a barbeque to make sure that everyone had enough hot food and drink.

Above : The traverse net - a collection of holes tied together with rope.

Sunday afternoon also saw a flying visit (:->) from an Air Cadet group from very far away up north, who had been at the Edinburgh Tattoo and had popped in to take part in a few activities. Despite getting thouroughly muddy everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, although some who had forgotten to bring spare clothes were forced to borrow clean clothes/binbags/anything from others before they were allowed back in their clean minibus.

5pm and the site was back to being fairly quiet again for a few days, hopefully giving the grass a chance to dry out a bit before the next lot of visitors arrive again.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Full House

Above : A full complement of flags...might need more flagpoles soon.

Following a few very quiet weekends, things were back to normal with 7 different groups arriving onsite during the weekend. After an enjoyable week with pretty good weather, the Boys/Girls' Brigade group set off back down to Birmingham on saturday morning.

Due to back-to-back equipment hires (mainly mess tents and catering equipment), the staff had to work quickly to check in all the gear which the Brigade had used for their camp, then get everything ready for the new groups arriving later in the day. Unfortunately most of the patrol tents had been soaked the previous day but luckily most were not needed again so could be hung up to dry. Several hours later the main store was turned into a giant washing line with 10 tents hung up using a strange assortment of pulleys, old rope, old carabiners and granny knots.

Most of the afternoon was spent moving equipment about onsite ready for the new groups - all went well apart from a few minor mistakes, eg moving the World's Heaviest Gas Cooker from the Boys' Brigade site then realising that it would have to be moved back to exactly the same spot because a German group had hired it...

Above : a recent addition to the staffhut - giant Fellowship badge and website address (not shown). Yes, there is an extra letter 'S' and no, this wasn't our be corrected soon with the help of some black paint...

Eventually, after a worrying quiet spell in the afternoon, most of the 7 groups arrived on site and started setting up camp, including Guides from Denny, Glasgow scouts, Fife Air Scouts and a few scouts/leaders from Dresden who arrived very late but were made welcome in the staff hut with coffee and biscuits (although all the decent ones had long been eaten by the staff during the day).

Most of the staff spent saturday evening on the climbing wall either doing a bit of training or trying to burn off a few calories from the huge dinner. After growing tired of conventional climbing, much fun was had trying to climb some of the routes wearing a pair of giant size 14 steel toe-capped boots which had been left behind by a former staff member. Weighing at least a hundredweight each, these proved none too good for precise footwork but great for reaching far-away holds due to their monstrous length.

Sunday was a fairly normal day : flagbreak > activities > lunch > more activities > torrential rain > staff go home to dry off their clothes. Unfortunately due to the weather and other work the planned zipline training didn't take place, but this will be rescheduled soon and photos will appear on the blog.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Fun and games

Above : cubs and their parents compete in the serious sport of sack racing

Only two groups on site this weekend but both very large which kept things busy for everyone.
Angus area scouts were holding a parent and child camp which was very well attended. Saturday was spent taking part in a few of the site activities including climbing, abseiling, crate-climbing and challenge course, with a good competitive nature developing between the youngsters and their parents.

The largest group on site were a joint Boys' and Girls' Brigade unit from near Birmingham who arrived early on saturday afternoon. Due to the distance they had travelled, they had hired almost all their equipment from the site including tents, marquees and cooking equipment which the staff had ready for them arriving. Well over 100 were in attendance and the girls and boys set up their own individual camps on site for their week-long stay.

Saturday evening was very lively - Angus area scouts having a disco in the wet weather hall and the Brigade running their own entertainment. As usual the Fordell shop was open and was very popular with a steady stream of bargain-seeking youngsters.

Above : Open All Hours (or at least 7-8pm) - Fordell's own Arkwright and Granville during a quieter spell in the shop.

The shop is usually opened on saturday evenings and sunday afternoons, and sells a wide range of souvenirs, practical items such as torches and not-so-practical items such as engraved glass bells (glass being the perfect medium for making bells with!)

Above : Hamish the local rodent thought he had found the perfect way to get free food - sneak in while the shop is open, pretend to be a display item and then eat all the sweets he wants when the staff leave. It all went perfectly until he smiled a little too cutely at one of the customers and was promptly placed in a paper bag, sold for £1.70 and taken off to Dundee forever.

Sunday was quiet for the staff as the only activities were self-supervised ones such as cycling. Due to bad weather, the ground in the Boys Brigade's marquee had become very muddy so a few of the staff installed a wooden floor over the whole area. Bob the warden also took advantage of the lack of activities to fell a few trees on site which were showing no signs of life, and looked like they could be a danger to visitors in the future.

The weekend finished with the Angus area scouts running a big 'It's a Knockout' tournament on their site, which gave the parents a chance to compete against their own children and later realise that perhaps they weren't quite as fit as they used to be and should perhaps renew that gym membership.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

All Quiet!

This was an unusually quiet weekend sandwiched between 2 very busy weeks - the previous week's visitors leaving on the friday/saturday and the new ones not scheduled to arrive till the monday. However, this gave the centre staff a good opportunity to catch up with a number of projects and carry out some general maintenance work on the site.

Above : Action photo taken during 2007 Scout Hide and Seek Championships. Staff are still trying to locate the person who left their giant coathangers behind on the main field after the event.

Saturday saw a small number of activities running (for a birthday party group) which gave some of the staff the chance to team up with others and learn a bit more about activities which they don't currently run themselves (but are training towards). The abseiling in particular was very popular and featured a high and safe staff/child ratio due to the combination of lots of spare staff and a small group! Assessment of all the roped activities is carried out regularly by an external examiner, but during training staff are encouraged to team up with qualified centre instructors and help with certain tasks under supervision in order to gain experience.

Aside from the few activities, the Fellowship members managed to finish off installing a new kitchen in 'Dingly Dell', the beloved static caravan next to the activity store which is used for a number of purposes including housing visiting staff members and small groups (the most recent being a German group who were visiting a few weeks ago). The work had been started by staff during the week and after completion was deemed to be a big improvement.

Sunday was even quieter than Saturday as the last remaining group on site (a youth club from London) had departed at midnight for a looooooong drive down south.

Another birthday party visited the centre for a morning of grass sledging, go-karts and caving, but the main task of the day was to sort out a huge amount of equipment which was required for a large Boys/Girls' Brigade camp next weekend. The centre/Scottish Headquarters has a wide range of equipment which can be rented out by visitors, including tents, marquees and cooking equipment. Although much of this is currently down south in preparation for the World Jamboree, after a lengthy search the staff managed to track down 20 patrol tents and a myriad of cooking equipment which will be used for the camp.

All in all a very productive weekend, but likely to be one of the few very quiet ones until well after the summer.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Top Gear

Above : New site vehicle after first modest off-road test

After a very busy few months, this weekend saw the start of the school holidays and a corresponding quieter period of the year for the site (in terms of weekend activities), as most groups from now on will be staying for a full week and arriving/departing at the weekends.

Despite some very bad weather on friday evening (which caused one group to arrive and quickly depart), the rest of the weekend was great with only a few brief showers. Arriving saturday morning were a youth group from London who were glad to reach the site after a monster overnight drive in their minibuses. The weekend also saw other visitors in the shape of a cub camp, 2 local swimming clubs, a Lanarkshire youth club and a birthday party group.

In addition, we also had the pleasure of welcoming the local fire brigade (by invitation, not necessity). The Seventh Day Adventist Church, who are regular visitors to the site, were holding another of their successful camps over the weekend, and their minister and camp leader Marcel had arranged to baptise a number of their members on the Saturday afternoon on site using a large portable water tank which was very kindly provided (and filled) by the fire brigade. The good weather held and the event went to plan. After emptying the tank, the firemen and women proceeded to siphon some coffee from the staff urn before returning to service.

Another arrival this week was the long-awaited replacement for the site's green Land Rover. Although it had provided many years of service, it was now 17 years old and suffering from a number of expensive maintenance problems, so after discussion with the Fordell Board and others the decision was made to replace it with something more up-to-date.

The new vehicle is a Ford Ranger 2.5TDCi and was supplied by a local dealer. The decision was made to buy a new vehicle as the latest (2007) model of the Ranger has a new engine which is much more fuel efficient than the outgoing model and should provide good cost savings over its lifetime. In the near future the Ranger will have the site livery added to it as with the old Land Rover, perhaps with the exception of the 'Ouch' sticker was was present next to a large dent in the front wing...

Above : Optional extra - custom badge...?

The weekend finished with the local Incas swimming group having a barbeque after their activities, and the remaining staff having a game of 'football tennis' outside the staff hut after being inspired by the Wimbledon final. Due to the lack of a proper net, the alternative of a bench seat and old table along the centre line meant that accurate scoring was impossible but much fun was had by all.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

12 Camps of 2007

As part of the 2007 Centenary celebrations, Scottish Explorer Scouts are taking part in "The 12 Camps of 2007" - a series of events hosted by a number of different Scottish Areas.

This weekend saw the turn of Fife area (and Fordell) to host an event, and over 60 Explorers attended supported by leaders from the local area and much further afield. During the weekend they had the opportunity to take part in many of the site's activities, as well as a number of off-site ones organised by the Area team.

As well as the explorers, the site was busy with a number of other groups - Kennoway scouts, Bearsden Boys Brigade (who were camping jointly with a Danish group), cubs from Old Kirkpatrick and repeat visitors in the form of Belfast Guides, who arrived on saturday afternoon for a week-long camp. Despite a few transport issues on the Saturday (due to the security incident at Glasgow airport which also affected Edinburgh), everyone made it to the site eventually.

Saturday saw numerous onsite activities being run by the 10+ staff in attendance - with the predictable bad weather appearing towards the end of the day. The staff then took part in a game of 'Hunt the Grass Sledge' for several hours after discovering that one of them had mysteriously disappeared after an activity session. Winner of this was Bob the Warden, who found the sledge the following day in a ditch near the caves - cold, frightened and lonely but otherwise OK.

Above : Explorer camp organiser and Fordell helper Barrie riding his Amazing Invisible Miniature Horse to the line-dancing event

The Explorers were treated to a line-dancing extravaganza in the wet weather hall on saturday evening, and some went to extraordinary effort to dress up for the event, including event organiser Barrie. Due to a strict dress-code, the Fordell staff were unable to attend the event, but instead retired to the staff hut for a well-earned break after a busy day running activities.

Despite a very busy Sunday, some of the staff were keen to continue with the redecoration of the staff hut in the evening, so commenced the much-needed task of painting the kitchen. At present there is no shortage of paint on site due to a recent sizeable donation, although the colour range does leave a little to be desired. However, after an extensive search a few tins of magnolia were sourced - watch this space for photographs of the makeover results.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Underwater Activity Weekend

Possibly the wettest weekend of the year so far, but most activities went ahead as usual as the many youngsters didn't seem to notice the rain at all. Saturday morning saw torrential rain which caused the cancellation of a few activities (abseiling and bungee trampoline), but the rest all ran successfully albeit in a slightly modified form (the go-kart track now contained a significant water-feature to negotiate).

After a brief respite in the afternoon (which caused many to discard their waterproofs), the rain appeared again and proceeded to soak everything in sight.

After a very busy and wet day, the staff retired to the staffhut for a rather belated Burns Supper (after spotting some rather keenly-priced haggis in Tescos the previous evening).

Although an outdoor campfire had been planned for the saturday evening, it was obviously going to be far too wet so an indoor variation was quickly arranged for everyone (Brownies, cubs, explorers) which seemed to be very popular.

Sunday started off exactly as Saturday had - torrential rain. Although one group of day visitors turned up and immediately decided to leave, another two braved the weather and seemed to have a great time (the Girls' Brigade even having an end-of-day barbeque!)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Jamboree Contingent

In preparation for the upcoming World Jamboree in July, several hundred members of the Scottish contingent descended on Fordell for a weekend of training and activities. Almost all of the available activity sessions were taken up on the Saturday, and a total of 18 Fordell staff helped out (a mixture of Fellowship, full-time and Project Scotland volunteers). Activity sessions were held on Saturday morning and afternoon, with both the Explorer Scouts and contingent leaders taking part.

As well as the usual centre activities, the Jamboree staff laid on a number of additional ones including hovercraft racing, which was carried out at a location nearby - the site not having a suitable flat area once all the contigent had pitched their tents.

After a hard day's work for both the Jamboree participants and the Fordell staff, the contingent leaders laid on a fantastic barbeque for everyone which was much appreciated (although there was so much food that the main problem was in trying to balance it all on a paper plate).

The weekend also saw the much-needed unveiling of 2 new flags for the site - a Union Jack and a Scouts Scotland flag (the latter being the only one of its type currently in existance!). The provision of these new flags was made possible by a very generous donation from the son of a local man who had been involved in Scouting and had sadly died recently, and wished to give something back to the movement.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Grand Designs

A major shock was in store for many staff members as they arrived in the staff-hut on the Friday evening. Gone was the ancient and much-loved warped ceiling in the staff lounge (with headache-inducing fluorescent striplights), and in its place was a beautiful pine ceiling, complete with new spotlights.

Work on this had been planned for some time, and had been carried out during the week by external contractors who have also recently re-clad the exterior of the hut and also renovated the bedrooms in the Richmond Chalet. Although the centre staff generally like to carry out this type of work themselves in order to keep costs down, a combination of busy activity sessions and memories of Dave's recent attempt to demolish the dividing wall whilst putting up a picture hook led them to seek outside help.
All agreed that it was a major improvement, and plans are underway to decorate the rest of the lounge in due course.

After a reasonably busy weekend, Sunday night saw a staff 'open meeting' which allows everyone who is a member of the Fellowship to give their views on all the issues that affect them and the site. These are intended to be held every quarter, and provide an opportunity for members or helpers who are not committee members to have their say on issues.

After the meeting, a barbeque was held outside the staffhut, aided by some rather nice weather. Fine food was enjoyed by all, except for Brian who turned up very late and found that all that remained were a few lumps of hot coal on a plate (see photo). Despite this the evening was a relaxing way to end the weekend and looks likely to feature regularly during the summer.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Chips and coffee

A slightly quieter weekend than anticipated due to the mystery non-appearance of a Guide group.
Weather - wildly variable

Staff - Bob, Ali, Dave, Neil, Henry, Stevie, Ginga and a fleeting appearance by Coco.

Visitors - Scouts from Edinburgh, Airdrie and Kirkcaldy plus a couple of birthday party groups on the Sunday.

A fairly busy day of activities on the saturday with weather ranging from very nice to very cold.

A rather successful weekend in terms of work with the main task being the relocation of the million or so cubic metres of wood chips which Bob had purchased for the site, the main purpose of these being to provide a nice, safe and soft landing area around various activities.

The new Jacob's ladder area had already been mostly filled with chips during the week, so all that was left was to level this out. Job completed, it was then time to check that the staff kettle was working correctly (a necessary routine which must be carried out every 2 hours or so).

After also replenishing the wood chips in the adventure play area, there was still a substantial mountain of them left over and it was decided to move them up to the climbing area which had become rather muddy recently. One hour later and the climbing area was almost completely transformed for the better, with the expection of a small section of fence which Bob had attempted to demolish with the shovel of the tractor (not content with demolishing the back door step of the staff hut earlier).