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.