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.