Friday, November 21, 2008

November News

Above : Waiting for the scouts (who will never arrive) at flagbreak on a particularly cold morning.

Well, despite a lack of blog updates last month there's been loads happening on site - so here's a quick roundup of everything which has been going on...and the usual random photos.

November started off with a busy busy weekend - with not only a good few groups staying but also a first aid course and GNAS (archery course) being run for some of the staff and others on site. The first aid course was run by our very own Brian, and was designed to be a refresher as everyone on it had already been on a full course. Over 2 days, roughly 12 staff went over various first aid scenarios which may be expected to happen on site, and covered the usual bandaging, CPR, burns treatment etc.

Above : Ali chills out during the first-aid course

Brian did a great job teaching the course (except for some memory-loss when it came to tying a particular knot) and even found time to show everyone his slideshow from a recent aid trip where he drove an old fire engine all the way to Bosnia and trained up firefighters there. He also employed the dirty trick of showing everyone some particulary gory photos of wounds just before teabreak, just so that it would ruin our appetites and he could have all the good biscuits to himself.

Above : Bob teaches Brian how to tie a reef knot properly.

Meanwhile, the GNAS course (part one) was taking place in the wet weather hall - this is run annually and is aimed at training up people in order to allow them to instruct archery sessions. As most of the staff are already qualified the spaces were filled with external participants, including local leaders and a few from much further away (Aberdeen). Again there were around 12 on the course which made for a few problems at lunchtimes when there was a bit of a fight for the limited number of sausage rolls.

Above : Getting in some group practice at the GNAS course.

Onwards a week and a fairly normal weekend with a few groups staying and quite a few activities. The following week, however was much busier, as there was a big SSAGO (University Scouts/Guides) camp with around 150 participants. The event had been meant to be running elsewhere, but after a big problem with the intended campsite the organisers had spent ages trying to find a suitable replacement venue, and luckily Fordell was available.

There were groups from all over Scotland and England - arriving friday night and staying till sunday afternoon. Saturday saw everyone head into Edinburgh to take part in lots of different bases/activities, which gave the staff back here a fairly easy day as there were no other activities on. The groups arrived back later on and had a ceilidh and campfire which seemed to go well, and which was much quieter than expected (what happened to noisy students?). The Fordell staff who were in weren't able to participate in the ceilidh as they'd overindulged at teatime with a huge Indian banquet and were unable to move for several hours afterwords.

Above : Local scouts check their tent, which hasn't been used since their 2001 summer camp.

Above : The mystery of the beaver who disappeared during the 2001 summer camp ' hide and seek' competition is finally solved, as he emerges victorious and slightly hungry.

Above : Fordell curry night.

Last weekend saw the second weekend of the GNAS course, where the participants spent saturday learning more skills/techniques, practicing groupwork and getting ready for the assessment on sunday. The course seemed to go well and we look forward to seeing some of those who passed back in at Fordell with their own groups or maybe coming along to help us out with activities from time to time.

Above : Stevie has a bright idea.

Weather-wise, it's definitely getting much colder so there's a fair chance that there'll be a few snowy photos on the next blog update, maybe even from this weekend coming if the weather forecasts are to be believed.

Friday, October 31, 2008


Above : Bob receives a card to commemorate the 50th time he has told the story about the donkey and the well at flagbreak this year.

Well, what a busy weekend that last one was. Not only the were the usual groups and activities to be looked after, but there was also a top-secret mission to carry out, along with a huge amount of work on site.

Bob, as you might be aware, is having an enforced 'holiday' after having an operation on his dodgy knee - so it's now up to Claire and Stevie along with the volunteer staff to look after things for the next few weeks. Last weekend also happened to be Bob's 50th birthday so secret plans had already been made up to have a surprise party on site on saturday evening. Despite a few problems caused by his appointment being moved forward by a week (meaning he wouldn't be around on site on his birthday), things were swiftly sorted out on saturday morning. Most of the staff headed outside (despite the horrendous weather) to continue moving the mountain of tyres from the old quad track and carry out a few more pre-winter jobs including dismantling the gazebo on top of the new stage. Meanwhile Chef Ramsay (aka Ginga) and a small but talented team of cooks were busy buying and preparing food for the party.

Above : Trying to hoopla Calum

Above : Stevie practising his fancy dancing before the party.

Above : Auditioning for a part in Still Game.

Everything ready, all that remained to be done was to come up with a cunning ruse to lure Bob out of his house (where he was sitting watching 'Zulu' for the umpteenth time that day) and up to the conference room where everyone else was waiting. A quick phonecall from Claire informing him that there was a water leak in the conference room roof did the trick surprisingly easily, and he was driven round by Morag to see what the problem was. Despite the Scout rule that 'A Scout is to be trusted', it was soon revealed that Claire hadn't been telling the truth at all and instead of finding water gushing from the roof there was instead a rabble of hungry staff members waiting for him to arrive so that they could get on with the buffet.

Above : Bob's old shrapnel wound from the Boer war starts to play up.

After a great/embarrassing slideshow featuring old photos of Mr Bob, it was time to open his presents which included...a huge framed photo, a hat and pipe, a Leatherman multitool (so that he doesn't have to keep borrowing Ali's) and lots of Tiso vouchers (so that he can buy another Leatherman when he loses the first one). A fun night was had by all with a great attendance from staff - and a good rehearsal for the Christmas night out which is not too far away at all.

This weekend's again a really busy one - both GNAS archery course and First Aid course running as well as a few groups - more news about them soon.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Jamboree on the Air

The radio club (KARS) have added an update on the JOTA event which was held at Fordell a couple of weeks can read all about it on their website here (no point repeating everything on this site!)

( in case that link doesn't work)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Getting ready for winter

Above : Local explorers suddenly realise that there are slightly more tyres to be moved than Barrie had told them about...

Hopefully we should have an update and photos from last weekend's Jamboree On The Air very soon, but in the meantime here's a quick review of the past few weekends.

The winter's definitely well on its way and with the reduction in campers there's been a wee shift from all-activity weekends to maintenance and project work. There's been loads going on both outside and indoors, including...Dingly Dell being reclad in the same style as the staffhut and reception (see below), ongoing work in the staffhut and the biggest task - moving all the tyres from the quad track.

Above : Taking no chances in case the trailer gets a puncture on the way to scout camp

Although the centre has been running quad bike sessions for a few years now, it's been decided to stop offering this due to the high maintenance costs and problems with both reliability and the state of the quad track, expecially in bad weather (plus the rising fuel costs!). The plan now is to turn the quad area (next to the zipline) back to a camping area, which should be very useful for big events. Last weekend, phase one of the project was started when a big group of local explorers led by Fellowship member Barrie popped along to help out as a service project. Phase two will involve working out the best way to either use or dispose of the tyres in the best way, and we're already talking to a few local companies about the options.

Above : Add your own caption

Another task which needed to be carried out before the winter was the annual turning-off of all the outside water taps in the field a few weeks ago. Armed with radios, a crack team of staff were sent out to all the taps in the site to make sure all the pipes were properly emptied. All went well, except for Ali who (accidentally of course) was sent to the only tap which wasn't connected to the same water system as the others, with a radio which didn't work. After standing for well over 15 minutes with his tap still pouring out torrents of water, it became apparent that something was wrong as the rest of the staff had long since disappeared back to the hut to get a cup of tea.

Anyway, more news very very soon but here are a few photos for now...

Above : Nice new-look Dingly Dell

Above : Huge new notice board or small Craig?

Above : Britain's inflation problems start to hit Fordell after the global credit crunch

Above : Rare photograph of cloud-to-cloud rain refuelling phenomenon

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

On the air

As mentioned in one of the previous posts, Fordell are pleased to welcome along the local Kingdom Amateur Radio Society (KARS) who are using one of the old static caravans near the reception area for their club meetings. The club was only formed at the beginning of the year but has quite a few members already and looks set to be very popular locally.

The club are keen to get involved with visitors to the site and are in the process of setting up various activities which will let groups learn about and use the radio equipment in a fun way (eg a 'tracker' game which will let groups track each other around the site in a number of ways). The first big event of course will be the worldwide Jamboree On The Air (JOTA) next month - and more information can be found on the club's website here.

Above : Some of the club's equipment

Above : Desperately trying to tune in to Radio Scotland to find out the result of the Cowdenbeath game.

Above : According to legend, the old caravan is haunted by the ghost of a curious little boy who occasionally appears during the evening.

The club's arrival has also been warmly welcomed by the volunteer staff, who quickly spotted an opportunity to sort a longstanding problem. For quite some time now the TV in the staffhut has had terrible reception, despite the best efforts of numerous good-meaning members to fiddle about with it. Up till now, socialising tended to be rather frustrating as the TV tended to cut out every few seconds (usually during something good but often during X Factor or Scotsport which was a welcome relief) and there appeared to be a strange connection between the signal strength and the number of cars parked outside.

Above : Typical staffhut TV picture prior to help from the radio club.

Luckily last weekend a crack team of aerial experts popped up to have a look at the situation and within a mere hour or so had installed a new aerial and wiring and tuned everything up for a great picture. The old aerial (a sad looking thing, which was found pointing in completely the wrong direction from the local transmitters) was sadly confined to the bin after many years of mediocre service.

Many thanks to KARS for their help, which is sure to be appreciated by the staff on the dark winter evenings to come.

Above : After retiring as SHQ quartermaster, Pete was offered the position of honorary chimney on the renovated staffhut, which he gratefully accepted.

Above : Making sure the big aerial is in good order before next month's JOTA.

Anyway, that's all for now - there should be a normal weekend update very soon, and more news from the JOTA event next month which should be pretty popular with local groups and site visitors going by the interest so far.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Drying Out

Above : The heavy rain has left some parts of the site slightly damp.

Above : One of the drier bits.

Well, that's both big camps of the summer over now - the Festival camp which was quickly followed (a few hours later!) by the national Young Firefighters camp, both for around 650. Whilst the Festival campers had some pretty decent weather, the firefighters weren't quite so lucky and after some torrential rain midweek a fair number of them decided to head home a wee bit early.

After the last survivors had left, it was pretty obvious that large areas of the site would take a while to dry out, the worst being the area behind the flagpole which has a historic habit of flooding. Despite the soggy conditions, there were no shortage of new groups arriving on site to camp, most taking the sensible option of camping on the high ground near the top of the caves.

Above : A Scout's brave attempt to escape from the rising floodwaters is cruelly ended.

Over the past few weekends since then, the staff have been very busy with the usual activity sessions and also tidying up a bit after the big camps. Jobs have included drying out tents, tidying up rubbish and fixing the odd piece of equipment (such as the BMX skills ramp, which sadly broke in two after being mistaken for a seesaw by some big heavy people).

Above : Making BMX seesaw version 2... longer, wider and much, much stronger.

There's also been a big effort made to tidy up much of the site, including the infamous tractor compound, which is home to a weird and wonderful collection of ancient machinery and strange wildlife. Taking advantage of the fantastic rates for scrap metal, the team have been scavenging for all the useless metal they can find and popping along to Inverkeithing to exchange it for something more useful.

Above : Fordell Olympic Team practice weightlifting for 2012.

The woodpile predictably took a bit of a battering during the two camps (the Firefighters using lots, even though they're supposed to put out fires!), so a donation of some scrap wood from a local business came at just the right time.

Above : A kind donation of scrap wood by a local company was gratefully received.

Above : Mystery photo competition - what's this?

Finally, we present the first in an occasional series of random competitions, the Mystery Photo. If you think you know what the strange photo above is or where it was taken, then simply write your answer on the back of a new £20 note and send it to the centre - the winner will be drawn from a hat and will receive a £5 voucher for the shop.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Festival camp

Above : Helping set up one of the marquees before the groups arrive.

Currently underway at Fordell this week is the Festival Camp, a joint Scout/guide activity event for approximately 650 participants (including staff). Hopefully we should have a good few photos from the midweek activities soon, but for now here's a quick look at what happened last weekend during the preparations.

Above : new stage looking good (complete with fancy lights inside)

The camp has scouts and guides from throughout the UK and Ireland, and a few international groups too (including the USA and Sweden) - much more information can be found on the official website (click link in the first paragraph), including photos of the previous camp in 2004.

Although the participants didn't arrive until sunday, a huge number of staff (service team) turned up a day ahead in order to set up a lot of the facilities. Approximately 300 staff were involved in this and most chose to arrive on the saturday morning.

The Fordell staff had also been very busy over the past few weeks getting ready for the camp too, for example coaxing the old toilet block into life (which hadn't been used since the last Festival camp...)

Above : At last, the TV reception problems in the staffhut were solved.

Since the last blog update there are a few obvious changes onsite - the biggest being the radio mast near the flagpole which has been erected for the local radio group (who are meeting on site regularly and providing activities for groups). A few more flagpoles have also miraculously grown, just in time for the extra flags which are needed for the Festival Camp.

Above : All the fun of the fair - Callum and Willie competing in the tentpeg-throwing competition

Saturday was fairly busy but with no shortage of staff from either side - the Fordell staff spent the day cleaning toilets. putting up a few marquees and generally moving things around with trailers. The Festival service team meanwhile were busy setting up the 10 subcamps which each included marquees, store tents, gateways/fences and sleeping tents.

By around 5pm most tasks were finished and it time to unwind for a while with a great barbeque provided by one of the Edinburgh Scout Fellowships. The food was great and although there was a huge queue to start with it moved quickly due to the impressively efficient serving team.

Above : Look who managed to sneak to the front of the queue :-)

Onto sunday and it was time for the scouts and guides to arrive on site. Everyone arrived by bus which made things easy - kids and bags being dropped off in the main carpark and the luggage moved to the subcamps by a big convoy of site vehicles and trailers. It was obvious that some of the kids had been given a bit of a hand to get their bags on to the bus at the other end as a few of them couldn't physically lift them :-)

A couple of hours later and everyone was settled in - and it was time for the first meal, a fire drill and the opening event.

Bob and co meanwhile spent a good while trying to work out how to run the big water pump which had been borrowed from the local fire service. The plan was to mount this on a trailer and use it to empty the huge plastic containers on each subcamp which were being used to store dirty water from dishes, etc. Previous experience had taught the staff that it wasn't a good idea to try to move such heavy containers with the tractor...

Above : Fordell Fire Brigade testing out pump.

Despite the best efforts of nine staff, the pump wouldn't work so a quick phone to the fire station resulted in a visit from a fire engine, control vehicle and several curious fireman who quickly showed us how it was supposed to work.

Next week of course, there's another similarly big event taking place - for young firefighters - so there shouldn't be any problem keeping the pump running then.

That's it for now, but all going well we should have a few more photos of the camp (which finishes saturday) soon.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bumper photo update from last weekend

Above : Ian bonds with his new friend at flagbreak

Despite saying last weekend that there would be no more quiet weekends (visitor-wise), one more managed to sneak in. Saturday was exceptionally quiet on the activities front (see photos) - with a total of four paying customers and a staff/participant ratio of over 2!

Like last weekend though, lots of activity elsewhere on site. Flagbreak on saturday got off to a bizarre start when someone sneaked up and tied on a furry toy (fox?) in place of one of the flags early in the morning. After flagbreak, most of the groups onsite packed up and left, having been there all week, and it was time to sort things out ready for the next groups arriving.

Photos from the weekend below - including the major task of the weekend which was removing a huge amount of soggy toilet-roll from the inside roof of the toilet block (male and femle); a fairly regular occurance as kids seem to find it fun, despite being told not to do it at every flagbreak...

Above : Scottish Fellowship loading up equipment for Blair Atholl jamboree next week.

Above : Busiest activity sheet of the year!

Above : The Explorer group had slightly lower numbers than expected.

Above : Work is well underway to reclad the office/reception building in the same style as the staffhut.

Above : Finished stage with partially-finished gazebo

Above : High drama on saturday afternoon when thieves ramraided the staffhut and stole the sausage rolls!

Above : In the absence of spare ropes or pulleys, Ian and Craig have to function as tent poles for 2 days while the canvas dries off.

Above : Stevie and Bob playing 'toilet gladiators'

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Shut that door!

Above : Stevie and Henry fall for the old 'superglue on the doorframe' trick

Despite being right in the middle of the summer, last weekend (5th-6th) was unexpectedly quiet, the likely reason being that it was the start of the school summer holidays locally...where kids foolishly choose to go on exotic holidays or down to Alton Towers rather than coming to Fordell and having a shot of the pedal go-karts and spacehoppers :-)

However, although there were only a handful of activity sessions to run, the weekend was definitely not wasted and the respectable turnout of staff got stuck into a big pile of maintenance and DIY jobs around the site. After repainting the lines in the carpark, trimming bushes, strimming, moving wood to the woodpile, taking loads of old scrap metal away to the local dealers and doing a number of small jobs in preparation for the big camps coming up (and all before saturday breakfast...!!!), attention turned to the ongoing work inside the staffhut.

Next on the list of improvements was to install an interior door midway along the corridor. Reasons for this stop noise from the lounge reaching the bedrooms, to keep the heat in when the front door is being opened frequently...and obviously to hide the hideous mess inside from the campers, who occassionally venture inside the hut to check the activity board.

Above : Young-at-heart Henry works out the trajectory for his skateboard ramp

Above : Yet again, Stevie falls for the old 'pound coin superglued to the floor' trick

After finishing the door, it was just a matter of hoovering up the mess on the carpet and carrying out the regular urn-checking ritual which must always be adhered to rigidly.

This is definitely the last quiet weekend for a good while - the two huge camps are just around the corner so keep watching the blog for updates and photos from both these events soon.

Above : No comment required :-)