Thursday, October 22, 2009

JOTA 2009

Amazingly, that's a whole year since the last Jamboree On the Air (JOTA) so last weekend it was time for it again. The event was organised by Fordell's resident amateur radio club (KARS) who had been busy during the week setting up the equipment and rigging up a few temporary wire aerials in the trees.

Bases were set up in the reception building and Scottish Headquarters - this year there was a special website setup for the event which you can look at here.

Above : reception room busy on sunday afternoon

Above : Caught in the act...a couple of young scallywags try to hack into a US Military website during Jamboree-on-the-internet.

Above : Main man Richard feeling a bit camera shy

As well as the JOTA, the KARS guys have also been helping the centre a bit by making up vinyl vehicle stickers for the centre land rovers. Both vehicles are now looking splendid with custom signs as you can see from the photo below.

While the JOTA proved very busy, the rest of the site was fairly quiet in terms of activities and visitors. Most of the staff had decided to have a rare weekend off, apart from serial Fordell addicts Henry and Ali who weren't able to tear themselves away from the staffhut, cheap coffee and even cheaper food for even one weekend.

Saturday was pretty quiet and sunday we had a visit from an combined stag and hen party (?!) who had heard that the challenge course was good fun and spent a couple of hours falling off beams, getting stuck in tyres and finally having a shot of the climbing wall. Excellent group and they all seemed to have a great laugh, even if a few of them found some of the challenge course obstacles a bit challenging.

This weekend also looks like being quiet, next event coming up is (I think) the annual first aid course by Brian and June which we'll no doubt have some photos of here.

Bye for now!

Above : Things to do in the staff hut when you're bored #421 - play Pacman with Quorn slices and crisps.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Paddy the dog

Following a busy weekend a few weeks ago we received an email on behalf of the Tullibody guides, who'd had a camp and taken part in lots of activities on site. With them had been their official mascot, Paddy the dog, and as promised here are some photos of him taking part...(totally unedited of course...)

Above : Feeling left out as the guides all get to go crate climbing.

Above : Trying to drop some hints to the instructor.

Above : Harnessed up and ready to go.

We hope Paddy and the guides enjoyed themselves at Fordell and look forward to seeing them again soon.

Away from activities and there's been quite a bit of work going on at the centre. As mentioned a few months ago, the quad track has now gone and is gradually being turned back into a grassy camping area. The photos below give you an idea of how much it's changed (and these are a month or so old, so it should be looking even more different now). Now we're nearly into the winter season, there'll be a lot more time soon to spend on various projects and odd jobs around the centre, so look out for lots of exciting (?) photos here.

Above/below : old quad track before/after clearing and topsoil.

Despite the end of the summer, the weekends are still pretty busy for now- lots of groups either camping or popping in for activities. A mix of weather with a few cracking days and a few dreadful ones too.

Above : Don't leave animals in hot cars!

A couple of weeks ago we ran some activities for the Pentland Challenge, which was an activity camp based at Bonaly and organised/run by the Scottish Fellowship. Due to the large number of participants at the event, a few groups were brought over from Edinburgh on the saturday where they took part in some of our activities (climbing, jacobs ladder, challenge course, low ropes, etc).

Above : Craig discovers the chilli pepper which has been comically planted in his shepherd's pie.

After a particularly busy saturday, the staff retired for an enormous meal of shepherd's pie, only to be called into action immediately after it was discovered that one of the toilets in the toilet block had a bit of a problem. Brian was unanimously elected as chief toilet-unblocker while the rest watched and learned from a safe distance (the staffhut). The photo below gives an idea of the seriousness of the problem...

Above : No comment required.

Above : Brian telling an enthralled audience about his near-death encounter in the toilets.

That's all for now folks, as the blogmeister has to rush off to Dunfermline to help with his Explorers, but we'll be back in a couple of weeks with another update so stay tuned.

Disclaimer : no real dogs or fluffy animals were harmed during the making of this blog post.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mystery object

Yes, it's time for another fantastic free competition!

Just tell us what the mystery object is in the photo below (being shown off by Ali). It was found a few weeks ago somewhere on the site.

Answers to the usual address - the first correct answer will win a wonderful prize.

Terms and conditions : Prize is a 5-hour self-supervised session on the low-ropes course which must be taken between 1am and 6am on the 31st December 2009. No cash alternative. Fordell staff, volunteers, friends and family are forbidden from entering, as are any persons who have visited Fordell in the past, know someone who has or have read this blog. All entries should be accompanied by a £25 'processing fee' cheque, made payable to the 'Fordell Fellowship Christmas Meal Fund'.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Back again!

Above : Fordell on a particulary wet August day.

Yes, after a well-deserved holiday the blog has returned (slightly sunburned) with some of the summer's news.

After the last big event (Dunfermline District camp), the grass had a couple of weeks to recover and then it was straight into the usual busy summer period. Midweeks suddenly got much busier as we had lots of summer camps, and weekends quietened down a bit as most groups tended to leave and arrive then.

The new grasscutter made a long-awaited appearance and was quickly put to good use. Previously we've relied on the tractor to cut the main fields, but it's always been fairly slow and was hard to get into some of the smaller areas. The new grasscutter can now cut both the main camping areas and also a lot of the areas which needed strimmed before, so should be able to save loads of time.

Sadly, we had to bid farwell to the old Zetor tractor, but hope it's found a happy new home somewhere else.

Above : No, Henry, you can't borrow it to use as a golf buggy.

Over the summer there have been a huge number of different groups, including quite a few foreign groups. Due to the busy midweek periods, 2 of the Fellowship (Craig and Stuart) were taken on as full-time summer staff and are still working there at the moment. Although the weekends were a bit quieter for a while they're now back to normal with most weekends needing 10 or 12 staff in to cover activities.

Midway through August and it was time for the annual roped activity training/assessment session again. Slightly later than usual, the first one was for the 'old' people, ie those that had been running sessions for a few years.

Above : Midway through the rope assessment on a fantastic summer night.

As usual this was run by Steve Spalding - and there was a big attendance as we also welcomed 3 scout leaders from across the Forth Bridge who were there as part of the Climbing Wall Award.

Above : Zipline training / assessment.

On the night we looked at the setup for climbing, crate climbing , abseil, zipline and jacob's ladder. All these have been running very smoothly over the past year and it was decided to leave most of the systems as they are. The only exception was zipline, where we looked at a few new options regarding rescue, and also played about with the new method for the instructor to climb up to the platform at the start (using an autolocking device on a fixed rope instead of having to fiddle about with lanyards while climbing the pole). A few different rescue scenarious were carried out, involving a 'random' staff member being sent down the line and told to feign unconsciousness while the rest of the group rescued him. Several major wedgies later and things seemed to be running fairly slickly.

Above : Ginga rehearsing for his lead role in the Fordell Xmas pantomime (Jack and the Beanstalk). The real Jack isn't available on the day of the performance, due to family commitments.

Above : Trying out some rescue techniques on the zipline.

Above : 2 weeks prior to the zipline training, Craig tries to rescue a pulley which an unnamed instructor accidentally dropped down the line.

Visitors with a keen eye will notice a few changes around the site. Here's a wee summary for those who haven't...

After the tractor, the old Range Rover was next to go as Bob swapped it for a slightly newer Land Rover. We now have 2 in addition to the Ford Ranger and these are only used onsite for moving trailers, doing bin runs and for using during the zipline sessions. Although the Range Rover was a definite favourite with some of the staff, due to its automatic gearbox, electric seats, electric sunroof and fancy trim, it tended to be very unreliable and wasn't particulary economical at all.

Above : Replacement for the old Range Rover (no electric seats this time though).

The staff hut has been having bits and pieces of ongoing work as usual - new addition to the wonderful lounge wall is 2 pairs of ancient ice-axes which were found hidden away in the depths of the main store. As it was unlikely these would ever be used again (or that anyone would actually want to), they're now decorating the back wall.

The front of the gazebo's been tidied up with the addition of some new stone chips - previously this was a muddy/rocky mess and now looks much nicer.

Above : Front of the gazebo looking much tidier now.

Above : Wee rock garden near the reception.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dunfermline District Camp

As promised, here's some photos from the District Camp - there are also loads more on the main Fordell website (thanks to Ian), so have a look there afterwords.

The weather was generally great for the whole weekend - friday night stayed dry as all the groups arrived. Most of the tents/marquees/equipment had already been set up beforehand so things went pretty smoothly. Groups started arriving from 6pm onwards, and by around 8:30pm everyone was assembled at the campfire circle for the opening ceremony.

Saturday morning saw lots of excited hyperactive cubs and scouts up incredibly early (some at 5am!), playing football and waking up the leaders, although strangely this didn't happen on the sunday morning and they seemed reluctant to get up.

The main camp programme consisted of lots of different activities on saturday and sunday morning/afternoon, as well as an arena show at saturday lunchtime, a bazaar saturday evening and a campfire again on the saturday night. During the weekend groups had the chance to take part in the usual site activities as well as offsite ones (watersports, quad biking, etc) and other one-off bases.

Here's a selection of photos from throughout the weekend, enjoy.

Above : arriving at camp. Bonus point if you can spot Henry!

Above/below : Opening campfire.

Above : Many of the scouts quickly made new friends from other groups.

Above : An eager crowd gather in anticipation of the old donkey story on saturday morning.

Above : groups enjoying the good weather before the arena show

Above : Firemen getting ready to rescue invisible man from crashed car.

Above : Craig leads a team of scavengers to try and salvage some spare parts for his own car after the show.

Above : Bob realises the pitfalls of buying a used car on Ebay.

Above : Aerobics session just about to start up.

Above : Fordell staff busy with popcorn/candyfloss sales.

Above : Gladiator action

Above : One of the more popular bases on the saturday night.

Above : Camp leader John trying out his fantastic new mic stand, as the staff wonder where the bit off their hoover has gone.

Above : Hovercraft looking a bit bruised after some poor drivers/pilots on the saturday.

Above : The mystery of the disappearing popcorn is finally solved.

Above : much better fire on the saturday night!!!

Above : Honda Pilots, in one of the nearby fields.

Above : an exclusive for the camp - the world's largest working guitar effects pedal.

Above : Scouts busy in the radio club hut.

Above : Yoda and friends at the closing ceremony.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Busy season again

Above : Groups busy setting up in advance of District camp this weekend

Well, that's us well into the busiest part of the year - most weekends for the past month or so have been pretty hectic with a huge number of groups visiting and taking part in activities. Most weekends have seen around 12 staff in to help out (some weekends with nearly 20 over the whole weekend!) but luckily the weather's been fantastic in general, although maybe a wee bit hot for some of us.

This weekend sees the biggest event of the year, a centenary camp for Dunfermline District Scouts with nearly 800 expected in total. Most groups have already been in to set up their tents and equipment in advance so that they can just turn up on friday and get started with the programme. The site's looking pretty good; the dry spell has helped dry out the notoriously wet areas although some other bits of the grass have suffered a bit with the heat which will make it hard to get tentpegs in!

Above : Group which drew the short straw and got stuck next to the infamous burst water pipe...

The new grasscutter arrived a few weeks ago and has been much in use already - we should have a few action photos here soon for all you machinery freaks out there. We bid a sad farewell to the trusty old tractor, but wish it well for its future life.

Aside from the usual activities, there have been a few other events recently including the annual Gibb Bugle and Totem camping competitions for Dunfermline and Rosyth district scouts respectively. These are both run together to maximise the use of leaders/judges, and over a period of 2 days patrols from each group are tested in a variety of ways to give them the chance to show how good they are at campcraft, cooking, mapwork, gadgets, etc. A good weekend seemed to be had by all, the only downside being event leader Graeme having a freak accident which resulted in a broken ankle so we wish him a speedy recovery.

Above : Scouts laughing at one of Mr Ness's rubbish jokes during the camping competition (not)

Above : building a camp gateway

Above : scouts working out an escape route from the camping competition to the 10-pin-bowling complex at Halbeath

Above : Cutting some cheese for the world's largest toastie

Another new sight at Fordell is a curious monument which has appeared on the front lawn (next to the Richmond Chalet). This is going to be the centenary cairn and will be comprised of individual stones which have been donated by scout districts and areas across Scotland. The work is being carried out by a leader from Edinburgh who is also a stonemason (and some of his scouts), and is pretty much finished now - just awaiting the arrival and attachment of individual metal plaques which will go on each stone to show who donated. If you're on the site, why not have a wee wander and check it out?

Above : enormous jigsaw puzzle

Above : Team just about to get started on the cairn

Above : mixing up some porridge for Bob's breakfast

Above : (Nearly) finished centerary cairn looking good - just waiting for plaques.

Lastly, a fantastic free competition for you all to take part in.
Just answer the following question and you could win a wonderful Fordell Firs comb.

Q. Who is this well-known local leader who is trying to hide his identity during the camping competition?

Send your entries to :
Murray Thompson Competition
c/o Fordell Firs
The first winner picked out will receive a free comb (but will require to pay courier charges of £25.95 before despatch).

That's all for now, but we'll have another update next week with lots of photos from the district camp.
Have fun and look back soon.