Friday, November 26, 2010

Getting ready for winter

Above : new electric indoor campfire (we had a video but there are some technical problems so you'll just have to use your imagination for now...)

Well, the nights are fairly drawing in now and the last month or so has been spent getting the centre ready for the winter period again. Things have quietened down quite a bit, although there have still been a good number of groups staying at the centre.

There have been a few more changes on site; there was recently a visit by a group of local bank employees who put in a big voluntary shift and managed to make a huge difference to the access path to the challenge course. This has (until now) always been very muddy and in bad weather was often the most challenging part of the challenge course. The new path looks fantastic and will make a big difference when running this activity.

Above : much-improved path to the challenge course

With the colder weather fast approaching, the Bell boats have been brought back from Lochore Meadows; they'll be stored at Fordell until the spring when they can be used again.

Henry and his crack team of woodworkers have been busy in the main store; in a single day a few weeks ago they managed to construct a new hut from scratch. This will be located on the site near the caving complex and we'll have photos up soon.

Above : Henry with his new hut

Above : The hut project was so successful that the centre has bought another 4 Henrys, which will be used for further hut production, general maintenance and activity instruction from now on. These are the new 'energy-efficient' Henry models, which can run for an entire day on only 1 gallon of coffee.

Camping numbers have dropped off quite a bit (as usual) due to the cold weather, but there are always a few scout groups who'll come along anyway and we expect this to continue pretty much right through the winter.

Above : Scouts find a loophole in the Fordell rules which allows them to camp without paying any fees.

Above : Due to the financial climate, the centre has had to replace the Ford Ranger and trailer with a somewhat less powerful model.

Above : Local cubs building a levitating flagpole.

This month the centre's been running the annual GNAS archery qualification course; this is run over two weekends with the second one starting tomorrow morning.

Into December and the next event is the staff / Fellowship Christmas party in a few weeks time - this year we're doing something a bit different and having a trip into Dunfermline for some (proper) bowling, followed by a race night and the usual food back at Fordell. Photos up soon, and hopefully some video of some very amateur bowling.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Shiny new things

Above : busy flagbreak during last weekend's Explorer camp.

Above : Explorers enjoying fantastic weather on sunday

Lots of new things to report on since the last blog update - starting in reverse order, the centre hosted a big Explorer Scout event last weekend called 'Explore!Explore!Explore!' . This was a national event and was well-attended by around 150 Explorers. Weather for the weekend was great and the Explorers had a mixture of on and off-site activities. Saturday they headed off on a train trip along the Fife Circle to take part in a number or different bases en-route, and Sunday was spent taking part in activities on site which were run by the Fordell staff.

Other recent news, and you might have noticed a new building which has appeared recently next to Henderson centre; this is a new classroom facility which will be used for a variety of purposes including training for corporate/scouting events. The building was supplied by Portakabin and looks like it'll be a very popular and useful addition to the centre.

Before and after photos below...

Above : foundations in place, awaiting arrival of new classroom building.

Above/below : new classroom facility

The centre has also acquired a few new items on the activity front, the most unusual being an 'unrideable' bike which has a special gear mechanism on the steering column to give reverse steering. The staff have been trying this for a few weeks but haven't had a lot of success so it'll be interesting to see how the kids get on with it.

Above : Mystery person demonstrating the new 'Unrideable' bike.

There's also a new 'pillow fight' structure which has been located on the stage near the vending machines. It's much more robust than the ones we've had in the past (which have often been built out of pioneering poles) and nicely padded so not so sore to fall from!

Lastly we had the annual roped-activity training / assessment sessions last week - activities advisor Steve Spalding popped down to run 4 sessions over 2 days where most of the staff were re-assessed on the activities (climbing, crates, abseiling, 3G swing, jacob's ladder). The sessions went well and for once the weather was kind which made things a bit easier. Only thing remaining now is a similar session for the zipline, which will be held in the near future once Steve is back down again.

That's it for now, but check back soon for more updates (or why not sign up to the email alert service which should be lurking somewhere at the top of this page?)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Summer news

Above/below : Flagbreak during the recent guide centenary camp

That's us into the summer holidays and things have started to quieten down a little bit (at least at weekends) after a pretty hectic few months.

After the really successful Fast Forward camp (see last post) there have been a few other big events including a weekend camp by Forth Valley guides to mark the 100th anniversary of guiding - with several hundred guides on site.

Above : Camping tip number 314 - always check that your new airbed will fit inside your tent before you go camping.

As with the Fast Forward camp, the guide one ran very smoothly - even with the car-parking on the friday and sunday which we'd thought would be a bit of a nightmare (most of the attendees were being dropped off by parents instead of by minibus). Despite a few busy moments, the car-parking system seemed to work well and everyone managed to arrive and depart with the minimum of delays.

Above : busy car-park as parents arrive to pick up their kids.

After the guide camp we also had a visit from a large Youth Theatre group who were basing themselves at Fordell whilst taking part in events nearby. Another good group and they got extra points by even supplying the staff with breakfast one morning which was a welcome change from the usual "50 for £1" Tesco value sausages which we normally have.

Activity-wise things have been very busy up until the past few weekends; the new King Swing has been popular and the centre has also purchased 2 additional Bell Boats which will be put to good use soon - now we have 3 in total so can cater for groups of around 30 in total.

Last sunday some of the staff had a rare trip off-site to put up a couple of marquees nearby at Townhill playing fields. Unfortunately they couldn't have picked a worse day for it as the wind was horrendous and despite trying to bravely put up one marquee they had to beat a hasty retreat for safety reasons and return the following day when things had died down a little.

Arriving back at the site conditions turned even worse which wasn't a good thing as another large guide group had just arrived to set up their camp. Lots of flattened and damaged tents and even one of the marquees was affected and had to be taken down for safety reasons, however after a few hours conditions improved a little and everyone could relax a little bit. Possibly the windiest weather ever seen at Fordell (in one instance the wet weather hall blew away and landed in someone's garden in Inverkeithing, and had to be brought back on a trailer on the monday).

Above : Hungry Henry having a good feed after being forced to run 75 consecutive low ropes sessions due to a staff shortage.

Above : 15 seconds later

And finally, it's time for the summer caption competition. Simply think of a witty caption, send it in to the usual address and the winner will win the contents of Craig's plastic container, sent by Royal Mail Special Delivery.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Fordell Fast Forward camp

Last weekend was the first ever Fast Forward camp, an event for older cubs (who are nearly ready to move up to Scouts) and younger scouts.

The weather was fantastic for the whole weekend and the event went really well; very tiring for all the kids and staff but everyone had a great time and it looks like the event will be run again regularly.

You can visit the official Fast Forward website to see what happened, and also read more about it on the Scottish Headquarters site (no point repeating everything here!).

Pop back soon for more news and updates, and hopefully the good weather will still be here.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Busy season again

The busy season's now officially here and the site's going to be pretty manic for the next few months after a nice quiet spell. Two weekends ago was the first real busy weekend of the year - with big camps from Leith District scouts and also Rosyth District, who were holding their annual St George's Day camp. It was also a busy weekend for the Fordell Fellowship as it was the AGM on the friday night - good attendance as usual and the usual mix of formalities (electing new committee for the next year) and socialising. Thanks go to Pete Merckel for doing a talk about the new Active Support structure (which the Fellowship will change to later in the year) and to Kev Mitchell for doing a really good talk about his work with the Ochils Mountain Rescue Team afterwards.

Both Leith and Rosyth districts had a great time and it was good to see everyone enjoying themselves. The Rosyth kids and adults had a trip away on saturday to the stock cars at Cowdenbeath - free entry but there was one catch which is that they'll have to go back and clean up litter after one of the race meetings in a few weeks time.

Above : Fielder not making much of an effort...

Above : Cub watches in horror as the ball heads straight through the staffhut door and hits Bob the warden.

As well as the 2 big camps there were the usual mix of smaller groups and day visitors, including a visit by the smallest sumo wrestlers yet seen at Fordell...

Above : the smallest sumo wrestlers in the world (probably)

Above : the biggest novelty sideburns in the world (apart from Noddy Holder's)

Other news - as mentioned in the last update the site now has a Bell Boat (soon to be two), and over a period of 3 days recently nearly 50 staff, volunteers and local leaders were trained up at Lochore Meadows to achieve their Bell Boat Helm award. The plan is to keep the boats at the Meadows most of the time, and for Fordell and also local groups to use them for groups of up to 20 participants. The course itself was much fun - everyone on it performed admirably and aside from a few minor mishaps (Brian guiding the boat over a huge buoy and getting it stuck underneath) everyone emerged unscathed and much the wiser.

No photos at present but we'll have some of the boats once they start getting used properly in a few weeks.

The next few weeks are pretty busy and then it's time for the first huge camp of the year, which is the Fordell Fast Forward - a camp for older cubs and younger scouts. Richard Fairbairn from Edinburgh is the camp organiser and has made up a great website for it, so why not have a look at the link above to find out more? Unfortunately all the spaces were filled a long time ago but there will be photos up during and after the event.

Finally it's time once again for the irregular and pointless photo competition. Just tell us who this shy chap / chapess is and you could win an original Fordell comb. Is it Kenny from South Park?

Thursday, April 08, 2010

King Swing

Above : Kingswing shortly after completion.

It's been fairly quiet at the centre for the past few months in terms of groups and activities, but there's been lots happening in other areas, some more obvious than others.

The biggest change is that a huge medieval-like contraption has sprouted from the ground behind the Scottish Headquarters / Henderson building. We're not sure exactly where it came from, but maybe the wet weather and fertile soil had something to do with it?

On closer inspection it's actually a fully-working 'King Swing', which will add another roped activity to the centre once the staff have been trained up and assessed to run sessions. The idea is that one brave person is attached to a pair of huge metal cables which are suspended from the top beam, and the rest of the group hoist them up until they are almost at the top of the single pole at the back of the swing. The lucky test-pilot then pulls a release cord and hurtle down towards the ground, which they clear by a small margin before zooming skywards again.

From initial tests by some of the staff, the swing is amazing fun so looks likely to be a popular activity once it's up and running. One of the main reasons for building the swing is that it will be fully accessible and useable by disabled users, unlike a few of the other roped activities at present.

Above : Giant wedgie machine

The centre has also purchased a 'Bell Boat', and is in the process of purchasing another - these are 8-person boats approximately 30 feet long which are very stable and easy to use. They will hopefully be based locally and the idea is to train up lots of the staff and local leaders to provide a new water-based activity. These will also provide another activity which is suited towards individuals or groups with disabilities. No photos so far, but we'll have some from the first training sessions in a few weeks' time.

Above : Everything ready for Giant Jenga championships

Above : Scene after first round.

Other than than, a few less obvious changes have been made. The main store has undergone a complete transformation from the Aladdin's cave of before. A new racking system was installed recently and a forklift has been purchased for the centre. The main reason for this is to tidy up the main store area where most of the equipment and marquees are stored, and make them easier to access.

Over the past few months, the Fordell staff and Scottish Fellowship (who run the marquee service and organise other camps/events) have been in helping with the transformation. Everything's looking much tidier now and 4 people have been put through forklift training recently, 2 from Fordell and 2 from Scottish Fellowship.

Above : New racking system just after installation.

Above : Store looking way more tidy than before.

The busy season's nearly here again; from the end of April until July every weekend's busy with groups and activities. Before then there's some training organised for the Bell Boats, and also the Fellowship AGM in a few weeks time, so more photos and updates soon.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Happy New Year!

Hope you're all surviving the freezing weather!

The centre's now fully open again, with quite a few groups braving the icy conditions. The first group of the year were some mad explorers from Glasgow who turned up on the 2nd January for a weekend of activities (mostly indoors though) and a spot of sledging on flagpole hill.

The past few months have been pretty busy - here's a quick roundup of what's been happening.

November saw us holding two of our regular courses - GNAS archery one over 2 weekends and Brian & June's popular first aid course over 1 weekend.

We were also honoured to have a visit from Radio Scotland who came to record some material for one of their programmes : Bob became a star after being interviewed and there was also the excitement for the listeners of listening to crate climbing and pioneering on the radio!! What fun, you could really feel the tension as the scouts finished off their square lashings.

Into December and still busy in terms of groups. The staff treated themselves to a fancy new TV, after suffering with the old one for far too long. Plans to improve the reception by installing Sky Freeview were quickly dashed due to signal problems, but hopefully we can find a solution soon. Of course, it was also time for the annual Christmas Meal which was fantastic - this year we headed out for a spot of 10-pin bowling then back to the conference room for a great meal (courtesy of the new caterers) and a fab xmas quiz hosted by Claire & Lindsey.

There's another busy year ahead with a few new events - more updates soon but till then here's a random selection of photos from the past few months.

Above : the staff had to help a few cars out of the iced-up carpark in December

Above : Henry trying out his new sledge

Above : Foggiest day ever - Bob waits in vain at flagbreak for the scouts to arrive.

Above : How do his feet reach the pedals?

Above : Sleeping beauty

Above : Radio pioneering - Bob being interviewed about this exciting new extreme sport.

Above : Teambuilding in the rain.

Above : new staffhut TV, a huge improvement over the old one.

Above : Bob showing Brian how wide the well was which he found the donkey in.

Above : Fordell Christmas dinner 2009

Above : Ian tries for a new world record of some description.

Above : Stevie enjoying the traditional Christmas party games

Above : Luckily, Brian didn't seem to have suffered any serious damage.