Insane person that I am, when I returned from Mexico I almost immediately went on Brownie Camp. I wasn’t the only person doing that – Sara was going on an Indoor Holiday, and Helen and Janet had busy weekends planned too!
The camp had actually started a couple of hours after I landed, but I took the (slightly) more sensible option of a night’s sleep in a decent bed with my husband before going out the next morning. Decadent, I know.
One of the other leaders came to get me on Saturday morning (I don’t have a car, which makes getting to camping fields in the middle of nowhere tricky). We took a little bit of a detour on the way back, because one of the tents had left their door open when they went to the toilet in the middle of the night, and it rained, so we had to go pick up another pair of shoes for one of the girls. Also, she had forgotten her pyjamas, and her wellies. I love it when they follow the kit list, don’t you?
Saturday was spent at Noah’s Ark Zoo. Originally we had planned to walk (it’s only a mile and a half from the campsite), but when Lightning walked the route before camp she discovered the longest detour in the world!* So, when the parents dropped off their children, we gained permission from them to ferry the girls in our cars. We knew how many leaders to take in the cars on each trip to ensure that our ratios at each location remained high enough, and we knew what we were going to do while waiting for the second and third loads. What none of us thought about until we started to do it, of course, was that about half the girls needed booster seats, and we only had two between us! In the end, ferrying them took almost as long as walking would have.
You have a wolf, a goat, and a cabbage, and need to cross a river. The boat will only fit you and one other item in it. The wolf desperately wants to eat the goat, and the goat wants to eat the cabbage. How do you cross the river?
I like Noah’s Ark (and, more importantly, so do the Brownies). There is a maze – the longest hedge maze in Europe, which explains why it took us an hour to get to the centre – lots of animals, and enormous indoor play barns with death slides and ball pits and trampolines and things. Fun times for all. We gave the map to the girls and told them that the only restriction was that they weren’t allowed to spend ALL day in the play barn. We ended up seeing the maze, rhinos, giraffes, zebras, lions, tigers, reindeer, and monkeys before going to the death slides.
One of my favourite parts of the day was the bird of prey display. They had us sitting in two rows, and the birds were flying practically in between us. So close, in fact, that one of the girls was brushed by a wing. She won’t be forgetting that in a hurry! Alas, the fast-moving nature of the birds means that my photos didn’t come out very well.
We had fish and chips for dinner that night – having been out of the campsite all day there wasn’t much time for cooking!
The cooking is one of the reasons we’re calling this camping “lite”. As well as the field which we had the tents in (which is sloped – more on that later), we also had access to the building. So our kitchen, first aid room, and craft areas were all indoors. There was room inside to eat if it rained, but it didn’t, so we ate outside. On the picnic benches.
Hardcore campers feel free to be horrified.
The campfire on Saturday evening was impressive. The girls had been given a series of challenges to do in any spare time they had – anyone who completed at least ten got a badge. One of them was “lead a song at the campfire”, so we had a fair few volunteers for that. We know a lot of songs between us!
Then it was off to bed. This was the first night I’d been in the field, but everyone else had experience so they all warned me about the slope. Sure enough, when lying in bed my head was significantly higher than my feet. Not unpleasant, but difficult to stay in one place in a slippery sleeping bag! I also discovered that I’d forgotten my pillow, but that’s what bags of spare clothes are for, right?
Sunday was a relaxed day. It was official lie-in day, meaning that breakfast wasn’t until about nine. Afterwards we started rotating around some activities. We had everything from “design your dream holiday” to “make a dream catcher” to “go grass sledging”. We did some of them in the morning and some in the afternoon.
At lunchtime we did some cooking on an actual fire – cinnamon bananas. Yum! Surprisingly little wastage, considering that when we did the same at our weekly meeting about half of them declared it to be disgusting. Perhaps it’s the fact that this time we were using a wood fire, and at Brownies (due to space limitations) we used a small barbecue. Or perhaps I just had a strange group of children who didn’t like bananas before.
It was a good day for food. Our dinner that night took a very long time, because pudding was dampers. Dampers are basically bread dough, wrapped around a stick and cooked over the open fire, and then smothered in jam, chocolate sauce, or lemon curd. Sometimes all three.
Also the main courses were tasty.
After the girls had gone to bed, I discovered a reason to be grateful for jet-lag. I didn’t feel like going to bed, and there was lots of guiding admin and planning to do! A perfect combination.
Monday was the saddest day of camp. Strike day. I was very impressed with the Brownies, they were amazing! The previous night, we’d told the Sixers that when they got up they were to pack all of their things and take them out of the tent and down to the hall. Not only were they ALL completely packed before breakfast, but some of the tents had been swept out and the inner pods collapsed too! And they did it with no complaining, no messing around, and very little adult help. I was blown away, and made sure to tell them so as many times as possible!
After breakfast, because they were so amazing at clearing the tents, they got longer to play the trading game. I was mostly burning rubbish during it, but from what I could tell they were each a different type of family – farmers, bankers, builders, and so on, and they had to buy and sell things from each other in order to make enough money to pay their taxes and buy food. It looked like fun!
At last we said goodbye. There were badges to give out, and leaving certificates to present – this was the last Brownie event for some of the girls. Very sad to see them go, but they’re going to Guides so no doubt we will meet again!
* Probably not actually, but it would have felt like it with 24 Brownies in tow.