We were anxiously watching the weather forecast as it changed – and changed – and changed – and changed once more.
Would we have a dry camp or a wet one?
Would the Brownies and Guides learn valuable lessons about following the kit list because we used our waterproofs? Or would they need the sun cream and hats instead?
Would the Met Office give the same answer more than once in a row? (Hint: the answer is no.)
We don’t normally worry so much about the weather. If it rains, we just get on with it. If it’s sunny, then that’s great too. This time, though, we were hoping for a dry ending.
Because this time we were planning to deny our Guides some essential equipment on the last night – the tents!
This year was our first summer in charge of Guides. We decided to try out a joint camp – Brownies and Guides. It saves on holiday time for the leaders who work, and it’s always good for the Brownies to see what comes after.
The Guides had a separate programme to the Brownies, but we ate together and slept in the same field.
When they arrived, they were all given a booklet which they decorated – it contained plenty of space for their camp diaries (for the Camper badge), zoo visit scrapbooks (for the Friend to Animals badge), and Camp Challenges.
I particularly enjoyed the camp challenges. Lightning had come up with a set of challenges for the Brownies, Guides and Leaders.
The Brownie and Guide sets were all things which would make our lives easier or teach valuable lessons. Things like “pick up ten pieces of litter from the field”, “stay in your tent for the whole of rest hour”, “make a hot drink for a Leader”, “lead a song at campfire”, or “light a fire without any matches”.
The Leader challenges were really hard. Things like “enjoy a full, hot cup of tea, made by someone else”, “chat to another Leader about something other than Guiding for at least ten minutes”, and “stay sat down for at least half an hour during rest hour”.
If you’ve not camped with Brownies before you may not understand just how challenging some of those are!
Some of the challenges were a little more light-hearted. I particularly enjoyed “go down the death slide at Noah’s Ark”.
For all of us – Brownies, Guides, and Leaders – if we completed ten challenges we could earn a badge.
The first day was spent on the campsite. The Brownies did some activities for the Seasons badge, including looking for some flowering plants with insects on them, tasting honey, making a giant collage out of natural objects, and making a (very glittery) Star of David while learning about Jewish winter festivals.
I didn’t see much of that, because I was burning things so we could have dinner.
In the evening, the Guides ran games for the Brownies, while most of the Leaders went off to plan our next big adventure. Multitasking at its finest.
The next day, for the Friend to Animals badge, we visited the nearest zoo. It was only about 5km away, so we walked.
We let the Guides navigate.
We only got a little bit off course, and only the once.
The Guides got sent off with a map of the zoo and instructions to meet us for lunch, while the Brownies got Leaders to go around with.
The elephants were pretty popular, and so were the giraffe and the tigers. We had a slightly heated debate over whether lion cubs or tiger cubs were cutest (despite there being neither in the zoo at the moment).
In the free range bird enclosure we found a half-used packet of bird seed that some small child had dropped and obviously we had to make it safe for the birds by removing the plastic wrapper from it…
At the end of the day we spent some time in the indoor play barn (which I had point blank refused to start with because I knew they would never leave it), and then it was time to walk home.
The children’s tiredness was slightly balanced by the more downhill nature of the walk, and we only got slightly side-tracked by picking blackberries, so we made reasonable time and arrived back at the campsite in time for a short rest before dinner.
That evening was the campfire – an essential component of camp, I think.
All of us – Leaders, Guides and Brownies – had “lead a song at campfire” on our challenges, so we had quite a variety of songs going. All the favourites, of course, but I also learnt a few new ones, which was nice.
After the Brownies were sent off to get ready for bed, the Guides, our Young Leader and I sat around the campfire for a little longer. We only had a few Guides on camp and it was very peaceful.
We had some improvised s’mores. The Brownies had eaten all of the biscuits, so we were left with some shortbread fingers and half a box of chocolate fingers from the previous night’s pudding. There were plenty of marshmallows, though, so we made do. It was interesting to see the arrangements that the girls came up with!
Sitting around a campfire, a small group of people, chatting and getting to know each other, toasting marshmallows and enjoying the crackling of a fire. That, right there, is one of the things I love so much about Guiding.