Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Charnwood 2016 - Part 1: A long association

My involvement with the Leicestershire Scout and Guide International camp began many years ago, as a just-thirteen year old guide.

I have some very deep rooted memories of Charnwood 1980, held at Bardon Hill. Portaloos in segmented marquee toilet tents. Deep mud from heavy rain and international visitors walking through it in bare feet. The American Scouts selling ash from Mount St. Helen's - a volcano that had erupted earlier in the year. The swarm of bees that took up residence on a bench in the staff area. People laughing at our sub-camp name (Uranus - back in the days when folk said it properly, even if it did sound rude). The Finnish guide, Marjatta, who stayed with my family for a week after camp, and the black wigwam tents of - I think - the Germans.

From L to R: Squidge, Louise, Deborah and my sister Helen.

I loved it! And thus began a long story...

Charnwood 1985 was at Stamford Hall. I was on the service team as a Ranger Guide and a lot of my male friends were in Ventures. I remember tearing my shorts while climbing over a stile on a hike with younger campers, wielding a post-helmet to drive posts into the ground the day before campers arrived, sleeping in the souvenir tent as 'security' one night and backfilling urinal trenches once everyone had gone home. I also remember my friend, Spock (Simon) riding his Vespa scooter round the marquee that the service team slept in on the last night...and most importantly, meeting Mr Squidge and 'getting together'. I can't find any photos of this camp at all...

By Charnwood 91 (a six year gap this time because the 0 and 5 years clashed with Peak, Derbyshire's international camp) I was a guider, and if I'm honest, I don't remember a lot about this camp. My first international as a leader looking after maybe 30 guides was a constant battle to get the girls up in time for activities and do all the camp chores (washing up and bedding rolls) that they didn't have time to do. We were Tasmania from Australasia, I think. It might have been this camp when the necker wave was invented - a whirl of colour around the dell that served as our stage area - and where, at the closing ceremony, a bagpiper played Taps from the roof of Stamford Hall and made me cry...

'91's gateway

The infamous necker wave...

...which moved round the dell.

Charnwood 96 had a new venue - Belvoir Castle - and we were in Cartoons subcamp. We hosted a party of Canadian Girl Scouts and dressed up as Dennis the Menaces, which was also our group's theme. We had a mid-week Christmas party (hence the reindeer antlers) and we'd bought three new tents and spent ages coding the tent pegs and poles so we could keep everything together.

A menace of Dennis's!

Christmas at camp?

Charnwood 2001, we were back at Stamford Hall. Mr Squidge and I were married, Squidgeling J was almost two...and Squidgeling T was a bump due to arrive during the week of camp. As much as the Guide motto is 'Be Prepared', I didn't fancy giving birth in a tent, so decided not to participate. However, Squidgeling T made an early appearance and I spent a day at camp with him in the pram - just long enough to buy a set of sub camp badges and visit my guides!

Charnwood 2006 saw a move to the grounds of Whatton House, thanks to Lord Crawshaw. This was a family affair when Mr Squidge and the Squidgelings came too. We were in Tudors and Mr Squidge made a rather convincing Shakespeare while the Squidgelings were fairies from A Midsummer Night's Dream and I was one of the three witches from Macbeth.

Our Tudor mansion gateway

Within a year, I'd decided to leave Guiding for a variety of reasons. So when Charnwood 2011 came round, and Squidgeling J was camping as a guide, I have to admit to feeling rather disappointed at missing a Charnwood. That's when I was asked to help out, as the district I used to guide with needed an extra pair of hands. I had a blast, though it was difficult to not be guider-in-charge, and I knew that any future involvement would have to be outside of the unit camp. Highlights of 2011 were seeing all the guides dressed as Smurfs and dressing up as Charlie Chaplin myself for celebrity night. Oh - and the Oceania gateway water cannon going off every hour to cool down some very hot guides and scouts! I also spent some time in the faith tent, because they were knitting squares for blankets for Age UK...which is where some seeds were sown for 2016.

A mixture of Forest District Guides and Kenyan Scout Smurfs,
with a couple of paparazzi press and Charlie Chaplin...

Granny blanketing!

I was far removed from Guiding by the time plans were being made and bookings taken for Charnwood 2016, but I couldn't bear the thought of missing it. Camping was always my favourite part of being a guider, and so, knowing that both Squidgelings would be camping, I offered my services as staff, specifically in the faith tent which had so impressed me five years before. They said yes...and that's where I've been this last week.

More to follow in Part 2...

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