FIRST Lurgan Scouts held their annual camp at Watcombe campsite near Torquay last month.
At 6am on Wednesday, July 4, a bleary eyed advance party met up at the Jethro Centre to begin the 520-mile drive to the site. Four leaders and nine Explorers made the trip, which passed off without incident despite a slight deviation from the route around Birmingham (Scouts are more familiar with maps of mountains and rivers than those with roads!).
The camp proper began on the Thursday, checking out the site and nearby beach, setting up tents and dining shelters and food shopping. On Friday the Explorers took advantage of their last day without the Scouts by going go-karting and sampling the culture at Buckfast Abbey. Some of the older members were disappointed that the visit contained considerably more Abbey than Buckfast.
Then the rain started.
No one had ever experienced a night like it. The wind and extra weight of the wet canvas broke the ridge pole in one tent and had another leaking badly, meaning a moonlit re-shuffle of the sleeping arrangements for the two patrols.
The Scouts arrived on Saturday morning, and with them came the sunshine. One tent was cannibalised for parts so the remainder could be erected, and by the evening the site was looking a lot more respectable.
After the previous day’s efforts, the boys took to Oddicombe beach on Sunday to make the most of the good weather. Pedalos and swimming were the choice for those who could stand the cold water, sunbathing for those more used to Majorcan resorts. The famous cliff railway took the effort out of getting back to the buses afterwards.
The boys enjoyed the attractions at Woodlands Leisure Park on Monday. While the water-slides and toboggan were a little tame for the older Explorers, the Scouts were in their element and all found some way to have fun.
The high seas called on Tuesday, with a local boat being commissioned to take the Scouts and Leaders mackerel fishing. A decent haul was brought aboard, with some of the bigger fish being cooked up later on for everyone to taste.
By Wednesday the weather had turned again, but the troop stuck to plan and visited Battlefield Live in Churston. Two teams spent the afternoon protecting their medic from laser snipers and stealing bases from the opposition. If anything the rain added to the experience!
On Thursday the boys headed for Torquay town to trawl the amusements and gift shops for souvenirs of their trip.
With an early start planned for Saturday morning, the last day of camp was divided between Sports Day and taking down the gear, as Friday night was to be spent in the Watcombe Scout hall. As a reward for their work, the boys were treated to a takeaway dinner from Hanbury’s of Babbacombe, runner up in the 2012 National Fish & Chip Shop of the Year competition. Those in the know agreed that they were amongst the best they had ever eaten.
After dinner the Scout prizes were awarded. Peter Beck’s patrol won the Scout competition, with Ben McIlwaine’s patrol again triumphing for the Explorers.
This year’s camp closed on a high note after a challenging start. While all of the Explorers are by now experienced campers, of the seven Scouts who attended, five had never spent a full week under canvas. They came away from the camp knowing a lot more about looking after themselves and others, which will stand them in good stead for the rest of their Scouting careers and beyond.
The Leaders look forward to seeing all of the Scouts and Explorers back on Friday, September 14, at 8pm at the Jethro Centre.