‘Charnmud’ – a soggy camp experience!

Well done to the IGG members from Kinsale and Macroom who remained in high spirits despite challenging conditions at Charnwood in Leicestershire … and not just because they met Chief Scout Bear Grylls!

Read all about their experience in this blog post written by members of Kinsale Senior Branch:

Saturday: Up at 4am, into my Senior Branch uniform, quick check on wallet, passport and Charnwood hoodie, then off to Cork Airport for our 5am start. I met up with the two Senior Branch Leaders and six Senior Branch girls and we checked in our rucksacks at the over-sized luggage desk. We got onto a tiny plane with propellers and flew to Birmingham Airport. After breakfast, we gathered with Macroom Guides and Scouts to wait for the Charnwood bus to arrive where we were joined by some German and Spanish Scouts.

We arrived into the rain of Charnwood. On the way to our sub camp, we met Chief Scout Bear Grylls and managed to grab a few words and a photo with him. Then we arrived on Sound Sub Camp to meet our hosts – 1st Bingley Guides from Yorkshire. After putting up tents in the rain, we changed into our Water Sub Camp t-shirts (Ranger age) and headed to the Opening Ceremony where Kinsale Senior Branch Guide Sophie was the Irish flag-bearer. This was followed by a disco where we sang and danced until bed-time, to be ready for our first full day at Charnwood. (Emily)

Sunday: We woke up at 7.15am and it was still raining! We explored the campsite and did as many of the 100 Atoms challenges as we could, given the bad weather. We made friends with a group of Scouts from Leicester and we hung out for a while in their mess tent on the Water sub camp. There was already a possibility of evacuating – ditches and moats had been dug and straw laid down but neither really helped to control the mud. We were happy out though. (Sophie)

Monday: We were woken by the pleasant sound of chirping birds, excited Bingley Guides and the distant chatter of other Charnwood campers – no rain pelting against our tent, no gusts of wind threatening to lift our tents off the ground. This peaceful wake-up was immensely appreciated. We zipped open our tents to the surreal sight of blue skies. We all let out a sigh of relief. We had some of our hosts’ renowned eggy bread to set us up for the day and then we made our way to soak up the buzzing atmosphere of a sunny day at Charnwood.

Reunited with our new friends from Leicester, we took part in lots of the free-flow onsite activities, including obstacle courses, surfing, virtual reality games and much more. After tucking into tuna sandwiches for lunch, six of us were invested (enrolled) into Kinsale Senior Branch. Then we headed back to activities or to hang out with the Leicester Scouts, listening to music, playing cards and making fun of each others’ accents!  The Water sub camp had its own disco that night, led by two young Scout DJs. They were brilliant and the atmosphere was buzzing. Tired from the mosh pits, we trudged back through the mud to our host camp and wrapped up warm as the rain was due to start again, although for some of us our sunburn kept us warm enough! (Rachel)

Tuesday: We woke up to the sun still shining, but this changed very quickly through the day. We got up and off to activities early to make the best of the good weather. I did the ‘last man standing’ inflatable challenge, abseiling and caving! After lunch we decided to relax as the bad weather was back. We explored the Breathing Space tent and watched some auditions for Charnwood’s Got Talent. The rain had really picked up, so much so that it formed a stream through our campsite that we named the River Bingley.

There had been a lot of talk about evacuation so I went to the evening meeting on Water to find out what was happening. In reality, no-one knew. At this stage our hosts, 1st Bingley Guides, had made their decision to go home to Yorkshire. Kinsale Senior Branch decided to try to stick it out for longer! (Grace)

Wednesday: We woke up to pouring rain. We decided to vote on whether we should stay at Charnwood or have an early departure and drive three hours to Yorkshire with our hosts. We knew it would be nice to have luxuries like a hot shower and a bed, but we voted against leaving and decided to stay at Charnwood. We went off in the rain to do activities such as zip-lining and abseiling. We then met up with our new friends and had lunch at one of the onsite cafés.

At three o’clock our Leader came to find us to tell us that unfortunately the camp was closing and that the International Team wanted us off-site as we had somewhere to go to. We had two hours to pack our bags and say goodbye to our new friends. We were devastated.  As we climbed onto the bus, we waved goodbye to our friends. We were sad at the time but we knew that this was only part of our adventure.

Three hours later we arrived at Wynches Activity Centre in Yorkshire. People from Wynches and the Yorkshire Trefoil Guild were kind enough to have a warm dinner ready for us when we arrived. They also helped us get settled in and even offered to help with our laundry! We were all extremely grateful for how kind everyone was. Another Trefoil Guild lady arrived later with her husband for tea and doughnuts – they told us lots of stories and told us the next day was Yorkshire Day. They sang us a funny song called ‘On Ilkley Moor Bar T’at’, which all the locals sing on Yorkshire Day. As sad as we were to leave Charnwood, we were excited to see the adventure that was ahead of us. (Caoimhe)

Thursday: We woke up feeling refreshed and clean after our first night at Wynches. The weather was finally sunny again. Everyone’s mood lifted. We had the place to ourselves so, after a late breakfast, we explored the lovely grounds which had a pond, playground, outdoor campfire circle and rolling lawns. We even saw squirrels and bunnies! We gathered firewood for the next day’s campfire with the Bingley Guides.

As well as groceries, one of our host Leaders had supplied us with a projector and DVDs. In the evening after dinner, we set up the comfy chairs in the main activity room and watched Ghostbusters. It was a nice end to a relaxing day. (Síomha)

Friday: On Friday morning we got up early to have a quick breakfast to get ourselves off-site for a few hours, as we knew our hosts would be arriving after lunch with muddy camp kit for us to help clean. We took the train to Saltaire in Shipley, Yorkshire. Saltaire is a UNESCO Heritage Site. It is named after Sir Titus Salt who built a textile mill there called Salt’s Mills. The village is perfectly preserved and all the old buildings have been refurbished so that they can still be used today. All of the houses built for millworkers in the 1800s are now lived in by local people. We even saw the village’s one pub –  ‘Don’t Tell Titus’ –  which refers to Sir Titus’s ban on pubs as he didn’t want his workers drinking. We went into the old Salt’s Mill. which now houses shops, restaurants, art galleries and a museum that showed the mill when it was still operating.  Saltaire has a pretty park with a caf called the Half Moon Café. The manager is a Guide Leader, so she had organised for us to have a free lunch. We were treated really well and enjoyed eating outside in the sunshine.

After lunch it was back on the train to Wynches where the Bingley Leaders and their Guides had already started the big Charnwood clean-up. We got to work cleaning groundsheets and putting up tents to clean them properly. After dinner, we had a lovely outdoor campfire with the Bingley Guides, some of the Yorkshire Adventure Team (outdoor Leaders), local Guiding people, and some US Scouts who were staying in the area. Then we exchanged swaps with the Bingley Guides, thanked their Leaders for having us and sang Taps together around the campfire. (Anna)

Saturday: We woke up to another dry day. After breakfast our Bingley Leaders started to arrive to finish cleaning and re-packing the camp gear. Our hosts had organised a bus to bring us back to Birmingham Airport so we had a lot to do. Our Senior Branch girls headed outside to start packing up the clean tents, while us Leaders stayed inside to tidy up the centre and get our belongings sorted. The boot room was still full of muddy boots, mucky camp stools, unsorted laundry, and borrowed bath towels! Some of Wynches’ lovely wardens and the County Commissioner turned up to help. We had been overwhelmed by their kindness and generosity since our arrival, and the final few hours were no different. Of course, we ran out of time and left our poor Bingley hosts with a lot of work still to do on the Charnwood camping equipment, but we promised that when they come to Octagon 2021 as our guests, we will replay all the favours.

We had lots of fun re-packing our rucksacks, this time also fitting in the muddy hiking boots we had worn on the way out and also the emergency wellies we had bought on Charnwood Day #2 when we realised we had no way to dry our faithful hiking boots on camp. At 2pm our bus arrived and we said our goodbyes, with promises to visit Wynches again, pledges to catch up at Octagon, and invitations to visit us in Cork.

All in all, an eventful week. First the constant rain, wind and ever-encroaching mud, then the uncertainty and eventual disappointment of Charnwood’s early closure, ending with the wonderful hospitality of Yorkshire Girlguiding UK. The trip showed us the resilience and strength of character in our girls and in ourselves as Leaders, and also brought home to us in the most concrete way that Guiding is an international sisterhood that is always ready to lend a helping hand. (Leaders Carol-Anne and Anne)