First off I would like to apologise for such a late blog, so many things have happened recently in my life that I’ve just had no time to update my blog with my recent tales! I thought you all should know I am typing this from my balcony in Ciovo, Croatia- the view is absolutely beautiful, I’m currently watching someone water their Orange trees- if only we had these views in England! I cannot wait to share with you all my next blog which will all be about Croatia. But for now, back to England!!
Here is my long awaited blog that I’ve been super excited about writing for a couple of months now purely because it was a new experience for me and I’m very excited to share it with you all….CAMPING!! Yes, that’s right folks at the end of May, CAMHS in partnership with Circle of Life Rediscovery did our first ever overnight camping trip in Powder Mill Woods in Battle. Not only was it the first ever camping trip for CAMHS, but it’s also the first ever time I’ve camped before.
Definitely went into this camp with mixed emotions- happiness, anxiety yet excitement was rushing round my body all at once but I took the whole trip as an adventure and a chance to gain new experiences… and by the way- I love adventures!!
Bright and early in the morning on the 28th May (which was rather a shock getting up so early) we (myself, 9 other CAMHS participants, CAMHS workers and CLR) were stood waiting to start our overnight camping adventure! Unfortunately the weather wasn’t on our side in the morning, it was grey and drizzly but that didn’t stop the excitement from everyone- if anything it made the trip a little more rustic and felt slightly more real, trekking through the mud with over-stuffed bags in one hand and tents in the other. When we arrived at base camp, gladly to free my arms of all our camping essentials and must-haves we gathered round and ate lunch, our first meal in the woods! Lunch was certainly an experience, I’ve never eaten Pot Noodle in the woods before- but it was great and made me happy to eat something warm after all the walking. Despite the walk being tiring, Powder Mill Woods was absolutely beautiful. Filled with lush trees and thousands of bluebells waiting to be photographed- definitely a stunning place to camp and would certainly visit that wood again!
After lunch we played the classic CAMHS-KIDS favourite game of ‘Deers and Wolves’ which is a fab game and most certainly very high energy (seems like that Pot Noodle came in handy after all). Next and most importantly it was time to set up the tarps and tents- of course, no luxury 5* hotels in the woods-100% back to basics- got to get the full outdoor experience of setting up tents and tarps! The lovely Anna showed us all how to put up the tarps (that’s short for tarpaulin for all you woodland rookies), it’s certainly easier than I thought! We all got stuck in putting up our owns tarps and tents, helping each other out- It was really nice to see everyone pulling together when creating our base camp, despite the rain hence the raincoats and hoods!
The majority of CAMHS participants slept under tents during camp, I included! The tarps were good to sit under as shelter to protect ourselves from the wet elements of the weather! Thankfully the power of everyone’s excitement managed to bop the rain clouds away and out came the sunshine, which made everything twice as nice in the woods- I think it always makes everything prettier when the sunshine is out; especially when surrounded by surrounded by woodland.
Now, what’s probably the most essential part of a base camp? FIRE!! Yes, we have arrived at one of my favourite activities of the camp- fire making! But before we started we had to gather the all important parts from the woods in order to build our fires. We had a demonstration from Greg on how to make our fires, including curling the bark off sticks with knives in order to allow the fire to burn stronger! Greg made it look easy, but it was pretty tricky at first- it takes a certain knack to do it but once you get the wrist at the right angle, you’re good to go!
Of course, camp fires aren’t complete without toasted marshmallows! There’s just something about them- gooey, sticky, cosy and inviting. It made it feel like a real camp! I managed to catch a photograph before Bonnie gobbled them up. I don’t blame her; they’re seriously good and seemed to go down a treat with everyone else! I particularly love this photograph due to the subject being in focus yet you can tell we’re situated in a camp because of the tents and billowing fire in the background!
No camping trip is complete without a sing song and what made it better was the addition of an acoustic guitar! All camp participants gathered round the camp fire to sit and listen to the songs flowing through the camp, which created a beautiful atmosphere! Stunning scenery, beautiful music- it made it all that much better and enjoyable! We’ve not had many moments during our CAMHS woodland projects where they’ll be some music and singing so it was definitely nice to witness that with my friends. The strumming of the guitar was rather magical in such an atmosphere, was very calming and enjoyable!
The camping feeling was starting to hit and the sun was beginning to set so everyone went out on a walk to lay down some sand on the group to try and capture Badger tracks but also in hope of seeing a Badger or two! While everyone was gone, myself and Bonnie stayed behind with Anna and Hayley and made all natural wooden bracelets and clay plaques which was really fun. Especially as I make handmade jewellery myself, it was great to use natural materials! It was particularly nice it just being the four of us round the fire, while everyone was out looking for Badgers! I feel it’s particularly important to take some time out to relax. It’s exciting camping for the first time but when everyone’s excitement builds up too much it’s nice to take time out for yourself!
Once everyone returned from the badger walk, it was almost dark out! I got some beautiful shots of the woods as the sun was fading, I love that it gets darker in the woods before it turns dark in the open areas! It feels like you’re in some kind of vortex where it’s dark where you’re standing yet 100 feet away it’s still bright and light out! It’s quite mind boggling! Still, it looked beautiful and interesting!
After the walk, everyone was super hungry so dinner time it was! Certainly not your typical camping food but hey, this is a CAMHS and CLR mix up- you won’t be finding us doing things the boring way! On the menu was pasta with tomato sauce and cheese cooked over the central camp fire with homemade garlic break using fresh, wild garlic picked straight from the forest floor! YUM! Hot food was definitely needed after all that walking in the cool and drizzly weather!
Tummies full we all sat round the campfire to hear riddles, songs and a special rendition from Rivkah playing her Penny Whistle; the music was beautiful, very calming and soothing- I think everyone really enjoyed it! I bought out my special camp trick of the commonly known act of the ‘Cup Song’ where one plays a beat using a cup to a song called “You’re Gonna Miss Me” it was pretty awesome and been specifically saving it to show everyone at camp! I think it went down pretty well with everyone! Being sat under the stars is one of my favourite things to do, being surrounded by good people and good friends with the fire crackling away, it was absolutely perfect!
The night approached and it was time to turn in to sleep away the tiredness of the day ready and refreshed for the next day ahead! I have to admit, it was pretty difficult sleeping in a tent out in the woods especially as the only tent i’ve slept in was in my back garden where if I couldn’t sleep, I would simply walk back into the house of the early hours of the morning and collapse into my own fluffy bed. It wasn’t the nature sounds I could here, but of the boys singing away and quoting good ol’ Harry Potter throughout the early hours of the morning; which was pretty funny- who doesn’t love Harry Potter?! I woke up around 3am, had a peep outside and then went back to sleep only to again wake up at 5am to the beautiful sounds of the dawn chorus- it was worth it hearing the birds despite being awake at 5am in the morning. Luckily the sun was shining at that point. The camp was peaceful and quiet (the boys finally asleep- halleluiah… it was a really lovely sight!
During the morning everyone seemed to wake at different times, it was around 6am that the majority of campers were awake, either singing and laughing or talking and shouting! It certainly was a mixture of morning attitudes between all the CAMHS participants- interesting! We all got up at around 8am, we had our first circle time of the morning to check in with everyone and see how they were and how everyone slept (if they did sleep at all). We had a bit of a shake down and a jump around to get rid of any excess tiredness (in my case it was extreme) so we can start the final day of camp refreshed and full of energy!
Tummies rumbling, it was time for breakfast which consisted of pancakes and crumpets cooked over the fire with jam, butter and Nutella toppings- DELISH! I went totally overboard and had two crumpets covered with melting Nutella, it was absolutely lush! Originally I didn’t like Crumpets, but once you’ve tasted them toasted over a camp fire- you’ll never go back to your original toaster!! What made it even better was accidentally dropping my crumpet into the ashes of the fire- that definitely made it taste more authentic that way. I mean y’know no time to brush off the ash here, it’s nature and sometimes you’ve got to consume it with the chocolate covered goodness!
Once we had all devoured the pancake mix and crumpets and we were all filled to the top. It was time to disassemble all the tarps and the tents; everyone pulled together so it wasn’t too much of an ordeal. The good news was waking up to bright and brilliant sunshine, it made the woods come to life even more! Beautiful! It was then time for the games to begin- that makes it sound like we’re some super outdoor team entering the Olympics! Games led by Greg, which was full of fun and energy as usual (you’ll never find a dull and boring game with CAMHS and CLR). It was particularly nice to run off my tiredness, due to a not so great night of sleep. Turned out I had set up my tent right under a thick branch, not such a great feeling waking up to an achey back… I’ve learnt my lesson for next time!
The camp then divided up into two groups, majority of CAMHS participants went with Marina to check out weather or not their sand traps had caught any Badger foodprints which were right outside their Sets. Meanwhile, myself and three other CAMHS participants alongside Rivkah and Anna set off into the woods to look for a particular flower which contained anti-bacterial properties which made it good as the use of a hand balm, which was the ultimate purpose of picking the flowers (desperately tried to remember the name of said flower). It was interesting picking these flowers, the woods was swarming with these beautiful, purple little beauties! Particular interesting hearing the facts about these flowers from Anna, who informed us about the identifiable features of these beautiful flowers. It was fun to make little flower bouquets with these flowers and Sycamore leaves! They looked beautiful!
We regrouped with the others and chatted about what we’d been up to while being on our separate journeys! While we were chatting Holly and Greg were cooking up a treat in the simple word of LUNCH! Lunch for the happy campers were eggs, bacon and veggie sausages. The eggs looked pretty good I have to admit! While Greg was taking care of the fried eggs, he was telling us stories of his life back home in America, including one of my animal loves- Grizzly Bears! Plus the interesting story of how he’d had a splinter stuck in his finger for over 15 years and how by using some natural items found in the woods- it came right out! The power of nature, right there!!
For our last couple of the hours together, the camp gathered together around the main fire at base camp and we chatted about the whole experience of the camp and what we felt went well and what could be improved. This was CAMHS first camp with CLR, so it was vital and important to get feedback! While we were chatting, Anna was making up the hand balm- which smelt beautiful and reminded me of Christmas
It was time to gather up all our belongings and say goodbye to everyone. The CAMHS and CLR camping experience had gone down well for everyone but it was time to leave Powder Mill Woods and head back home, bleary eyes but with a lot of memories to cherish for a long time! What did I think of camping? Overall it was a great experience to go camping, especially with great friends and people who I admire and look up to dearly! Would definitely like to camp again with CAMHS and CLR (hint hint) and next time, we’ll make it even bigger and better! I’ve gotten over 100 amazing photographs from spending the night in the woods, some great memories and even stronger friendships! I would like to say a massive thank you for Marina and everyone at CLR for giving CAMHS this opportunity to go camping! It was great!
Until next time!