When you go out camping it is often best to prepare for the worst and then you can be pleasantly surprised that this green and pleasant land doesn’t always throw its worst at you. However, this is not a message that is always easy for first-time campers to heed.
Despite unedifying weather reports, Year 5 arrived at the Bodiam camp site in fair weather that promised a great few days under canvas. The pupils had practised how to put up tents for a morning the day before, so the staff were doing overtime in helping them to sort out the inner tent from the rain fly, to thread through tent poles and with the Siseran task of hammering tent pegs into the ground. With camp finally sorted, we had a glorious day around the campsite furnishing the lodgings (kudos to the Springboks for their imaginatively carved sign), playing games (ball-games, badminton and “It” were favourites) and decorating their camping mugs with nail varnish. After a delicious meal prepared by our fly-in chef Rob, the staff entertained the children with songs about penguins, pirates and chickens. It was a fun sing-and-act-along that led to the same tunes recurring again and again around the campsite. Our first evening ended with marshmallows around a campfire and lots of happy faces.
Wednesday didn’t start auspiciously with a drizzle. This meant waterproofs out, and we had a somewhat wet breakfast before setting off on the highlight event of our stay: the walk from Bodiam to Newenden. As the walk progressed the waterproofs gradually came off as the sun beamed down on our merry troupe winding its way through the fields and woods of East Sussex. The different tent groups took turns to guide the year group, using their map-reading skills to sort out which way to go. After a short break for a snack in the sheltering trees and a close encounter with a herd of slightly nervous cows (that were magically stopped), we arrived at our destination, the Lime Wharf Café, just in time for a delicious lunch of sandwiches and chips crowned with an ice cream.
One minute after we entered the café it started to rain down. There is, of course, rain and rain. This was the standing-under-an-upturned-bucket type. We knew, one foot out of the café and we’d be as wet as the fish in the Rother – our route back to the campsite. We all put our waterproofs on and headed to the two motorboats that would bring as back to Bodiam. With little to do except get wet and not much to look at except grassy banks, the boats went full throttle. Did I say nothing to do? Not quite true: we found we had a whole load of budding skippers on board both boats and the children took it in turns to steer the boats to their safe harbour. As we reached the campsite the weather cleared up a bit, but the damage was done: in a number of tents the clothes or sleeping area was wet, less because the tents were porous, more because of capillary action and zip inaction. Nonetheless, it was far from a catastrophe and more a lesson to be learnt and, on closer inspection, all pupils were able to sleep comfortably and in the dry.
With the weather brightening again, the children participated in a talent show and performed some skits of various hilarity before the evening ended with the traditional marshmallows round the campfire.
Thursday morning was spent with taking down the tents and clearing up the campsite so no-one would have guessed we were ever there. Prizes were handed out for the best overall tents in terms of decoration, participation and talent. The winners were Elizabeth G, Tilly R, Camilla B, George W, Eden L and Will G. Year 5 returned to Vinehall with big grins on their faces and some valuable lessons learnt about cows, rain and comedy.
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