1st Middleton and Loughton Summer Camp to Brownsea Island

When it came to thinking ahead to where to take our Cubs, Scouts and Explorers on summer camp 2017, it was a no brainer considering that this year we celebrate 110 years of scouting. So what better place to share the anniversary, but on Brownsea Island itself, where Baden-Powell held his very first experimental camp.

We decided to boost our numbers by inviting our good friends from Loughton Scout Group and on Saturday 29th July we headed off with 25 young people and 9 leaders for a 5 night camp on the island.

The journey went like clockwork with our Tesco delivery even being ahead of time and all our food safely stowed away within the brownsea island ferry kiosk at Sandbanks. We stopped for some lunch before forming a large chain along the gang way to get all our back packs and 21 crates of Tesco food onto the boat ready to set sail for Brownsea! With no shops on the island and 34 hungry mouths to feed – these were vital supplies!

We minimised the amount of equipment needed by hiring the tents from the National Trust on the island and in no time we had set up our camp with a view overlooking the sea! Our new island home was shared with peacocks, red squirrels and deer, oh and not to mention large wood ants! But one of the favourite places for exploring was down on our own private beach where we could look for crabs, skim stones or wade out into the sea – just perfect!

On our second evening, we were invited to join in a camp fire circle with a group of girl guides who were also staying on the island. Fires are only limited to one area of Brownsea Island, due to how flammable the island is, so this was a real treat to have a camp fire. We took it in turns to sign our favourite campfire songs, with ‘campfire’ Dave Eveling leading our songs. The girl guides gave us a run for our money with very tuneful and harmonious singing and we even took away one of their songs as a new adopted campfire favourite as we couldn’t stop singing it for the rest of the week!

The following day, we decided to venture off the island on an excursion to Swanage. We took the first ferry of the day to Sandbanks and waited for our coach to whisk us away to Corfe Castle so we could connect with our steam train to Swanage. The only snag was that there was a communication breakdown within the coach company and he was waiting for us in Poole! Whilst we were finding this out, an open top bus arrived at the bus stop and after a swift negotiation with the driver, we all hopped aboard and enjoyed an open top bus ride to Poole to collect our coach! A lot of fun was head waving and cheering to unsuspecting passers by from the top of the bus, this brought a smile to many of the local residents! We managed to get the train we were booked on and had our very own carriage reserved for our heritage train ride to Swanage. With all the fun of the morning, what better way to refuel then with a bag of sausage and chips overlooking the sea – heaven!
After a whistle stop tour of Swanage for a couple of hours, it was time to head back to the train station for another train ride back to the coach which took us back to Poole. We then boarded the last ferry of the day back to Brownsea Island.

The next day on the island was a very special day as it was the 110th anniversary itself and we were invited to a special ceremony held around the memorial flagpole on the campsite. We were in for a treat, as over 50 scouts from Hong Kong descended on the island for the day. Representatives from Gilwell Park led us all in the short memorial service and we all then renewed our promises. Once these celebrations were over, we stayed behind to invest two of our newest members of the group, Michael Harris, our new Scout Leader and Christian Normann, our newest Vulcan Explorer Scout. As it happened, many of the Hong Kong Scouts also stayed behind and this sparked a frenzy of badge and necker swapping which everyone throughly enjoyed! Many contact details were also swapped with the commissioner for their region inviting us to visit them in Hong Kong in the future!

Our final full day on the island was met with typical British summer weather, rain and howling wind, however, the young people did not moan once and enjoyed a morning or activities organised by the National Trust focusing on Baden Powells camp and all the skills the young boys were taught 110 years ago. During the afternoon, we let the young people dry off within the mess tent where they spent many happy hours building clay models and playing cards………they were perfectly contented! Our final evening was rounded off with a ‘Brownsea Island’s Got Talent’ show. We invited the young people to put on a performance and we were treated to a couple of magic shows, some comedy and even the leaders got up to sing a song! A great way to round off a wonderful camp.

So then the final day came and it was time to head back to the quayside to collect our ferry back to the mainland and return back home to Milton Keynes. Whilst waiting for the ferry, there was one final display of chivalry shown by our Chairman ‘Foord’. My favourite camp hat was blown off into the sea by a sudden gust of wind and after retrieving it with a large net failed, Foord lept to rescue by wading into the shallow waters and swimming out to get it! An act Baden Powell himself would have been proud of!

So it’s farewell to Brownsea Island for now, with so many wonderful memories to take away of happy young people swimming in the sea, swapping badges with international scouts and waving to everyone aboard an open top bus plus many many more!

So to finish off with our favourite phrase of the camp.;

‘Where is Brownsea Island?’
‘in Dorset?’
Yes I thoroughly recommend it! 😀

………..and of course we do!