All photos in this post were taken by Harry, aged almost 12!
As a child I spent most of my school holidays outdoors. We were very lucky that our back garden backed on to woods and we had an orchard and fields a couple of minutes walk away too. My brothers and I would spend our days building dens, making little dams across the streams, swinging on the rope swing in the woods that had been there since my Dad was a child, climbing trees (and falling out of a few!) and roaming around the fields. We would go out after breakfast and not come back until lunchtime. There was a whole gang of us made up of the kids who lived on our little cul-de-sac and we had the best time!
It was a very different life to the ones my children lead. There was no tech, no talking to mates on FaceTime until all hours, no YouTubing how to do stuff and no On Demand Movies (we had to wait for Christmas Day to watch the big blockbuster that had been released in the cinema two years earlier!). While there’s nothing wrong with this, I want them to experience some of the childhood fun that my brothers and I had. Camp Wilderness feel the same way and have set up summer camps for children aged 6 – 15 years. They have four sites – Cholmondeley Castle, Cornbury Park, Hatfield Woods and Penshurst Place where children can stay for 2-day, 3-day and 5-day camps.
We were invited to spend the day with Camp Wilderness at their Hatfield Woods location, to get a taste of how the summer camps work and learn some buschcraft skills such as making a campfire, building and setting traps and cooking outdoors. The day did not disappoint – it was brilliant! The camp is nestled in amongst the trees and had everything needed for a fun stay. There was an outdoor kitchen, pizza ovens, toilets, huge tents that slept 10, two enormous yurts where the activities take place and, hidden further into the woods, a shower block.
As we arrived at camp we were greeted by Jade and all the other lovely members of the team. Ed The Viking (I’m not certain that’s what it says on his birth certificate!) was working hard in the outdoor kitchen making steaming mugs of tea and coffee and he had huge bowls of fresh fruit for us to snack on. We started our day sat around the campfire with a coffee in one of the huge yurts with its sides off so that we could enjoy the glorious spring sunshine.
We were split into two tribes and headed off to design our tribe flag and make our tribal story. It was decided that our tribe name would be Yippee, Yippee, Yippee Awesome! Some of the younger members of our group decorated our flag and little Sam, an adorable toddler and the youngest member of our group, gave us our tribal song by standing on a tree stump and shouting “yah!” at everyone.
Our first activity was to learn how build fires. We were shown various ways of doing this, first was the traditional bow drill – it looked a bit tricky! Next came flint and steel to create sparks that ignited cotton wool with vaseline on it. He also showed us that you could touch a battery to wire wool and it would catch fire due to the current flowing through it, but the most impressive was when he mixed Potassium Permanganate with Glycerin as this created a very bright and fierce burning fire – a definite winner with the kids!
We split back into our tribes and went off to find a suitable area in the woods to light our fire. Kyle, our tribe leader, tasked everyone with finding sticks of various sizes and once we had a good collection the kids were allowed to have a go at lighting the fire which was soon roaring away. A few visits to Ed The Viking gave us a grill, frying pan and burgers to cook. Abby had a go at cooking, but found the fire a little too hot and she got a bit nervous, so Kyle took over. Ed had cooked up some delicious potatoes in the kitchen and we were soon all tucking in to our lunch. While we were eating, Kyle entertained us with some very ‘cheese-y’ jokes (they all had a cheese theme!) and various riddles that we had to work out. Everyone was joining in giving answers and it felt like we had all known each other a lot longer than a few hours.
When lunch was over we needed to put the fire out, so water was poured onto it to make a very soggy charcoal mess. The children all had great fun in throwing the charcoal into the woods so that we left no trace of our fire. The charcoal was also used to camouflage us and Kyle was very happy to put giant handprints on everyone’s faces!
Once lunch had gone down the children disappeared into the woods with the team to play a game of Predator, it’s a bit like Hide and Seek mixed with What’s The Time Mr Wolf and we stayed up at the campfire and enjoyed a coffee while the kids played.
Next we were shown how to set various traps. It was very clever to see how few items you needed to set a trap. We then went back to one of the yurts to make a paracord bracelet each. They were a little bit complicated to start with but I soon got the hang of it and found it quite therapeutic! Our day with Camp Wilderness ended with rice krispie treats, marshmallows being melted on the fire and hot chocolate before we headed home.
We thoroughly enjoyed our day at Camp Wilderness and both kids said that they would love to go to summer camp. Their favourite parts of the day were learning how to build and light the campfire and how to set traps. The fact that they were able to keep all ages, from toddlers through to teenagers, entertained is testament to how great these camps are and we totally recommend them.
For more info on Camp Wilderness or to check the dates of their upcoming Family Days pop over to their Facebook page.
Disclaimer: we were invited to spend the day with Camp Wilderness for free but all thoughts and opinions are our own.