Every September our district holds a Cub Scout skills camp and we are lucky enough to be allowed to use a farm that has lovely verdant fields which back onto mixed woodland and a large lake and is well placed for anyone interested to see vintage planes (Duxford isn't a million miles away).
Now a couple of weeks before this camp I'd been contacted by Chris James, The Scout Association's brand adviser to see if I would be up for doing a kit review for Vango, who are one of the Association's partners. As the camp for within sight I said yes and wondered what item I would get...it was items; a tent, a sleeping bag and a rucksack with the brief to make a small video about them. With hindsight I should have perhaps just done one because I was supposed to be helping with the camping competition and dealing with the urge just to run into the woods and not come out until it's time to strike camp!
Still, I hadn't slept in a 'proper' tent or a while (I usually tarp and hammock it on this camp) so that would be a novelty in a way and I was pleased to be asked. The tent I'm pitching (above right) can be seen in the final set up away on the left so that I could get some clear shots with my camera in video mode. Once I was set up I had the quickest of quick bimbles to set up a trail cam. There's a page of images here.
A little later on whilst scoping for fire wood I noticed a huge badger latrine and other activity about a minute from our camp which boded well. So the competition started and I kept my eyes and ears on the woods and saw lots of woodpeckers, buzzards and the like. Come the evening there was the usual campfire, pre bed drink, homemade and strategically placed leopard print thong (you needed to be there) and the like. I turned in at a reasonable time to make sure i was rested for an early morning look around before the competition started again.
Just being ten minutes into the countryside had greatly enhanced the stars out the previous night and I awoke to a mild and glorious morning with Venus in the eastern sky.
As I got started it was lovely just watching as the morning sky sorted itself just before the sun rose, and the human element started adding streaky contrails. I did a quick 'stand spot' behind a small shrubby hawthorn near my tent becasue I'd previously heard two badgers have a brief disagreement and could hear rustling in the undergrowth. I also though I saw two badgers near our mess tent but I wasn't sure if I was just willing it to be so.
I then moved on towards the wood and froze because ambling merrily out of the woods, from the direction of the latrine, came a badger. He got to about fifteen feet away, suddenly saw me and did a one-eighty back into the woods with a loud 'duff, duff, duff' as his big feet hit the hard ground at speed. I propped myself up against a nearby oak to see if he popped back out but the cubs stared making noise and going for a pee soon after so I abandoned my station. Shame because the morning was so still. I did manage a quick sneak peak at the latrine after breakfast and it had definitely been visited in the night.
I also spotted a kill sight and I'm not the hottest at tracking and sign but I'm going for a fox kill as the quill ends are chewed out, as opposed to plucked cleanly which I believe raptors do. happy for any input if I'm wrong.
It was still early so I set up a paracord line to air my soon-to-be-reviewed sleeping bag and to avert a survival situation I got the tea urn lit.
Later it was bacon, just bacon...Well and some other stuff...A large group of eight, nine and ten year olds had had a great weekend of fun and competition and had a large dose of country air to boot. Ironically they had been away from their X boxes and the like but lots of leaders were glued to their mobiles.
Once the need for firewood had come and gone all the packs carefully dispersed any unused wood back into the wood. I decided to keep this piece of silver birch because whilst the very looks a little brittle, it has a triangular section, a nice curve and possibly some spalting (see where my thumb is). It not getting burnt and being a spoon shape may have been fate?
Oh and plane wise we saw the B-17 twice, a pair of Jet Provosts, a P-51 Mustang, de Havilland Dragon Rapide and a pair of stunt planes (one of them did a double barrel roll over the camp).