Forest of Dean Summer Camp 1977

Page 1 - Sunday and Monday

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In 1977 I did a stupid thing. While attending the Duke of Edinburgh camp in the Forest of Dean I took plenty of photos on slide film. I returned to the Forest a few weeks later for another expedition and took the now-processed film with me. I carried it round in my rucksack for three days and then, right at the end, put it on the roof of Miss Read's car while we loaded up. Of course I forgot it was there and we drove off. I soon realised what I had done and we returned but there was no sign of the film, someone must have picked it up. You therefore won't find any of my pictures on this set of pages. I have however managed to obtain the excellent pictures taken by Bill Norris, to whom particular thanks are due. Together with other pictures and a fair amount of research I have been able to put together an account of the camp. Changes and updates can easily be made so I would love to hear from anyone else who was on the camp, particularly if you can supply more pictures or an account of your expedition.

And if you were the person who picked up those slides at Symonds Yat in 1977 then I REALLY want to hear from you! Click here to email me.

This was the first of the D of E summer camps and also my first visit to Bracelands camp site in the Forest of Dean, a place I have been back to many times since. It ran from the 3rd to the 9th July 1977, which just to make the camp more enjoyable, was during term time.

Our tents were pitched on a small area of ground to the left of the road, just outside the gate into Bracelands site. I don't know if the teachers had been told to go there by the Warden, certainly I have never seen anyone else camp there since and these days it is quite overgrown with bushes.

Those attending the camp were:

Staff
Miss Read
Mr Grierson
Mr Grierson's wife
Mr Grierson's baby

Expedition group 1
John Mann
Ian Wakefield
David Robins
Steven Heath

Expedition group 2
William Norris
Steve Mahoney
Clive Webb
Graham Beacham

Expedition group 3
Joanne Broadwood
Madeline Muller
Debbie Howett
Caroline Harper
Karen ?

The idea was that this would be a base camp from where groups would set out on their expeditions. Expeditions were complicated by the fact that the Forestry Commission only permitted camping at the Christchurch/Bracelands site. D of E rules required camping at a different site each night. This could be achieved by treating Christchurch as a separate site and venturing out of the Forest to Monmouth. The camp documents page shows the menus for the camp, this was the food provided by the leaders, for the duration of an expedition groups would cook for themselves.

We arrived on Sunday the 3rd July 1977and pitched our tents. Some of the girls spotted a rat near their chosen spot and decided to move their tent to a different position. With the tents up, everyone went for a walk down to the suspension bridge at Biblins. We walked down the valley to the North East of the campsite. Now one forest track looks much like another and on our return Mr Grierson took the parallel track to the South West. No-one realised until after turning right and climbing a hill we arrived in the village of Staunton, not at the site. Mr Grierson tried to raise spirits on the trek back to camp by getting us to sing Flanders and Swann's A Song of Patriotic Prejudice ("The Englishman's Splendid, the Englishman's nice"). [Note 30/08/14 - it is only now that I have finally identified this song. I purchased the At the Drop of Another Hat LP yesterday at Oxfam because it had Slow Train on it and found that the song after it sounded familiar!]

 

Sunday afternoon. We've got one tent up and are just starting work on the second. L-R: David Robins, Ian Wakefield and John Mann. The green tent is mine. I still use it today but have had to have a new flysheet made.

Photo: Steven Heath

 

 

John Mann, Ian Wakefield and Steven Heath at Bracelands on the Monday afternoon. Towels drying after our trip to Lydney Swimming Pool.

Photo: David Robins

On the Monday we had to walk up to the camp shop at Christchurch to get milk. I think we must have been buying for the whole camp, as I seem to recall walking along carrying a crate. I am always reminded of that day when I visit Bracelands camp and drive along the camp road. A large part of the day was spent following the Forest orienteering course, you can still do that today and I can recommend it as good fun. It may have been on that day also that we were taken to Lydney swimming pool, down by the docks. After sunbathing for a while I suddenly realised that walking with a rucksack would be rather painful with sunburnt shoulders! We also tried out the Forest orienteering course which is good fun, you can still do this today.

William Norris's group had a three day expedition to do; the girls however only had a two day trip. Both these groups began their expeditions (I think) on the Monday. In those days girls (at Prince Phillip's insistence) had much easier expedition requirements. I believe these days not only are the requirements the same but girls and boys can go on expeditions together.

 

 

 

Ian Wakefield checks the route for the next day's expedition. The tent belonged to my Dad and was originally purchased in Barbados in the 1950s. He still has it.

Photo: David Robins

 

 

John Mann (left) and Steven Heath (right) washing up on Monday evening watched by Ian Grierson and his wife.

Photo: David Robins

 

 

Debbie Howett and Karen at Bracelands

Photo: William Norris

On Tuesday after breakfast our group's tents came down and we departed on our three day expedition. Details of that here. I therefore have no knowledge of what went on at the Base Camp till we got back on Thursday.

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