After a disturbed night’s sleep (two trips to the Gents hedge for me and one for Ben) I was the first camper to get up. It wasn’t early for me at 5.30am but it was obviously far too early for the other adventurers. I use the term adventurers because today was the day we were going to the New Forest Adventure Centre!
I needed tea so I broke out our £20 Halfords single burner gas cylinder stove (living the good life), filled the £5 whistling kettle (no expense spared) and made a surprisingly refreshing cuppa. It was quite serene sitting in the early morning light until the peace and tranquility of it all was ruined by a “7 on the Richter Scale” snore from a tent that the confidentiality rules of the trip prevent me from identifying.
I showered then wasted 10 minutes of my life that I won’t get back trying to convince my 12 year-old son that he needed and would indeed enjoy a shower.
I was just beginning to wonder if my compatriots were waiting for Gladys Pugh to come over the camp PA system and say “Good morning campers. Hi-de-Hi” when they slowly started to emerge. Eventually we were all up and about and everyone had their breakfast. Those driving got the postcode of where we were going and off we went. What, I thought to myself, could possibly go wrong?
I’d upgraded the maps on my Sat Nav before I came away so I was very confident my Garmin would get me exactly where I needed to go. Sadly I had taken the postcode of the booking office from the bottom of the organiser’s letter not the place we had to go so, tail between my legs, I had to go into that office and ask for directions. The others, who had taken the correct postcode (or claimed they had), didn’t do a lot better as apparently even that didn’t lead them to the right location. One driver (no names, no pack drills) got very lost but did eventually turn up with his charges.
The first part of our ‘adventure’ was archery. Fifteen of us lined up to be told how the weapons used by our ancestors at Agincourt worked and in the hope that some of that skill had been passed down to us we took aim. Scores, I’ve been told, were irrelevant but I think it’s fair to say nobody did well.
Second of the day’s adventures was ropes. I wasn’t sure, when we booked the day’s activities, what this entailed and it was cheaper if I didn’t take part so bearing in mind how much I’d lashed out on a stove and kettle – I opted out. It turns out that ropes was a lot of fun. It involved an assault type course similar to but more complex than those found in some primary school playgrounds. Then the adventurers had to climb to a considerable height, in full safety gear, and negotiate a challenging path between trees that required considerable courage and balance.
There was a pack lunch laid on by the Centre but, as with all things, the kids squabbled about what they had and wanted to know why their individual lunch wasn’t exactly what they wanted. Originally we thought our surnames had been helpfully written on the paper carrier bags but closer inspection revealed that the organisers surname was on all of them. After a lot of bartering and swapping I think everyone had a satisfactory meal.
So lunch being over we went on our third and final adventure. The venue for this was just a short drive away but once again some of our entourage got lost! Once we all got there this was, to my mind anyway, the best of the day. Six three-person canoes were lashed together in pairs for us to crew on the Beaulieu river. The instructors made up the final boat and we set off to learn boating skills. Perhaps, I thought, we’d have gleaned more from the genes of our ancestors at Trafalgar than we did from those at Agincourt? It turns out we did. I think I can safely say that everyone enjoy our stint on the river although some of the younger crew members were waning towards the end.
The journey back to camp was broken up for my car by a trip to the supermarket to top up the food supplies. Despite this we still seemed rather short of burgers when we started cooking which might have been my fault as I didn’t write down what I was supposed to buy!
Perhaps because I was feeling guilty about the burger shortage, I volunteered to do the washing up for the second time. It was whilst doing this that I noticed that some of the crockery and cutlery had been labelled. Not like ours with a thick permanent marker for when the kids went to camp but with properly made white waterproof labels. Interestingly the bottle opener we had been using exclusively to open our bottled beer was apparently owned by the nine year-old of the family.
We ate a lot earlier than we had the previous evening and just as I was wondering how we’d fill the rest of our evening someone (I have to say ‘someone’ under our Charterhouse Rules) suggested that we should go to the pub. There wasn’t any need for a vote on this as it was quite obviously the thing to do after our magnificent efforts to mimic Robin Hood and recreate the opening sequence from Hawaii Five-O earlier in the day.
In the pub, once the beers began to flow, all sorts of things happened. We had a drunken conference call with the Mums back home. One of the adults did some card tricks. Finally some of us tried to learn an extremely complicated card game that some how I won. I felt reasonably happy that is was complicated and it wasn’t the alcohol adding to my confusion as my daughter who hadn’t been drinking (not at that point anyway!) kept asking questions about the rules too.
Favourite phrase of the trip so far: “Yes you can but don’t tell your Mother.”