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aerial walkway 2 (2)
aerial walkway
quad bike

We set off shortly after 10.30am on Tuesday 29th May with 26 girls and 7 staff in 2 minibuses and Gill's car, heading for Cricket Camp in Manor Farm Country Park, north-east of Southampton. Shortly afterwards the heavens opened and for a while we were driving through torrential rain with the country roads rapidly flooding at the edges. Luckily we were not heading for a soggy campsite but for the dry amenities of Pauline's Lodge. Even so, on arrival we sat in the minibuses watching the rain and waiting for some easing off to avoid a complete soaking between the car park and Lodge door.
The wet start apart, we were very fortunate with the weather — only our walk scheduled for the first afternoon was rained off. After that it was dry whenever we wanted to go out and we even saw some sunshine!
On Wednesday morning we had inter-squad games outside the Lodge. Each squad had to compete in skipping (how many skips in a minute) and Jenga. The big surprise was that our demon skipper, at over 70 skips a minute, was Niamh who at just 8 years old was one of the youngest. With 5 squads there was always an odd squad, but instead of sitting out they played petanque on the gravel court. After a tasty sandwich lunch (we always eat well with Gill in charge of the kitchen) we went for a walk through the woods and along the river (no-one fell in!) stopping at a play area for the girls to burn off more energy and the staff to have a breather. Then ice-creams all round (thank you Kym!) before heading back to the Lodge.
On Thursday we headed off in the minibuses to Marwell Activity Centre for two adventures. Half the girls donned helmets and harnesses to brave the aerial walkway while the other half were kitted out in helmets and gloves for the quad bike circuit. For most of the girls it was their first experience of any form of motorbike and the learning curves varied from slow to quick with everything between. A trio of stuttering bikes marred the start for the first group (they had of course been working perfectly only 20 minute before when the instructors warmed them up!) but after some expert tweaking the session took off. After lunch the groups swapped over and my group took to the trees. In the morning Kimberley had persuaded the instructors to let her join the girls on the walkway, but I was very happy to keep my feet on the ground and watch the girls conquer their fears — which they all did! The surprise speed merchant of the afternoon quad bike session was pint-sized Madison.
Each evening Amy led a session combining devotions and craft. The craft projects were nicely judged, with all girls able to complete their items in the time available, and included decorating a bag to take all their bits and pieces home in. Even better, there were no needles to thread, and re-thread, and thread again — until Friday!
On Friday afternoon we went swimming at Romsey Rapids — so all the girls would be returned to their parents in a moderately clean condition! It's a good pool for a range of ages and abilities, with pirate-themed amusements for the non-swimmers and a big slide for the more adventurous. It was good to see the older girls taking the youngest up the slide when a bit of reassurance was wanted.
Owing to the soggy ground, a conventional camp fire was out, but instead, after dinner we gathered outside for a sing-song, seated around glowing coals set up on an old barbecue stand. All the old favourites were requested including 'You'll never get to heaven'; it seems Amy's car, water skis and biscuit tins are among the many items to be avoided!
Saturday morning it was all hands on deck to pack up, but there was still time for Kym to present the camp certificates and souvenirs as we sat over the crumbs of breakfast and, of course to announce the winning squad — Kenya, led by Libby Bentley. (The five squads — Kenya, Bahamas, Romania, Thailand and Tuvalu — were named after countries which have GB companies.)
Many thanks to Kym for organising everything and shouldering the ultimate responsibility for 5 days, to Gill (ably assisted by Sue Wells from Farnham) for feeding us so well, to Glenda for the bed-time stories and pills and to Amy and Kimberley who ran the evening sessions so well. Thanks also to Amery Hill School who entrusted us with two of their minibuses.
Nancy Buck

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