Saturday, 28 May 2011

Rainfall and blustering wind...

It has been a curious week at Camas.

Everyone did their Saturday work on Sunday and after a week of up and down weather the forecast of a great deal of wind and rainfall wasn't entirely unexpected for our day off on Mond
ay. Some of us left to visit Iona across the sound on Sunday afternoon and we were expecting a significant gathering of visitors, friends and family, who were during the milder Sunday afternoon making their respective paths towards Camas.

As Sunday moved on the weather's intentions became
apparent and we all began to realise that we would either be kept indoors for the whole of our day off or we would have to make a sincere effort to make the most out of such moody weather. The folks who had left for Iona the day before were indefinitely stuck and the folks who unwittingly decided to travel to Craignure in Mull for a day of possibility were met with a furious wind which brought down trees by the roadside, carried the tops of streams and waterfalls into the air and generally was a bother to everyone and anyone.

After a short time in Craignure the car we had brought with
us began to hobble and the tyre had to be changed. In the wind and rain, with very little experience of such a predicament... Well, it seemed to work out anyway besides. You can't blame the weather for the occasional outburst; it's usually so well-behaved. Island weather is everything all at the same time. It makes the days highly original and unexpected.

The squall...

The week that followed was all preparation, maintenance, pu
tting odds and ends together and getting to know each other better. There was tent pitching, throw line training, first aid box maintenance, track maintenance with lots of chicken wire and pieces of planks, we salvaged some wood from the garden and did a good deal of trimming, tidying and all the rest. Our guests visited and several parents, siblings and friends joined us, considerately helping out with general keeping Camas tidy and comfortable.

Making a tent...

A completed tent...

Tents, tents, tents!

Pots and pans, pans and pots...

Preparing to repair the track...

It had begun in a very unusual fashion, this week, and it didn't look at all like we would give very much done. But the wind gradually began to subside and as we settled into all our preparation for the week ahead things began to happen again. There was a delicious dinner or two and we began to prepare for what we had all been looking forward to for sometime: a visit from children from all across Iona and Mull to take part in an array of activities including storytelling, rock-pooling (exploring the wilds of the sea), games activities, art and poetry and a trip to our very own organic garden just at the entrance of Camas. The planning wasn't exactly familiar ground for us all but our respective enthusiasm made sure that nobody worried all that much and as much energy as was possible went into the day itself.

The children arrived on Thursday morning as a cavalcade of stomping feet
and excited voices all around Camas and we had some biscuits ready for them all. They came and we split them all into groups so that there wasn't too many of them all at once; the crabs, the starfish, the seagulls, the sharks, the jellyfish, and whales. The sounds of stomping feet everywhere never stopped except for lunch and everything buzzed with curiosity and excitement. It was a thrill to be able to share the experience of Camas with so many children and leave them with memories of here.

An evening gathering...

It is always important to have a stick...

Later on on Thursday we had some delicious pancakes in the evening and had a little Camas get together, dressing up as what we used to look like (or what we thought we used to look like) and sat next to a warm old fire. The evening then took an exciting turn when a cardboard box was unveiled and revealed a whole host of different ways to spend the rest of the evening.

How to fit inside a box...

The week ended on a very satisfied and heady note, and though it was not quite as everyone had planned it was still as varied and surprising as you might like. It's good to rest assured that everyone seems a lot more settled in as Camas rolls towards a busier next few weeks!

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Altogether now!

Hello Camas fans!

It's been a pretty busy fortnight here since Maddie, Autumn and Rachel arrived at the end of the track. Maddie has joined us from Bristol, Rachel from Reading and Autumn all the way from Oregon, USA-Camas' favourite west coast state! For the first week we also enjoyed the company of Chris, our Glasgow based member of the team and altogether fun guy with an abundant knowledge of all films.

Amongst other training we enjoyed the delights of the company and expertise of Camas hero George Fell for 2 days who took us through our First Aid paces and made sure we are all up to speed and prepared for any outdoor emergency we might come across in the coming season. Throughout the two days we all suffered from several broken limbs, falls, concussion and heart failure but we all saw an amazing recovery thanks to the brilliant skills we now possess.

Friday saw the whole team (as it was) travelling over to Iona to meet the team there, enjoy a staff lunch and an adventure to Columba's bay.

This Tuesday heralded the arrival of Rob and Keiran to complete our 2011 Camas staff team and a trip to Tobermory by many of us to enjoy the fantastic music of Lau!

Wednesday kicked off with yet another arrival: another Camas hero, Kenny our technical advisor, braving the track to train us all up on the outdoor activities. The following days were filled with training for kayaking, navigation, walking, abseiling and raft building in all sorts of adverse weather. Abseiling in high winds and hail stones and building rafts in torrential rain making sure we're all prepared for the season ahead!

We're all enjoying getting to know each other and are looking forward to welcoming people to enjoy their week at Camas in the months ahead. We've also spent a lot of time getting to know Camas better too. I've been particularly enjoying the antics of the chickens, cats and lambs. Apparently the cats aren't too keen on playing with the lambs but it doesn't stop the lambs trying!

Wildlife highlights include a seal in the bay earlier today while we were launching out indestructible raft, many seals bathing on the rocks just off Erraid during our all day walk yesterday, lapwings protecting their nest from sheep along the track, lots of deer at the side of the road during our midnight drive home from the gig and I'm sure I've missed some! We've also experienced the first midges of the season-worth noting! Hamish has been patiently teaching almost everyone chords on the Ukulele, most of us have been singing together and many of us were inspired by the amazing Lau to pick up Rachel's piano accordian and have a go too!

The new Camas walkie talkies have been tried and tested too, very good for sending a tea order ahead from a cold abseiling session!

Looking forward to meeting many of you over the coming months,


Below are a few photos of us doing various training things...

Saturday, 14 May 2011

A Right Royal Weeding

Many mucky hands make light work in the Camas Garden. We had Colin, Lena, Sue (and briefly, the "waanderful" Bob), Marilyn, Mary, Christine and Liz for a few days of bramble bashing, stone picking, bracken composting, weeding, digging, mulching, muck and much besides. Potatoes (lots and lots) were planted in truly scrumptious compost while on the wild side we saw the return of Cuckoo Flower, Vetch, Tormentil, Silverweed, Bluebells, Ragged Robin, Buttercups and Daisies. Staff and guests completed the John Muir 'Discovery' Award and did plenty to earn it, including identifying wild plants and creatures in hand made journals, splashing feet in the sea and a determined few even spent a blustery night under canvas in true 'Muir Up!' spirit. It was an opportunity to reflect on the garden as something between wilderness and not; a chance to get the lazy beds in order for the growing season and while mostly letting be the untamed fringes of the Camas garden. Nettles, brambles and bracken still reign but a little bit less than before!

There was one goodbye this week. Farewell and hip hip hooray to Cynthia, our volunteer from the Isle of Bute. We had a fine month of larks, starry skies and tea breaks with you. We also cried 'Timber!' to a few of the Sitka Spruce, the largest conifers in the garden, which have been felled for firewood and to give room to the smaller native broadleaves in the woodland. Thanks to Jim, our jolly lumberjack.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

A Busy Week

Since the last blog there has been a lot going on in and around the centre! Easter included a service and a ceilidh on Iona, plus egg painting and glitterfying, and an ongoing Easter egg hunt (there is still one left that I know of, in the art room). We've had our small but genial open-of-season party, complete with ridiculous costumes, too much food and a bonfire on the beach. The food even included some fresh lobster and an octopus courtesy of Jamie.

The party was soon followed by the Open Day, which saw lots of brave local kids having a go at abseiling the quarry, and large quantities of cakes and tea consumed on the porch. The day before yesterday we got started on our first course for the year! This is an adult's week focused on the garden, and we are all getting lots done under Becky's direction, as we also discover, explore, conserve, and share wild places for our John Muir awards.

I had a go at sleeping out on the lawn, and we've all been taking advantage of the sunny weather with morning swims and paddles in the ocean, and throwing frisbee on the beach.
For me as a new volunteer it's been a great few weeks and I'm learning a lot. So far I've been learning the art of estimating quantities of food for large numbers of people (it never hurts to add another can of beans), leading reflections, making scones and bread (it helps if you use the right type of flour), weeding, building things, pushing wheelbarrows, pulling bracken, and identifying the constellations of the northern hemisphere's night sky. Next week will see a few new volunteers join us and we'll begin some outdoor activity and first aid training.

Here's hoping this amazing weather lasts a little longer!
- Hamish