6 Venturers and the 3 Leaders from Cheltenham joined the Woodcraft Folk camp for Venturers over a weekend at Biblins near Symonds Yat. Despite the weather being rather rainy and cool, they had a great time joining in the activities provided and making new friends with Venturers from Cardiff, Bristol and Sheffield. The activities included climbing, and an orienteering challenge. A roaring campfire kept us warm on Saturday evening: the cocoa and singing of our favourite songs made it a real Woodcraft event.
At the end of May we took a group of over 30 children aged from 5-15, including visitors from Cardiff, to the Biblins campsite in the Wye Valley. The group worked together to put up the camp, and to take it down at the end! In between we sang around the camp fire, learnt to whittle, played games and designed games for other groups to play, canoed down the Wye, and went for a walk up the steep hillside to the close-by “Near Hearkening Rock”, where we played capture the flag.
Once again this year we were joined by Cardiff Woodcraft & also had a visit from some Bristol Woodies - was great see to see our friends again, and so lovely to see how the children renewed friendships forged over the last couple of years. Some of the Cardiff group have subsequently joined one of our group evenings. One of our favourite things about Woodcraft is camping with other groups and we sincerely hope this tradition will continue.
"When I heard it was possible, I knew Woodcraft Folk had to take it on". Dave Boon, Cheltenham Elfins leader and Chair of Biblins Management Committee.
The Biblins is a large campsite on the banks for the river Wye, used by youth and community groups for many years. Cheltenham Woodcraft Folk have been staying there for more years than any of us can remember. So, when the Forestry Commission decided to invite bids to take over the management of the site, it seemed like something we just had to try for.
To cut a long story short, National Woodcraft Folk were persuaded to support the bid, Debs McCahon the Development Director of Woodcraft took it on as a personal mission, a business plan was written, interviews carried out, and before any of us had time to catch breath Woodcraft Folk had a contract from the Forestry Commission to take on the management of the site for 20 years.
The site opened in March to some of the heaviest snow in years, but after some teething troubles it is now going strong. Members of Woodcraft Folk can go to stay as Volunteer wardens, and these are a few photos from our first weekend doing that. Cheltenham maintains a strong involvement, with four people from Cheltenham on the management committee, and our long-standing equipment officer and treasurer Chris working as the site assistant.
For more information see www.biblins.org.uk
After something like 26 years running groups and supporting the Woodcraft Folk, Kath and I have decided that it is time to move on and we will be finishing leading at the end of this summer term. We have had a fabulous time over the years, with many adventures, as well as making some great friends and getting to know many many fantastic children.
It all started for us in September 1990 when we took our eldest daughter Annie, aged 5, (she is now 31!) to an Elfin group run from Northlands Youth Centre (as was) in Pittville. Within weeks we were told that the group would be folding as all the leaders were giving up - I hope it had nothing to do with us joining! Dorothy, Maxie and me decided to give it a go, and with the help of Liz who stayed on for one term and Naomi, a young person who had been through the Woodcraft Folk as a child, we kept it going. And the rest as they say is history!
Hopefully it won't be quite such a shock for those taking over the reins this time, our Dave "Bushcraft" Boon has a true Woodie pedigree having been a member from before he could pick up an axe (he has even experienced wappenshaw - you ask him!) and we have some very creative and active parents in Ems and Lou (with very supportive partners) bringing new ideas and new enthusiasm to the group. And of course we have a fantastic group of young members who understand the Woodcraft way and will go on to great things. We are leaving the group in very capable hands.
Around 30 young members, parents and leaders gathered for a spring camp, four nights in the beautiful Gower, in a field surrounded by woodland.
Check out our camp report here.
Our recent charity bring-and-buy sale raised over £100 - our young members voted & decided to donate this to the Marine Conservation Society. They were very pleased with our donation and came in to give us a fascinating talk about marine animals that lurk in the depths of the world's oceans! Our donation was used to sponsor two creatures - Timmy the Turtle (Elfins) & Kevin the Seahorse (Pioneers & Venturers).
Each week Timmy is being looked after by a different elfin & a report into the adventurers he's been having can be viewed here.
Nearly 40 young members, parents and leaders gathered for a spring camp, four nights at the stunning Biblins site in a wooded valley just below Yat Rock and right along side the river Wye. The weather was kind, if a little cold at times, it stayed dry and the sun came out to remind us how it brightens the world.
Check out our camp report here.
Q. What are Woodchips?
A. They are budding Woodcraft Folk'ers aged between 0 and 6.
Q. Do we have Woodchips in Cheltenham?
A. Well yes we do, one or two come along to Kingfisher Elfins with their mummies or daddies. No doubt there are many more younger brothers and sisters enviously watching their older sibs go off to enjoy themselves on a Monday evening.
Q. Is there more we can do for our Woodchips?
A. Yes indeed we could. In other areas mums and dads get together under the Woodcraft Banner and organise activities, get togethers and trips out.
Q. Why doesn't this happen in Cheltenham?
A. It certainly could, it only takes one or two of the parents of Woodchips to think it a good idea, to arrange something and to invite others to join in - simple as that!
Q. Why should we do this as Woodcrafters when we could do it on our own?
A. If you were to be registered as a group you would get a small starter grant, you would be covered by public liability insurance and you would have access to Cheltenham District expertise, District equipment and District financial resources.
Q. Would a Woodchip Group need to meet at the Scout Hut on a Monday Evening?
A. Absolutely not (although it could if that was thought the best idea) A Woodchip group can be organised in any way it wishes, perhaps meeting at weekends, or just when it feels right, why not kick it off by forming a Facebook group and wait for the ideas to start flowing. Be sure to find ways of involving Woodchips in other Woodcraft Folk activities - they just love it!
Q. How do we make it happen?
A. If there are any potential Woodchippers out there who think this a good idea let me know and we will see where this leads!
We've recently had a couple of evening sessions where the children have used scrap material to make some great puppets & then use these puppets to create some wonderful stories; as well as using their imaginations to put together some very intricate Crazy Golf courses!
To have a look at some photos of these and other sessions, as well as our various trips away - click on this link.
The Woodcraft Folk has a long and proud history. It is celebrating its 90th birthday this year (more about this in future newsletters). The Folk came originally from the Scout movement, which itself was still a relatively new organisation. It all started just after the end of the first world war when a number of different groups split from the Scouts because of concerns about their militaristic approach to youth work. The Folk have direct links with an organisation called Kibbo Kift, a group for both sexes and all ages set up to encourage 'urban people' to enjoy the countryside and build world peace. Not everyone agreed with the leadership of the group and in 1925 a young man called Leslie Paul and a few others left to form a cooperative group in South London called The Woodcraft Folk.
The name came from Earnest Thomas Seton who set up a Scouting type group in America called Woodcraft Indians. The name described the skills needed to live out of doors and close to nature, rather than building things from wood!
The circular symbol of two trees and the rising sun represented young people growing into a new world based on equality, justice and peace. These remain as important to the Woodcraft Folk today as they were then - with a bit of sustainability and a love of the natural world thrown in for good measure!
You can find out much more about Folk history, including a film made in 1985 by Leslie Paul, on the national Woodcraft Folk's website through this link - http://woodcraft.org.uk/history.
At our recent District Meeting it was decided that, rather than collect weekly “subs” payments at group meetings, we will move to “Termly Donations”. This will help speed the start of our meetings, where much time is being spent in financial transactions.
In addition, to increase the funds available to the Woodcraft Folk, we are also seeking these donations under the Gift Aid scheme. If you are a UK tax payer, and you sign up for Gift Aid, then for every £10 you donate to the Woodcraft Folk, we can claim back £2.50 from the Tax man, at no extra cost to yourself.
For more details, please see this page.
Big Mose has come and gone already and all too quickly. Some old favourites turned up again this year, a crumpet supper on Friday, eggy bready breakfast, toasted marshmallows around the camp fire, the climbing net and games in the woods - to name but a few.
New favourites included pepper boats for our lunch (scrummy), a rope swing and a fantastic Merry Moot talent show for our headlining Saturday evening entertainment. It had everything, some fine juggling from Duncan (with a lot of help), some lovely singing from Connie and from Lucy, two up and coming comedians (Ruby and Archie), some fantastically energetic break dancing from Samuel and dancing from a Connie and Lily double act - and of course .... who could forget the performance of "Bendy Belinda"!? It was finished off with a spectacular cup dance from Natasha (the producer of the show), Saoirse and Ella. So who won I hear you all ask? Well it was John with his spell binding magic trick of successfully inserting a match into each of his nostrils without using his hands. Seeing is believing and I am not the one brave enough to tell you how he did it - and in front of the children too. It really was a show to remember!
There were plenty of signs of the Big Mose again this year but no confirmed sightings - we're just going to have to try harder next year.
Our young members did us proud last night (Monday 16th December) at the Charity Bring and Buy. They raised a whopping £107. 95p. What a fantastic effort. The evening started with a song in memory of Nelson Mandela, we sang Back of the Bus - a traditional Woodcraft Folk song about Rosa Parks' protest about inequality in America. It was very impressive to hear how much our young members knew about the great man, Nelson Mandela . Singing the song seemed to set the scene for a big effort to raise a whole load of money. In the news circle our young members nominated their favourite charity and we had a huge range of different types of charities, including for homeless people, the Philippines, the Red Cross, a local special school and a number of animal charities.
Everyone joined in with the sale, people bought books, games, sweets, cakes, popcorn, badges and much much more. We had a splat the rat and a skittles game to tempt us out of our money. Selling was very intense and resulted in some great offers, bargain BOGOFs and half price sales.
The evening finished with a vote during the final circle and the three groups (Elfins, Pioneers and Venturers) decided by two votes that the £107.95p should go to Cancer Research. A cheque will be on its way as soon as we can get the money to the bank. Well done to all who took part.
Some pictures of the event can be viewed here.
Kath and Duncan went to the Pilley Bridge Nature Reserve to clean out the nesting boxes put up by the Kingfisher Elfins last April. A couple had some signs of being visited and one had a full nest in it. It belonged to Mr and Mrs Great Tit (we had the nest identified by a speaker from the RSPB). The floor of the nest box was covered in a soft bed of moss, grass and other bits of soft fibre. At one end was a 'nest cup' lined with wool, fur and hair, the eggs would have been laid in here. It looked very cosy indeed. The nest will have been built by Mrs Great Tit all on her own; her feller has the job of hanging around looking tough to keep other male Great Tits away!
Easy to recognise, Great Tits are the biggest of all the Tits. They have a bright yellow and black jackets, a black shiny cap and white cheeks. They live in woodlands and love to visit our garden bird tables. They feed on insects, caterpillars, seeds and nuts.