First though, I love the outdoors. I love in particular hiking and camping. Its just so nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and be close to nature. A good campfire at the end of a long active day is the perfect way to unwind and relax. There is something very heart-warming about a campfire experience.
There is one particular camp that I take part in each year that is a competition to build a camp off the ground without using any nails, screws or power tools. There are three age categories. 14-17 year olds. 18-25 year olds. And the +25s. I am in the latter but most of the competition is from youth groups in the first age category. As adults, we try to go the extra mile to inspire the youth in what they could achieve.
First, you need to using basic building materials to build camp within a plot of trees that is randomly assigned. You can only fix rope to the trees so that obvious thing is to use pioneering poles that are lashed onto the trees. This gives the chance to learn cloves hitches and square lashings.
Secondly, you have to carry all of your kit in one go to the plot (including pioneering poles). This is not easy but my team has devised a strategy that tests the rules a little. The 14-17 years olds are allowed three trips.
Thirdly, you need to be able to sleep the night, in a rain proof shelter, and cook a 3 course evening meal off the ground.
Fourthly, they make other rules up as they go to distract you from building your camp like giving you additional random things you need to build.
Finally, you only have a few hours to build the camp and be off the ground and cooking your dinner. For the +25s, that means cooking on an open fire off the ground too!!! (The other groups can use camping gas!).
We built a camp with a few platforms for sitting on with a suspended table that we could sit at with our legs dangling down. For the sleeping area we strung up hammocks covered with a tarpaulin sheet, carefully positioned to keep the water out if it rained hard.
We also had a cargo net pulled tight with some heavy duty ratchet straps that allowed us to move between the hammocks and also provided a storage space above the ground.
We cooked on an open fire pit suspended with some bricks holding it off the platform. It worked ok but was a bit of a fire risk, tbh.
What I loved about this camp was the creativity of the different camps. At night there were about 80 people sleeping in the trees. Different fires were burning, people were playing music and visiting each other. Lots of different imaginative decorations from fairy lights to wallpaper on pretend walls.
It was a very chilled evening after what had been a lot of building work. Luckily it didn't rain!
We had a 3 course dinner and even remembered to bring a table cloth and had a chandelier with candles hanging. We created draw bridge into our plot so that we could lift it up at night.
It was exhausting. It was very chilled. It was one of those experiences I will never forget. It was a great form of escapism.