Our first camp together was in Spring 2006, a cool and damp long weekend in fields near Danbury in the Essex countryside.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that when I look back at photos of our Woodcraft Folk camps, they somehow all look the same. We’ve put up our Force 10s all over the place: in Dorset, Sussex, Essex, on the Welsh borders even. Still, it is the stuff that is constant across all camps that I love… the neat circles of tents, the dressing up and games, clans working together, camp food, our trips to the seaside, the camaraderie, and most of all the singing around the camp fire.
But the Danbury camp was special for me for different reasons.
I had first heard about the Woodcraft Folk when I was preparing to be approved as a potential adopter. It’s a youth organisation with at its core a belief in the importance of peace and cooperation, as well as in the capacity of children and young people to create a new and better world. My social worker had suggested that it might help my application to have experience of children who didn’t always do what they were asked to straight off. So right up until J was placed with me, I helped out with the Woodies’ youngest age group, the 6 to 9 year old Elfins, at their weekly sessions. I learned a lot there about children and Woodcraft (including that if you’re in the Woodcraft Folk, saying no is often the right answer). I even camped with them, just for the fun of it.
J took to Woodcraft as eagerly as I had hoped, and was a natural camper.
His anxiety though showed itself at night. He shouted out and sobbed in his sleep, and I would crawl out of my tent to crouch in the wet grass and whisper to him through the canvas close to his head. He was easily soothed. In his tent, splayed around him in chaotic bliss, slept new friends, oblivious to it all.
J’s days on camp overflowed with fun and adventure and he never remembered anything of his nighttime distress.
The Creed, which is said at all camps, epitomises for me the spirit of Woodcraft:
This shall be for a bond between us,
That we are of one blood you and I;
That we shall cry peace to all,
And claim kinship with every living thing;
That we hate War, Sloth and Greed,
And love fellowship.
And that we shall go singing to the fashioning of a new world.