Bivvies in the Woods

I was asked to stand in, on very short notice, to camp with Classes 9 & 10 in the woods. Being up for adventure and not wanting the students to miss out on one, I agreed when I was told I was allowed to sleep under nylon. The students brief however was to make a ‘water tight’ bivouac from branches and other bits and bobs laying around as well as leafy material from some trees, namely the Sycamore trees which are more of a pest and would not impact strongly on the developing ecosystem in the woods having been removed.

On my tour round, I quickly learnt there were different kinds of bivouacs with their merits and disadvantages. One was very large to accommodate four sleepers; which ended up with six, four others were smaller. One had large round wooden poles to raise sleepers off the ground. This brought on a few comments about whether it was going to be comfortable or not. We were reassured in the morning it was fine and in fact the occupant felt cosy despite the rain and cold, having slept off the ground.

After this some students cooked round the camp fire while others snacked on their packed suppers, reminiscing of previous class camps and experiences drawing out many vocal sounds as wells as laughter. The students did not stay long round the fire feeling the pull to block up any last minute holes in their bivouacs as the rain was settling in, evident by the patter of drops on the canopy above us and the growing frequency of large drops on our heads. Just when it seemed like the evening was coming to nice conclusion there was a loud “Our bivouac is falling down.” There goes my tent, I thought…It was just a pole that needed readjusting and was easily fixed. With no more dramas unfolding, us adults crept into our sleeping bags hoping the rain would stop at some point during the night to prevent the use of plastic,  or even worse evacuation. And so it did by 2am, though the drops kept falling from the trees. Owls serenaded our wakeful slumbers and a fox was seen prowling.

The dawn chorus shortened the night as w emerged bleary-eyed from our sleeping bags by 6:00am, a rather early rise for teenagers and adults on a Saturday morning. With a meagre breakfast for most round the camp fire and surprise talk that the bivvies had held out so well against the rain,  the students set to an arduous task (which is not finished) of digging up and uncoiling a huge cable with some scrap metal value. I witnessed some hard working and very athletic students climbing branchless trees from which to hang a rope to be used as leverage. I also admired the students ability to work so well together and their sense of adventure to endure a night with very little above their heads and to do away with home comforts.

There is talk of another camp such as this one in the woods next year.

Christiana Hatcher (Parent)

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