Elland Brigades' Adventure at Kingswood

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Over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend, 11 boys and 3 members of Elland Girls Brigade visited Kingswood’s Dearne Valley Adventure Centre.

 Preparations for residential trips begin months in advance and staff had been locked in discussion over the most pressing issue; having secured some handheld radios so staff could keep in touch with each other on-site, appropriate call signs were needed.  After months of debate, we settled on an ‘Only Fools and Horses’ theme.

The weekend started in familiar fashion as we met at Southgate Methodist Church. Chris ‘Del Boy’ Partington did his usual party piece by managing to fit all the luggage into his car, using a Reliant Robin had thankfully been vetoed by this point, while the parents cheerily ushered the children onto the minibus. The minibus decided to take the scenic route to Kingswood, we took in the local sites while the younger members were kept busy by looking for the sea….which is tricky in Doncaster.

On arrival, we were greeted by Ben, our group leader for the weekend, who took us for some food before showing us to our accommodation. Ben set the group what he expected to be a relatively simple challenge, making up their own beds. Some managed this without fuss (the girls) however, for some this was the latest chapter in the epic struggle between man and duvet. The duvet was very much on top (see what I did there) for the majority of this battle however, after much weeping and gnashing of teeth (the staff), this herculean task was, more or less, complete. More concerning was the staggering amount of sweets, crisps and chocolate that the boys had smuggled into their bedrooms.

Our first activity for the weekend was making a campfire. The first task was to name the fire- ‘Colin’ was suggested and agreed, narrowly pipping Geoff in the vote; it is important to point out that no Colins were harmed in the making of this fire. Before enjoying hot chocolate and toasted marshmallows, the instructors for the evening instigated a singing competition. Much to our staff’s dismay, they had to join in as well; it turns out we are rubbish at remembering song lyrics! With the last of the hot chocolate drank and the fire dying down, we returned to our accommodation for the night.

Saturday morning began with breakfast at 07:30 sharp which gave us time for a kick-a-bout before our first activity. Problem solving began at 09:15- the group were set a number of challenges that they had to solve as a team- working together and communication were paramount to the success of these tasks. Some of the older lads commented that, at that time on a Saturday morning, the only problem they usually have to solve is to whether sleep in for another hour or the rest of the morning.

The most frustrating task was balancing a large see-saw with the whole group on board. After much trial and error, they managed to balance it albeit not for the elusive minute that the instructor had challenge them to do- he’s never met our Junior Section who find it impossible to sit still for that length of time! Our group did work together quite effectively though; this was demonstrated by a task in which they had to get the entire team over a tall, flat wooden wall onto a platform behind. They went about this task logically and completed it without the trips to A&E feared by some of our more sceptical officers.

We then moved on to ‘buggy building’. The group were split into two teams and were given the task of building a go-cart out of barrels, planks, wooden poles and an endless supply of rope. It’s fair to say the girls led their team, reducing the lad’s role to merely collecting rope and decorating the barrels. Both teams soon produced a construction that resembled a buggy and, after knots were tied and re-tied, they put them to the test. The Senior lads were quick to jump on board the buggy leaving the younger boys to push- the Seniors realised far too late that there was no steering…..or suspension (‘ow, me bum!’ was the plaintive cry)……..or brakes. With only one injury, one boy wounded his pride by being run over by his own buggy, the exercise was deemed a success and we headed for lunch.

The afternoon began with crate stacking. The task was to build the tallest tower possible out of crates; two participants had to stand on the tower, once they had been fitted with harnesses, to build it. The group decided on a shout of ‘Dave!’ if the tower began to wobble and collapse. One of the younger lads told me quietly that he felt this was “a bit silly” and the word should be “timber!” Nevertheless, the teams got some impressive height on the towers although I think they enjoyed demolishing more than building. Following this activity, we moved on to what has become known as our staff’s favourite activity of the weekend- Nightline. 

Nightline is a blindfolded obstacle course designed to test the communication skills of its victims participants. The theory is that the leader reaches an obstacle and passes the information down the chain of people following so everyone can react appropriately. The entire group is blindfolded and they only have each other and a rope to guide them. One of the key aims is to develop an environment of trust amongst the participants. As responsible Brigade staff, we felt it was our responsibility to take advantage of the situation and have a good old laugh at the older boys; watching a Senior lad ducking an imaginary obstacle that a member of staff had warned him about never got old! Any bravado and street cred the Seniors had going into the task melted away as they realised the rest of the group had left them behind; going around all the non-existent obstacles we had warned them about naturally took the lads a bit longer.

Needless to say, the entire group were covered in mud and dust by the time the activity was over. We persuaded them to have a quick wash before we headed to tea; this is easier said than done with some of our Junior Section. One lad claimed that it was now raining outside so there was no need to have a wash as nature would do the job for him. Once everyone was clean and presentable (well, near enough anyway), we set off for tea before a bit of down time before our evening activity.

We had been informed that the evening activity would involve water balloons, another reason cited by the same Junior for not having a wash, and was an ersatz version of Scrapheap Challenge. The task was simple, using the materials given, build a craft to contain the water balloon to prevent it from bursting after it is dropped from the roof of the reception building. Before we began, the teams had the opportunity to win extra materials. One of the challenges sent a chill up the spine of the Company Section staff; the teams were asked to tell a joke, the funniest joke they could, in order to make the instructor laugh. All of the Company Section jokes were vetoed leaving the youngest member of our group to win with a joke about ketchup. With the materials secured, essentially cardboard and bin bags, the building work could begin. Both crafts had sound theory behind them- one went for the maximum protection around the balloon, one was designed to absorb the impact upon landing, both had binbag parachutes.

The moment of truth came as the instructor and Amy stood atop the reception building tentatively peering over the edge. Amy dropped first and the craft plummeted towards the ground and landed with a sickening thud as the water balloon discharged itself up the wall. The second balloon suffered a similar fate albeit less dramatically leaving Amy’s team to claim a moral victory. The next game involved the whole group, including staff, and some water balloons. Presuming the staff were to face a firing squad, James found the nearest Junior to act as a human shield. This was an unnecessary precaution as the game involved someone launching a balloon into the air and calling a name. That person then had to attempt to catch the balloon. Miraculously, only two people got a soaking, Amy was an unfortunate victim of friendly fire, and with that we called it a night.

Sunday morning began with a game called ‘aeroball’. This is a cross between net ball and trampolining. The arena is split into four quadrants each containing a trampoline, participants play against the person opposite who has two targets above their head. If you get the ball in the target you score a point. After a few rounds of this, we headed inside to LaserTag. This is always a popular event on our trips and the group soon got into the spirit by bending every rule almost to breaking point. One of the Juniors had chosen this morning to wear a bright white t-shirt which isn’t ideal in UV lighting! During the game, Chris found a spare gun and decided to ‘pick off a few’ while walking around the converted play area which now works well for a LaserTag game. After several competitive games, it was time to move straight to the Zip Wire.

The Zip Wire had been newly installed on site and is designed to be fast. It can take four ‘zipees’ at any one time and there is a net at the end of the wire to aim for- miss this and you are left to dangle on the wire, not a comfortable experience, until you are rescued. The younger members, and some ‘older’ ones, struggled to reach the net without a run up but this didn’t dampen their spirits and they all rushed back to the start for another turn. It seemed that this was one of the favourite activities of the weekend and all our group were still as enthusiastic at the end of the session as at the start.

Following this we headed for lunch before going back inside for archery. The boys have had quite a bit of practice down the years and, following a bit of instruction, the standard was good. During this activity, it became clear just how tired everyone was. Between turns, the gym floor was strewn with Brigade members lying down and silently propping themselves up against walls. It looked like an airport lounge populated by weary travellers sitting out a 12-hour flight delay. Mission accomplished.  After a brief toilet stop, it was time to hit the road and head back to Elland. Our initial plan was to keep the children awake on the way home- we failed spectacularly but we did enjoy a quiet journey home! 

A brilliant weekend was had by all. Thanks to all the staff at Kingswood and to our own team of volunteers. Thanks also to all the boys and girls who attended the weekend- once again, they were a credit to the Brigades. Here’s to the next one…..


James Pickles