Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Camas volunteers experience of 2015

Thank you to all the amazing volunteers who worked, lived and shared themselves at Camas in 2015, you really made a positive difference to all the lives around you.

This what they said about their experience at Camas this summer. 

Dave: “Being a Camas volunteer is an awesome experience. Volunteers are working with brilliant people doing exciting activities in an environment like no other; no two days are the same. I had so much fun and I would highly recommend it to everyone.”

Lynsey: “Camas gives you the opportunity to work in an environment where compassion is at the forefront of what you do. You work as part of a team that really genuinely look out for each other. You feel part of something much bigger because you are all there for the same purpose and goal – to create the opportunity for the people coming to learn, to reflect and to grow in a supportive, beautiful and creative space away from all the stresses of their lives back home. It’s hard work both physically and emotionally but it is the most rewarding experience I have ever had and what I have taken away from it is invaluable. DAE IT.”

Jan:  "Camas is a once in a life time experience. That is what my old house mate said when I had to decide if I would take the offer for a volunteer post. Luckily, I did. I had nice house mates and friends who shared work and special moments with me and our guests in an awesome landscape."

Davie: "Working the summer at Camas was hugely rewarding, exhausting and exhilarating all at once."

Hattie: “Beautiful scenery, rewarding work. I honestly can't think of a better way I could have spent my summer. It was genuinely one of the most rewarding and incredible experiences I've had and will ever have”

Annie: “Living and working at Camas shows you just how many adventures, laughs and conversations you can squeeze into a day, let alone six months!”

Hannah Blyth: “Incredibly rewarding and fun work with THE best people in THE best place.”

Kitty: “There's so much laughter that you think they must put something in the water. Amazing.”

Hannah Butler: “I had the most magical time of my life and met the most beautiful people. Thank you to everyone that made it so special, I didn’t realise it was possible to feel this much love”

From this:

To this:

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Camas Garden Weeks

Camas Garden Week

The saying many hands make like work was put to the test this garden week at Camas, we had a huge mixed group of people from all over the world including Chicago, Germany, Italy, Poland, Switzerland and two groups from Glasgow and one from Edinburgh all come to help us put our gardens to bed for the winter. With nearly 40 hands on deck we were able to combine garden and tack work with climbing and kayaking sessions ensuring lots of work and play mixed in equal measure with bundles of cake!
Avril was in her ditch digging element as work on the track was under steady progress throughout the week. The satisfaction of being up to your knees in bog was not lost on our team of volunteers who managed to get the drains flowing through sheer effort and a few songs. The work on the drains means that over the winter they won’t flood and the track should remain relatively dry!  
Meanwhile, in the garden…
With such an enthusiastic bunch we had many garden projects happening simultaneously and managed to accomplish a huge amount of structural maintenance, as well as giving the garden beds the attention they needed after a long and productive summer. The real beginnings of this work started with a group of volunteers from Caledonian Woodlands who came for and long weekend and lots of hard graft.
The Caledonian team set to work pollarding the huge Aspen trees at the top of the garden which we then completed during garden week. The trees were planted as a wind break for the garden but had grown so tall they were shading out a lot of the fruit cage and lazy beds, after having a severe trim, the fruit cage can now bask in next year’s summer sun, and the trees will re-grow from the cut points in the spring. The tops of the trees that came off were put to good use: the larger branches were stacked and left to dry out for fire wood, the smaller ones were used to weave into the back fence to create more of a wind break for the baby trees, and whatever was left gave us a great evening around the bonfire!
Walking through the garden now, it is clear to see how much effort was put in over these last few weeks. Many hands really do make light work! In no particular order, our list of achievements includes: finishing the dry stone wall around the round house, laying the Hawthorne hedge behind the fruit cage, digging out the drains around the fruit cage and laying a French drain through it, creating steps up to the Pavilion shed, clearing out the brush from the woodlands, clearing around the fruit trees to let in more light, clearing the woodland pathways. Take a breath… All garden beds were weeded and cleared, adding a layer of compost, topsoil, seaweed and covering with weed matting to all rot down nicely over winter. We have made our winter supply of green tomato chutney, harvested and preserved sorrel, nettle and mint for winter use and are continuing to eat fresh food from the polytunnels.
Also we managed to squeeze in a day out in the sun on Iona and Ardanalish! Wowzers!
A huge and heartfelt thank you to all those involved, this work is really what keeps Camas running and progressing each year. I feel confident in the knowledge that the Camas gardens are well prepped for a restful winter! Thank you!

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Lichfield Group!!!!!!!!!

A few weeks ago camas had the pleasure to welcome the lovely folks of Lichfield to join us for a week of song, dance and play.  It was quite a spectacular week with familiar and new faces who were invited into the wacky world of Camas.  So with the stage set, all was needed was the sun to be out. We were not disappointed
The beach at market bay was one of the first places we went to to experience the full glare of the sun.  Everyone dived into the water pretending it was not cold when it was in fact freezing, enticing the less inclined down to the sea.  After this the group got a massive game of rounders on the go.  Both teams were equally amazing at batting and fielding but because of James’ cheating, his team won.  The group got some amazing tans and headed back to camas after all the hilarity.
One beach was not enough for this group so the next day they headed to the north beach on Iona.  The group tested their balancing on one leg skills against each other on the boat with only one emerging triumphant.  The camas staffs were all suitably impressed except from Jan who was nurturing his battered pride after lasting only 30 seconds.  After a mad dash to the beach, lunch was quickly had and the group made an impromptu panorama with a camera, unsuccessfully.  A manic game of ultimate frisbee then took place were Dave took it too seriously and the game had to stop for the protection of the participants.  After this the group had to rush back to the jetty were they went on a luxurious cruise boat and did some fishing.  The group then came back and went on a splendid tour of the abbey.  At the end of the day everyone was glad that they went on the trip but were glad to get back to camas for some food and campfire songs.  We were genuinely impressed by the sheer number of songs that seemed to last for hours into the night.  It is something that we will never forget as the group bonded over the fire that night.
The group were also involved in a three way rotation of games, rock climbing and kayaking.  They had great fun showing off their skills to the camas staff.  They got so excited that they even destroyed a bit of the rock climbing wall.  The difficulty skill for this wall has now ramped up considerably!  The games section showed the playful side of the group. They gave as good as they got and showed the team the awesomeness of camouflage, yet again Davie was a rubbish hider. Lichfield also showed their prowess at kayaking to Jo and Kitty who were suitably impressed by their mad skills.
All this sun could not last, and the team headed inside to for an acting workshop where they provided performances for the ages.  Each group was given a basic story structure and had to fill in the blanks, and did they!  The stories were wondrously invented.  Some pontificated on the reliability of beauty with pirates thrown in (with an excellently cast old hag), the dancing of a magical fairy, messing about in second world war Berlin (with Hannah in the role of a lifetime) and the domestic squabbling of Tawhai, Mabel and Shoniqua.  The end results were amazing with sets, props and costumes all made by the group.  Everyone had a great time and it highlighted what a creative group Lichfield are.
There were also reflections throughout the week with one in particular sticking in the mind.  Lynsey asked the group to invent their ideal communities that could involve anything, anyone and could represent any values.  The group rose to the challenge and a fun night was had by all.  A galactic council, an alien gangster laundry mat, and Mabel & Tawhai’s personal kingdom were just some of the examples.  It was such an intriguing reflection as the group discussed what a community could be even if the participants were far removed from their ordinary lives and stressed their importance in improving ordinary lives.

Thursday came and it was the day that they had been looking forward to all week, the Camas challenge!  The group split into four groups and set about arranging food, decoration, entertainment and reflection.  The centre was a hectic place as people rushed from place to place frantically getting things arranged for the night.  The meal was a scrumptious macaroni cheese and chips.  The decorations were delightfully coordinated with Annie into a psychedelic hippie theme in no way egged on by Hannah.  After dinner entertainment was provided by Hattie’s group with some excellent renditions of hallelujah thrown into the mix.  The best impression of Shaniqua, ever, was thrown into the mix too.  Hattie also attempted an impression of Jo but lets just say that that it was an insult to every fifer in existence and leave it at that.  There was also a rap battle where Ab McFab demolished a young adult, it was glorious. After this lovely entertainment the group had a calm reflection were they all wrote lovely things about each other.  At the end of this the group were as close as they ever could be and they had really impressed the camas staff with their chat, maturity and song choices. It was a great week and we hope to see them again soon!

Sunday, 26 July 2015

The Camas Cabbage

The story of the Camas Cabbage It all began in the spring of 2014. The cabbage seed was planted; it was nurtured and raised until it was a good sized seedling, then in early summer, it was planted out into one of the polytunnel beds. Here it lived, tenderly loved and cared for by the many hands that keep the gardens growing. Over the summer months it took hold in its new home, growing big leaves and eventually forming a head. By the time Camas was shut down for winter, the cabbage was looking strong, healthy and tasty and I left Camas happy in the knowledge that the cabbage (and the rest of the winter crops) would keep Jon and Avril fed over the winter months. At this time, the lush green grasses of summer had rolled over, dried and dormant for the winter months. There was not a lot to eat for the wildlife– particularly for the bunnies. And as wild creatures do, they searched for something to keep them going through the long winter days. They must have felt like they struck gold as they found themselves inside the polytunnels, munching and crunching their way through the winter crops - including the Camas cabbage, leaving it no more than a chewed stump in the ground. Returning to the gardens the following February, I was downhearted to see the rabbits had eaten everything but had a strong resolve to try again this year. I left the cabbage stump in the ground, thinking it will rot down over time having collected a whole host of micro organisms, bugs and worms to turn back into soil. As spring began to peep its head from behind the clouds, new life came shooting out of the ground and the gardens began to grow once again. The cabbage, having sat there dormant and ignored all these months began to grow new shoots and I left them, curious to see what would happen. As the days rolled by, spring turned into summer and the cabbage had re-grown into the most beautiful and well formed cabbage I have seen yet! And here it stands today, loved and admired by all those who come and lend a hand in the gardens. This story of the cabbage is about continuing to grow when you have been pushed down, standing tall and strong and following your own path – however hard it can be at times. Here’s to lessons from nature, here’s to the cabbage, and here’s to the Camas gardens and all those hundreds of hands who make it possible!

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Muirhouse week!!! 4-11th July

                It was a very special week last week; we had a group from Muirhouse in Edinburgh!  The group consisted of young adults of varying ages with two leaders. The lads arrived late on Saturday, weary after a long trip and were for hungry for some food.  After some lovely food, there was a reflection on the history of camas where everyone sat spellbound at the stories of these old buildings. After this everyone was just pleased to get out and have a little swim around the islands!
                The next day the group took part in rock climbing and kayaking. The older lads all made it to the top of the quarry no bother, their speed and movement was breathtaking.  Not to be outdone, our adventurous volunteer Hattie performed a barrel roll along the wall from one end to the other with an outstanding feet of athleticism which she totally meant. The kayaking team also displayed awesome abilities out on the water while exploring some of the lovelier parts of camas bay with only a few capsizing but they always had the more than capable Jo on hand to help and guide them.  The group were always on hand to motivate and help each other through their activities with old and young alike being at hand for one another.
                The group then headed to Iona were the sun was splitting the trees!  The group explored the island as they made their way to the beach at the north end of the island, meeting some friendly sheep on the way.  At the beach the group had a lovely picnic where they teased each other with riddles.  Dave wore a permanent confused stare through this period of riddles.  The guys also kicked about their trusty football while chucking around a Frisbee (although not at the same time!).  Bethen tried her hand at the Frisbee but she was rubbish.  After this period of bonding the guys made their way to the abbey and explored its weird and wonderful areas.  The crew enjoyed their exploration through this historic building and they especially enjoyed Bethen’s lovely choir singing in the chapel (it was definitely better than her Frisbee throwing).  On the ferry back over the team saw dolphins leaping alongside the boat, it was truly magical.  At the end of this day the group felt closer together and prepared for the rest of the week to live as a community.
                The day after this bonding was put to the test as the group took part in some coasteering around the treacherous islands around camas.  The group had to work together to navigate this area, but they rose to the test and easily ploughed through the rocks and icy cold sea. James and Jan were at hand to show some wacky jumps and help the team to the pier on the other side of the bay.  They jumped off the pier showing some amazing skills, with the obligatory forward flip or two.  After this the team made their way back to the beach on the other side.  The crew had to help each other back over with the older guys especially helping their younger compatriots.
                After this the team went on a camping expedition to market bay.  They had to carry all their equipment on their backs through difficult terrain with old and young alike pulling their weight on this trip.  The team put up tents at the beach and were then able to relax after getting some tasty camping food.  The team showed how responsible they are in completing these camping tasks and also showing great team work in setting up this campsite.
                Throughout the week the team played many games of sniper throughout Camas.  They were all brilliant and were very stealthy in getting back to base.  The camas staff were less so and Davie was particularly awful at hiding (standing with your head behind a bush is not hiding).  The team were also masters at table tennis and they took delight at beating James and Jon regularly. The team loved these games and got a lot out of talking to each other about their experiences.  As is often the case the team discussed what happened with each other long into the night in the common room over candlelight.
                On the last day at Camas it was time for RAFT BUILDING.  There were two excellent designs with both teams going for the stable option knowing that they did not need to be fast to win!  The teams were.......”Titanic 5.0” and ......”Macky Starboy”.  These brave adventurers suited up to save two members captured by pirate from the other side of the bay.  Both rafts stuck together ably and each team rowed superbly in unison to reach their stolen compatriots at the same time.  On the way back as the team were neck and neck some underhand tactics came into play(or is that underwater?), as some members jumped rafts and tried to sabotage the other.  Composure was then regained as the teams demolished their rafts at the top of the beach at the exact same time.  The final result was a tie!  This was seen as a fair result and everyone had many great stories to tell about their experiences on their raft. 
                The camas challenge then took up the rest of the night. The team, assisted by Lynsey and Annie made some lovely pizza that everyone love and were left clambering for more.  The room was beuitifully decorated by Hannah’s team.  The entertainment involved a massive game of Sardines which Avril took up superbly by hiding under the nets in the chapel of the nets.  The next hiding spot was in a massive patch of nettles – superb hiding spot.  The reflection was chilled out and quite moving as the team picked up something from the beach that would remind them of their time at camas.  They also wrote down something that they would like to change in their life back at home which they then cast of into the ether of the fire.  Everyone felt closer than ever as a community at this point.  The night ended on a massive high as everyone huddled up to each other in the common room and belted out the words to “three little birds” by Bob Marley.  It was the perfect end to a perfect week, and the Camas staff were so proud of the lads achievements and that they tried everything, were always so helpful and permanently had “vintage” banter.  It will be a week that we will never forget.


Saturday, 11 July 2015

English Martyrs Hartlepool 15-19th June

This week we had a secondary school youth group who travelled all the way up from Hartlepool - which was an adventure in itself before even making it to Camas. The group’s ages ranged between 12-16 years old, which was quite a variation to the two adult groups that had been staying at Camas previously. First impressions of the group were that they had a large amount of belongings – I think they brought more luggage for 5 days than some of the Camas staff had brought for the whole summer, however it is good to be prepared!

At first I think Hartlepool found the life of Camas very diverse to their usual lives; with no electricity, meat-lacking meals and being in a faraway land that is very different from typical civilisation. At the beginning of the week I think the group found it challenging to be able to see the depths of their sparkling potential at Camas, however once the group started settling in and discovering more about Camas, you could really feel their enjoyment radiating when partaking in the different activities we offer, with climbing and kayaking and a competitive raft race bringing lots of laughter, fun and happiness to the group.

The Camas challenge was the most beautiful night of the week with the most amazing feast consisting of 5 different types of pizza - I think some of the group were relieved to feed their cravings of meat with a mega meat feast pizza. The decorations embraced an underwater theme, with lots of shells collected from the beach, water coloured hangings all around the room and many different painted sea animals hanging from the ceiling. Walking into the room was like swimming into a different underwater dimension. Once the feast had finished, we moved onto a stone painting gallery for reflection and then onto a game of sniper for the entertainment. We trekked through the depths of the garden and into the wilderness where we played an epic game of sniper (hiding in bushes, long grass, behind rocks and within the heather and charging back to base before the sniper could see us).
Thinking about the week it was a real learning curve, with some slightly more challenging memories and some wonderful ones too. I think highlights of the week consists of lots of fishing where the group really embraced and enjoyed fishing in our beautiful bay. I think a personal highlight for the Camas staff would be when the group taught us the cup song, a definite new experience for many of the Camas team. I think Hartlepool would probably agree that another memorable moment would be finding the lock in the upstairs rooms and using it to hide themselves away when the word ‘chores’ was mentioned.

Thank you for coming to stay with us Hartlepool, you were a very colourful group bringing a very colourful week! J

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Phoenix Expedition!!!

Last week was a very special week at Camas, it was phoenix expedition week!!  A group of go-getting young adults set themselves the challenge of walking and camping around some of the loveliest parts of Mull.  They were lead in this challenging endeavour by the lovely and quite able Avril and Dave. 

                Of course before setting out on expedition you have to prepare. The phoenix crew packed their bags with the food, equipment and sleeping bags that would sustain them for four days and three nights (four days and three nights!!).Cramming all this bulky stuff into their bags proved a challenge but they proved up to it. They also discussed the route of their expedition and signed a contract that bound them to working together and allowing them only two moans a day!

On Monday our intrepid explorers set out near Ben Talaidh.  They were dropped off by the daisy bus and immediately got down to the business of walking.  The ground proved boggy and uneven so the team had to work together to help each other through the bog and keep their boots on their feet instead of in the mud.  To an ordinary group this trudge through energy sapping bog would prove hideous but not to the phoenix group who were always on hand to help and encourage each other (even though they were often toppling over and some group leaders fell into holes).  The team eventually made it to the lovely bothy at the bottom of Ben Talaidh called Tombsleigh.  Each member proved adept at setting up their little camp stoves known as trangias and cooking some mashed potato and curry.  It was mighty tasty!  The night then wound down next to the fire as the explorers reflected on the challenges they faced through the day and what solutions they had for overcoming them.

On Tuesday the group planned their route and timetable for climbing up Ben Talaidh.  This involved learning about the effect that going up contours have on walking speeds.  The team then set out on their slog up the mountain, using every inch of their stamina and courage, making it up and back down in four hours.  By all accounts the views were lovely and the team spotted a Curlew.  Back at the bothy the team settled again by the fire and had a well earned tomato pasta which they again cooked all by themselves, washing all their kit after they were done.  When they all sat down by the fire they discussed their trip.  The obstacles on their trek up the mountain seemed daunting at first but with the right level of spirit and application could be overcome by a process of breaking them down and managing them in smaller sections.  They discussed how this approach could also be applied to obstacles in their lives back home.

On Wednesday the gang waved goodbye to the bothy and set out on the last leg of their wonderful adventure.  Avril and Dave handed total responsibility to the group for map reading, time keeping and break management, they rose to the challenge superbly.  A large boggy hill had to be crossed as the group made their way to Loch Ba.  As they traversed this muddy  glen they recalled the lessons they learned from the first days walking and took regular breaks, applied midge repelled and planned carefully where they put their feet.  They also perfected the art of contouring and followed the map to the letter. After demolishing the first leg of the walk, the crew had a well earned rest near Gortenbuie as they talked about their experiences and their lives back home.  The team felt closer than they had ever been as a result (the views were also amazing!!). After this the team walked around loch Ba and finally found a track they could follow.  Following the track also required that the team had to stick closer together and not wander off and leaving members behind.  They were up for the task, and the group’s excellent chat also played a part.  At the end of this epic journey the group camped near the Ben More estate and had a well earned macaroni and cheese next to their tents, which they were now masters at putting up.  Avril then spotted a low flying golden eagle and Dave nearly fainted at this first sign of “proper animals” on the trip.   The group then reflected on the pride they felt for themselves and one another.  They realised that even though they all took responsibility for their own well being and kit, their group dynamic and compassion for each other had also helped them complete their expedition.

The next day the group were picked up by the daisy bus and whisked back to Camas were they were greeted by a boisterous welcome home party.  The group were given a delicious choice of pizzas and cheesecakes (not together) by the brilliant Davie and Jon, and gorgeous rainbow decorations by the exquisite talents of Hannah and Lynsey.  The rest of the Camas gang were buzzing about the centre cleaning up and marvelling at our new washing machine after an awesome week looking after the cool kids of Bunessan and loch Don/Ulva primary schools. 

The phoenix crew gave a presentation were they told everyone about their adventure and cool exploits.  They made a poster worthy of their expedition and told the Camas team about the skills they picked up on the trip.  The trip taught the team responsibility, self reliance, time management, fitness preparation, planning, map reading and outdoor survival skills.  They were an awesome team and had a fun time exploring Mull and these new skills should serve them well in the years to come.