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.


VINTAGE!!!!

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.



Faith in Throughcare (6/06/15 - 12/06/15)

Another adult group this week at Camas. Faith in Throughcare had a long journey up but made it in one piece and brought the good weather with them. It was a great week for sunbathing, whelk collecting and laughter. Given that the group brought what was probably the equivalent of a suitcase full of snacks and sweets, which they were happy to share, we were permanently full and on a mild sugar rush over pretty much the full course of the week.
Peat cutting in the sun (or sitting, drinking hot chocolate next to the peat in the sun as it quickly became) was a good laugh especially as it became more and more competitive. At long last we got a chance to go out in the kayaks as well as getting out to the quarry for some climbing. Even with some of the group being pretty nervous to go out it was a real highlight for many of the guys and there were a couple of real naturals.

The final day was a real climax with one of the most hilarious (and wrought with sabotage) raft races that I’ve ever seen. The Camas challenge was also risen to with a three course meal, a great atmosphere and a bonfire based reflection before the most chaotic ceilidh that you could imagine. It was a brilliant finish to an amazing week. Thanks to all who helped make it such a great time and we look forward to having you again.
Grassmarket (30/05/15 - 5/06/15)

An adult group at Camas for this week, making a change to the Camas norm but still with the relentless enthusiasm normally associated with younger groups. The Grassmarket project- an Edinburgh based community project with skills development, social enterprise and a nurturing environment at its heart- came up alongside a number of Edinburgh University students. 

The group were already in high spirits upon arriving with plenty of chatting and singing on the bus over. They rapidly formed a strong community with plenty of laughter and even more singing over dinner. The week was full of high points, from sprinting into the sea at Market Bay through to raft building and of course not forgetting plenty of good chats by the fire late into the evening. The day trip to Iona was especially good fun with genuinely sunny Scottish weather (yes really!) making an afternoon at the beach and exploring the Abby the perfect way to spend the day. 

Throughout the week we were treated to a spectacular display of wildlife with otters, dolphins and seals all making appearances in the bay and one member of the group even coming within meters of a swooping golden eagle. Massive thanks to the group for the fantastic fun, infectious enthusiasm (especially when it came to cleaning toilets) and great company over the week. You guys really were brilliant! 

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Kicking off the season with garden week

The summer season at Camas was officially opened last week with Garden Week, when we welcomed a group down the track to revamp the garden, and work on various other exciting projects around the Camas buildings.

The first morning awoke to torrents of rain, but Abbi and her garden crew were not put off and started work in the poly-tunnels – weeding, watering and willow-weaving a small fence around two of the beds. Some hardy souls were seen digging trenches out in the downpour, and a few even took a break from working and braved a dip in the sea in the afternoon.



The weather improved slightly and the gardeners continued to work hard all week: asparagus was planted (and a beautiful sign painted to put in its bed) along with leeks (by the lovely ‘leeky ladies’), potatoes and an extensive selection of herbs. A fancy French drain was dug to keep the rhubarbs from getting too soggy in the lovely Scottish weather, and more weeding and raking done all across the garden to keep it looking tip-top.


Elsewhere, a small group continued work on the pavillion shed, which is being renovated and made fancy for friends and family of Camas volunteers and residents to stay in during the season. The roof was finished, the walls touched up, a new floor put down and varnished, and the pavilion shed is now close to being ready for guests. It’s looking fabulous nestled in its little corner of the garden.
And these are only a few of the projects the lovely group worked on – they also built benches for the round house, and even a dry-stone wall. We had some much appreciated expert help in building a new waterproof store in the games room, which will be completed next week after the arrival of some hinges.


The week was finished off, of course, with the Camas challenge, which saw some beautiful decorative shells, flowers, and wooden-framed pictures in the common room, a lovely meal of chips and mac n’ cheese, a wonderful reflection whilst sat (on newly built benches!) toasting marshmallows on the roundhouse fire, and finally some very relaxing evening entertainment giving each other well-earned shoulder massages in the common room.

All in all it was a fantastically productive and thoroughly enjoyable week, with so many different people working super hard to keep the Camas buildings and garden in an excellent state for the rest of the season. Thank you very much to everyone who came and who put in so much effort – you keep Camas going, and it just couldn’t work without you. We hope to see you again soon!