Saturday, 28 April 2012

Work Week at Camas

Work week at Camas and a group of willing and eager volunteers make their way down the track to help prepare the centre for the arrival of a new season of guests. For some of the volunteers the week represented a return to a place of fond memories, whether having attended previous work weeks or worked at Camas as a volunteer. For me this was my first visit to Camas and immediately I was struck by the beautiful setting, warm welcome and abundant enthusiasm of the Camas staff team, not forgetting Tawhai who has settled in to his recently acquired role as Camas ‘top dog’… After a quick tour and a much appreciated tea and scone, a few of us set off for a walk to nearby Market Bay. Trying hard to avoid sinking into a deep bog (despite the sunshine the ground was still very wet) we arrived at the bay to be greeted by white sands and a calm sea. As pleasant as it looked I was more than happy to enjoy it from the beach but, after a long days travelling, one of the volunteers braved the cold waters for what I can only imagine was a very refreshing dip!

Tawhai at Market Bay

During our week we were blessed by some unusual spring sunshine which, along with the views of the bay from my bedroom window, made getting up in the morning an all the more pleasant experience. Even the lack of wind towards the end of the week which meant that there wasn’t enough energy harnessed from the wind turbine for a warm shower didn’t put me off!
Starting the day with a hearty breakfast of porridge, fruit and scones provided us with the sustenance we needed to set to work. On the list of jobs for the week:
·         Repairing the track
·         Sanding and painting ceilings, walls and floors
·         Clearing brambles
·         Chopping up kindling
·         Cleaning windows
·         Sanding and painting wheelbarrows
·         Repairing the sheds
·         Planting seeds
Whilst the father and son duo headed off up the track with their wheelbarrows to carry out the ongoing hard task of track maintenance for the first few days, the rest of us stayed closer to home working in the dorms and in the garden. There was never a dull day with lots of varied work to keep us busy punctuated by plenty of laughter and, of course, plenty of tea breaks. Nature too provided us with opportunities to reflect on the beauty of the place in which we were staying; from the local sheep making their daily pilgrimage to the small tidal island to the fins of a pod of dolphins spotted out in the bay, there was no forgetting that Camas is a special place.

The sense of community is something that I think we all found truly inspiring about life on Camas. Whether you are a member of staff, a volunteer or a passing visitor, you are welcomed into the community with open arms. Mealtimes provided the opportunity to not only reflect on the day but also to get to know each other and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to spend my time at Camas with. Thanks to some talented staff and volunteers I can also honestly say that I haven’t eaten so well in a long time. There is nothing better than home cooked food and freshly baked bread and cakes. Amazing! Being a less adept cook, I set myself my own personal culinary goal to bake bread for the first time with Jon, the Camas Coordinator, another bread making novice. The timing was touch and go for a while but it all worked out well in the end with everyone fed and happy. Shop bought bread will never taste the same again!
At the end of a day of fresh air and hard work the log fire provided welcome relief (or a blazing inferno depending on who was in charge of keeping the fire going!) from the coolness of the starry night outside and the perfect setting for evening reflection, some music, reading and even knitting lessons by candlelight! A walk to the top of a nearby hill was also a magical moment as we watched the sun setting over the islands. On the final night we looked back at our week together and what a week it was. I think that I speak for all of us when I say that there are memories of that week that will be forever with us. Thank you to everyone who made it so special.

Monday, 9 April 2012

On Tour

So... many a thing has happened between high tide and low here at Camas, and we know (we really do) how late this update is.
When Becky and I began our Camas year we got off the bus in the dark, and were met by Josef, Jon and Tawhai (the dog) with torches and wheelbarrows. Jon, the new Camas co-ordinator was particularly pleased that his afternoon had been spent on the sea, canoeing between Camas and Bunessan where on this perfect calm day they had been practically surrounded by sea Eagles and Otters. I hope this is the start of a great time at Camas for him.
It seemed like I was barely back to the Hebrides before I was back on bus boat and train with Josef, to visit lots of the groups who came up to camas last year, and who may be coming up this year.
A big Thank You to everyone for your hospitality.
Josef was greeted with rounds of TT in Glasgow, and we got plenty of cake. It was really great to recognise faces, and hear all the strange things you remembered from your holiday. We are now looking forward to all the new people coming with juggling skills, and knowledge of the Seas of Europe.... but Josef wasn’t born in one of them.
I nearly thought I was back at Camas as I sat making friendship bracelets with folk towards Manchester way (one dressed up as a tiger) then eating ‘golden slice’ for a shared dinner. Then beautiful train journeys through the Pennines, to steaming mugs of hot chocolate at a very busy youth cafe. It was so nice to see familiar people who dropped in to catch up, and everyone who remind us of the rules of UNO.
There was so much to see in Sheffield, that a day didn’t seem enough for exploring the cutlery weaving, printing and felting workshops, working gardens, and drama and film studios (the list goes on). Luckily students who go to the college get to spend 3 years there; it was great fun to see what old friends were making, and to be introduced to many new students. Well the food was so good, and there was so much to learn, we had to go back.... but that’s a different story.
Thanks for our stay everyone, we look forward to your visits to Camas.