Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Glasgow Uni Week!

We welcomed 23 PhD students down the track from Glasgow University the week of 20th May. 

Alongside the outdoor activities we had on offer and our usual periods of Reflection and community living chores and meals, we were lucky to hear 5 minute presentations about each person's work across a great range of topics with the title given by their group leader explain your work as 'Research to change the world'. It was fascinating! Work ranged from a project looking at fathers in prison and how to stay involved in parenting, to attitudes towards women in 'maker spaces', to revolutionary work in heart disease, strokes and eye diseases, to supersonic flight efficiency, to stigma relating to abortion, to food insecurity in single men, to plant cell wall size studies and that's just me trying to find the headline topics from a few of the broad range of studies. 

A number of the guests were international students which added to the rich experience with some Bulgarian and Tamil food being cooked for us when they made dinner for us all. 

The week seemed to mean different things for different people such as involving self care, a step back from their work to find their way again in their work, connecting with other people in the same boat, getting out of their heads into their bodies, doing some personal reflection and some personal development type activities with their group leaders. There was some great conversation and connection and an air of relaxation and renewal with no chance for guests to have screen time, something many said dominated their lives. 

Thank you for sharing your worlds with us and I hope a few days of Camas immersion has done some renewal for you going forward. We've certainly been left thinking about a few things we'd not even dreamt about and feeling inspired by all the valuable work going on. 

GRAMNET (Glasgow Refugee, Asylum, Migrant Network) came for a fleeting visit for a bit of rest and renewal and connection with each other in the network. As their website says the network 'conducts research and qualitative evaluation on migration, refugees and the asylum process' and 'consults on migration-related policy in the UK and internationally'. Most of the people were based in Glasgow but some had travelled from London and Manchester to connect with their colleagues and have some time out at Camas.

People in the network did not all know each other so coming together at Camas was useful for bringing together people in a residential setting for some quality time together with fewer distractions and pressures from their ordinary lives. As they told us, the nature of their work is relatively stressful and full on with little good news, so the chance to be in beautiful surroundings, connect with other people, take some time out from their lives and do some activities was seemingly a welcome respite. 

The group had a highly international feel doing some incredibly worthwhile and inspiring work. I've never had such interesting conversations and it opened my eyes to a whole wealth of experience, knowledge and information. Although it was a brief visit, they made the most of their time with a whole buzz of activity but also time to really rest and really take time for themselves. I really enjoyed the diversity of people I spoke to and drinking tea on the beach and swimming in the sea just added to the positive environment. Someone had the realisation the sea was salty after their first ever swim in it, so that moment alone was pretty special for me...And for them! Thank you for coming to visit and sharing yourselves with us. 

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Musical Talent, Gusto and Swimming in the Sea

It was a rather warm and pleasant Monday afternoon when the six young people from Castlemilk stepped off their bus and walked down the track to Camas. They all seemed positive and ready to take on the week ahead, most of them armed with plenty of dry, loud humour. Equipped with hot water bottles and torches against the cold and the dark of the dorms, they headed to bed after dinner and reflection.
Camas laundry in the sunshine

The sun continued to shine as a boat with red sails drifted into the bay the next morning
the Castlemilk crew piled onto it with a few helpers. Once out at sea, an impressive amount of snacks were devoured (after all, food is what Camas is all about), and a few attempts at fishing were made. However, all the fish managed to successfully escape capture!
Out at sea on Mark's boat

The week continued, trotting along at a normal Camas pace, quite unhurriedly and pleasantly, yet still a bit too fast for anyone to notice the passing of time. As for outdoor activities all six of the young people engaged in both kayaking and abseiling. They proved to be willing and enthusiastic participants; during kayaking a wild (but friendly) seaweed-tossing fight broke out and one of the most reluctant participants proved to be an enthusiastic thrower who engaged in the skirmish with total abandon and much enjoyment.

The walk up to the abseil was surprisingly more challenging than the actual abseil as the sun was scorchingly hot and the path very steep. Once up at the old quarry some of the youngsters glanced hesitantly at the vertical smooth rock they were about to lower themselves off. Despite the impressive height of the abseil (12 meters, give or take) and the deterring climb down to the abseil platform, all six abseiled down the cliff without a single complaint! Some were nervous and uncertain but decided to give it a go anyway, nudging up to the edge with gentle encouragement from their instructor and then smoothly making their way down. I found their bravery extremely impressive! Others were seemingly
unphased by the heights and proceeded to complete the abseil two or three times. Occasionally they were singing and skipping (yes, turns out skipping when abseiling is fully possible) their way down the vertical rock!

Another activity the group partook in was putting on wetsuits and coasteering around the two rocky islands in the Camas bay. Once again this was conducted with plenty of gusto and enthusiasm, despite the sea being a bone-chilling 10 degrees.

Throughout the week the group's colourful and humourous personality continued to shine through during free time and meals. Countless musical numbers erupted spontaneously as one person started to sing with fierce passion and was swiftly followed by another few singers. A joyful "wedding" ceremon
y also took place. Participants swathed themselves in mounds of white blankets that made them look quite silly, and morosely waltzed down the grassy yard of Camas to the tune of the wedding march played on the trumpet by Seven Foot - one of the Camas volunteers Thomas who was given this affectionate and inaccurate nickname - (I believe he's actually six four) that lasted throughout the week. The "priest" proclaimed: "Do you take this E.T...?" while the onlookers crumpled with hilarity.
Kite flying at Market Bay

The last afternoon was spent walking to Market Bay. The beach was bathed in warm, golden sunshine all afternoon and everyone went swimming with much whooping and enjoyment - this time without any wetsuits! One participant especially seemed to find their element as they spent a good 45 minutes throwing themselves into the freezing blue waves, to the astonishment of the Camas staff. Scones, tea and other snacks were consumed a plenty and then the unwilling mere-person w
as called unto land; fortunately they had kept their legs!
Swim at Camas (with wetsuits!)

Last but not least a barbecue feast took place on the beach outside the sheds. The group, their helpers and Camas staff stuffed their faces with delicious food and sat on the ground in the faded evening light for a long time, talking and nursing full bellies. It was decided that a group photo must be taken and thankfully it only took about 89 tries to get the perfect one!
Group photo at the barbecue

Breakfast the next morning was eaten horrendously early as to make the morning bus. The walk up the track was done in a slightly more sullen manner than the walk down it, and we all gathered together to do one
final reflection. This involved throwing a roll of wool around that eventually connected us all together and talking about our favourite part of the Camas experience. Lastly the wool connection was broken to symbolise the impending separation. A hugging party broke out as the bus pulled up. Then the bus, and with it the young people of Castlemilk disappeared around the bend of the road to the energetic waving of the Camas staff.
It was my first group at Camas, and it was a pleasure. It turns out even my worries about how my Swedish ears would handle the Glasgow accent were unfounded!  Myself and all the staff at Camas are very grateful to have such a lovely, up-for-it group of young people visiting for a week! Thank you!
Written by Matilda

Friday, 24 May 2019

Work Week and a New Shed

Our 2019 season was kicked off by a lovely group of eager participants who came down the track to help us get the centre up and running for the summer. We had folk from near and far (North America, Wales and Iona) who came and braved the not-always-hospitable March conditions. We were relatively lucky with the weather and there were lots of smiles and laughter to keep us going (along with the plentiful scone supply). Our guests brought a huge variety of skills with them which we were lucky enough to benefit from and lots of tasks were completed in their short stay -  amongst those we now have two lovely new signs up, a Very Well Organised Honey Store and a new boat floor well on the way. An old shed was taken down to make way for a new one and gave us lots of fuel for a spectacular evening bonfire on one of the nights. 

During the week our bellies were kept very happy with a supply of sourdough bread from a few budding artisan bakers in the Camas crew,  and during the Camas Challenge we experienced what one of our volunteers called: The Best Lasagne he had ever tasted thanks to some talented chefs in our midst!  Days were usually finished around the fire together with a hot drink, the firelight illuminating some very happy and contented faces. There was also the chance to enjoy some well-deserved time off with a visit to Iona and a walk to Market Bay both fitted in during the week. We cannot say thank you enough and hope you will all come back soon!

After we waved our new friends off on the Saturday morning, we were soon joined by the Welsh Contingent, a crew of voluntary shed-builders from Wales, headed up by Camas regular Rob, who arrived to help us build our new staff hut. What our willing helpers perhaps hadn't bargained for when they signed up was for 60mph winds to hit us on their first day – and yet they persisted! By the end of that day against all the odds, a shed was definitely starting to take shape and now houses a happy hut-dweller. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Rob and Co for all their hard work and while it was sad to wave them goodbye we were all left feeling profoundly thankful for all that people are willing to put in to Camas and excited for the weeks to come.

An emerging shed.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Castlemilk, Carpenters and Chickens

By Gavin McIsaac

All stories evolve and morph into something different compared to the original event. Truth is sometimes diluted with hyperbole. Fact becomes fiction, fiction becomes fact.  I had heard stories of Castlemilk. Stories where adjectives like ‘wild’ and ‘chaotic’ were frequently bounced around.  As a new volunteer to Camas, I only had these stories to go by. I was told to be prepared.

In the distance I hear voices, rapidly approaching.  Their voices grow louder and louder as they bound down the path. The gate bursts open. Though the shouting, I hear the words: “We’re hame, it’s like we never left...” and, with that simple sentence, my worries fade away.
Out of curiosity, I asked the group about some of the stories that I had been told. They happily recount tales of their time at Camas. Turns out, what I had heard was the watered down, family friendly version. The originators of the stories paint a very vivid picture.

The week saw our usual array of activities, but, we had one extra task tacked on to the schedule...picking up some chickens* to add to the Camas family.  In addition to the young folk, Castlemilk brought their resident carpenters with them. John and Jim spent their time rebuilding the chicken coup and mink-proofing it, out in all the elements that nature decided to throw at them.

Castlemilk Camas Crew collecting chickens
Chickens being introduced to their new home at Camas

What I saw as the week progressed was a glimpse into the journey of the young people. How their past selves have matured into their present selves and i begun to understand why it is important not to write off the young folk.  I had been painted a picture of unruly youth but the reality presented me with a group of young adults, ready to shape their future, hopefully a future where they come back to Camas as young leaders to inspire the next generation.  

* Chicken update: We now have an additional 9 chickens to go with the original three. The pecking order has been established and the hens are now becoming more confident in their surroundings and can be seen by day exploring the sights and sounds of Camas. 

Click here to find out more about Camas on our Facebook page or here on how to bring a group.  We look forward to hearing from you. 

Friday, 12 October 2018

Youth Fest at Camas!

The Iona Community's Youth Festival came to Camas this year!

Youth Festival provided a safe space for discussion sessions and workshops around the theme of identity, which were nourishing and thought-provoking, bringing together young people from different parts of the country, different cultures and backgrounds.  The experiences, values and identities that make us who we are were explored, as was how it can be seen, felt and stereotyped, to be a 'young person'.  The group also reflected on gender identity and sexuality, challenging stereotypes and looking at how society can discriminate or privilege, depending on aspects of identity.  Alongside the thinking, reflecting and chatting, there were the Camas classics of adventuring, playing games and building community - getting in the sea for coasteering, kayaking, sharing meals and taking care of the chores together.  By the end of the week there was a lovely buzz from a group of people who knew each other better, having shared stories, insights, hopes and fun.

Saturday, 18 August 2018


Solitude. Most guests who come to Camas experience some degree of solitude simply by the fact that being at Camas means no internet nor cellphone service. This  can be challenging, especially for those of us who connect to our friends and relatives through phone and internet.  Our guests this week—Cumbria University students took this experience of solitude a step further by committing to spend a night camping in the hills without any other humans nearby.

The students came to Camas as the final week of their two year foundation degree in outdoor education.  Much of the week was spent preparing for this ‘solo’ camping trip.  This means spending the night camping alone with nothing more than some basic camping gear.  Additionally, some of the students choose to take the opportunity to fast.  

In preparation for the solo, Camas staff—primarily Rhyddian and Sarah who both are well-versed in solo-ing—lead the students in various exercise and reflections.  The evening of the solo, the Camas staff and the Cumbria professors created a ritual of sorts to send the students off on their solo in a good way.  This included setting up a large parachute tent (see picture) within which we all gathered around a large fire that had been started by Lisa (one of the professors) using the bow drill technique.  The students then were invited to state an intention that they had set for themselves that they wanted to hold as a focus for their solo time.  

After the students returned the next morning they then had the opportunity to present about their experiences of the week.  One of the students agreed to let me share her poem:

My Courageous Person

I find out what I need to do, 
and I’m asked, “what would your courageous person say to you?”

So I get her on the phone, and tell her how much I hate to be alone

I explain about the solo,
and I say that its a no go

And she tells me, ‘well tough shit,
I’m sure you can handle it’

And with my bag finally packed,
the anxieties I had, had lacked

her words were all I did need
A sweet little way to plant the seed

That I must go
If I want to grow

Cause I do this for us, not just me anymore
so I was quick to learn to stop being a bore

to camp somewhere along the path of Market Bay
Oh I’m so glad about what my courageous person did say

It was inspiring to be a part of this journey and it left me feeling inspired to do my own 'solo', and to remember to take time to journey into the wilderness--both around and within.