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.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Glasgow Uni and Gramnet

Glasgow University and GramNet

The week kicked off with the arrival of a bunch of students from Glasgow University who were going to be spending the next 3 days with us. They were all currently in the process of working on various pHds for all sorts of different fields of expertise all of which they would be giving a short talk to each other and the Camas staff on what it was that they were studying and, for many of them, why that interested them.

The few days that they spent at Camas were completely action packed with seemingly endless amounts of kayaking, abseiling and an unbelievable amount of bracken bashing (the woodland - and Gav - thank you!) and the trip to market bay all interspersed with presentations, games, interesting conversations, delicious food, music and a cosy campfire which was interrupted by a group of dolphins who had decided that it was a good time for them to come and play in the bay.

The days just seemed to fly by and before we knew it we were sharing our final reflection with them and seeing them off at the top of the track before hurrying back to Camas to prepare the centre for the Gram Net group who were arriving later on the same day!

Before we knew it we were back up at the top of the track welcoming the Gram Net group who were going to be staying with us for the next 2 days which we filled with the usual Camas activities and – obviously – more bracken bashing, the stuff just never seems to give up! More games, more chats and more campfires took place which unfortunately lacked the maritime visitors the previous campfire enjoyed.

By the time we were waving the Gram Net folks off we were exhausted from all of the activities we had been a part of and were looking forward to our day off spent in the sun and get some time to relax at the end of an extremely busy and thoroughly enjoyable week and start to prepare for the folk from the Coming Home Centre who would be darkening our track-end on Monday evening.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

St Pauls Camas Takeover!

This week past Camas became the home to St Pauls Youth Forum from Glasgow. Boisterous, adventurous, mischievous and ready for the week ahead. As the first big youth group of the season, the Camas staff were really excited to see them arrive and meet them over dinner and the first reflection in the Chapel of the Nets. The boys in the group kept the leaders up a little past their bedtime – but no matter because the Iron Challenge was there in the morning to wake them up.

St Pauls brought the weather with them and the first morning was sunny, still and warm. The toughest of the bunch braved the water. After porridge and scones the gang split into two groups and got stuck into kayaking, abseiling and climbing. Everyone was brilliant and there was a great amount of encouragement, teamwork, laughter, facing fears and a little bit of wrestling. Lunch and some free time was needed after such an active morning. Once the tide had returned that evening everyone went coasteering together. Some climbed, some swam. Daring jumps were attempted by Leader Marc (perhaps too daring).

The beautiful weather persisted into the next day and the plan was to camp at Market Bay. While the preparations began the group spent the morning playing sardines and sniper in the shade of the garden. They gathered themselves after lunch and set off, Camas’ Sarah leading the way with Gavin at the back. The heaviest things were taken by canoe by Barry and Darragh with Lizzie following in her sea kayak. The group had a great afternoon in the sun. They played games and sang, they had dinner by the fire together. They had big talk and small talk and watched the sun go down. A magical moment occurred with a visit from dolphins while the GSD group ‘the dolphins’ washed the dishes.

Sleepy and sun-kissed St Pauls made their way back on Thursday lunchtime. They spent the afternoon making art and bracelets together, lying in the sun, exploring and hitting the bell with stones. A little embarrassing as St Pauls proved to be much better at hitting the bell than most staff members who practice a lot. That evening everyone was treated to a cosy story reflection from Camas’ Kelsey followed by some great singing! Don’t look back in Anger, Miss Ohio, Belter, The Jelly Piece Song and maybe the entire back catalogue of The Proclaimers. There was an early night with the promise of a scary story in bed. The Camas staff didn’t get to hear it, which is probably for the best, but I think some people definitely went to bed with one eye open on Thursday.

The final day and the group split again and swapped round for kayaking and climbing. Again the Camas’ Staff and leaders were really impressed by the support among the young people. It meant everyone had a good time and good laughs together. After lunch St Pauls took over the Centre for Camas Challenge! The kitchen team cooked up a storm, everyone’s favourite burgers and chips, and invented a new dessert called Cookie Custard (a winner, see St Pauls for recipe). The entertainment team made an amazing treasure hunt around the entire centre which the decorations team put up huge paper chains, banners and set a long table for everyone to eat together. In the evening reflection was beautiful. Everyone put their favourite memory from the week into a bottle and we sent it out to sea! I hope someone finds it someday and reads about this incredible week we shared.

The Camas Staff would really and truly like to say THANK YOU to St Pauls and their leaders for their energy, enthusiasm and generally being a joy to have here. It was sad parting at the top of the track but it definitely felt like goodbye for now, not forever!

Oh - and we love our new book of poetry. 

Image result for st pauls youth forum

Monday, 18 June 2018

Edinburgh’s Grassmarket Project and University students

A group from Edinburgh’s Grassmarket Project came down the track for another week of sunshine, along with six Edinburgh University students of medicine and social work. 

During the week those who wanted to get out on the sea kayaking and abseiling did so.  For some it was purely fun, for others it required considerable bravery.  Well done!

Music was a theme in the week.  We hosted the First Annual Grassmarket Camas Open Mic night - a big success and highlight, with a 2nd edition on the Friday night too.  
There was no mic, but this didn’t matter!

Camas team member Kelsey was a skilled and complimentary host, kicking it off with a sing along of the Camas classic ‘What’s up’ by 4 Non Blondes.  We had ukulele tunes freshly penned about the Camas journey and Scottish weather, a theatre extract, spoken word, stories, a saxophone solo, French soprano, dancing and more sing along. 

It was wonderful to be set an example of people not being shy, and after just a few days of forming a community together people’s confidence to share and relate blossomed.  A bit of Camas magic in action.  Without screens, phones or wifi, entertainment has to be created in an evening at Camas, and you definitely created it! 

No wind and beautiful weather meant that the centre was without power, so the tradition of taking laundry over to the Iona Abbey’s washing machines needed to be re-instated. 

We discovered in the midst of this good drying weather that one group member was keen on painting, and he dedicated himself to the repair and painting of our blue window frames, all along the north dorm block.  Thank you!

Our ages ranged from teens to 70s, and it was a great opportunity to learn, be inspired and inspire, from different perspectives and life experiences. 

Other highlights too numerous to share in detail were reflections, garden work, elegant dinner decorations and conversation shared. 

We learnt about the wonderful and diverse things the Grassmarket Project offers in Edinburgh.  We wish you all the best in your many enterprises and groups, and we wish the students all the very best luck, resilience and wisdom for their studies. 

PS.  The Bluetit chicks nesting in our granite walls flew the nest yesterday.  Here's one of them...too cute!