King of Excellent (according to Scaryduck)

Tuesday, December 9

Chelwood Gate

My primary school had a system of in your final year, you'd go on a trip to somewhere. Previous years were basically one place, I gather a mud fest in a campsite on the outskirts of Dieppe. BLS went there, and from what I remember, hated it. I, however, was privileged and went to a new site in the Sussex countryside, in a custom built (ala Stalag 17) facility. We were promised nature walks, rock climbing and maybe even a trip on the bluebell railway.
The camp itself was simple enough. You had a large facility which was the kitchen/canteen/classrooms and was where we'd spend most of our time indoors. Directly opposite was the five star accommodation dormitories, one for boys, one for girls. And in between these two buildings was the toilet/shower block. Across from the main building was a small pond, and a large sports hall.
The first night found us boys (about 30 of us) locked into our dormitory. The only door in and out directly passed the two male teacher's bedrooms, so no way we could or even would dare to try and leave that way. This also meant that we didn't have direct access to toilet facilities, and ended up with a bucket by the locked and wired shut back door. This was a far from favourable experience enough, until someone had to lay a cable in the dark orange contents of the bucket. The smell drifted down the hut meaning that 10 and 11 year old boys were seen at the windows, gasping for the pure fresh air we so desperately craved. I do remember us being particularly noisy at this point, and one of the teachers appeared at the entrance. Still half asleep, with that 'cow's lick' of a hair style where he'd been sleeping awkwardly, I seemed to remember him asking "what the f**k do you think you're all doing. It's 4 in the morning, and you'll all be up in 2 hours. Now get to sleep." Strangely enough, shocked by the teacher swearing, it worked.
Over the next few days we went for walks in the woods around the camp. We went fish netting in the local lake where nobody got anything more extravagant then a pond skater or a large clump of mosquito eggs. One day we went to Weirwood reservoir where we learned what a duck looked like (!), and a coot, and a goose, and another duck. We even heard a cuckoo (!!). In the afternoon we were taken to a large precipice of sandstone rock, and told in no uncertain terms we were going to climb it. Being the fat kid, I was told to go last 'in case I snapped the ropes." This meant I was also the last to leave, and only the teachers were there to witness my achievement.
On the last night we had to supply entertainment for the quite frankly pissed up teachers. We all sat round an open fire as they knocked back another glass of Liebfraumilch (it was the early 80s), and our small groups of 4 - 6 children would each enact a small 10 minute piece. Some told stories, the swots said how much they enjoyed the trip and got us all to applaud the teachers. Our group came up with the 'magic blanket'
This blanket was able to increase the size of anything thrown over it. We started off with a tennis ball, which was returned in the form of a volleyball. I then threw a teaspoon over, only for a large metal ladle to be returned. Martin, the school clown, butted in and spat over the blanket, only to get drenched on the return journey. The following morning we arose early for the two hour journey home.
I returned there about 5 years ago. The whole site is now a golf course. The dormitories are still there, now decaying and empty. The main centre is now a storeroom and shop, selling second hand golf balls. The lake is now a 'water hazard.' Kids are not allowed.