As the summer holidays draw near, Absolutely investigates Camp Wilderness' summer camps
A Change Of Scenery
Arriving at the car park having not seen our children for a week, we don’t know what to expect. The camp is quite deep in the woods – a 15 minute trek – and they have been there for five days. Will they have been miserable and homesick? We’re fairly certain they won’t, but you never know. Sending children off to summer camp with no phones means they can’t spend their days staring at tiny screens, but it also means that they can’t phone home. Old school style.
In the car park we hear them before we see them. There’s a chanting and stomping coming towards us. As they emerge, we catch some lyrics: a song about baked beans. A rowdy bunch is striding towards us, their skin partially decorated with amateur tribal markings, large sticks in their hands, among them our children, entirely unrecognizable from the shy, uncertain ones we left here a few days ago and smelling of bonfire. What happened to them?
Summer holidays should be about spending time outdoors. They should not be about homework or keeping to the bedtime routine. Our children’s lives are so scheduled, so full of improving activities and timetabling that the six-week break is the only time for them to experience the childhood freedom that, as adults, we fantasise about.
Memories Made For Life
Returning from Camp Wilderness, my daughters, aged 9 and 12, are exhausted, filthy and beside themselves with happiness. The best thing, they say, is having no rules and no clocks. “Whenever we asked the time, we’d be told ‘evening time’ or ‘morning time’. They said it was because time was a social construct. Mummy, what’s a social construct?”
The five day camp involves nonstop games, delicious meals (the favourite? dolphin, they insist, which on further questioning turns out to be a creamy potato dish. Everybody of course loves dauphinoise) and lots of freedom. There isn’t even a set bedtime, they report proudly. Children are split into small groups – tribes – and collective activities include shelter-building (those with the most successful shelters actually electing to sleep in their own structures) and lake swimming (freezing) as well as lots of campfire time and the joy of sleeping in a small forest village of teepees. There are also skills: the girls report learning first aid and knots. And the friendships? When we get home to the iPhone, the messages have already begun. Our elder daughter has a whatsapp group chat entitled ‘Wilderness friends’. They are going back this year.