Kent and East Sussex Canal Restoration Group

KESCRG run WRG summer Camp at Eisey, July 2010
Adam "Digger" Morris & Kate Penn

The Camp With Four Cooks…

A couple of weeks before the camp was due to start, camp leader Digger received the news that Cook 1 was not going to make it. Is it time to panic? Yes, no, maybe, but not right now! A late night phone call (or early morning depending on your perspective) from the side of the A14 to our saviour Eli meant that Cook 2 was found and the first couple of days were sorted! Then, sensing Digger’s desperation, Kate and Jen offered to step in even though they had been looking forward to a camp outside the kitchen. So, all was back on track until a couple of days before the camp when Cook 3 decided to reshape her car - fortunately it was only cosmetic damage and she managed to get her mum to arrange insurance for her on her car whilst they were on their annual holiday trekking across Croatia – good old Tesco!

So, Kate dropped her stock car at the garage on Saturday morning for straightening and then set off to Ashton Keynes Village Hall, arriving at about 4.30pm to find Eli, Stephen and two DofEers already set up. After some introductions Kate started to wonder where Digger was…a phone call later and she found out his sat-nav had somehow entered Spanish Mode and taken him to Steppingstone (yes it is singular) Bridge instead! So, slightly later than planned, Digger arrived after most people and it was time to get the new style kit check under way and the health and safety talk done ready for our evil Doctor Porkchop and apple stew. After dinner we adjourned to the White Hart which, on this occasion, had beer and cider readily available!

Sunday was the first day on site and for Cooks 3 and 4 it was to be their last. Digger showed everyone around site so those that hadn’t been to Eisey Lock before could see what we did last summer and what we were working on this summer. Everybody was then split into small teams and allocated jobs for the first day. Some began to prepare for the bricklaying on the towpath side wall, while others moved materials and another team began work recasting the gate stop on the cill. On Sunday night the site was left set up ready for some productive brickwork on Monday, the profiles were in place and marked, the brick coursing had been worked out, the scaffold loaded out and the mixing area setup. After Eli’s spaghetti meatballs we adjourned to the Horse and Jockey to play skittles. In an epic nail-biting, premier league style match, Charlotte beat all of the “experienced” players and was crowned champion of champions after a sudden death by monkeys knockout round.

Monday started with an early alarm for our remaining cooks to get up and prepare breakfast. After everyone had been fed and left for site they made all of the sandwiches and started to plan the meals for the rest of the week. After delivering lunch to site they went to Tesco and prepared dinner – this was to be their life for the next few days! On site, the bricklaying got underway with Nigel and Mick taking the helm and Nic providing the lime mortar supply with his trainee James.

training in progress and mixer not yet running hence no PPE!

A little further along the cut, Rachael and Bobby started to carve their way along the bed with a dedicated team behind them to stack the Woody and burn the rest. After a hard day on site there wasn’t much time to get everybody back to the hall, through the showers and out to the cinema before the bridge club arrived!

Tuesday brought another large Tesco receipt, a lot of felled trees and fires, but, most importantly, bricks on the wall. Emma surveyed the wall for us and found that it had the same 70mm fall along the length of the lock as the offside wall. An interesting design feature some may say, but don’t forget that water worked differently centuries ago. James constantly mixed mortar all day without a sign of tiredness and Digger was getting worried that he wouldn’t be able to break him before the week was out! To give everybody a break from the hectic schedule, we had an excursion to Gough’s Orchard to see what a restored lock looks like and assure the newbies that this IS how Eisey will look by the end of next year. With the light fading we headed for Sapperton tunnel where those that were interested went to find it whilst the rest of us partook in that well known activity of “sitting at the pub”.

Work continued on site on Wednesday with many people switching roles to try something new but we were now getting into the swing of things and functioning like a well-oiled machine. In the evening a small group went swimming to Swindon Oasis while some had an early night and the hardcore continued to drink Ashton Keynes dry. Thanks to Sophie carrying 5 bricks at once, compared to everybody elses mere 2 or 3, we made it with only seconds to spare before the closure of “The Domebusters”. Bobby got us in trouble for showing off on the slide but Digger did check with the lifeguard that there was absolutely no chance of death by doing so – I’m not sure he appreciated our humour! This all meant a rather late dinner of chicken pie and then catching up with the hardcore at the Horse and Jockey as we’d drunk the White Hart dry by Monday and they still couldn’t get us any more beer or cider!

On Thursday Jen and Kate got to pretend they were on site by tying in their Tesco trip with a van cruise over to Brimscombe Port. They had to collect the lime and all the leftovers from the Gough’s Orchard camps such as fire extinguishers, chairs and a sofa…obviously! Some random things make their way onto a WRG camp! In the evening we had a different type of cruise on the Cotswold Canal Trust’s trip boat from St Johns Lock in Lechlade upstream to the Round House at Inglesham. Due to a limit on numbers we had to have two sailings so Jen and Kate had prepared two lots of picnic tea complete with smoked salmon canapés and Pimms! The boat trip was a great way to see Inglesham lock which is the IWAs current fundraising appeal.


Friday was the last day on site and bricklaying continued with Alex now doing a sterling job as chief mortar supplier after Nic had to retire through injury – nothing to do with the camp we’d like to point out! The afternoon was spent finishing off our final course on the wall and tidying up the pointing. This gave the brickies time to stand back and admire their wall, the forestry crew to look along the cleared bed and imagine it full of water and the material moving crew time to stock up the scaffold and mixing area ready for the next camp.

A quick shower and kit check and then straight into our last night BBQ courtesy of Nic who was now on lighter duties. We finished off with a number of awards to our DofEers and those that really helped the leadership team out of a muddle at the last minute; we’re not going to name you all just in case we forget somebody! This was followed by a final trip to the pub to ensure that there really was nothing left for the subsequent camps to drink. Even James had to admit that he felt a little bit broken after a week of hard graft but he was happy to have found a new friend in the form of a pint of Tribute!

Saturday morning was a very relaxed affair passing the torch over to the following camp and heading home. After dumping the kit trailer and a quick shower, it was off to the Penn residence where Digger treated his remaining cooks to a curry because he felt mean making them cook for him again! We hope that you all had Lotso fun and stories to tell when you got home, until next year…

Eddie 210112

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