KESCRG run WRG summer Camp at Eisey, July
Words and pictures Adam "Digger" Morris
Every day’s a school day on the Thames & Severn…
Arriving at the South Cerney Scout Hall on a Saturday afternoon was
a steep learning curve in itself, seeing just how tight an entrance
you can get a WRG van and trailer into was the first lesson of the
day. However, a later arrival decided to adjust the width of the
gateway with their car so it wasn’t as much of a problem after that!
The next lesson was just how quickly Eli can whip up chocolate
brownies and get them in the oven to provide a welcoming smell to
all of the volunteers. Less than an hour! So, after the usual kit
checks, introductions, inductions and site visit, it was certainly
time for a pint…or not, the Royal Oak seemed unable to pump beer so
despite promising Gem, there was very little to be had and this was
our first and last visit here for the week.
Sunday morning was an early start for some due to the lack of
curtains. The Burco and toaster were on by 6:15 which meant
everybody was up and on site by 9:15 on the first day! This was
shortly followed by an emergency call to Eli to bring sun cream and
insect repellent as the temperature soared to 30ºC by lunchtime and
the horseflies were on the rampage.
Getting started on the first day is always a bit of a challenge.
After a little bit of sweet talking I managed to persuade John
Hawkins to teach Dave, Alex and Tony the art of installing coping
stones along the top of the lock. This also kick-started Derek and
Maggie into action on the first mixer providing them with lime
mortar to bed them on. With around ten stones left to position on
the towpath side this meant that there was well over half a lock
side of stones already in place which needed a concrete haunching
put behind them to try and prevent boats from dislodging them. Beth
and Anne took on this task with Mick J and Alex on the second mixer
providing the concrete.
Rob went off to investigate the culvert downstream that requires
rebuilding as part of the agreement with the landowners with various
members of the group popping along to help when needed. Di started
to tackle the ditch which runs alongside the lock which could barely
even be seen.
By lunchtime everybody was starting to find their feet and some
canal restoration appeared to be happening. But then, the second bag
of ballast turned out to be something completely different which
meant that half of the job ground to a halt whilst we waited for Jon
to track up to the farm in his 15tonne excavator to get us some
After a scorcher on site I decided to call it a day at 16:00 as I
didn’t want to break the volunteers before the working week had even
begun! Off we went to investigate the showers which was another
little book of learning in itself. Just how many people will get a
warm one before the hot water runs out? How many people can use it
before the shower room overflows and floods the club house? And,
just how long do girls take in the shower? The answer to the last
one is a ratio of 4 guys to one girl! The evening activity was
skittles at the slightly further away, but far superior, Eliot Arms.
As soon as we walked in and saw the selection of real ales, some
ready, some with a sign “just settling, ready tomorrow” we knew that
this was the place for us! The skittles went without a single
window, wall or ceiling getting broken and a good evening was had by
Lesson of the day: Thankfully horseflies prefer D of E’ers called
Monday was not much cooler and the sun cream was again out in force.
Ian went straight to the aggregate supplier and picked up a couple
of tonnes of ballast and plenty of cement to keep the concreters
going until the supplier could deliver us some more. As soon as the
coping stones were positioned then the concrete haunching flew in
behind them and it was good to see progress. The ladies haunching
caught up with the gents laying the stones and so we started to
landscape the towpath side so that it looked like a proper job!
Rachael joined us on site after attending one of her own working
parties yesterday and this meant that we had a driver for the 15t
excavator and could get on with positioning the quoin stones at the
tail end of the lock.
In order to avoid the showers, half the group visited the
Cirencester outdoor swimming pool (also run by volunteers) straight
from site. It was a little chilly to start with, but we soon adapted
to it after Mick L warmed us up with a few games. The highlight of
the visit had to be when we saw Kate chatting to a random person in
the pool, we were all thinking what a small world it is, you go
somewhere miles from home and see somebody that you know. But no, it
was far more sinister, she was being chatted up…by a woman! It went
something along the lines of “that’s an interesting swimsuit you
have on…”. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.
Lesson of the day: Don’t leave your watch at the swimming pool!
By Tuesday the weather had cooled a little which gave everyone much
more energy on site! The aim was to have the towpath side of the
chamber complete so that we could move the scaffolding on Wednesday
when Jon was there to supervise. Everybody worked hard to complete
the coping stones and haunching and also landscape the whole of the
towpath side. Meanwhile, Rachael, Mick L and myself lifted the first
quoin stone into place which was a rather large beast estimated to
weigh around 2tonnes. This went without a hitch and we had time to
get the next stone on top straight away. The last job was to replace
the Heras fence to make the lock side safe before we left directly
from site for the evening’s entertainment.
The locals had organised a trip aboard the Inglesham which had to
make two trips to accommodate us all, this meant that Eli had to
make us two identical sets of picnic tea. The boat trip was an ideal
time and place to explain to people just how a lock works as we were
able to go through one. On returning to the hall we found Bungle and
Ian PAT testing all of the kit for the Bhaji stand so we left them
to it and snuck out for a pint.
Lesson of the day: Find a way of checking your e-mail regularly.
You may just get one telling you that you don’t have to clear
everything out of the hall that day after all!
Wednesday brought a big change in jobs on site. With one side of the
main chamber complete it was time to move the scaffolding across and
Jon took five of the team to do this.
Whilst this was going on a very large coping stone was positioned in
the gate recess on a separate section of scaffold. At the toe of the
lock Beth and Anne switched to bricklaying with Ian and Mick L to
secure the two quoin stones that had been placed yesterday…only 20
courses of brickwork required! At around 13:00 when lunch arrived
there appeared to be a significant lack of seating, where had it
gone? Up came Rob, ravenously hungry after not having eaten for
almost an hour and informed us that the seating had been made into a
former for his brickwork and we could have it back on Friday! People
were soon back to work as there was nowhere to sit and work
progressed well in the afternoon with more quoin stones being
positioned and bricks being laid.
Being Orange Wednesday we perused the cinema listing for a suitable
film but there really was nothing on. Being the taskmaster that I
am, this meant that we would just have to work late instead! We just
made it back to the accommodation in time for dinner at 19:30
followed by a well-earned pint or two back at the Eliot Arms.
Lesson of the day: Don’t attempt to run a democracy for dinner
choices, they won’t choose meatballs!
On Thursday, work could begin removing the top course of bricks on
the offside which had been frost damaged at the end of last year.
Tony, Sam, Beth, Anne and Kate were all keen for a bit of demolition
and it was at this point something very strange happened, people
started brick cleaning without being asked! Whatever was going on? I
blamed it on the heat! By the end of the day the damaged section was
out and cleaned and bricks were ready to go back in. In the
afternoon we were treated to a flypast by three Hercules on their
final flight from RAF Lyneham.
In the evening we visited The Crown Inn at Lechlade which is also
home to the Halfpenny Microbrewery. Being a microbrewery the tour
had to be conducted in two parts but this gave the rest of the group
plenty of time to sample some of the produce. The chairman took this
opportunity to pay us a “passing” visit on his way to Droitwich and
also indulge in a Coca Cola or two!
Lesson of the day: However many bricks you clean you’ll always
Friday was a slightly diminished day on site as we lost our
bricklaying teachers, John and Ian, who were also going to the
opening at Droitwich. Luckily, they had already taught the next
generation of bricklayers who were able to continue unsupervised and
were perfectly capable of complaining about the mortar for
themselves! There were plenty of back bricks to be laid at both the
toe of the lock and on the cleaned off section on the offside so
this kept everybody busy. We only worked until about 15:00 as we
wanted everything to be left tidy and have the kit packed away in
time for the evening’s frivolities. Eli prepared a fabulous griddled
barbecue and her speciality Pimms Jelly. After a weak of restraint,
Bobby relieved his frustration by whipping the cream for the Eton
Mess, which he was very good at!
The evening turned to silliness however when Eli produced the Jaffa
Cakes for a game which Ken Burgin had trivially mentioned when
visiting site. Everybody was issued a Jaffa and had to eat all the
sponge and chocolate as quickly as possible and stick the remaining
orange disc on their forehead. The winner was the person with the
most perfect clean orange circle on their head. Sam took this title!
The next game was Fluffy Bunnies as explained (and subsequently won)
by Beth. You each take it in turns to pop a marshmallow in your
mouth and say “Fluffy Bunnies”, this sounds easy, but when you’re up
to about 25 in your mouth at once then things take an interesting
turn. I won’t spoil it by telling you what happens…try it on your
next camp! Speaking of the next camp, or possibly the KESCRG/LWRG
Christmas Party, a fine upstanding member of the camp introduced a
new game to us involving condoms and baked beans. The materials
required for the game have been purchased for me so I’ll keep them
in my bag until then!