What an Adventure!
Back in June, when I first became aware of Camp Wildfire via a Facebook advertisement (and incidentally, Instagram too), I knew instantly it was an event I wanted to attend. On the face of it, it looked like a really fun weekend full of the most eclectic mix of activities and live music, exclusively for adults. What’s not to like?!
A massive thanks to Jules for inviting me along to Camp Wildfire 2019, I’ve had an absolute ball. This is part one of my review, with part 2 coming, full of Videos and Photos.
What is Camp Wildfire?
In their own words, it’s Half Adventure, Half Party, and I’d say that’s pretty accurate. I did a previous write-up Preview piece where we explored exactly what the event was here.
A couple of weeks before this years event, Activity Enrollment opened for everyone to book on to their chosen activities over the weekend. Each person is assigned 2 Gold, 6 Silver, and unlimited Bronze activities, with the option to purchase additional if they choose, for a nominal flat fee of £35 per extra allowance (Gold) and £15 (Silver). As the Schedule was available for all to view ahead of time, it was easy to work out exactly what you wanted to do, and when.
Sunday (Enrollment Day) rolled around and the website released the different activities at different times that afternoon. There were a few gremlins that caused a slight delay, but on the whole it was a relatively good system. Splitting the allocation of activities up into multiple release times that day meant that there was a greater chance that everyone managed to book on to their chosen activities. It may not be perfect, but it’s a decent way to make sure that most people are satisfied at getting a selection of activities. Jules and Lee raised the subject of Enrollment during the Camp Council on Sunday, asking for feedback on how it worked, and if they community had any changes they’d like to see to make it easier, of which I’ll discuss later in this article.
Once I’d booked my chosen activities in my schedule, and used my allocation of Gold and Silver tiered activities, I emailed myself a copy of my activities and saved it as a screenshot in my phone, making it easy to check when in the forest – a brilliant decision as the mobile data was a little iffy during the weekend.
Travelling in to Central London, I arrived at Victoria Train Station, and met up with a few other “solo” attendees that I’d spoken to on the Flying Solo Adventurers of Camp Wildfire group on Facebook. We’d arranged to get the same train in to Borough Green & Wrotham, and it was the perfect way to meet other individuals that were travelling alone to Camp Wildfire. On board the train, there were more solo’s people on the way to the event, so our group soon became a cosy 7 – the perfect size for a Mini Bus from the station to the site.
We were dropped off right at the entrance, with a 30 second walk to the short security queue. It was mid afternoon, the sun was shining, and everyone had big smiles on their faces as they filled out the Waiver form and acknowledged the various different points. Ticket validation, and a short security check later, I was issued with my wristband – colour corresponding to my Patrol (Fox). The other Patrols (Badger, Hawk and Squirrel) had their own colours, meaning it was easy to identify which Patrol each person was a part of.
Setting Up Camp
Upon arrival, the Campsite was already bustling with punters pitching their tents. Our group plan had been to pitch up with the main Solo’s group, however the mobile data signal was dropping out, and we were unable to visually locate them. With more people arriving behind us, we headed towards the bottom right hand corner of the site, penned in against the fencing, and started to form our camp. An hour later, and we were pitched, refreshed and ready for the weekend to begin!
Patrol Initiations and Parade
The first real indication that this was a Patrol V Patrol event came during the Patrol Initiations. These began in the Campsite, and involved a variety of group games with hilarious outcomes, including an ever-lowering Limbo! The crowd had split into their respective Patrols, and things were hotting up, but in an incredibly joyous and playful way. The leaders were rallying their troops, teaching the respective Patrol’s chants, and the mood was that of anticipation and intrigue. For myself, having never been to Camp Wildfire before, this was all an unknown to me – I had no idea what was happening, what to expect, nor what was going to happen next!
We were then led through the Forest in our individual Patrols, following on from a fantastic Brass Band – The Brass Funkeys. Weaving through the trees, surrounded by my fellow Foxes, the excitement was overflowing and spirits were high. It’s a strange thing to explain, but there was a feeling of community and unity despite having never met these people before. We were joined by our chosen Patrols and as far as I was concerned, these were my Teammates for the weekend!
Arriving at the Patrol Games Arena, I took my place with the Fox Patrol, and watched as the opening festivities began! The rules of the weekend were explained – Earn Patrol Points from each activity and each evenings Patrol Games, culminating in the final on Sunday in which one Patrol is awarded the Camp Wildfire Trophy for 2019. There could only be one winner, but would it be…
Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings saw the Patrol Games run for an hour long series of games in which members of each Patrol fought hard to earn those Points to add to the total. These were magnificent, and full of the most hilarious things I’ve ever seen grown adults do. Eating a tarantula, transporting a ball down some drainpipe without dropping it, and building a giant Catapult to name a few provided hours of absolutely priceless entertainment, all for the sake of Points. The team spirit was very much alive and kicking throughout the weekend, and EVERYONE took it incredibly serious!
My chosen activities for the weekend included Axe Skills and Apothecary (Gold), Space Science, Cocktail Masterclass, Acrylic Jewellery, Survival Skills, Zorbing and Yoga (Silver). I also added a bunch of Bronze activities, but as these didn’t need to be booked in, I turned up at these on a whim when I had a gap in the schedule. The beauty of this tiered system is that I gave myself somewhat of a timetable, whilst retaining the ability to drop in to new Bronze activities if I chose to, as well as a few much-needed breaks along the way.
My first activity, Space Science, was hands down one of the best classes I’ve experienced to date. Led by Paul, an experienced Astronomer, it was full of interesting information, experiments and hands-on science. There were a range of telescopes in which we were able to take an in depth, close look at the sun in all it’s glory in a safe and controlled manner. Paul was brilliant in conveying a lot of interesting science information in a way that was enjoyable and engaging. I’ve experienced talks in the past that start to get a little overwhelming, almost like a barrage of information, but, thankfully, Paul had a unique style that engaged us all and kept us longing for more! Alas, after an hour of exploring the solar system and handling some of the oldest space matter on this earth, the class was over and I bid farewell as I headed towards my next activity – Apothecary.
Nestled in the woods, Apothecary was one of my most anticipated activities of the weekend. I booked it as I wanted to get hands on and make a range of interesting bath and body related treats. Upon arrival we were informed we would be making Bath Tea Bags (as the other stations were already in use). Choosing a recipe and picking out the ingredients required, we wrapped our individual herbs and oils in pieces of muslin, tied it off and was finished in under 15 minutes. We inquired if we could make something else (as we had 45 minutes left of the booked activity) and was told we were unable to, which was a little saddening and frustrating. Whilst I had enjoyed the brief activity, observing other people booked on to the same time slot making some more in-depth creations with the use of stoves and such left me feeling a little disappointed. Alas, with a bath tea bag in hand, I headed (rather early) to my next class – Cocktail Masterclass.
As I had a little bit of time (read: 30 minutes), I decided to drop in to a Bronze activity – Screenprinting, conveniently located next to the Cocktail Masterclass tent. I joined the queue and as there were several people ahead of me, started to worry about the time of my 11am class. However, Burtie, the staff member running the Screen Printing, quickly popped her head next door and informed the guys I’d be a few minutes late, and all was good. The Screenprinting was a really enjoyable activity that I thoroughly enjoyed – I opted for the Fox emblem on my plain white Tote bag (which I’ll be turning in to a Pillowcase), and Burtie walked me through the process to get the best result.
The guys at Caorunn, the Gin brand of choice, were absolutely fantastic, and put on a real show for everyone in the class. Demonstrating two tasty cocktails, we were all offered the chance to recreate them by following the recipe. Help was on hand when we, inevitably, forgot the order or quantities, but it was taught in such a way that it was fun and engaging rather than intense and impersonal. There was lots of laughter, and plenty of alcohol flowing throughout, as well as some of the best cocktail shaking I’ve ever seen! Everyone was in high spirits (geddit?), and the class was a roaring success, leaving us jolly, and maybe a little tipsy..
Tie Dye was a fun half an hour activity in which you had full reign to create something as wacky or as low-key as you chose. Next door at Mask Making, I crafted a Geometric creation in an hour whilst chatting to a fellow Fox. I indulged in Board Games at the Board Game Infirmary with Dr Hope, (briefly) learned to Swing Dance, watched a fantastic and intense game of Capture the Flag, and a whole lot more! I’ll be posting some videos of the weekend next week, so keep your eyes peeled for those!
Axe Skills was, hands down, the most enjoyable activity of the weekend for me. Arriving, I was certain I wouldn’t be able to craft a masterpiece, but rather interestingly, after hearing and observing how to craft the branch, I felt as though I’d be able to make something. Chipping and hacking away at the wood, I was able to create my own interpretation of a sword in under 90 minutes. With the help of the class teacher and his selection of woodworking tools, I was able to craft a lengthy sword. It may not be perfect, straight or polished, but I made it with my own two hands, so that’s fine for me! The sense of achievement at seeing the sword evolve really is something I enjoyed, as I felt as though I’d achieved something – no matter what the resulting product looked like. My fellow classmates also created some interesting swords, each with their own charm and character, demonstrating that everyone is able to make something if they put their minds to it. I earned myself a Patrol Point for my sword creation, so I was left feeling incredibly pleased with my final activity of the weekend!
After the hustle and bustle of a day full of activities, the evening entertainment was on point. With a couple of venues to choose from, and a brilliant choice of performances, bands and live music, there was something for everyone to enjoy. I found myself in the Discotheque each evening, bopping along to the beats, surrounded by a wonderful and lively crowd. We were treated to the delights of Keston Cobblers Club, The Brass Funkeys, and the brilliant Little Gay Brother to name but a few of the acts on offer. There was a brilliant dance off during the Keston Cobblers Club set, in which Burtie took to the stage and wowed the crowd (at least, her half), in what proved to be a really rather funny few minutes.
An interesting part of the weekend for me was Camp Council – an opportunity to meet and speak face to face with Jules and Lee, the creators of Camp Wildfire. It offered a rare but important chance to engage with my fellow campers and provide some invaluable feedback to the people that can make changes, if and when they’re required. On the whole, it was a positive discussion about the relevant things around the event that were working well, and solidifying the things, as a group, we’d definitely like to see return. It was also raised that there needs to be a way to make Camp Wildfire more profitable, so that it can safely become a staple in our annual diary. For the first time ever at an event, I heard (and agreed) from my fellow campers that the price, we felt, was set too low, and could easily be raised to generate more income, whilst retaining the great value of the weekend. It was one of those moments where everyone was in perfect unison, agreeing with the sentiment, and I felt as though this was a hugely important part of the Camp Council meeting.
Patrol Games Final
As the weekend came to an end, there was only one thing left – the Patrol Games Final! It was a manic blur of speed and endurance, culminating in a showdown between the Squirrels and the Foxes! Neck and neck throughout, the Foxes stole the victory and became this years Camp Wildfire 2019 champions! I’ll be writing a second part to this article in which I go more in depth on these events, as well as provide a lot of footage from the ground!
Overall, Camp Wildfire for me was one of the best events I have ever had the chance to attend. On paper, it looks to be an enjoyable weekend away, but when I arrived I was presented with so much more. The mix of amazing, once-in-a-lifetime activities, team building, community engaging and new-friend-making makes this one of those incredibly special, one of a kind events. With an incredible line up of activities and live music, the website gives you just enough information to be aware of what you’re signing up for, but retains that almost secretive feel of the event. Nestled deep in the woods, you’d be forgiven for being intrigued by what’s within. I guess that’s why they say Camp Wildfire is for #OnlyTheCurious