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Cycle Camp 2011 Isle of Man

Saturday 23rd July


At 06h45 I Arrived at Skip’s house and we then shortly proceeded to Goring Station whence we met the other scouts and set off with the van and the hire car at about 07h00. After a 4-hour car journey, we arrived at the port from which Skip and Akela had to return the hire car. I however stayed with the scouts who had their lunch. After lunch we unloaded the van and loaded bikes.

The van was to remain in the carpark in the UK so we walked the bikes onto the ferry and secured them. We did spend about an hour on deck but then we attempted to find seating below as it was just too windy. The Scouts, however, explored the ferry.

We subsequently arrived at the port in Douglas and set off for the first campsite; ‘Ballacottier’. This may have been only a 4-mile ride, but was up one of the steepest hills I had ever experienced. With all the weight it meant using the bottom gear on both cogs. About 4 scouts were able to peddle up the hill.

We arrived at an honest family run campsite with basic but usable facilities; although the door to the loo did quite literally come off in my hand. The ground was quite soft and it was relatively easy to pitch there. The scouts all did very well in pitching their tents. After the tents were pitched we had to rush to purchase food for dinner (now supper). This of course meant going down and back up the hill again. I emptied by pannier bags took 2 scouts and Akela with me. Unfortunately the two possible shops in the nearby village were closed so we resorted to the garage. The garage did not exactly have what we had in mind, but we were able to buy meatballs and pasta and cooked them on the trangias. It was then very late and we all wanted to go to bed.

Sunday 24th July


We woke up, had breakfast of boiled eggs and cereal, took the tents down and re-loaded the bikes. This leg of our journey was the one that I knew would be the hardest and the longest as the next campsite marked the Northern-most leg of our exhibition. I did intend to take the Millennium way for, at least, some part of the journey but alas the path was impassable with bikes loaded up such as ours so we took the TT course; the mountain road.

En route, a biker stopped and introduced himself as the Scout Leader of 2nd Onchan whom we will be later meeting. The first 8 miles of the route were all up hill and very hard going. I think some of the scouts were wondering exactly what they let themselves in for! Nevertheless, we persevered and our efforts were rewarded by the most amazing downhill section. We later arrived and one of the most well-kept sites I have seen for a while, in the form of The Crossags Centre in Ramsey. After pitching our tents and getting changed into full uniform, we then set off on foot to Ramsey for food again. Sparky (another of our scouters) joined us at this campsite after flying to the Isle of Man. The site had a kitchen and a games room so we made use of these facilities! Food from what I can recall was Beans, Sausages and pasta.

Monday 25th July

It was time to have breakfast, and take the tents down again (a process in which we were getting very efficient). We then set off south-west towards the next camp site. We had a shorter 12 miles route this time to the Cronk Aashen Farm International Campsite. This was another family run business but had better facilities than the first. Unfortunately the ground was exceptionally hard making it difficult to pitch tents and to get a good night sleep.

Skip had found out that a camper on the site had a Manx cat (a cat without a tail) whose name was Morse. The scouts all took turns in petting the cat.

After a few hours of other games, Sparky, Akela and I took the scouts to the coast. I decided to take a shortcut down a B-road. The road itself, although categorised as a B-road was more like someone’s driveway but was quite fun (being down-hill). The beach was quite stony but there was still some sand. Gareth was the only scout that decided to brave the sea.

Unfortunately, Sparky lost his wedding ring so the scouts assisted in attempting to find it; alas, the search was unsuccessful. We decided to go back to the camp site the way we came in as to avoid the rather steep hill.

Dinner was Corn beef hash and was enjoyed by all the scouts. After dinner the scouts played a new take on football they designed and was accompanied by a boy who was staying with his family in the campsite whom took an interest.

Tuesday 26th July

After the usual morning routine, we set off again. We were to stop in Peel en route but the overall distance was 12 miles again. Most of the scouts had now got their cycling legs on and I had 5 at the front with me.

We stopped at the sea-front at Peel, which is a quite large costal town. All the scouts and scouters were furnished with an ice cream and then ventured onto the beach for a volleyball match.

The shopkeeper from whom we purchased the ice creams provided some entertainment in the form of magic.

We took the scouts into Peel castle and spent some time there. It was then time to set off for Beaufield Park. Although Beaufield Park was a very commercial campsite its facilities were lacking. It did have an indoor area but there were no cooking facilities and the roof was leaking.

Unfortunately we ran out of meths whilst cooking so had to complete it using the single gas stove we had; the people at the site proved to be unhelpful in aiding us obtain any or providing anything to cook on. Once it got a bit later it became apparent why the campsite didn’t appear that popular; midges and mozzies! We decided to retreat into the indoor area to avoid being bitten further.

Wednesday 27th July

The next day we progressed to our next campsite which was the campsite owned by the Scout Association and located in Mullin ny Carty. Sadly this campsite was situated such that it was surrounded by trees and near water. The area we assumed we were to put up our tents was uneven and had long grass and was very rocky. There was a facility block but one of the loos was in an awful state.

For this reason as soon as we arrived we changed into full uniform, headed off for our hike to Castle Town and vowed not to return until it was suitably late.
We took the Millennium Way which proved to be a very scenic walk. Gareth had to take his bike with him with view of getting it repaired in Castle Town because the rubber in both tyres had perished.

After arriving in Castle Town we found a bike shop and had them repair the tyres of Gareth’s bike. Meanwhile we did some shopping and then went in search for a chippy. Unfortunately, the chippy was closed so we had our usual Fish and Chips in a restaurant in its stead (oh what a treat!). After this we did some impromptu rock-pooling.

We set off again and on the way back another biker stopped, this time in the form of my ex-colleague who has since moved back to the Isle of Man.
After arriving at the campsite, as we didn’t want to get bitten by the parasitic bugs again, we went to bed early.

Thursday 28th July

It rained hard from 22h00 until 06h00 and was still spitting when we got up. We decided not to wear uniform (we usually cycle in our cord shorts, scout socks, scout T-shirt and necker) as it would probably get too wet and we unfolded our lightweight jackets and set off to the next site.

We made surprising progress and soon arrived at the next campsite in Glenlough (make extra note of the Gaelic pronunciation of you don’t want to upset the natives), near Union Mills. This was certainly a vast improvement on the previous. It had proper facilities and a nice field on which to camp. After pitching, we decided to get changed into full uniform and to take the ‘bus to Douglas. Although the ‘bus stop was just outside the campsite it was quite a rush and we made the ‘bus with minutes to spare.

The reason for going back into Douglas was so that we could take the Steam Railway. As the next train wasn’t for a while, we had coffee and gave the Scouts some free time which they used to buy sweets.

The Steam Railway is a proper Victorian railway and is very well maintained. I must admit that it does indeed make a fantastic picture with us on the train.
The Steam Railway goes South from Douglas to Port Erin so we took the train to the end of the line. We had 40 minutes until the train was to set off again. We stopped for a coffee and gave the scouts some free time (I think they probably bought sweets again).

After returning for Douglas we shopped in Tesco for supplies and then took the 'bus back to Union Mills.

At least that was the plan. Unfortunately the next bus wouldn’t be due for some time so we were in for a long wait. Skip disappeared rather strangely, but then returned with Sausage and Chips! This certainly made everything all right again!

Friday 29th July

After cereal and fried egg we set off to the 2nd Onchan Scout Hut. The idea was that as we had to leave so early the next day it would be prudent not to have the hassle of taking tents down the next day. After a short 5 mile cycle ride, we arrived at the hut. It was a very nice scout hut and had a large storage area, main hall, kitchen, loos and shower. It also had some interesting touches such as a matrix sign advertising the next camp date.
The tents were pitched so that they would dry (for they were put away wet the previous day) and then taken down again. We had dinner which was ‘Chicken Supreme’ in a civilised fashion with chairs and tables. After dinner we then made sure that we were smart.

As one of the troops of 2nd Onchan Scout Group meet on Friday, it was organised such that we should join in with their meeting. The meeting was to be a games evening as this was the last official meeting before they breakup for the summer holidays. It was interesting to note that there was a Manx flag where our Union flag usually was, and we decided that we shall salute it out of respect.

At about twenty to seven their scouts started to arrive and respective scouts appeared to mix. Being a traditional group, we of course had a very different uniform to them but they are all, of course, brother scouts.

Our Skip was asked to do flag break, so I folded the flag with our TL and he broke the flag led by Skip. I think it was by surprise to the other troop that he proceeded to do inspection. We scouters did inspection as we normally would but in a lightheaded manner and then it was time for the games.

It was by a strange co-incidence that 2nd Orchan chose a game that we were also going to choose in the form of ‘Danish [Boy Scout] Longball’. They did have slightly different rules but it was a good game.

The most memorable game for me was plate hockey as I sacrificed my enamel dinner plate so we could play it. I don’t think the other troop had seen it before, but it went down very well. William in particular played the game with massive enthusiasm.

After the games we exchanged some badges and 2nd Onchan kindly gave each of our group a plastic mug with a picture of BP on it and their troop name.
2nd Onchan lead flag down and it was much like our own. Their leader commented on how we can take different things from each other’s group and that he will take smartness and discipline, which is a very lovely thing to say. I think the thing we shall take from 2nd Orchan is how supporting the community is; they have a very lovely scout hut, with fantastic facilities. Their scouts certainly seem as competitive as ours too!

After the meeting, it was time to pack all but that which is really needed and then go to bed. We scouters would sleep in the den and the scouts the hall. The former isn’t as comfy as it sounds!

2nd Onchan's blog on their own site can be found here

Saturday 30th July

At 05h00 the alarm woke us up and it was time for Weetabix and then time to go. Although the scouts (and scouters) were clearly all still half asleep, they all did very well in ensuring that we left before 07h00.

The location of 2nd Onchan’s scout hut worked out very well and as well as being downhill all the way, it was quick and easy to get to the port. There was only one slight ‘mis-direction’ caused by a certain scouter whose brain was still only firing on half the cylinders! Nevertheless, we got to the port with plenty of time to spare.

Although we arrived early, most of the cars and coaches were let on first, so there followed a dash to the ferry to secure some seats.

After another 4-hour ferry crossing, it was time to unload the bikes, reload the van and pick up the hire car. I was lucky in the sense that I had no driving to do – well done to Skip and Akela for doing that with minimal stops.

It was indeed after another 4 hours in which we arrived back in Goring station and then we sadly said good bye as everybody got into his respective car. How quickly did the time go by?

I’m already looking forward to the next one.

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