Monday, October 31, 2011

Roped activity assessments

Last week it was once again time for Steve Spalding (who is the centre's external advisor for roped activities) to pop down so that the staff could have their annual assessment, and also to look at how the various activities have been running during the past 12 months. Steve came down for 2 days - friday for most of the full-time staff and then a sunday session for the volunteers.
Starting off at the climbing wall, he assessed everyone for their setup / belaying / group skills before going on to look at different ways in which we can teach participants to climb the various walls more efficiently.

Above : Climbing movement training (or hiding from Bob?)

After that it was onto the crate-climbing, abseiling and finally 3G swing - where we spent quite a while looking at ways in which the current setup and operating procedures could be modified to make the running of the sessions more efficient. Lee also kindly acted as a 'stuck/scared scout' so that we could be assessed on a few different procedures which are required to lower clients safely back down in the event that there is any problem with the release mechanism.

Above / below : Lee bravely acting as a pretend scout for the 3G swing.

Steve's back shortly for further assessments (zipline and jacob's ladder) and the centre also has our own annual GNAS archery and first aid courses coming up very soon in November and December respectively, so more reports on those soon.

Monday, September 05, 2011


Two weekends ago the centre was host to 'Acceler8', a Scottish Headquarters open day for Scout leaders/adult volunteers. The event aimed to bring together a huge number of different Scout support teams (including our Fordell staff), Scout campsites, outside charities and organisations and commercial exhibitors as well as provide partcipants with the chance to try out lots of the Fordell activities.

Above : Marketplace marquee (and band marquee at night)

The saturday morning saw us helping with car-parking and reception duties, before running most of the site activities all day long (as well as covering activities for Grangemouth High School too!!!). The morning started off with heavy rain, but this soon cleared with only a few abseiling sessions having to be cancelled. There were several hundred visitors to the event (as well as exhibitors) with a good number taking the chance to try out the activities. The 3G swing (Phoenix) seemed to be the most popular, and the screams of fear could be heard as far away as the main flagpole :-)

Above : Gang show members performing on the stage

Above : the very popular food area

Above/below : Skills zone in the wet weather hall

Above : Tiso's outdoor display (particularly popular as they were giving away free chicken tikka and chocolate pudding)

Above : Woodturning base

Around 80 of the visitors were staying at the centre on the saturday night, and there was a campfire followed by a live band in the main marquee later on. On the sunday morning the Fordell Active Support team were up bright and early to cook breakfast for most of those who stayed over and raise some funds for themselves in the process. On the menu were bacon and sausage rolls, with an optional extra of either chocolate crispy cakes or beefburgers (which had been kindly donated by a scout group who were leaving that morning). Sadly, there wasn't a great uptake of the beefburgers or crispy cakes, although a few of the diners did sample them.

Above : Breakfast in full flow on the sunday morning outside the staff hut.

Above : the only breakfast in Fife where chocolate crispy cakes are standard.

Above : A satisfied customer about to eat his 67th burger roll.

Above : Due to cutbacks, Pete and the radio club have had to move to a slightly smaller meeting hut.

Other news, and Bob's managed to source yet another Land Rover - this will replace one of the older ones which was getting a bit tired (it'll just be used on site to move trailers around, etc).

The KARS radio club kindly provided some fantastic graphics for it, some of which can be seen below...

Above : New Landrover already prepared for towing Stevie's car.

Above : Pol attempting to push the Landrover to Paris to raise funds for charity.

Comedy highlight of the weekend was when Pol (who's across from France for the summer to work) received his much-awaited staff top, only to discover that someone had accidentally (?) ordered the wrong size...

Above/below : A delighted Pol with his new baggy staff hoodie.

More news in a few weeks - that's us now into September but things are still looking busy at weekends with lots of groups in for camps/activities. Coming up later in the year we also have the usual GNAS archery training/assessment courses and our first aid course too.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Spring news

Above / below - inside the new classroom.

It's springtime again, and after a few quieter months the centre's busy again with lots of weekend camps, visitors and events.

Over the winter there's been lots of work taking place - the biggest change is that the new classroom building is (just about) finished; it's now fully furnished, electrically fitted out and has a fancy new 'smartboard' installed which will be available for use in training courses, seminars, etc. A new set of access stairs and ramp are currently under construction, and will probably be completed by the time this blog is published. Many thanks go to all the companies and individuals who helped install and fit out this new facility.

Above - Henry checking that no-one is making a mess in his new hut.

In the main camping area, there's now a new hut as well (up near the caves) - this is the marvelous one that Henry and his team built from scratch. Now most of the camping sites have their own hut which is great for groups to keep their equipment/food in and to have a (small...) base for during wet weather.

Last month saw a freakish snowstorm which started on a saturday morning and left the entire site covered. Unfortunately it occurred just before a charity event (GI Jane, for the Meningitis Research Foundation), but despite the freezing conditions the event went ahead and all the participants appeared to enjoy themselves. A few of the activities had to be cancelled due to the weather (eg zipline and abseiling), but most of them went ahead as you can see in the photos below...

Above : Staff just about to head out into the freak snowstorm.

Above : The army putting the GI Janes through a warmup routine.

Above : 81st Antarctic Cub Scout group camp.

Now that the ice has melted at Lochore Meadows, the Bell Boats have been taken back up and will be used by both Fordell visitors and local scout groups. Last weekend the centre ran another Bell Boat Helm course (thanks to Dave again) which was well attended by a mixture of Fordell staff and local scout leaders.

Above : Ali didn't even notice when the rest of the staff dismantled the staff hut and rebuilt it 20 feet away.

More updates soon, but just time for another fun and free competition. Just tell us whose mystery hands these are in the following photograph...

The winner will win a signed copy of Bob's new book ('The Donkey and the Well'), as well as a complimentary coffee next time they are at the centre.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Getting ready for winter

Above : new electric indoor campfire (we had a video but there are some technical problems so you'll just have to use your imagination for now...)

Well, the nights are fairly drawing in now and the last month or so has been spent getting the centre ready for the winter period again. Things have quietened down quite a bit, although there have still been a good number of groups staying at the centre.

There have been a few more changes on site; there was recently a visit by a group of local bank employees who put in a big voluntary shift and managed to make a huge difference to the access path to the challenge course. This has (until now) always been very muddy and in bad weather was often the most challenging part of the challenge course. The new path looks fantastic and will make a big difference when running this activity.

Above : much-improved path to the challenge course

With the colder weather fast approaching, the Bell boats have been brought back from Lochore Meadows; they'll be stored at Fordell until the spring when they can be used again.

Henry and his crack team of woodworkers have been busy in the main store; in a single day a few weeks ago they managed to construct a new hut from scratch. This will be located on the site near the caving complex and we'll have photos up soon.

Above : Henry with his new hut

Above : The hut project was so successful that the centre has bought another 4 Henrys, which will be used for further hut production, general maintenance and activity instruction from now on. These are the new 'energy-efficient' Henry models, which can run for an entire day on only 1 gallon of coffee.

Camping numbers have dropped off quite a bit (as usual) due to the cold weather, but there are always a few scout groups who'll come along anyway and we expect this to continue pretty much right through the winter.

Above : Scouts find a loophole in the Fordell rules which allows them to camp without paying any fees.

Above : Due to the financial climate, the centre has had to replace the Ford Ranger and trailer with a somewhat less powerful model.

Above : Local cubs building a levitating flagpole.

This month the centre's been running the annual GNAS archery qualification course; this is run over two weekends with the second one starting tomorrow morning.

Into December and the next event is the staff / Fellowship Christmas party in a few weeks time - this year we're doing something a bit different and having a trip into Dunfermline for some (proper) bowling, followed by a race night and the usual food back at Fordell. Photos up soon, and hopefully some video of some very amateur bowling.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Shiny new things

Above : busy flagbreak during last weekend's Explorer camp.

Above : Explorers enjoying fantastic weather on sunday

Lots of new things to report on since the last blog update - starting in reverse order, the centre hosted a big Explorer Scout event last weekend called 'Explore!Explore!Explore!' . This was a national event and was well-attended by around 150 Explorers. Weather for the weekend was great and the Explorers had a mixture of on and off-site activities. Saturday they headed off on a train trip along the Fife Circle to take part in a number or different bases en-route, and Sunday was spent taking part in activities on site which were run by the Fordell staff.

Other recent news, and you might have noticed a new building which has appeared recently next to Henderson centre; this is a new classroom facility which will be used for a variety of purposes including training for corporate/scouting events. The building was supplied by Portakabin and looks like it'll be a very popular and useful addition to the centre.

Before and after photos below...

Above : foundations in place, awaiting arrival of new classroom building.

Above/below : new classroom facility

The centre has also acquired a few new items on the activity front, the most unusual being an 'unrideable' bike which has a special gear mechanism on the steering column to give reverse steering. The staff have been trying this for a few weeks but haven't had a lot of success so it'll be interesting to see how the kids get on with it.

Above : Mystery person demonstrating the new 'Unrideable' bike.

There's also a new 'pillow fight' structure which has been located on the stage near the vending machines. It's much more robust than the ones we've had in the past (which have often been built out of pioneering poles) and nicely padded so not so sore to fall from!

Lastly we had the annual roped-activity training / assessment sessions last week - activities advisor Steve Spalding popped down to run 4 sessions over 2 days where most of the staff were re-assessed on the activities (climbing, crates, abseiling, 3G swing, jacob's ladder). The sessions went well and for once the weather was kind which made things a bit easier. Only thing remaining now is a similar session for the zipline, which will be held in the near future once Steve is back down again.

That's it for now, but check back soon for more updates (or why not sign up to the email alert service which should be lurking somewhere at the top of this page?)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Summer news

Above/below : Flagbreak during the recent guide centenary camp

That's us into the summer holidays and things have started to quieten down a little bit (at least at weekends) after a pretty hectic few months.

After the really successful Fast Forward camp (see last post) there have been a few other big events including a weekend camp by Forth Valley guides to mark the 100th anniversary of guiding - with several hundred guides on site.

Above : Camping tip number 314 - always check that your new airbed will fit inside your tent before you go camping.

As with the Fast Forward camp, the guide one ran very smoothly - even with the car-parking on the friday and sunday which we'd thought would be a bit of a nightmare (most of the attendees were being dropped off by parents instead of by minibus). Despite a few busy moments, the car-parking system seemed to work well and everyone managed to arrive and depart with the minimum of delays.

Above : busy car-park as parents arrive to pick up their kids.

After the guide camp we also had a visit from a large Youth Theatre group who were basing themselves at Fordell whilst taking part in events nearby. Another good group and they got extra points by even supplying the staff with breakfast one morning which was a welcome change from the usual "50 for £1" Tesco value sausages which we normally have.

Activity-wise things have been very busy up until the past few weekends; the new King Swing has been popular and the centre has also purchased 2 additional Bell Boats which will be put to good use soon - now we have 3 in total so can cater for groups of around 30 in total.

Last sunday some of the staff had a rare trip off-site to put up a couple of marquees nearby at Townhill playing fields. Unfortunately they couldn't have picked a worse day for it as the wind was horrendous and despite trying to bravely put up one marquee they had to beat a hasty retreat for safety reasons and return the following day when things had died down a little.

Arriving back at the site conditions turned even worse which wasn't a good thing as another large guide group had just arrived to set up their camp. Lots of flattened and damaged tents and even one of the marquees was affected and had to be taken down for safety reasons, however after a few hours conditions improved a little and everyone could relax a little bit. Possibly the windiest weather ever seen at Fordell (in one instance the wet weather hall blew away and landed in someone's garden in Inverkeithing, and had to be brought back on a trailer on the monday).

Above : Hungry Henry having a good feed after being forced to run 75 consecutive low ropes sessions due to a staff shortage.

Above : 15 seconds later

And finally, it's time for the summer caption competition. Simply think of a witty caption, send it in to the usual address and the winner will win the contents of Craig's plastic container, sent by Royal Mail Special Delivery.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Fordell Fast Forward camp

Last weekend was the first ever Fast Forward camp, an event for older cubs (who are nearly ready to move up to Scouts) and younger scouts.

The weather was fantastic for the whole weekend and the event went really well; very tiring for all the kids and staff but everyone had a great time and it looks like the event will be run again regularly.

You can visit the official Fast Forward website to see what happened, and also read more about it on the Scottish Headquarters site (no point repeating everything here!).

Pop back soon for more news and updates, and hopefully the good weather will still be here.