Thursday 26th April 2012
It was with huge excitement that the children of Pluckley and Smarden boarded the coach on the afternoon of Thursday 26th April, waved off by a small crowd of parents. The year 4s were telling many tales of the fun they had had the previous year whilst year 3s listened in suspense! After a short coach ride, we arrived at Swattended and made our way to the meeting room where we had our welcome talk and a quick tour of the grounds. After that came the time to make the beds! All children did very well, though staff were presented with a couple of 'duvet ghosts' (children stuck inside their duvet cover wondering aimlessly around the room).
Time for the first activity - Orienteering! Unlike the rest of out time at Swattenden, this task was done as a whole group, allowing the children from Pluckley and Smarden to mingle and get to know each other. Our instructor Tony told us the importance of sticking in threes for safety purposes, and off the children were sent armed with nothing but a map and a pencil. They all did extremely well and found many of the markers. After staff had rounded up the two groups that got a little bit lost it was....
...DINNER TIME!! A delicious array of chilli, chicken in white sauce, bolognaise and a quorn curry with salad on the side with crumble for pudding! The children ate their fill and then headed out onto the field to play ball games. Mr. Gardner headed up the football team whilst Miss Hocking, Mrs Earll-Shand, Mrs Naden and Mrs Shone lead piggy in the middle and soldier sailor.
Bed time...in theory! Children were all in bed by 8:30 with half an hour's quiet time to read or write in their diary. Light's out were at 9:00 and some children dropped off within an hour or so.
Friday 27th April 2012
The official 'wake up time', though there was nobody left to actually wake up, as the children had all been up for ages. Children got dressed quickly and then sloped off to the breakfast hall rubbing eyes and yawning. A cooked breakfast soon put them right, with bowls of cereal, toast and fruit for those that didn't fancy the full whammy. Staff drank copious amount of tea and coffee to kick-start them for the day ahead.
First activity, this time split in to our different groups. Miss Hocking was in charge of group A, and the children cleverly turned this into the name from the film 'The A Team'. Our first activity was called 'The Tri-crane' and was proof that, in the words of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Team work really can make dream work...if your dream happens to be using nothing but rope and litter pickers to move 'toxic waste' into the correct coloured hoop. AL did a grand job of directing the team into pulling and dropping the rope the right amount to lower the barrels. We then moved onto the rope swing, where the children worked together to find the way of swinging from a high platform to low and landing on it first time without falling off.
After a quick break for orange squash or water, The A Team were back on it, this time joined by Mrs Shone's group on the low adventure course. This is where team work really shone out as the two groups raced each other to complete the course. The children also showed lovely loyalty to their teacher in charge when the adults raced, lifting the scramble net for Miss Hocking...and promptly dropping it on Mrs Shone as soon as Miss Hocking was through!!
Lunch time! Mrs Askey-Brown came and visited us which was lovely. She dropped off supplies and joined us for a lunch of soup and jacket potatoes with flapjack for pudding. Delicious! After lunch we set off for the wall and triangle, where the children again worked as a team to help each other around a triangular course (hence the name). Following another short break The A Team went bivouac building, again joined by Mrs Shone's group. We built a fantastic shelter out of nothing but wood, and despite the fact the children were now seriously beginning to flag after their late night, they worked together to not only build their bivouac but to pitch it to the staff a la an estate agent.
Dinner time passed by without any major events, again with a delicious variety of food, and the children had some free time, during which they received their letters from home. Then came the night walk! This was optional and a few children opted out, preferring to stay behind and have some quiet time. Those of us that went on the night walk discovered all sorts of exciting information about Swattenden and visited the oldest Oak Tree in the forest, as well as a badger pit.
Bed time again. This time, the average dropping off time was around 9:10! Hooray!!
Saturday 28th April 2012
All awake feeling slightly more energised than the morning before, after a night of comparatively uninterrupted sleep! Bags were packed and downstairs before it was time to head over to the dining hall. Breakfast ran smoothly with the same food on offer as the day before and before we knew it it was time for...
THE FIRST ACTIVITY! And this time, it was the one everybody had been waiting for! It was time for THE ZIP LINE!!! Paul, our Swattenden man, showed us the ropes...and the harnesses, helmets and carabiners, and left Miss Hocking and Mrs Naden in charge of getting the children down after their turn. It took a while to get the knack of it, and the help of a ladder had to be enlisted for some of them. The children were all so brave, with most of them not even holding on as they went down...unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Miss Hocking who held on tight and shut her eyes the whole way down. After two turns on the zip wire each, it was The A Team's turn to go rafting, this time joined by Mrs Earll-Shand's group. Again, the children performed well as a team to build their raft and get each other across the Boris infested pond.
After another lunch of wonderful soup AND apples cut into dragons by the extremely talented Nick, it was time to get the children back to the mansion ready for pick up time. The first parents started arriving just before two and before the staff knew it we were all alone again tired, but happy after a successful weekend *hopefully* enjoyed by all who took part!!