This summer, two BB Companies, departed our shores for a BB residential with a difference – a week in Spain’s Costa Brava! Alan Meikle, Captain 41st Edinburgh, shares his experiences and, in particular, the benefits from joining with another BB company for such an experience.
I am sure not alone as a BB Captain when I say I normally come back from an annual canvas camp feeling like I need a holiday. Annual camp brings many benefits and fantastic experiences but it also brings hard work. It is not easy pitching tents, cooking, organising activities, cleaning out toilets and doing dishes during Scottish monsoon season in the middle of a farmer’s field. Imagine then all of this hard work was taken away and you could have a BB camp that was more like a holiday; wouldn’t that be nice?
This year, Boys from 41st Edinburgh and 25th Stirling (Dunblane) companies booked an adventure holiday in Spain through Acorn Adventure, the UK’s leading provider for youth organisations and school groups. Our venue was Acorn’s village cabins at Cala Llevado, high above the picturesque town of Tossa de Mar on the Costa Brava.
We chose Acorn following a successful trip to their multi-activity site in the Aosta Valley in Italy in 2010. Multi activity sites increase the chances of there being something for everyone, with a good mixture of water sports, land activities and excursions. Acorn’s structure also works. Our group was allocated a Village Manager to look after our needs and this works incredibly well. We felt part of all decisions being made and were able to influence the programme to suit our group.
Acorn also have sites throughout France and the UK offering a variety of activities for young people. Each site is staffed by an enthusiastic and engaging staff team with a clear focus on learning outcomes, inclusion and safety. Acorn staff make life easy for BB officers, taking away all responsibilities apart from looking after the welfare of Boys. It is as close to a holiday you will ever get as a BB Officer.
Our week in Spain was focussed heavily on watersports on the Med which included stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkelling and sailing. Each session allowed Boys to develop their skills and achieve something, progressing from building confidence to utilising skills. For some Boys simply standing up on a paddle board was a huge achievement; others were pleasantly surprised by their ability to sail a boat on the open sea.
I was also impressed by the emphasis to safety. This is clear from the equipment used, the briefings given and the decisions made. Instructors are fully trained and competent, safety equipment is first class and water activities are supervised by safety boats as well as staff on the beach. All decisions are made with safety in mind and communicated well, and the programme is flexible enough to cope with reschedules if required.
Sandwiched between our three days on the beach were two excursion days. The first was to Waterworld in Lloret de Mar, the biggest water park in Western Europe. Our Boys had a fantastic day making the most of the huge variety of exciting rides. Our second excursion was to Barcelona and naturally we chose a tour of the Nou Camp. Regardless of their varying interest in football the Boys were fascinated with the museum, and the stadium tour was incredible. The rest of the afternoon was spent at the Olympic Park overlooking the city.
Evenings were spent enjoying a well thought out and delivered activity programme which included rock climbing, archery, an interactive generation game and a walk into the beach front town of Tossa de Mar for ice cream. Again, a good mix and something for everyone.
Every day in Spain was exciting, enjoyable and busy so the added bonus of the on-site swimming pool was much appreciated, especially in the hot Spanish sun. All of our group liked to have a dip in the pool or chill out in the shade in the free time before dinner, just like you would on holiday.
Of course, organising a foreign camp does present challenges and hard work, particularly before the trip. The brochure cost of a foreign camp is always more than we would ever want to charge parents, so fundraising becomes critical. For our trip this year, the brochure price for our group size was £600. Our trip to the Nou Camp, meals on the ferry crossings and souvenir polo shirts took the total cost to £700 each. With fundraising events such as bag packing in supermarkets, overnight sponsored events and donations we were able to charge everyone £350 for a week in Spain with transport, accommodation, food, insurance and activities.
Acorn also sell trips and allocate village accommodation based on a full coach so they do charge small party supplements for groups less than 40 or 30. For us, reaching 30 was key to making the trip affordable so we chose to offer places to another company. Seven Boys from 25th Stirling (Dunblane) joined us on our trip and quickly became part of our group.
Aside from the Captain getting a holiday…., the benefits of a foreign camp are numerous. Boys get the chance to try out new activities and develop existing skills in a safe but exciting environment. Boys get access to activities, excursions and experiences that are difficult to replicate at home or in a canvas camp. The provider dealing with all food and activities means that the entire group can focus on enjoying themselves and maximising the time spent on activities.
There were also huge benefits in having Boys from another company on our trip and I am sure the bond between the 2 companies will continue. Boys were able to share experiences, make new friends and enjoy the kind of camaraderie that only a BB camp brings. Any companies who normally camp but do not have sufficient numbers to justify a foreign trip should look for others to join with. It makes for a very positive and enjoyable group dynamic and will make the trip much more affordable for everyone.
Two of the young people reflected on their trip to the sunshine:
“It was a brilliant week in Spain with so many activities and things to do. I really enjoyed the beach sports, especially the sailing which was really good fun. The weather and the opportunity to see some of Spain also helped make it a memorable week”
“Spain was really good. I particularly liked the trip to the Nou Camp because we got to see all of the stadium and spend a lot of time at the side of the pitch. The water park was also a really good day because the slides were exciting. It was like being on holiday with your friends and it was great that there were so many of us there”
You can find out more by emailing Alan at firstname.lastname@example.org