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Ventuer Camp a huge success, paves the way for an inspired and proactive next generation of talent

From 5-12th August, 299 young people aged 13-17 years, spent a week embracing youth organisation Woodcraft Folk’s values at Venturer Camp.

The camp was hosted at Woodcraft Folk’s Biblin’s Youth Campsite, located in the beautiful Wye Valley. The idyllic venue with lack of phone signal meant young attendees could fully switch off for the week; disconnecting from the digital world to enjoy getting back to basics such as exploring the outdoors, taking part in workshops, making friends and getting close to nature.

This was no ordinary camp, the event had been organised by young people, for young people. Young members of the charity took on numerous roles such as co-ordinators, running workshops on topics such as the arts and climate action, organising the week’s food for campers and leading on logistical planning. It’s no mean feat organising a camp for hundreds of people and where many adults would feel overwhelmed, the young people took it in their stride whilst learning valuable skills along the way that will serve them well in employment and their personal lives. 

There was a diverse programme on offer with plenty of engaging events to get stuck into including bushcraft, clothes dyeing, rock climbing, canoeing, storytelling and art therapy. An activism focused tent hosted topical workshops such as a climate focused one hosted by Ellie Chows, Group Leader of the Green Party and local author Alan Oberman led a session on climate activism and creative writing.

Woodcraft Folk at its heart is a cooperative movement with a big advocate for peace. In honour of the 90th anniversary of the white poppy by the Co-operative Women’s Guild, a session was hosted at camp in the lead up to Remembrance Day where young campers could create their own white poppy wreath as well as learn about the roots of the white poppy in the cooperative movement.

Mike Dunsbee & Nick Day of Friends of the Lower Wye also delivered a timely session on pollution in rivers and sustainable farming which was a very apt and relatable topic for campers and Woodcraft Folk staff and volunteers considering the Biblins Youth Campsite hugs the Wye Valley. The river has been recently downgraded by Natural England due to farming pollution impacting the waterway.

There was plenty of ways for campers to unwind too with the camp featuring a cinema, Ceilidh and a live performance from band Hunny Buzz as well as an all camp encompassing wide game! The mythology theme of the camp also conjured up some fun workshops such as Greek god mask making, Egyptian hieroglyphs writing, coats of arms creation and designing Mythical beasts card games.

Venturer Camp 2023 Coordinator Thomas Boxall says:

“I was approached at Woodcraft Folk’s Common Ground last year if I wanted to coordinate the next Venturer Camp. I didn’t know what this would entail, but it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made as I’ve had the opportunity to work with some amazing people, done things I would never had done and grown so much as a person. These camps require so many different ways of working, expertise’s and kinds of people.

On camp the pressures and challenges of the outside world disappeared. Together we created a community enacting the world as we want it to be. I’m immensely proud of the community we created at the camp. Walking up and down the site gave me such immense joy. I saw venturers forming friendships that will last a lifetime, bonding over a campfire or a workshop.

When I started volunteering with Woodcraft it was to pay back some of the amazing experiences it gave me, but now it is so much more than that. Now it is where I have met some of my best friends and somewhere I feel I have the power and ability to change things. A movement I can try things knowing people will catch me if I fall. It would be hard for the Venturer me to imagine organising something like this but Woodcraft believed in me and it believes in you too. I’m not saying you have to organise a Venturer Camp (although somebody does) or even lead on anything, but stay involved or get invovled! Join DFs when you are 16, help out with a group, come to Camp 100, stay part of all of movement however suits you.”

The timing of the camp couldn’t have been more crucial following years of disruption due to the pandemic (the camp was even delayed) which has had a huge impact on young people’s lives. For many young people, the Covid pandemic has taken away valuable social time, impacted studies and had a huge effect on mental wellbeing and this isn’t even factoring in the effects of the current cost of living crisis.  

After a tough few years, this long awaited camp was a shining beacon and oasis for those who attended with a chance to meet up with old friends, make new ones, have fun, let off some steam as well as participate in some much needed youth action, collaboration and problem solving!  Most importantly, the camp provided a safe space for young people to just be themselves. 

At the heart of the camp were Woodcraft Folk’s values which centre around co-operation, peace, education for social change and the protection and understanding of the natural world. Woodcraft Folk is a movement for children and young people with strong routes available for volunteering opportunities too. At the charity’s local group nights, events, centres and programme offerings, children will grow in confidence, learn about the world and start to understand how to value our planet and each other. 

With it feeling like chaos is sweeping the planet right now – from climate disasters to war – it is reassuring to know a number of young people in the UK came together this summer at a special camp which focused on creating a brighter, fairer and greener future. There is hope after all and the next generation are leading the way!

Chief Executive Officer of Woodcraft Folk, Deb McCahon says:

“Venturer Camp was an uplifting experience! Throughout the week-long camp young people participated in a wide range of activities including weaving, canoeing, dancing, creating radio broadcasts, book making, discussing future careers and much much more. 

The event is supported by volunteers of all ages, including ones from overseas, but relies on our younger leaders taking on responsibility to support their peers to engage. Our young volunteers really do take the lead: planning the menu, liaising with local suppliers, managing the budget, stewarding, booking bands, mastering spreadsheets, facilitating activities and providing a safe space to discuss topics important to participants. 

We really could not achieve such a camp without the support of 100s of volunteers! Volunteers who are engaged in fundraising, booking train tickets, driving vans and those who give up their time to be on site supporting our camp community to function. 

I also must mention 19 year old Thomas, who has co-ordinated the various teams. Thomas will tell you that he has learnt so much over the last 12 months, but he has also shared his skills with staff and volunteers alike. Thomas ended camp calling upon the next generation of young leaders to step forward and contribute; enabling future Venturers to continue to have similar experiences.”

Woodcraft Folk would like to thank their food suppliers, all those who contributed to the camp programme and volunteers and staff who made this event possible. Thanks also extends to Huw Hickman and his supporters who raised £1,281 for V Camp to make it more accessible to young people. In addition to this, the charity wants to thank all those who kindly donated to the fundraiser. Huw took part in coracling down the River Wye to the charity’s Venturer Camp hosted at Biblins Youth Campsite.

This is an exciting time for the UK charity as it celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2025 and just as is central to the ethos of the camp, Woodcraft Folk’s movement is paving the way for a generation that has big ambitions, with the skills to speak up on issues important to them to strive for positive changes toward a better world.   

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