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Quantock School History: Press Archive

Wish they were there?

What holiday allows the kids to run around all day and make new friends without you having to lift a finger? Try summer camp

by Joanna Moorhead
The Guardian, 8 April 2006 with an editorial commentary by Rick Joshua

 View the original article here

Summer camps - that most ubiquitous experience of American youth - have hopped over the ocean. We haven't yet reached the stage when you ask kids, "Which camp are you off to this summer?" like they do in the States, but the camp market is mushrooming. What's more, with more two-working-parent families, it makes perfect sense to pack the kids off for a week or two - or even three - during the long July and August break.

The best news of all, though, is that a place at camp need not cost the earth. In fact, it can be as little as 100, or 25 for families on income support, for a week-long place on the YHA Do It 4 Real camps, which have landed a huge Lottery grant to subsidise places for 11-17 year olds at its 37 camps across the UK this summer.

The camps were road-tested last year, and my daughters Rosie, 13, and Elinor, 11, were among the first kids to go along. Their multi-activity week at Quantock Lodge in Somerset offered mountain biking and archery, rock climbing and caving, abseiling and canoeing. [This sort of thing was advertised in the various editions of the Quantock School prospectus, but...] It's fair to say they were a bit apprehensive as they set off on the coach from Bristol, but things soon looked up.

"The thing was that you made friends really quickly," said Elinor. "I was sad for the very beginning, but once we got there and went to our dormitory and started talking to the other girls, I was fine in no time. I made four special friends and we still talk all the time on MSN."

Each dormitory of seven or eight children had a counsellor and this, says Rosie, made a huge difference. "Our counsellor, Rachel, was about 19 and she was such good fun. She spent loads of time chatting to us, and she'd come and put our light off at the end of the day. You really felt you could go to her if you had anything you were worried about at all ... not that I did." [Teenage (female!) counsellors doing the 'lights out' routine... Lumme. And to think all of us poor sods had to put up with Gerry Warriner, Phil and Big P...]

As well as a dorm group, the girls were each in another, separate group for activities. "That was a good idea because it meant you got to know a wider circle of people. Also, while the dormitory group was obviously all girls, you got to know the boys in your activity group. We did loads of good stuff - archery and fencing and this thing called the blind trail where you're blindfolded and you have to grope your way along a really muddy track - gross but good fun. Ruins your clothes, though." Indeed it did. [Sounds like a Sunday morning cross country run; funny there is no mention of that unique pink mud though!]

The food, says Rosie, wasn't as good as home (phew!) but better than school dinners [I guess Wally is no longer on the staff list then...]; a well-stocked tuck shop is open every day. But most telling of all is the fact that both my girls would jump at the chance to go back again this year. Alas, the subsidised rate is only available for a child's first visit, so I will have to fork out the full amount, 325, this time around.