parallax background

The poetry of wheelbarrows

The Biggin Hill Meet
13th January 2017
Branching out
21st November 2017

The highlight of this year’s meet ended up being the attempt of building a functional zip wire. How hard can it be, right? A bit of rope, a metal pulley and a harness… what could possibly go wrong?

Okay, yes, rope stretches, that’s why we make sure we have polypropylene rope.

True, we have got about 80m of rope, but with the right tensioning system it should be no problem.

“Should” is the key word there. After serveral hours of failed attempts including ratchet straps, human bodies as weights, and a torsioning mechanism, the mood was certainly at a low.

It was time to take a break, regroup and try again from a new angle. A fresh new day came with fresh new ideas. We decided it was asking a bit much to create a zip wire that was so long. So we found a new tree to be the next candidate for the start. After a tense 30 minutes of scaling up the side of it and securing the rope, we were good to go.

Thinking back to the techniques we used the previous day, we decided that the cork screw was efficient. We just needed to find a way to take more of the slack out of the rope before we used it.

Looping back the rope still seemed sensible, and seeing as we had now more rope to play with we tried out a lashing technique around the tree. Looping back and forwards and using the tree to take out the force we were able to get the rope a lot taughter.

Using the cork screw technique on top, we were finally ready for our first test pilot. Elisabeth was chosen to be the lucky one, seeing as she was the lightest. Harnessed up, and clipped on, she was ready to go.

Well, let’s say it certainly worked. Maybe a little bit too well. She picked up a LOT of speed, and being so light, she didn’t create a steep enough slope in order to come to a halt before the stopping tree. The shell shock didn’t last for long though, and after watching the rest of us have a go, she was up for another try. Albeit this time with a safety stop rope attached to the rear!

The traditional pizza oven received a revamp, insulated this time with stones and soil, and topped with a removable roof revealing a steel plate that allowed us extend it’s functionality to stove and toaster as well. It even received the approval from the scouts, and we were allowed to leave it standing. Let’s see if it survives the year or not!

Since we are on the topic of food, it always seems to play a key role in every Wild Routes event. This revamp was a great improvement from last year, as it allowed the breakfasting to also be a communual event. Getting the fire going again to make toast, boil the kettle, fry up some rösti, bacon and sausages, all of which was very well received. Including a pair of extremely tame foxes that came to visit on ever more frequent occasions.

They had to be literally chased half way across the field in order to keep them from poking into our tents, and helping themselves to whatever food was lying around. They became even more interested when the lamb shoulders made their usual annual appearance.

A big thanks again to Terry and Ben for engineering, re-engineering (when we realised that we’d built the oven the wrong way round for the prevailing wind), and continuous stoking.

The continuous cooking and camp fires would of course not have been possible without the chief wood chopper, Paul, flown in extra all the way from Berlin. He said there was something very therapeutic about it, and gave him a lot of time to ponder… about, well he didn’t say, but I guess about all the things there are to ponder about.

One of the first questions from Maja, as she first heard about the event, was if there were soap bubbles. Finding out that there weren’t didn’t dampen her spirit however, instead increased her enthusiasm and decided that she would bring the ingredients to make some! None of us having ever tried it before, a little bit of research was needed to find out how it was done beforehand.

Equipped with a cut up pillow case, fairy liquid, glycerin, and water, Elisabeth, Anna, and Maja set to work. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite as satisfying or easy as the internet had suggested. Definitely in need of a take two next year.

Out of the frustration however, a very big rope swing was constructed. Having impressively managed to throw a rope over a stupidly high branch to create a one rope swing, it was decided that it was easiest for Paul to climb up the rope to put another rope in place.

With the frustration levels now back under control, we set about thinking how best we could put the sticks to good use. Maja and Elisabeth had the same brainwave at the same time: Stockbrot! And set about preparing the sticks and dough.

Stockbrot, or literally translated to stick bread, is a type of bread that can be rolled around the end of a stick and baked in the embers of a fire. It’s very popular in Germany, and although requires quite a bit of patience and concentration, it is extremely tasty when you get it right!

This years event had a lot more ebb and flow, with people coming and going as they please, which added in my opinion a very nice touch. We even had our first brand new faces pop by this year and a fun afternoon was spent building shelters from as little material as possible. Of course the completed shelter had to be tested against a raging storm.

It was also a lot more musical – with the presence of 5 singers / musicians and a conductor, it was hardly surprising. The evenings were spent sat cosy round the fire, singing into the night.

I hope that everyone enjoyed the time they spent at this years event, I for one can say that I certainly did. Next years event will probably be more towards the start of the holidays, due to wedding complications, but I hope that we will see you all again nonetheless. And I hope that those who weren’t able to come this year, will be able to join us next year.


Douglas Ward
Douglas Ward
Douglas Ward is a freelance sound engineer and web developer currently based in Berlin. Having climbed his first mountain at an age of just 6 months, he has a huge passion for anything involving the outdoors and adventure. Doug is keen runner, cyclist, climber and kayaker. He is conscious of how important the wild is, especially in childhood, and interested in the role of free play in development.

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