Deaf Direct Summer Residential 2014
By Clancy Radley, Senior Outreach Worker
The location for this year’s residential was the beautiful 17th century manor house PGL Beam House near Torrington in North Devon. The site has two rivers running through it and is surrounded by fields and trees. The area was popularised by Henry Williamson’s 1927 book Tarka the Otter. Beam House was used as a convalescence home for injured soldiers in World War I, and occupied by the 2nd Battalion Gloucester Regiment in World War II. We had been to Beam House for summer camp 2010, so we knew that it was a lovely place, with a good range of activities. This year, 20 deaf and hard of hearing young people attended, with the aim of improving their independence, enjoying a range of new activities, strengthening their communication skills and most importantly having fun. The trip was funded by Worcestershire County Council Short Breaks and the Sobell Foundation.
Monday we arrived late afternoon and we crossed the old Rolle Canal aqueduct, at the foot of which Tarka the Otter was ‘born’ (known as Canal Bridge in the book). We met Charlie, our Groupie for the week, before familiarising ourselves with the site, eating and then heading to our first fun activity, ‘capture the flag,’ where two opposing teams run across a field trying to capture each other’s flag. It was great to see the young people throwing themselves straight into the activities and working well in their teams. It also gave PGL staff their first opportunity to learn some signs.
Tuesday morning everyone squeezed into their wet wetsuits (with the exception of me; I thankfully had my own dry one with me) then we went by coach to Westward Ho. When we arrived, we carried the surf boards in pairs to the beach, had instructions from the PGL staff and headed into the sea. There were lots of squeals as toes were first dipped in the cold sea, but this was soon forgotten when the young people started trying to surf. One young person had been terrified of the sea prior to camp, and had said she wouldn’t go in at all, so it was one of my personal highlights of the trip, when I looked across and saw her laughing and playing in the sea. Lots of the young people impressed with their new skills of standing up on the surf board, others just enjoyed playing in the sea. Tuesday afternoon we had fun with trapeze, where you climb a pole and jump from a platform to a mid-air trapeze bar. Everyone challenged themselves, including the staff, despite being scared. We tried waveboarding, which is similar to skateboarding but requires good hip action to move it along. It’s very amusing to watch but difficult to master. We finished the day with a lovely camp fire with hot chocolate and toasted marshmallows. We even had some ‘magic dust’ sprinkled on the fire, which turned the flames blue, purple and green.
Wednesday was another fun morning at the beach learning how to bodyboard, everyone really loved being in the sea, and we were really lucky to have a lovely day. Most people found it much easier than surfing, as you just lie on the board and wait for a wave, no need to stand 🙂 Our afternoon activities were archery and high ropes. As you can see from the photo, the high ropes were very high – all the young people tried so hard, despite being extremely scared. One of the PGL staff even learnt to sign the alphabet whilst the young people were going round. On Wednesday evening we had a relaxed walk along the Tarka Trail, part of which is a disused train track; the Barnstaple – Bideford railway line closed to passengers in 1965. There is also an old train carriage on the walk, which we stopped by before doing our ‘silly walks’ back to Beam House.
Thursday morning we went down to the beach again but this time for blokarting and stunt kites. The view was stunning as the young people struggled to control the blokart buggies and master the huge stunt kites, as there was plenty of wind. By Thursday afternoon everyone was beginning to tire: the perfect time for a long coastal walk. The PGL worker told silly stories en-route, and we were encouraged with promise of an ice cream at the end 🙂 As usual on Thursday night we had our certificates presentation session, which was particularly emotional this year as we said farewell to Sue Bucknell, who was presented with a book of memories and a bouquet of flowers. To finish off our last full day we had a disco, with silly outfits and silly dance moves.
Friday was our final morning of activities, we had great fun on aeroball, and despite water being on the trampolines, it didn’t dampen the mood. There was also fencing before lunch. We were all really tired by the time the coach came to pick us up!
|‘Magic dust’ in the camp fire|