Adventures in the New Forest – To play and to learn

Every year for as long as I have been in the Sea Cadets we have made an annual trip to the New Forest. This started out with just our unit (City of London) but has since grown to include units from all over London.

The aim of the event is to provide cadets for the annual HMS Hood Remembrance Service at Boldre Church and to conduct a range of adventurous activities. The last trip was in June this year and we managed to run a a Basic Expedition Leaders (BEL award) assessment course, D of E Bronze expedition, lots of Junior Sea Cadet activities, cadet camping qualifications and run an adult Adult Adventure Leader assessment. A very busy weekend all in all. The majority of our cadets come from London and some get very few opportunities to head out into the woods for the weekend to play and learn.

The pictures below have been selected from a number of different years.

I normally arrive early on the Friday to set up the parachute and other group shelters. The cadets and the rest of the staff will arrive later on the Friday night. Our accommodation is usually at the Ferny Crofts camp site in the New Forest. It has a wide range of facilities and activities but the best thing about it is that you can set up hammocks and have a fire.

Sea Cadets in the woods

Meet my boss – Chief Petty Officer Paul Townsend. He is the Commanding Officer (CO) of City of London Sea Cadet unit based on HMS Belfast. Paul is in overall charge of the camp and leads the honour guard at the HMS Hood Remembrance Service at Boldre Church in the New Forest on the Sunday. Apart from being a good CO, seamanship instructor and sailing instructor he is not too bad at the old adventure training as well 🙂

The Boss

Our sleeping accommodation is a mixture of tents and hammocks. Over the years we have introduced cadets to using hammocks and now I do not have enough hammocks for all the cadets who want to use one. Thankfully some of the older cadets have bought their own now.


Even managed to get my friend Perry Symes to try out a hammock again and this time he enjoyed it.

Hammock heaven

A big part of the weekend is to teach navigation to cadets and adults. We do get to some beautiful locations.

Going Walkabout

This was a particularly tricky spot to navigate. Liz took her time but it was fun to watch. Liz was on the assessment course for the BEL award I was helping to assess. I was told that later the same day a couple got stuck in this area and had to be rescued by the emergency services.

Step lightly

At some point on the saturday we like to stop off at the Beauly Station Hotel with all the cadets and staff for a bit of refreshment. It was here we were introduced to Helen and Simon’s son James. A real hit with Jason.

Meeting new friends

The weather this year was thankfully gorgeous unlike some previous years. This was my friend Charlie Brookes’s first visit to the event. Apart from being a bushcraft instructor he is an excellent navigation instructor.

Beautiful weather

While out and about I like to make sure that everyone is well aware of what is happening in Nature around them. My friend Liz Rowan took the picture of the snake. That is one thing I am yet to see in the countryside – maybe one day.

Looking at nature

As per usual on any trips now I have my EDC hammock chair ready to deploy. Best £15 I ever spent.

Chill out time

Problem is though, everybody else likes it as well. I love the fact that when you are sitting in it it appears your feet are floating in the air.

Hanging out

As part of their training cadets are trained in how to use an emergency shelter. These things are a real life saver.

Emergency Shelter use

Teaching classes on putting up tents can be a bit dry so I like to see a bit of fun being injected into the learning.

Learning about tents the fun way

We run lots of activities including using firesteels, group bowdrill and team games.


The cadets lit this fire with firesteels and are having their break relaxing and watching a bit of ‘woodland TV’.

Woodland TV

The Juniors have to cook food over an open fire to complete their Sea Cadet Green training module, so lighting their own fire then cooking over it gives them a great sense of achievement.

Food glorious food

The wood under the fire came from a massive pile of old pallets that the Scouts provided so that the local woodland is not stripped of dead wood – got to leave a home for the bugs.

Sausages and melting chocolate

I was introduced to Smores a few years ago at the BCUK Bushmoot and they have proven to be a hit with the cadets (and the adults). They are toasted marshmallows squeezed between a couple of biscuits, ideally with melted chocolate drizzled over.

Smores – The best

Another sweet favourite is to cook chocolate cake mix in oranges. Messy but tasty.

Chocolate oranges

A regular feature now is to build a candle for cooking on.

Cooking Candles

As we cannot cook every meal on an open fire we always have a field kitchen in a large Roundhouse we rent out. The cadets have to work in shifts helping out. Some great food has been created here with very few resources. Well done guys.

Our Field Kitchen

As we are running courses on campcraft there are plenty of classes discussing kit and its uses.

Kit class

Dave is having a bit of a debrief here with his group to reinforce the learning. Don’t know if he is talking about wood or if he is just tired 😉

Class debrief

At some point in the weekend we always get the Atlatls out for a quick ping.

Atlatl fun

There are plenty of areas to do some stalking skills as well.

Stalking games

At the end when we pack up we like to ensure the place is left cleaner than we found it. Here is the ideal skirmish line set up before starting to sweep the area.

Area clean – Nice and smart

Unfortunately however working with cadets can be like herding cats. So instead of keeping in a nice straight line and sweeping efficiently across the area it all soon degenerates into a bit of an aimless-looking wander. Thankfully though we always manage to get the place cleaned up.

Area clean – Not so smart

I hope we have many more years going to the New Forest for the HMS Hood Remembrance Service. It is great to see the cadets head out to the service and just as good to see them enjoying the woods.

If your unit has never been down to this event and you’d like some information just let me know.



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