As we near the year end, I thought I would take time to let you all know what’s been happening this year on site, as I know most of you have been unable to visit and see first hand what’s been going on. It’s fair to say 2020 has been a very difficult year for all.

The Oaks year got off to a good start, with the Clarke Hut flooring and the archery posts both being replaced, and the construction of the new gateway to the main field. The gateway was unveiled in early March, with Groups from both Districts invited to site to fix their sections acorn plaques in place on the new gateway. There are around 30 colourful acorns now in place on the gateway. Unfortunately, the pandemic then hit in mid March. Scouting went “virtual” and all face to face scouting and residential experiences were put on hold. The campsite has remained closed since, with only odd weekends of essential maintenance being carried out by staff, all having to follow whatever guidelines were in place at that time. The only good thing in the spring was the abundance of bluebells on site, with the woods looking resplendent being carpeted throughout.

During the closure period, staff have carried on with the regular essential maintenance tasks but have also overhauled and reinstated flower beds, upgraded the CCTV system, replaced the fence panels on the shooting range and replaced the ram raid doors. Pritt, our ever resourceful shop manager, took the tuck shop on-line, delivering orders to doors, to use stocks before expiry. The recently installed animal camera traps have recorded the wildlife on site, with images of muntjac, badger, fox and even a stoat being recorded. We’ve also taken the opportunity to redecorate the inside of the Clarke Hut, which we hope to complete in the New Year, ready for re-opening, fingers crossed. Some of our younger wardens are also developing an idea for some new small sleeping pods.

In September, the Oaks hosted it’s first ever virtual event, with Charnwood district running a virtual campfire event, livestreamed on their Facebook page. We also streamed the event on the Oaks Facebook page. The event was a huge success, reaching over 10,200 people on the platform and having over 5,200 views. However, a campfire with only 6 adults present is not quite like the real thing, we are missing the young people.

We were fortunate to receive Government funding to help keep finances ticking over, but the complete lack of income is having the expected impact. All non essential works will remain on hold for the time being, and we are reviewing present services, with the aim to reduce costs wherever possible.

With face to face scouting now again being permitted, we are looking to make the main field available for Loughborough and Charnwood groups to book and use over weekends from early in the New Year, although residential experiences are still not permitted. There is no early indication of when that position will change, we just need to be ready to welcome residential visitors when we’re allowed.

Coming to the end of the year, we have to say a couple of goodbyes and thank yous. Weekend wardens Nigel and Sean are both standing down, and Richard is standing down as Treasurer, after 19 years service. All have played a huge part in the success of the site over the past years, and will be hard acts to follow. Thank you all. Finding replacement wardens for their weekend is now one of our immediate tasks. We need to remember we are all volunteers, and with pressures on home and business lives continually changing, it’s always accepted that staff come and go, as their time allows. The challenge for us is to recruit more volunteers to come and help, and join the fun. Yes, it’s fun. We can use whatever time people can give us, whether it’s just helping at work weekends, getting involved as an activity instructor or becoming a weekend warden, we can put your time to use. Could I ask you all to spread the word, sell the site and let us know of any interests, so we can follow it up.

Finally, to all those of you that have or continue to give your time to the campsite, a big thank you and I hope to see you in the New Year, when we’re eventually allowed to meet at my rescheduled “Meet the new chairman” event.

I hope you all have a great Christmas and New Year.

Phil Cooper