School Camp at the Old Mill, Forest Green

Every summer, two forms at a time, the boys spent a week under canvas at the school's own camping ground at Forest Green near Dorking, Surrey. The property consisted of an old water mill building and grounds. Meals were cooked over a fire in an open air camp kitchen at the eastern end of the mill house. Trestle tables and chairs were erected in front of the mill where we sat for meals and some lessons. In rainy weather the tables were moved inside to the ground floor room where the meal was eaten in very cramped conditions. Each boy brought his own plates and cutlery and a pot of jam or marmalade. I remember my first year when the jar of raspberry jam that I brought broke inside my rucksac and I had jam all over my spare clothes. There was also a games room and occasional classroom upstairs in the mill

The old mill

School camp; The Old Mill - photo Keith Vigon

The millpond had been completely drained and was the site of the boys tentfield. A row of old style canvas tents was set up at the beginning of each summer season and boys slept six to a tent each on his personal ex-army cape groundsheet and a straw-filled hessian pailliase. A very basic latrine in the northwestern corner of the field consisted of a hessian screen around a long wooden bench providing a row of holes over large galvanised buckets. A small fatigue detail emptied the buckets daily into trenches dug across the field.

Vigon and Kathwaroon playing chess

School camp; Tent field - Keith Vigon and Ramon Kathwaroon playing chess

boys posing in tent field

School camp; Tent field - Form 1H in 1956 photo David Ball

In the northeastern corner of the grounds the old millstream dam provided a continuous flow of unfiltered but normally clear, very cold water to a rough concrete swimming pool about 25 metres by 5 metres that had been built by schoolboys in earlier years. The water flowed into the pool at one end and out the other. In rainy weather mud was washed into the pool which acted as a settling pond. One year when I was there we drained the pool completely and bucketed out 600 to 900 mm of mud that had collected in the bottom. I thoroughly enjoyed myself covered head to toe in mud. One of the events during camp every year was a cross country race around the locality. This always included a swim across the width of the pool which was not so bad when you were hot and muddy. We were allowed to swim whenever we wanted but I remember in 1953 Dr. Derry telling Ball swimming nude in the pool to put on a costume. The following year under Mr. Llewellyn Smith we all swam naked.

One of the main activities each year was a hike through the charming english rural setting. I remember Leith Hill, Holmbury Hill and Coldharbour. We were introduced to Mares Tails, Liver wort, Coppicing and Pollarding. It must have been pretty trying for the masters to maintain control over a boisterous group of boys who were not really interested in walking around the countryside

Stern on Holmbury Hill during the 1954 school camp.
photo - Doug Burns

The masters had their own tent field behind a hedge on the other side of the courtyard in front of the mill. They had the use of a rather dodgy flush toilet in the mill building. Joe Brook wrote to me from Canada that he and David Rose, "along with a few other malcontents,had participated in the glorious unplugging of the only (Masters) flush toilet. Not a pretty sight.We lifted a manhole cover and inserted a chimney-sweeps brush with multiple, screw-on bamboo sections. We successfully released large quantities of large turds and toilet paper into the manhole.All without the use of gloves. Hence the near punch-up when we were permitted to clean up with cold water in enamel bowls and a very small, half empty, bottle of disinfectant."

Luncheon al Fresco

Colin Bosely, George Hartshorne, Basil Blakeway and his Morris Minor behind him; Mr Manning (a French teacher of maths) and 'Bill' R.Beaton

Arty Latham, Messrs. Spiers, Bosely and Mcneil

Arty Leatham, Messrs. Spiers (head of Maths), Bosely and McNeil (Maths and French) at Forest Green July 1962.  photo R.Beaton