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During the bank holiday weekend, I spent two (rather cold) nights in a tent in Oxenhope. ‘And just why on earth might I do that?’ I hear you ask. Well, to put it simply, some avid Twitter folk came up with the idea of hosting a TeachMeet style event somewhere between the field and the barn on Hardnaze farm.
To think that only 3 months ago, I hadn’t got a clue how to use Twitter, let alone be involved in one of the most enjoyable gatherings of teachers and their families I’ve ever encountered.
It all began when @chrismayoh mentioned the idea to me and I made a mental note. May was a long way off so I had plenty of time to decide if I wanted to go. In the meantime, @chrismayoh had convinced me to find a purpose for using Twitter and I was now the proud owner of an account, going by the name @TaffTykeC. Come March and time to sign up, I was overwhelmed by the list of Tiwtter names I had seen so many times online and heard so much about from Chris and @brynll. I couldn’t wait, albeit nervously, to meet the Twitter Folk and connect the @’s to real people.
Saturday morning arrived and I awoke from my warm bed with a mixture of nerves, curiousity but most of all, excitement!
A lift from @brynll and we arrived at Oxenhope and were greeted and directed by @lordlangley73 and @lordlangley73jnr. Their enthusiasm and reassurance that the steep hill in front of us was indeed the way to go, only made the adventure better still.
Further reassurance and help with parking and setting up came from @dughall. A Norwich City supporter himself, I was able to break the ice by talking football, as I had donned my Sheffield United shirt that day.
Having put up the tent (and helped @chrismayoh put up his tent too), other Twitter Folk began to arrive including: @tonyparkin, @bellaale and @penny_patterson. Having now become rather chilly and having had no caffeine all day, a cup of coffee in the barn was a must. The barn itself was full of a whole host of strangers and new faces, adults and children alike. It was there that we met @helendaykin and her mum, Sue, who had kindly donated Hardnaze Farm for the weekend. Thus began the game of matching the Twitter names to faces. You know that moment when talking to someone and they ask what your name is and you’re not sure whether to answer your real name, nickname or @soandso. I eventualy gave up and simply said ‘Cat…the one with the flowers on my profile.’
It was in the barn that I met @dawnhallybone and her family, @squiggle7, @TeakayB, @susanbanister, @chrisrat, @ bevevans22, @misslpitkethly, @johnmclear, @deensie71 and @joga5.
All warmed up and introductions done, we returned to the camping field only to find that SpaceStation5 itself had landed! That would be, er, @JOHNSAYERS and Jess and their 8 berth tent mansion.
After a warm welcome from @joga5, I chose to do GeoCaching, as demonstrated by @lordlangley73 and Joseph. It’s amazingly strange how much fun chasing ‘gekos’ around a field on a handheld device can be. It was my first time trying this activity and I absolutley LOVED it, epecially as the device began to beep, suggesting I was near to the Cache itself. One Cache in particuular proved tricky to find but with perserverance and determination, I got there in the end.
It’s funny how a group of strangers (only knowing each other through the Internet) can come togther and get along as if they’d been friends for years. And yet that was the case when many folk went to the local pub to watch the cup final and have a chat. Learning about the work people do, about their families and aspirations was particularly interesting.
Finally, the hungry rumblings of tummies ready for feeding began to ring out and so the pub-goers made it back to the barn, following the delicious smell of a a tasy BBQ that had been prepared by the staff at the Waggon and Horses. Yum yum.
A burger or two and plenty of beer later, it was bedtime as the happy campers retreted to the field. Nothing could have prepared me for what was to be one of the coldest nights I’ve ever experienced! Not to mention the annoying sounds of snoring and certain people getting up to trek across the field to use the luxurious portaloo near the barn.
Ah finally, morning arrived! The sun was shining and the sleeping bag was suddenly pleasantly warm. Unfortunately, just as I was managing to doze off, I realised that it was indeed morning…late morning at that…and time to get up! Not to let fatigue and sleep deprivation dampen my mood, I duly got ready and headed to the barn for my daily caffeine fix. In there were a mixture of happy people who slept well and the cold campers, still smiling but taking the time to warm up and wake up.
All warmed up, I walked to the top field and found a seemingly skillful Mr Mayoh playing football against the children ranging from 3-15. Desperate to join in, I approached only to be told that I couldn’t play because Iwas a girl. Being the grown up, I took this well and simply watched, smiling to myself and contemplating revenge. However, this was also not acceptable and I was told I smile too much and to stop it. After standing a while more, with some persuasion from Chris, the boys eventually allowed me to join in until it was time to start activities for the day.
Tempted though I was to return to the football field, I decided it may benifit me more to do den-building with @dughall and his team of ‘volunteers’. I am so glad I did too as, after much consultation and observation of other den builders, @brynll and I eventually built a den based on the proven design of an everyday tent. The language, communication and problem-solving skills used in this activity were fabulolus and I intend to take this back to use in my Reception class at school.
Today was to be a day of football as I also have a soft spot for Newcastle United, who were playing live on non-terrestial TV. Determined to find a place to watch it, we walked into Oxenhope village and eventually found the ‘Idiot Hut’, Oxenhope’s infamous social club, whose steward very kindly let us in.
Another defeat later, and it was back to base via the bridalway and some stunning scenery along the way.
Back at camp and a quick nap, I had recharged my batteries enough to seek out Chris and the children playing football again. This time, having shown off my silky skills this morning, they let me join in straight away. I’m sure they had been practising as they were all playing really well and tired me out!
Finally, the rumbling tummies began to sound out again and the whole camp retreated to the warmth of the pub for a Sunday roast dinner. The gelling continued and everyone was chatting away merrily until the pub closed and it was time to head to bed. Most people did this with the exception of the #CampEd12 hardcore, by now exceptionally tired but still excitable: @brynll, @chrismayoh, @dughall, @mattpearson and myself.
A few ‘Ribenas’ later we had put the world to rights and headed for our sleeping bags. Sheer fatigue alone meant that this night represented a better night’s sleep and the chance of a well rested head. Mr Mayoh, unfortunately was somewhat worse for wear.
As the sun rose again, it signalled the end of the wonderful weekend and time to reurn to reality. Having packed up, loaded up and said our goodbyes, the Twitter Folk headed off to whichever part of the UK they had travelled from and hoped that they would meet again at #CampEd13, all except Chris, who we left in his tent, in the field…ahh.
I have since heard that SpaceStation5 will now be used as a learning hub, making use of all compartments and the central area. Don’t worry, latest reports suggest that @chrismayoh is alive and well and will never drink Ribena again!