Summer camp at Mill on the Brue in Bruton
Got summer sorted for the kids? If not, and you're looking for a summer camp, read on.
I wish Mill on the Brue had existed when I was a child; if it had, I’d have been begging my parents to send me to summer camp at this friendly, family-run outdoor activity centre in Bruton.
It’s Swallows and Amazons meets Bear Grylls, with around 40 fun and challenging activities – assault courses, giant zip wires, orienteering, crafty things, camping, raft building, video making, canoeing, grass tobogganning (the list goes on and on) – in 25 acres of glorious countryside. Just take a look at my pix and you’ll see that I’m not exaggerating. There are week-long summer camps and themed day camps running throughout the summer – and there are still some places left. I spent an afternoon there last week.
Tricia Rawlingson Plant, her late husband Tony, and now her son Matt, have transformed an old golf course into what must be the most beautiful activity centre in Somerset. There are fields and meadows, wooded paths, a river, a vineyard, an organic kitchen garden plus a sprinkling of animals – and caring for the environment is a way of life. I felt good just being there.
The ethos of Mill on the Brue is to give children and young people the chance to enjoy the great outdoors to the full, to challenge themselves (‘if children don’t know what it is to experience challenges, there won’t be entrepreneurs and explorers in the future’, says Tricia), build confidence and work as a team. It’s not just about physical challenges, it’s about trying new things, making new friends and finding out about each other and themselves – and above all, having fun.
A week’s camp starts on a Sunday morning; kids arrive, register, mobile phones are handed in (none are allowed during camp, even in the evenings) and after a coffee and a hug goodbye, parents are dispatched without further ado and everyone else settles in to start the week.
There are 70 kids at any one time, put together by age into six groups – Squirrels, Swallows, Owls, Magpies, Badgers and Otters – with a mix of boys, girls and different nationalities. Two fully trained and DBS-checked instructors stay with the group throughout the week so everyone gets to know each other very well. Each group has it’s own programme of at least six different activities a day. Here’s what I saw. Idyllic, isn’t it?
It’s not just for the very sporty; there are lots of other activities, like making videos, charcoal or some arty crafty stuff in the Apple Store (check out that fab roof) or making pizzas in the clay oven next to it. After supper (and a half hour tuck shop slot), there’s a choice of activity like bread-making, crafting bracelets and playing games outside. At the end of the week, groups come together to put on a show on Friday evening before camp ends on Saturday.
Kids aren’t aware that’s there’s precision planning and timetabling, it all just seems to flow naturally. I met a some teachers with school groups from Italy and Spain, who said it was the family feel as much as the great range of activities ‘there’s so much to do, the kids get so excited’ that kept them coming back.
Accommodation is bunk beds in 4, 6, 8 or 12-people rooms in what was once the golf club house, converted barns and the newly built Garden Cabin – the place has got a villagey feel.
Everyone eats in The Longhouse, an award-winning and ultra eco friendly building (insulated with sheeps’ wool, recycled rubber tyre tiles, geo-thermal heating – you get the picture).
In the interests of research, I enjoyed a lunch of roast chicken with garlic and rosemary (could have had veggie loaf), with roast potatoes and cabbage followed by fruit jelly, ice cream and fruit. Everyone I saw ate everything on their plate, they all want to be Zero Heros, the centre’s way of working towards eliminating food waste.
Everyone gets to actually camp at summer camp. The younger ones camp on site (Near Camp)…
Older kids camp locally and bivvy under a shelter (Far Camp), while the oldest groups go further afield on the 24-hour challenge, where they might hike, go caving, abseiling as well as pitch their own tents and cook their own supper.
If you’re looking for an action-packed summer holiday camp, or just a day, it’s difficult to imagine a better place. A week-long (7 day, Sun-Sat), fully inclusive summer camp for 8-15 year-olds costs £500. It’s possibel to stay for two consecutive weeks. Themed adventure days – Pirate and Army Activity Days, 8.30am-5.30pm – for 7-12 year-olds cost £57 (lunch included). They also run father and son/daughter Dangerous Days for Dads and during term time, residential and day courses for schools.
Mill on the Brue, Trendle Farm, Bruton, BA10 0BA. Tel 01749 812307. millonthebrue.co.uk