Tony Claydon: Memories of CAMJAM

Cambridge District Scout Archive

1994 – 2015

A short explanation of what CamJam is /was. An outdoor camp for Scouts and Guides organised by Scouters in Cambridgeshire. It is open to Scouts & Guides from the UK and across the world. It is for approx. 1800 youngster plus leaders and staff. It is held every 4 years

1994 Barry Wallman and I were asked to help with site service by Jim Hogg because of our involvement with the Abington Campsite. We just turned up at the start of the event and helped where we could. This was at the East of England Show Ground (EESG).

1998 Jim Hogg asked if I would be willing to assist him as he was finding the role of site service manager a bit too much with his other responsibility’s. I took on sourcing tables, chairs and Marquees. I used simpers for these as it turned out they were not really geared up for the quantity’s that we needed; the time scale required to put the marquees up. We only took over the EESG site midday Saturday with CamJam starting midday Sunday. Mark & Craig came and helped me. I also attended various committee meetings as Jim had indicated that he wished to stand down as Site Service manager and would like me to take over. 

MACAW 2000 See separate page

2002 CamJam. This was at EESG again. As Jim had stood down, I was accepted as Site Service Manager this involved attending the committee meetings. As the site had power points around the site electric was looked after by another leader who also looked after activities. Around the site were water points and drains.  Having made the mistake of getting a smaller company for Marques, tables and chairs I used Snowden as their main base was in Peterborough. They had the main contract with the EESG. This proved to work well.  As we followed a church group, we tended to use marquee that they had used if possible. Some toilet and showers were permanent   additional temporary ones where hired. We used a company called Landsman. We had to keep the toilets etc clean and topped up with loo rolls etc plus look after any fencing and movement of equipment. I got a small team together to help in addition to Mark. Craig and Margaret also came but they helped in the shop as Margaret was recovering from a hip replacement and Craig from broken leg , Rob Farrington( as Business manager ) had organised a caravan for him and Pat also for Margaret and I. Craig and Mark were in a tent along some of the other crew.

We had rain during the first few days on the Thursday evening we had really heavy rain with some of the sub camps getting flooded. The crew worked hard getting the temporary light from the car park to the worst effective areas. Then helping in moving equipment into the cattle sheds where we had to move around 600 of the campers. When we done as much as we could they returned to their camping area only to find it was flooded. As some of the other crew had caravans, they were able to accommodate those who could not use the tents.

The next morning, we cleared one of the marquees filling it with washing lines, hiring in lots of Gas space heaters. We were then able to take peoples wet sleeping bags. It was like a sauna in the marquee you could only spend a short time in there. We got the EESG staff to get a sludge gulper to remove the water from some of the worst affected areas. On the area outside one of the permanent building (the dog show office) two Scouter’s were paddling their canoes.

During the previous camp we had good co-operation form the staff at the show ground. This time there had been a change of management, they were not that helpful.  We received an invoice from EESG for removing the water from the ground. They also tried to get the youngster out of the cattle sheds as they said we had not booked them. Snowden’s did not remove the largest Marquee until it had dried out more. The show ground tried to charge us for not clearing the site on time. I contacted Snowden’s they could not believe this. They contacted the show ground stating that they knew that particular part of the showground was not to be used for some time they managed to get that part of the charge removed. The EESG management would not move on the other extra charges, the committee took advice refusing to pay those charges that we felt were weather/ground related. To my knowledge those payments were never made.

Owning to these problems it was agreed that we would look for an alternative site   

Looking into an alternative site

A team of four was set the task of looking into alternative site for CamJam the team being Phil Garrett, Rob Farrington, Jim Hogg and Myself. Various sites were suggested. The main criteria being that there was a suitable water supply with access to wastewater disposal, within Cambridgeshire. A short list of three was made and visited these being: –

Wimpole Hall 

This looked to be ideal good access, enough room, water on site. As Craig worked for Cambridge water, he said that we should check that our requirements could be meet. He was aware that there had been supply problems in that area. Having checked we found that our requirements would basically not leave any water for the village of Arrington. So that was Wimpole out.

Waterbeach Barracks 

This was the area of the old runway. A more than enough space water and electric available plus a large lake. All looked good until we came to look in a wooded area. We were informed that that area was used for live amination training and could therefore have unspent cartridges on the ground. To fence that area off would not have been practical so No

Huntingdon Racecourse 

This had the advantage of permanent building that we could use. The camping area would be on carparking area Only one entrance to the site. The main concern was the water pressure and the fact that the mains sewage was not yet connected. It had to be pumped from a holding tank to the mains. We were told that the sewage would be sorted once the planned hotel at the far end of the roadway to the course was completed. The replacement of the mains water supply pipe was in the budget for that year. The cost of hiring the site looked acceptable, the staff seemed really helpful. A visit by the rest of the committee was arranged. All agreed that it was a good venue. When the new water main was put in, I was asked where it would be best to put two standpipes. The company installing water pipe were very helpful, supplying me with full details of underground cabling etc which proved most helpful when planning where marquess went.

2006 Huntingdon Racecourse

This was a new challenge as not only did we need Marquee, tables, chairs. In addition, there was requirement for toilets, showers, accommodation units. Water, mains electric, wastewater disposal for the campers. The Racecourse staff did not have any detailed plans of the site with measurements ( the underground cabling plans did not cover the areas we would be using for camping) So we spent a fair time measuring and drawing out the site as best we could. 

Mark had been to Campdowne as part of the Site Service team. Campdowne was held at Downe activity centre. He arranged for Rob, Phil and me to go down to see how they delete with setting up their event. This proved to be extremely helpful as we were able to have the use of their water and waste pipe work. Also, the containers that they used for wastewater. In addition, Chris Michel who looked after that sort of thing at Downe came and set up things for us.

For the electric Steve Taylor arranged for a contractor he used in his work. To wire in the requirements for electric supply from a few generators. We paid for the labour they took back the equipment. This was not the best solution as we did not have support during the week.

For the toilets we used recirculating ones not a good decision as youngsters like putting paper towels and loo rolls down the toilet blocking the system. We also had Tardis type loos plus a few showers. All these were supplied by Landsman as they were based in Brampton. They were able to come on each day to service the Tardis loos.

Those members of the committee that required indoor accommodation were able to use the rooms at the top of the grandstands. We did have a few Bunk-a-Bin (accommodation units) onsite service aera, for me with a few others on the committee.  I used mine as an office as well as for sleeping.

All of the equipment that we required from Speedy Hire was donated (due to a Scouter from Fulbourn being there safety officer) the only thing we had to pay for was the transport.   

As can be seen the site service team was relatively small. We only just about managed to keep up with the required work. During the set-up period we experienced very high winds. In one case while putting up an event tent it took off and we only just manged to keep control of it. We hired in a large marquee for the evening entertainment, the team putting this up (from Snowden’s) got all the poles up but were reluctant to get the roof up due to the wind. Just before they were due to leave, the foreman came to say they were willing to try with the canvas if they could have all my crew to help. We did help, shall we say not the best experience, but it was up.

During the week of the camp we had other high winds that did cause some tents to blow over. The most spectacular was that belonging to the stiff & stilted team. They had a gas lamp attached to the roof bar the cylinder was being dragged along.

Part of the deal we arranged with the racecourse was that they would supply catering for a limited number of staff. The food was o.k. but not the best sort for hard workers.

As 2007 was to be the world jamboree celebrating 100 years of Scouting. NorJam (the Norfolk jamboree) moved to the week before CamJam (as they should have been holding their camp in 2007). This did have effect on our numbers, some of the staff also attended NorJam so were a bit jamboree out. They said that they would now keep the 4-year gap so the next NorJam would be 2010 thus us going to 2011.      

Mark & Craig were part of my team with Margaret deciding that it would be best to stay with Irene & Richard for the majority of the time we were at CamJam

2011 Huntingdon Racecourse

Having learnt a lot from the 2006 event we decided to make some changes in suppliers.

Chris Mitchell (from Downe) contacted me requesting that we needed to meet to sort out what we needed for this event as he felt that some things needed to change. He involved two others of the Downe crew members who had worked with him on other installations. We learnt from other members of the crew that Chris was not in good health. Unfortunately, soon after we visited, he passed away.

Landsman. The owner had sold out to another person who was in the same trade they seemed to have better supply of showers. He was really helpful; however, he was unable to supply all the showers that were needed. So, agreed to source the additional requirements, these came from Roll along. It turned out this was not the best supplier, as when the first lorry with two shower units arrived it did not have the crane to unload then. When the next lorry arrived, he unloaded the showers then realised he was out of work/driving hours. H told us that he had to wait for the showers to be finished before he could load them. It turned out he was a Scouter, so we gave him an evening meal and put him in one of the temporary accommodation units. When we started to connect up the shower units we found no end of problems , no door on the service room , No gas connection for the bottles, the electric we were told required a  16 amp supply, in fact it needed 32amp. When the showers were in use the waste pipes under the trays caused major leaks. Making them unusable. Landsman’s owner was full of apologies refusing to pay the full amount for the hire of the shower units.

For electrics Rob suggested that I speak with Frank Abbot (the explorer leader with the Milton group) Frank had his own electrical installation business, he was in the royal engineer’s used to setting up temporary army HQ. He was also a health and safety trainer. He agreed to come, being on site for the duration of the camp. He also offered that he spoke with the explorers to see if any would be willing to come on the team. Which a lot did.

I had come across a company while at the Showman’s show that seemed good for accommodation units (as Bunk a bin had a minimum 3 week hire period) I visited the site of Warnicks in Coventry. I was impressed by their range of units. We hired some two berth units plus an office. 

We used Speedy for other tools and equipment, but we had to pay (not the full rate) this time.

Towards the end of the booking period we learnt from admin that there was a request for someone in a wheelchair to be able to have a shower. At that point most hirers had already assigned their disabled showers none being available. We had the idea of using the showers in the jockeys changing rooms (this was in the rooms used by admin). We needed to check that they were accessible with a wheelchair. Margaret was brought in to try this out. It worked problem solved for this year but need to remember for next time.

Some of the crew from 2005 came back also others that we seen at other jamborees including the world. As we had a reasonable size crew, we were able to put out two bog squads (the teams looking after cleaning the toilet and showers). Mark had come up with the anagram of CRAPS (CamJam Refuse and Pollution Services) for the team. We had tee shirts made with this on.

Lots of interesting challenges during the week the most interesting one was on Thursday evening a call came over the radio the Stage is taking off ( it was an inflatable construction ) The owner had not anchored it down correctly .It was amazing  how quickly the crew can move if required

With regard to the sewage the hotel had not been completed so this time we had to send someone up to the holding tank in the hotel (to be) grounds switch on the pump once we had switched those in the racecourse on . Pete Edwards carried out this operation becoming affectionately known as poo pumping Pete.

On the final evening of the camp all the crew gathered in our Marquee, mainly so that I could say thanks, asking that those that could would stay to help with the takedown in addition to those that had already said they would. Before I could say much Mark said that he wanted to do say something. I was presented with an engraved pewter tankard.  

2015 Huntingdon Racecourse

As will been seen later the planning for this helped me to take my mind off losing Margaret. I had decided during the last CamJam that it would good to involve Mark more, so he was elected on to the committee with the aim of taking over for the next CamJam.

The 2015 Site Service Crew

We decided to approach Frank to see if he would be willing to do the same again which he was. We approached Landsman’s he said that he would not use other companies to supply Showers based on last time problems. Therefore, could we source showers. Based on the good response we had from Warnick’s we used them for toilets, showers, fencing and accommodation units. This proved to work well apart from the fact that we had asked for 4 berth sleeping units which they supplied but with bunk beds which were not suitable. They supplied a very good disabled shower unit. The fencing came on two lorry loads as we had to barrier off along the roadway at the top of one of the camping areas. 

The first lorry load of fencing that arrived at 0730 in the morning

Tony Claydon July 2020

Note Craig and Mark Claydon are Tony’s sons and both Scouters.