Very many years ago, a member of the Birchmere Campsite Committee, Tony Knight, was enthusing at a committee meeting. He was adamant that Birchmere should be a campsite that should give everything to everybody. He also was the originator of our moto that Birchmere should remain “A proper little campsite” which offered all its users a basic camping experience as much as possible. Unfortunately Tony is no longer with us but his thoughts linger on….
Even though it still remains a Proper little Campsite there have been many important upgrades over the years. New toilet blocks, have now been complete and the two refurbished Activity Rooms set up a couple of years ago are well used and receiving great acclaim and feedback from visiting camping groups.
The future for the campsite is also being actively considered. We are now near to agreeing a new 25 year lease with our landowners, Surrey County Council which will allow for a long-term secure situation for the campsite and the option of pursuing major grants for future upgrades and improvements. This new lease will be a major improvement from the last, in that the lease site will now include Woolgars Wood, where we have our existing campfire circle, as a part of the leased site. It is at the moment, being “borrowed” from Surrey Wildlife Trust, the Wisley and Ockham Common land managing agents. The extra security for this wooded area will surely be a great improvement for the campsite.
The site has had its normal very hectic year with larger and more frequent requests for bookings. The committee is very aware that, to increase our usage, we have to continually upgrade the campsite infrastructure. Over the last year, time and money was sent on the septic tank system so that a more reliable and modern way of moving grey water from the old cess pit retainer to the septic tank was fitted. The earlier setup had occasionally been overwhelmed when there were large weekend camps, which led to restrictions in campsite numbers. Future plans for an increase in the septic tank ground water drainage system will also be embarked on to spread the resulting waste water more efficiently.
Over the past year we have seen the campsite be as busy as ever. The Campsite Management Committee worked tirelessly to maintain the site on a limited budget. The row of poplar trees on the M25 side of the site was reduced by a third to ensure that they remained safe in high winds. Our tractor has never ceased to ensure that we are concerned about its well-being with constant episodes of overheating when mowing. The tractor had received a major overhaul only a few years ago at great cost and to have to consider this again was worrying. Eventually, by replacing the radiator we have found that this may have been resolved and we are optimistic that the machine will work efficiently in the future. The toilet and shower facilities are regularly requiring updates and repairs, especially in our busy summers, but we are able to deal with this as and when they occur.
So what are our plans for the future? To allow for increased campsite use, the septic tank will require a larger drainage systems and the halls better drainage of their used water. It is planned to lay a new mains water pipe to the far side of the field. The Campsite has received a £1000 grant from the Members Community Allocation fund for the provision of an AED (a defibrillator) and we thank Cllr. Colin Kemp for this. A further £450 has been donated to allow this to be purchased and we are waiting for a final grant decision to allow a training unit to be bought. The AED will be for community and campsite use and therefore provide an important facility in our area. Finally, our priority plan is to provide a new set of leader’s toilet and showers. At a busy camp there can be occasionally in excess of 20 adults and their toilet facilities are severely restricted. This will provide a much needed extra amenity at our campsite.
One of the nicest parts of being a member of the Birchmere committee is to be part of the team that the campsite has to organise and maintain the site to allow it to be such in demand by booking units. The campsite, under the supervision of our warden, Steve Valiant, has constantly offered visiting camping groups a great outdoor space to stay. This last year a very special moment was the presentation of the County Commissioners Thanks Badge to Judi Oakley for over ten years’ service to the campsite as booking secretary. Her certificate read… “For services as Booking Secretary to Birchmere Campsite; being the welcoming voice of Woking Scouts to potential visitors. For your loyalty and assertiveness and for offering suggestions during changes to both site and campsite fees” It was signed by the County Commissioner for Surrey Scouts, Joe Rogerson.
Thank you Judi and, indeed thank you to all our great campsite management team. They put in an amazing amount of time and enthusiasm in really making this “A Proper Little Campsite”.