Norway, CCF adventure training

See also Gallery entitled Norway, Evja.
Norway, CCF adventure training.

The summer of 2004 saw me assist the staff of St Albans School with a CCF Adventure Training trip to Norway. We took 24 very active 15 to 18 year old pupils in 3 minibuses across from Newcastle to Kristiansand, a port in the south of the country, before moving on to Evja a small town 40 miles further North.
We stayed at an activity centre situated on an old NATO base and run by Brian Desmond an ex commando who was British Biathlon champion 3 years on the trot and who later joined the Norwegian army as an instructor in Arctic warfare. He now instructs civilians as well as the military in summer and winter outdoor pursuits. He was assisted by Mike another ex-army instructor who, on leaving the army, jumped on his motor bike to tour Europe and stopped at Evja. A gentle giant no more than 5’6 high but built like an Ox. He made and collected knives and axes as a hobby, you can guess what the boys brought home hidden in their rucksacks as souvenirs. He kept them amused for hours with his experiences.
There were plenty of activities to keep the boys occupied. Adjacent to the centre was a river which proved very popular for swimming and, after being taught how to deal with a capsized canoe the boys demonstrated their skills in their own naval warfare. This in turn set them up for the white water rafting further upstream. There were rock faces for climbing including a 40 metre sheer drop for abseiling. Shall we say there was a little apprehension leaning back over the cliff edge and looking down at the tops of the Pine trees way below?
One of the highlights of the trip was a 3 day excursion walking in the mountains and camping overnight. Norway is generally the same size as the UK but has a population of only 4.2 million which means there is plenty of space. 98% of the country is mountains, lakes and forests which, although may be privately owned, under Norwegian law must be left accessible to the public to roam and camp. We camped the 2 nights on an island in a lake. Access was gained by wading across waist high in the water, neck high if you got the route wrong, carrying our packs head high. I’ve always fancied the idea of sleeping under the stars, miles from anywhere, in the mountains and waking up in view of a lake.
I like to think that I gave the boys a good run for their money in most of the activities but must admit advancing years did test me at times. However, they had the largest Go-kart track in Europe which gave me a good chance to earn their respect.
The Norwegians are environmentally conscious and respectful of their country and certainly do not want to spoil it. Although they have plenty of spare space most of it is rock, landfill for their waste is therefore non-existent and they certainly do not want to contaminate their air with incinerators. They have a recycling program that makes British efforts look pathetic. House holders have numerous bins to sort waste at source. Anyone caught disposing of anything in the general waste which can be recycled is fined. By law shops have to charge a returnable deposit on anything sold in bottles, glass or plastic, to ensure they are returned for recycling. I saw a man going through the waste bins in Kristiansand car park, not for scraps of food as in this country, but looking for bottles on which to collect the deposit. It reminds me of the time, as a boy, going round our local woods looking for Corona bottles on which to collect the 1d deposit. We never found any, other kids always found them first.
It is a hard working nation which has a good standard of living without the need to work hours of overtime. Even though there isn’t a rat race every Friday afternoon they disappear to the peace and tranquillity of their log cabins in the mountains with only the occasional passing Elg (yes, it is spelt correctly) to disturb them. The main industry is Timber and, as such, there is plenty of work for people in wood based products. I’ve just remembered, I’m in the furniture profession, that’s a wood based product, hmm?

Stafford Steed