Braving the wild animals in un-chartered woods (including badgers, foxes, slow worms and vegetarians) we were split into working parties. At this point you had to seriously question the sanity of the organisers, have they not seen horror/slash movies?. Anyone with half an ounce of sense would realise, dividing a lot of helpful volunteers (aside 1) into small groups, is a bit like cutting up prey and serving directly to a predator, with none of the "will they, won't they, get away" uncertainty of an actual hunt taking place. Through some sort of miracle we failed to lose anyone, including me, and each of the bite sized group were allotted particular tasks for the day. These included
Cutting and hacking - Nature comes along and grows nice pretty green areas, until a party is sent in to hack bits out of it, using garden shears and any other garden implement that came to hand, not pretty and fairly ineffective. If this lot had been tasked with dealing with earths pesky rainforest's the planet would be safe for thousands of years to come.
Clearing paths - A fairly easy task, although not when certain members of the team failed to realise the concept of using a rake, spending most of the morning using it upside down. I'll not embarrass them by naming names, I will say however that she is Blond and her name sake appears in Peanuts, although it is not Peppermint Patty, Marcia or Sally. She also shared the same trait and did an excellent job bossing people around.
Classroom manufacture - Similar to clearing paths, only you stick a couple of logs around a dead end path and get to call it an "environmental learning centre" saves the school a fortune as they don't have to provide heating and light.
Co-Coordinators - employed to swan around all day, avoiding anything remotely to do with work and then grabbed the best sandwiches at lunch time, true management potential
Post boys - Through skill and ingenuity the intrepid adventurers who volunteered for post duties (aside 2) managed to make a difficult task appear almost impossible.
Construction project - i.e. building houses for lazy birds - not content with letting the birds get on with building their own nests, some sort of social housing plan was developed. I didn't get the full details of the scheme but I suspect it works on a shared ownerships basis i.e the bird gets to live in a high rise wooden box and in return shares it's shit with any one in the vicinity. Possibly condemning many a small child to a lonely life at school, wondering friendless through the playground with the nickname "Poo head". This may account for the later life crimes of the likes of Hitler, Stalin and Michael Schumacher.
About 12.15 we were marched unceremoniously across to the school canteen. I actually found myself looking forward to chips and pies followed by spotted dick and pink custard (probably illegal these days) that I remembered from my youth. Sadly Jamie Oliver had got to the kitchen first, so there was no interesting food to be had. I was also rather alarmed to see a microwave oven large enough to hold a sizable child (lunch time punishment have evidently evolved from the days when you had to stand holding a dinner ladies hand for the duration of the break). A quick game of football, reminiscent of the Germans versus the Tommie's during the first world war (only with out the awful Paul McCartney song, "Pipes of Peace" playing in the background) and it was back on the Chain Gang.
The afternoon session passed in a blur and when time was called and tools were dropped from weary hands, three trails had been hacked out of the living jungle that was Nascot Wood, two out door learning centres had materialised as if by magic and umpteen shared ownership opportunities for lazy birds now littered the wood like council houses blighting a pretty village. To compliment these there were some rather nice crooked signs telling the kids the name of each walk, if memory serves me right it, they were something like "Squashed Badger Parade" ,"Splattered Fox Run" and "Blasted to Smithereens Quail Way". At least the kids would be getting an education in real life rather then some sad Disneyesk version where all the animals live happily ever after.
A good day was had by all, despite the lack of power tools, which could be heard alluringly in the background, but like a Readers Digest guaranteed prize always tantalisingly out of reach.
(1) I was safe though as I didn't qualify as a helpful volunteer, having been dragged kicking and screaming to the school gates. Going through those gates took me back to those "happy" days of shiny toilet paper, warm milk and shorts that guaranteed frostbite in winter and severe sunburn in summer.
(2) I bet they thought it was going to involve a cushy little number delivering messages between the various teams when there eager little hands shot up.