Friday, 10 June 2016

Dads 'n' Lads

Dads ‘n’ Lads
The past week saw the inaugural Dads ‘n’ Lads weekend retreat. Three pairs of Dads and Lads arrived early on Saturday morning for an action packed weekend of activities. We kicked off with some team games and it was great to see the teamwork, not only between the Dads and their respective Lads, but also the whole group of fathers and sons together. Moving on to some biking, we did some obstacle scoring and Time Trial Tricky Trail. Circuits of the track got quicker and quicker with great encouragement coming from the Dads and Lads on the side-line. To be honest, I thought some of the Lads may have burnt out by only the second activity of the weekend! Thankfully, lunch made by our amazing chef Matt sorted that out. 
After lunch we got out onto the water for some canoeing. Paddling on the River Thames from Grafton to Radcot didn’t take long at all due to the awesome effort and team work from the father son pairings. We even had time for several games at the start and along the way on the journey. Unfortunately, one of the games resulted in a boat capsizing following an over-enthusiastic duck throw from Andrew. He later insisted that he had only jumped in after his son Miles, to save him from the sharks which are notorious in the freshwaters of the upper Thames. Despite the cold shock of the water, a lot of fun was had and the journey provided a great opportunity and setting for them to spend time together in God’s creation. 
An interesting game on the water.
Dinner was followed by another team game (Gutterball – my favourite). This game saw the father and son pairs work together to pass a tennis ball (and later a golf ball) along segments of guttering across a difficult obstacle course. We then pitted fathers against sons in an extremely competitive Dads vs Lads Gutterball challenge. The Dads won! (But shhhhh…)


We ended the first day with a campfire and evening thought led by Simon. Marshmallows were a huge hit as always, and the warmth of the fire provided the perfect setting for a bit of reflection on the day and how relationships between fathers and sons can be strengthened through God and by being obedient to what the Bible says about this relationship. Simon also handed out small wooden tokens which the Dads and Lads wrote or drew on to represent activities they could do together in the future. A great idea! People slowly headed to bed for a well-earned rest. I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.
A cooked breakfast was accompanied by some magic tricks from the weekend’s magician, Theo. Then we headed out to the activity field for some archery. Miles managed two ‘Golds’ (which is like a bullseye but not called that in archery) before we made it a bit more difficult. Blindfolded Archery! This again provided an opportunity for teamwork between the fathers and sons. While one was blindfolded, the other would talk them through loading the bow and, crucially for them, aiming. It was really cool to see how well they worked together on this and all three father son pairings absolutely killed it!
Blindfolded Archery - a bit of a trust challenge!

GOLD!!

Before lunch we took to the orchard for some bushcraft. I taught the Lads how to prepare, start, maintain and dispose of a fire all without matches, and Simon taught the Dads how to make shelters. They then came back together and taught each other the survival skill they had just learnt. Hands got sufficiently mucky for a bushcraft session, and got a much needed wash before Cornish-style pasties and mash.
One example of a tarp creation!
The best way to eat marshmallows.
After lunch we had our last activity of the weekend – climbing! The group had a lot of fun with Blindfolded Climbing challenging the Dads to direct the Lads up the wall. Some great climbing finished off the weekend in style and we said our goodbyes. 
Climbing!
Overall, the weekend was a great success and inspired lots of ideas for next year’s Dads ‘n’ Lads weekend.  For me, the best part of the weekend was seeing the fathers and sons working together, supporting and encouraging each other, as well as just enjoying being together doing the activities. I also loved hearing many comments of “Dad, can we do this more often?”, “can we take the kayak out soon?”, “we should go camping more”. That was really satisfying!
Dads ‘n’ Lads was a great event! A HUGE thank you and well done to Simon for organising and running the whole event for the first one of its kind. Role on next year, bring ya Dads, Lads! (Bring your Lads, Dads!)
Thanks for reading,

Ben

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