David Thompson took over as Scout Leader in 1968, and together we continued to build the Troop. Summer Camp was the cornerstone of our success. At first, under Bish's guidance, we revisited some previously used sites. The Dinas site, near Fishguard, is one of the furthest of all; we travelled overnight, leaving Hastings station on the 10 p.m. train, connecting (by the skin of our teeth!) with the 1 a.m. out of Paddington, and arriving at about 10 o'clock the following morning. It was a small site, shared with a caravan, and reached via a long rocky track which did no good at all to Dave's car, but it did have the advantage of hot water on tap from the dairy, and was adjacent to a beautiful rocky cove where the boys swam, floated on lilos, and played their version of water polo in the icy cold but crystal-clear water.
The following year found us in the Welsh Marches, and this was the last occasion when the old khaki uniform was worn at camp. In 1971 we returned to Frome, where we spent a happy and uneventful two weeks. The next few years we camped nearer to home, in West Sussex and Surrey. The Haslemere camp will be remembered for the day hike, which took us to the Devil's Punchbowl and Frensham, and for John Harrod playing last post on his bugle at sunset. I took over from David for the 1974 camp, when we visited Crewkerne. The line of foreign Scouts referred to earlier had continued with various pen-friends, etc. but the longest lived connection of all, with the Berbineau family from Paris, began at this camp with Nicolas, the oldest of three brothers. André and Guillaume followed, and at least one of these boys was present at every camp until Abbotsbury in 1982.
During all these years, it was usual for the Troop to be accompanied by a contingent of Venture Scouts, even in those years when the Unit also ran its own expedition, and they used to help run wide games and incident hikes.
At Monmouth we camped on a hard, bumpy field (not the one we saw when we visited earlier in the year) and the water, which was the subject of a dispute between two farmers, came from a spring in the bottom corner. At Culford we camped on a rugby pitch (again not apparent when the site was chosen), and this situation led to our having to overcome the groundsman's objections with offerings of whisky. He had tried to encourage us to pitch camp in a large clump of thistles when we arrived. This was a rather stormy camp, in more ways than one, and is remembered for the illicit and excessive consumption of cider and the Ventures' strike.
The Petworth camp of 1977 was memorable for long, sunny days and a happy atmosphere throughout. In 78 we revisited Crewkerne, and it rained - hard - every day. We had to bale out the firepits before they could be used to cook breakfast. Cars were bogged down and unable to leave the site, and we sent the PLs out for provisions with rucsacs on their backs. In 79 we paid our first visit to Tisbury - a lovely spot close by Wardour Castle. Again it rained, and we had to move the Scouters' tent to higher ground to get above the rising water table.
We must have taken this lesson to heart, because the following year found us camped at Leominster over 1000ft above sea level. Once again we had a long bumpy track to get to the site, but whereas at Fishguard it went down and down, here it went up and up. Several mornings we found ourselves immersed in cloud, and this was quite frightening when thunderstorms were about.
The peculiarity of the Abbotsbury site was that it was about 10 degrees (F) colder on our field than anywhere else in the area. This didn't stop water fights from being a popular pastime, and it was also advisable to watch out for flying entrenching tools! The 83 camp, held on a scruffy, bumpy field at Bignor that could only be reached by a footbridge over a stream, saw the most spectacular and terrifying thunderstorm I have ever witnessed. Bolt after bolt struck the area for several hours during the night; you could literally feel the ground shake. Afterwards Bob Wisden remarked that it was like being under artillery fire. Amazingly, several Scouts who were out on an overnight hike claimed to have slept through it.