Mendip Hills Young Rangers Visit Switzerland Europarc Camp 2017

Each year young rangers from across Europe gather to share experiences and learn from each other. Hopefully these young people will become environmental decision makers in the future and will have a broader understanding of countryside management and the communities involved. Two of our Young Rangers, Rebecca and Liam, with Sammy our Volunteer Coordinator recently got back from the 2017 camp. This is Rebecca’s diary.

Mendip Hills AONB Young Ranger Camp Switzerland 3

“So, as the Mendip Young Rangers group will know, three of us recently went to the 2017 Eurocamp, held in Habkern, Switzerland. Sammy, our leader, Liam and I set off very early on the 17th July meaning Liam and I had to leave at midnight from our sleepy Mendip Hills to get to an already busy Luton airport

Day One

Once we landed in Zurich, Switzerland, we had to catch two different trains, changing at Bern to get to Interlaken. By the time we arrived in Interlaken, a bustling, tourist-filled, mountainous area it was around 2pm; we were all quite tired by this point. After we met a Swiss ranger, we got a bus to the chalet we were staying in. We had already met a couple of people we would be staying with, including the Slovenian and Italian group and even a trio from Shropshire Hills AONB! We arrived at our high-altitude chalet and milled about shaking hands and exchanging names with all the other Young Rangers (although it was quite hard to remember all of them, especially after having very little sleep!). After everybody arrived, some groups didn’t fly but instead drove all the way, we had a couple of icebreaker games and some dinner, and eventually all went to bed, which was very welcome after such a lengthy, exciting and exhausting day. I can’t speak for Sammy and Liam, but in the room I was in, I shared with about eleven other girls, none of whom spoke English as their first language, although all of them spoke varying amount of it. Three girls were German, two were Swiss, and there was also a Dutch girl, a Romanian, an Italian, and a Slovenian girl.

Day Two

On Tuesday the activity all three of us chose was visiting a nearby cheese-maker. It was really interesting to see the traditional methods used to make cheese, and the people living and working there had their cows sat in the back room, flicking their tails, which were tied to strings connected to hugely heavy bells, making them ring out.

Day Three

Mendip Hills AONB Young Ranger Camp Switzerland 2

On Wednesday, our day wasn’t quite so relaxing. We drove all the way up to another farm, which was located at an even higher altitude than our chalet. The view was amazing; we could see snow-capped mountains, which was a strange sight to see on such a hot July day. Our task was to clear lots and lots of juniper from the fields, which sounds far easier than it was but working together made things much easier. Anyway, our reward was worth it as we got to eat bread and cheese afterwards. We were all easy to spot on the field whilst working, as we had matching fluorescent orange t-shirts to wear. Later that day we went to watch some animals, and through the telescopes and binoculars we spotted lots of deer, an ibex and a few cows, all high up on mountain.

Day Four

On Thursday, the three of us split up to partake in the different activities on offer; Sammy went to do some land art, Liam went to participate in the climbing group, and I went to play volleyball and go swimming in the lake. It was quite a sweltering day, and therefore it was a relief to go into the water after each volleyball game, even if the water was freezing cold! There was a platform a little way out into the lake, and we all swam to sit on it. One of the Dutch boys, Daan,  performed a little dance routine when a tour boat went past, and it was hilarious to watch their faces!

Day Five

Soon enough it was Friday, our last day full of activities. We all went on the coach to Reichenback Falls, the location where Arthur Conan Doyle set the scene in which Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty both died, we even went to the exact spot, identified by a huge star and a little wreath.

Mendip Hills AONB Young Ranger Camp Switzerland

Afterwards, we walked to the coach, which had moved for us, and drove to the highest altitude yet to get to the hydroelectric power plant, where one of the Swiss Rangers worked. We walked across a dam, and up and down a couple of mountainsides. The power plant is planning to increase the depth of the main lake, to create more energy. In doing so around 50 of a certain type of tree would be lost, damaging numbers of a particular bird which only eats the berries from these trees. Because of this, they have promised to plant many more trees, which they have already started to do. Our International Rangers group planted one too, and I was the one to lower it into the hole which had been dug by a boy from Latvia. Another younger ranger had carved out some wood to use as a sign post, and a little engraved piece of metal labelled the tree, showing which group had planted it. We then walked all the way past another dam lake (pun not intended) and drove back to Habkern on the coach. On our last evening we had cheese fondue and bread for dinner, and whilst we ate two local men played the accordion. Rudman, one of the boys from the Netherlands, said something I agreed with; it was a shame to leave now, because our group had just started to form and gel together really well. We went to bed after a photo presentation, and slept in our rooms for the final time.

Day Six

Mendip Hills AONB Young Ranger Camp Switzerland 1

On Saturday, once everyone had eaten breakfast, packed, and cleaned out their designated rooms (thankfully ours was not the toilet), we all left in our different ways. The Dutch group left first, as they had a long drive home. Then the Romanians went, and slowly but surely our group separated to go home. Those of us who had not left yet caught the bus back to Interlaken train station, and we caught the trains in different orders, saying farewell. We changed trains at Bern to get to Zurich station, and we Mendip rangers sat together with the Swedish, the Swiss and the Shropshire groups, before the Swiss got off the train before our stop. When we arrived in Zurich and went upstairs to the airport, we stuck together with the Swedish group and the Shropshire group, until the latter had to get on their plane. We actually got to stay with the Swedish trio, Doug, Caroline and their leader all the way through security, until we parted so they could get their plane back to Sweden. After a long and slightly  arduous plane journey, including Liam losing his beloved leather hat and me somehow managing to slip down the airplane stairs (it’s funny looking back at it to be honest), we drove all the way back to Somerset. When I got home at long last, I felt very relieved; I slept well that night!”

To find out more about Europarc Federation follow this link:

International Junior Ranger Camp

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