Midnight feasts, mountain biking, games galore! It's all at this summer camp which has 100 years of Sunderland history

Are you going to this year’s camp? It’s the question being asked on Wearside as the 100th meeting of an annual boys event beckons.

Tuesday, 17th May 2022, 12:08 pm

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Get ready for midnight feasts, games, laser quest, mountain biking and more.

And the plea for people to come along has not just gone out to budding new campers. Organisers of the Woodsmoke event would be over the moon if veterans of previous events come along, including one of Sunderland’s finest.

An annual ten-day attraction has been held every year since 1912 with only the war years interrupting the record.

The Woodsmoke camp will be back this summer.

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Now the camp, which attracts up to 100 youngsters, is planning its 100th meeting and Sunderland resident George Ford said it was expected to start on Tuesday, July 26 this year.

The camp, which is held near Hexham, Northumberland, has its roots in St Gabriel’s Church, Sunderland.

George said: “It just seems like yesterday that the question, ‘Are ya goin’ to camp?’ was being bandied about the the streets of St Gabriel’s in Sunderland.

"My first recollection of it was spring 1959.

A more recent view of the camp.

“In the 60’s and early 70’s there were regularly up to 100 campers on site.

"There are many campers over the years who have followed their father and even grandfather to Woodsmoke Camp.”

George added: “It will be great to have many ex campers visiting this 100th event. We still have Visitors Day and this year it is on Sunday, July 31st.

"It would also be great to have new campers who have been encouraged by older ex campers. More especially we are looking for any potential campers who can keep this wonderful institution going for another 100 years. In short we are again repeating that well known phrase, “Are ya goin to Camp?’

The camp's Podex competition in 1924.

The event was the brainchild of clergymen at St Gabriel’s Church, Sunderland.

It was B Lasbrey and Gordon Vining who came up with the idea to hold a summer camp for boys of the parish. It has never looked back.

Children gathered for the first time at a site near Saltburn but the camp moved to Seaton Point on the Northumberland coast until after the Second World War when the Tyne Valley near Riding Mill became its base.

A view of the camp in the 1980s.

It was launched as a boys camp with boys sleeping in bell tents each led by a tent officer. A large marquee is used for meals and entertainment. There is a cookhouse with high quality food prepared by two ex-campers. The daily routine has not changed much since those early days with similar sporting competitions.

Tent trophies are competed for and one, the ‘Camp Pot’ was introduced in 1921. Soccer, Tent Tidying and an unusual game called Podex are also held.

George added: “Incidentally rock star, Dave Stewart, was a Podex Trophy winner in 1964 and he was also a singsong performer – his first gig!”

Those interested in finding out more should email [email protected]).

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The organisers of the summer camp.
The sign says it all. This year's camp is on the way in July.
Camp duties in a bygone era.
Time for Podex in 1964.
Enjoying the boys camp in 1939.
The camp 'pot' which is one of the trophies that the boys compete for during their stay.