In 2020, five of our graduate young people designed the “Ambassador” programme – a two-year programme which would give them the chance to “give back” to Venture Scotland, embed them at all levels of VS and facilitate their transition into full volunteers.
Our Ambassadors – Bryan, Jo, Jodie and Callum – would spend the next year collaborating with Venture Scotland (over zoom and in-person!); they would join Board meetings, go out on activity days with YP, engage with funders and referral organisations, assist with staff interviews… part of their role was also to painstakingly plan our first ever Ambassador-led bothy residential.
And so, it was on a scorching day in August, when Bryan, Jo and Callum and Jodie (alongside some of VS’s staff) arrived at Glen Etive. Here’s what Jo and Callum had to say about their time #backatthebothy.
A few months ago, the four of us found out that we had the opportunity to run an ambassador led Glen Etive bothy trip. Naturally we were all super excited as it’s a place that means a lot to us as individuals. We found a date for the trip and started planning; both tasks proved rather difficult due to us now being scattered across the country with conflicting work hours, but we muddled through thanks to the wonders of modern technology. Some preparation highlights include the wonderful tale of the ASDA delivery containing all of the food for the trip (ordered to be delivered the day before departure) which wasn’t… delivered. Yikes. Que the rise in David’s blood pressure the night before we left as he, so kindly, spent his night off running round ASDA trying to make sense of our shopping list!
When we arrived in Glen Etive the first major task was crossing the river, which was thankfully low enough for us to do (relatively) comfortably, and Callum helped pick the best route and guided us safely to the other side of the bank. As we approached the bothy it was striking how obviously nature had reclaimed the area after nearly two years left fully to its own devices. The once flattened ground surrounding the bothy was now home to dense swathes of wild (very tic ridden) grass.
On arrival, we got to work setting up the gas and water, going over the safety procedure, divvying up the tasks/cooking, writing up the obligatory brew list and giving the place a bit of a clean – man did it need it – and sticking the kettle on!
We then made a start on making chilli for dinner which soon led us to discover three things – apparently herbs and spices – when left in a cold damp environment for 2+ years – don’t always taste the best (if they even taste of anything at all that is), cooking on 2 burners (the others have bitten the dust rip) when there are three pans + a kettle is quite challenging! Despite this, in true Venture Scotland spirit, we muddled through and a lovely meal, featuring Mrs B’s wonderful ginger cake (and the custard that, in David’s books, was punishable by death not to bring), followed by a review up at the howf, some impromptu star gazing then, bed.
The second day was crammed full with activities – not a single second was wasted. We started off with a warm up and check in before making our way down the loch to collect firewood. After lugging it all back to the bothy we all enjoyed a well-deserved lunch and the ‘positive and negative messages’ session before heading towards the river for a wild swim. It was a wee bit chilly but incredibly invigorating. Surrounded by the Glen, which was set against magnificent blue skies, with the sun beating down on us and no other humans in sight felt like such a special experience. I felt so privileged to live in Scotland and to have been given these experiences by VS. Bryan grinned from ear to ear and Tricia was… in the water!?! She was just as surprised as we were. There are few things that make you feel more alive.
Callum left ahead of us to set up the fire pit and pizza oven up at the howf and the rest of us followed soon after. We hung our soaking wet swimming gear on our make shift drier the ‘hanging tree’ and got stuck into making our pizza dough. David, our personal pizza chef and chief executive (not a common combination of titles), cooked our pizzas in over the open fire and we sat back enjoying the pizza and our blissful surroundings. We again finished the night with our usual review then fell into bed. What an incredible day.
The final day was taken up by cleaning, reviewing the trip and trekking back to the mini bus – the long way round this time! We arrived back in Edinburgh on VS time, also known as a few minutes before the agreed time that Robin would have had to declare an emergency if we hadn’t returned by.
Returning to the bothy as an Ambassador was such a great experience but one that also brought with it some complicated emotions. It is a place I love and had mourned the loss of, expecting I wouldn’t return after we finished the course as there wasn’t yet an Ambassador programme. The bothy was somewhere I experienced some of my highest highs and made invaluable life long memories, but also where I experienced some of my lowest lows. I relived some of those emotions and experiences, something I didn’t expect to happen. Some of the memories from my time before/during the first half of the ‘Journey” programme are really dark, ones I’d rather forget, but it is somehow strangely beautiful returning to somewhere that holds such difficult emotions when you have the life ‘you didn’t think was ever possible’ to have with the people that helped you get there. It brought home, once more, how privileged I am to have been given the help and experiences I so desperately needed. Life really does get better and the bothy really is magical!
Returning to bothy, was a very strange experience because of the mixed bag of emotions. The mixed emotions mainly came from the last time I was at the bothy, I had said my goodbyes to the magical place and I thought I would probably never come back with VS. I have a lot of memories from the bothy, from when I was participant, and being back helped me reflect on how much I moved on since I was on the course.
Once again the bothy gave me chance to reflect on my life, where I want to go and what I need to do to keep moving forward in my journey.
It has also helped me see the bothy in a different light from when I was participant. It helped me see how important the bothy is for moving forward when you are on the course – it takes you out your normal environment and let’s your mind focus on things you can’t normally focus on in your normal environment. It also helps you see what’s going on inside your head from a different perspective.
Going to the bothy as an Ambassador is different, it shows how much we have moved forward as group of young people and as individuals. As a group of ambassadors we planned near enough the full trip, but also, when something didn’t go exactly to plan, we discussed and made the changes as they needed to be changed. Overall, it was a fun few days away and helped us bond as an Ambassador team.