On Thursday, August 4, participants at PYC Edstone piled into several vehicles and drove to nearby Stratford-upon-Avon to visit William Shakespeare’s birthplace. The excited campers and workers departed after grabbing a quick lunch to refuel their hungry bellies, left empty after an animated morning of sports. My dorm, 2G, was put with 1B for the day, and we enjoyed mingling while experiencing the different activities the town had to offer.
First off, we toured both the Shakespeare Centre and Shakespeare’s Birthplace (the actual name of the location, believe it or not). Situated right next to each other, these two sites were enjoyably easy to walk through and experience. We went through the Centre first to peruse various kinds of art and exhibits dedicated to the great poet, playwright and actor. Many of the campers were familiar with Shakespeare’s plays, and there was constant exclaiming and excited chatter as they stumbled upon something they recognized. Eyes widened and smiles flashed as they recalled lines such as “To be, or not to be…” or tidbits from the St. Crispin’s Day speech.
Next, we made our way through Shakespeare’s Birthplace—the quintessentially half-timbered house, which has been restored to portray its former glory. The house was set up with 16th century furniture and decorations, giving the campers a taste of the surroundings Shakespeare lived in. Tour guides dressed in period-appropriate garb offered interesting nuggets of information as we walked through the house, such as pointing out sections of the floor that Shakespeare himself walked on. 1B’s Caleb offered a few humorous comments about the size of furniture and the height of ceilings—since they were quite a bit smaller and shorter than what we are accustomed to now.
Once they finished the tour, the campers were able to spend a few minutes shopping in the street that the house was built on. With a bit of imagination, they were able to catch a glimpse of what Shakespeare’s Stratford looked like. After a few minutes of window shopping, a few of the campers melted at the sight of ice cream and just had to buy some. Then we all made our way to a local boating center. Upon arrival, we strapped on life vests and split up into separate canoes. Most of 1B and 2G fit into two 8-seater canoes. Justin Wainwright, counselor of 1B, instructed his crew on the proper stroke and feather technique. Within just a few minutes, they were down the river and out of sight.
My canoe took a more leisurely approach and sang classic camp chants while floating down the river. Caleb and fellow dorm mate Matthew learned all the lyrics to “The Moose Song,” occasionally joining in with resonant and lively voices. When we eventually caught up with Mr. Wainwright’s canoe, we found ourselves being challenged to a race! “Stroke, paddle, stroke, paddle!” Mr. Wainwright called out. His persuading voice filled the air, and we found ourselves paddling faster…until we were distracted by a more scenic route and detoured that way.
Once our arms had turned to jelly and we had gotten decently wet, we docked our canoes and walked to a park across from the Royal Shakespeare Company to have dinner. Not uncommon to genuine English weather, it started raining, and we all huddled underneath a pavilion, exchanging stories and pointing out our favorite moments from the day. The rain soon let up, and an impromptu soccer match started, leading to more giggles and comical antics. Then, just as we were piling into the vehicles to head back to Edstone, the sun broke through the clouds and shone down on us. As we traveled back, the campers enthusiastically expressed how they couldn’t believe they had experienced something as incredibly historic as their day in Shakespeare’s Stratford.