||Lake Scott Photos - Gordon Park Scout Camp - Matopos - Zimbabwe|
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By common consent, it was decided to be too much of an effort to carry one bag of cement up to Mini-Maleme dam to fix the hole in the wall. So it was generally agreed that a new 'mud-bath' would have to be found.
Whilst everyone was having breakfast one morning in 1983 - under the trees behind the Stables, Mrs Yeatman stated that "it is just like Southfork Ranch in the film Dallas, only we're missing a swimming pool, which should be just down there..." she pointed. Well, two young scouts, Stretch Miller-Cranko and Sean Fulton, ever so eager to please, picked up a spade and pick and headed "just down there", to what had been until then, unexplored territory. In the weeks that followed a path was made down to the swamp, a one foot deep trench was dug across the dried stream (why a trench, when a wall of earth was needed?) and great plans were made, like someone saying "I'll get my dads graders in..." and Stan saying "my grand-dad has some explosives which we can use to bring down that cliff..." etc etc. However, whilst in Harare at a Commissioners Conference, George Gibson ventured that a dam wall had been contemplated back in the 50's - but it was to have been round the corner from where the digging's were taking place, and there was to have been a road over the wall leading from the Stables to the Plateau, where a Wardens house was to have been built.
Well, back in the Matopos an expedition was led through the swamp of impenetrable 16ft high reeds to this site and up onto the beautiful plateau that has a view the length and breadth of the Mjelellie valley. And so out came the tape measure, theodolite and measuring sticks, and it was found that an extra 12 feet in length and 4 foot in height, would give us an enormously enlarged dam at this new site - so the old works were abandoned, and one afternoon, Normans Land Rover was diverted off the road at the pump house and led along the edge of the vlei to gain access to the new site. However, there were still a lot of high priority projects to be completed around Gordon Park, but it was decided to re-schedule them, and that with three weeks of intensive spade work, a new earthen dam wall would be completed before the rains came. The following weekend Mr Jack Carlisle (an Assistant Camp Commissioner) paid GP a visit from Cape Town, and while seated outside the Rough, he expounded various views and theories on soil mechanics, hydrological forces, dam walls, etc accompanied with detailed drawings in the sand (err.. basically the wall needed a core of clay and would have to extend a few feet below ground level to stop seepage). It was decided there and then that a brick or concrete wall would be most suitable, and so Province was approached and very generously offered to sponsor the new wall.
Before building could commence, premission had to be granted, so during the next few months Norman Scott had the awesome task of compiling detailed drawings and write-ups, getting surveyor and engineering reports, and submitting them not only to the Provincial Water Authorities, but also the National Parks and the Rhodes Matopos Board. There were some anxious moments when it was thought that permission may have been denied.
Meanwhile some tourists had defaced the hill of vegetation to make a straight path down from the Stables to the site, the reeds had been cleared and work begun with digging a new trench. This trench got deeper and deeper until clay was struck at ten feet below ground level. A few weeks were also spent transforming the Landrover tracks into a new road. Then just after a church service, on a sweltering hot mid-summers afternoon, all parents, relatives and friends were invited down to the 'dam'. Their expectations of finding a dam filled with water were dashed, but the trench did not daunt their enthusiasm and offers of help came pouring in. Cement mixers were lent by Mr Arrow-Smith, some reinforcing and cement donated and shuttering offered.
The months rolled by as the trench was extended and gradually filled with concrete, reinforcing and railway lines. Before any concrete could be made, the tons of granite chips and cement had to be sourced, loaded and driven (imported) all the way from Bulawayo (35 miles away), and expeditions made up the valley to get sand - which was shoveled up onto Emma - the Parks vintage 2 ton bedford truck. At first there were problems like water had to be brought down from the Rough in drums, but then Mrs Scotts extra long hose pipe was hijacked from her house, and this greatly speeded up the works. Adam, realising that this was going to be a rather long project, bricked in stairs coming down the hill, and as the drought continued, so did the work, and slowly but surely the concrete wall rose to ground level. It was about this time in construction that Willy sadly passed away.
Many fraustrating hours were now spent proping up the first shutters, between which concrete was going to be poured, getting them the same distance apart, and laying both horozontally and vertically parellel... and no sooner was one end set up, than someone would touch the other end... and back to square one! By Christmas however, that wall had actually begun to rise above ground level. Another year has rolled by and so have many sore and sunburnt backs, but through the dogged determination of Norman Scott, Bary Knight and Graham Ross, who week after week have laboured over the cement mixer, the wall has risen to its full height. And so 2000 bags of cement later - hey presto - Gordon Park has a new dam wall!