Hail to thee, Camp Gungywamp

Jenny-Byxbee-greenwich-voicesThere is a wooded area not too far from the naval submarine base in Groton (or a short drive from Mystic if you prefer to think of it that way) known as Camp Gungywamp.

As remote as it is, it can actually be found on the Internet and it’s a place that has a great deal of personal significance to me. I had the good fortune to go to Camp Gungywamp every summer as a little girl. It was filled with scavenger hunts, sleeping in tents, arts and crafts and of coarse my favorite activity … eating s’mores.

Camp for me did not include any lessons or any real structured time. Although I was never without supervision, camp was a time for me to use my imagination, explore and play, critical things for any child to have the chance to do. Moreover, because of limited television time, I found a love of Nancy Drew books, and my all-time favorite series, Anne of Green Gables.

Now, the interesting thing about Camp Gungywamp, and I didn’t know it at the time, is that it wasn’t a real camp. Although it is very much a real place, it is actually property still owned and run my aunt and uncle, and it offered me acres and acres of woods to explore with my cousins.

Their home, or “camp,” as we referred to it, was whatever we wanted it to be, and that meant going as far as our creativity could take us. I often liked to be the self-proclaimed camp director, and the funny thing was, even though there was a lack of instruction or any type of activity schedule, we were never bored or in need of something to do.

We kept ourselves entertained by being engaged in everything from making up skits and plays to “mud wamping” or jumping in the muddiest puddle you can find on a rainy day. My aunt was not afraid to let us get dirty, and we were better off for it.

Times were simpler when I was growing up, and looking back, I am so happy that I had the experience that I did. I found a way to have a great time, being left to my own resources and active imagination. In fact, figuring out what we were going to do was a big part of the fun. This was the only summer I knew of, and I loved it.

Most children’s activities are much more structured today, and there are good reasons for that. There are many opportunities for children to grow and explore their talents and interests, make friends and have a sense of belonging with all the programs and services we have available today. Nevertheless, I hope that with all the structure that is in place, it does not keep children from the simplest joy that I loved so much, which was just to be a kid with some time to play.

During the school year there is so much young people have to do, and the summer break (which is coming quicker than you might think) gives children the freedom to figure out what they love to do. As you begin your camp plans for your little ones, I encourage you to take advantage of all that Greenwich has to offer for our young people.

Community Answers publishes a Summer Resource Guide for Children in Greenwich that may be found at Greenwich Library or at communityanswers.org to help you in your camp and summer program search. Or if I can be of any help or support navigating places to connect your children to have a fun-filled summer experience, feel free to contact me at the United Way.


Jenny Byxbee is the youth services coordinator for the United Way of Greenwich. She may be reached at 203-869-2221 or [email protected] 

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