Michell's Pass, Ceres
The Wit Els Scout campsite was in Michell's Pass near the town of Ceres in the Western Cape and was situated below the pass at the confluence of the Wit and Dwars rivers. (GPS -33.416116, 19.290079)
The person instrumental in obtaining the lease for the campsite was Ceres Chemist and Scoutmaster, John Henry Fox or 'Scorp' to the Scouts. Although there are records of the site being used from 1939, it was in 1942 he approached the Ceres Municipality for permission for the Scouts to use the site and negotiated a lease at £1 per annum. 'Scorp' Fox was the first warden, a position he held for 16 years until 1958. In the mid 1960's 'Scorp' was in Port Alfred helping on their Local Association and in 1970 he was living in East London and still involved in Scouting.
In the 1957 Cape Western Annual Report, the Wit Els campsite was described as "very popular and is indeed a delightful place. It is in natural surroundings and is typical of Cape Western in its unspoilt state - even to the baboons and muishonde that raid our camp pantries. Being a sloping site on the bank of a river, every care has to be taken to avoid erosion. It is, therefore, a condition of camping at Wit Els that each party camping there must put in some real work on the preservation of the site".
Many hundreds of Scouts spent happy Annual Camps at the Wit Els Scout Camp Site, many went back two or three times and some took their patrols there for camps. What happy memories they all have of that fascinating area. The logbook of the 20th Cape Town Troop records that the Scouts held their first, of many, annual camps in January 1949 at Wit Els and that they interacted with 1st Rosebank, 1st Epping and 1st Goodwood & Vasco learning many camping skills. Their 1961 annual camp at Wit Els was attended by 36 Scouts and 4 Scouters.
There were many who helped to develop and maintain the site over the 18 years. The Rovers did a job of work, the troops who helped prepare the sites and the springs and the Ceres Troop for all it did to keep it clean and usable. Sterling work was done on the campsite by Beaver Fernie who was warden when the campsite closed in 1961.
A Scouter recalls – "Have you ever sat and watched the sun sink amongst the mountains? Have you ever stopped and gazed at the kaleidoscope of colour which flashes across the warm sandstone as a dying sun fades - if you have, then surely you have been left spellbound? Wit Els is such a place. As year by year I go back, I wait for the sunset - to see the blood-red glory on the face of Castle Rocks - the colours changing, and to feel myself caught up for a brief quarter of an hour in the whole glorious scheme of nature".
Unfortunately, there was a big bush fire on 27th December 1960 which did a lot of damage both towards Ceres and along the Wit Els River. As a result, the Ceres Municipality decided to ban all picnicking there and felt that it would be a difficult task to impose such restrictions on the general public when Scouts were allowed to camp there. Although they had no complaint about Scout camping, the Scout Movement agreed to give up the site to help the municipality preserve the beauty of the valley and pass.
With the closing of the campsite in 1961 the editor of the Cape Western Scouter commented "I camped there for the first-time way back in 1942 and since then have spent over two hundred nights in camp there, so for me the thought that I shall never camp there is a sad one. But like a good Scout I must smile and whistle and accept the position.