Thursday, 1 September 2016

Ullswater Outward Bound 2016

 Ullswater Outward Bound 2016

After a year of planning and preparation by Mr Wyllie who unfortunately was unable to participate this year, 48 excited and noisy S2 students crammed into the coach followed by four equally excited but possibly more apprehensive members of school staff; Mr King, Miss Flannigan, Miss Macmillan and Mr Twaddle.

This year we were heading across the border to Ullswater Outward Bound Centre in the Lake District rather than our usual venue of Loch Eil near Fort William. The time spent in the coach is much less and even with a quick stop near Gretna for a McDonalds we arrived by lunchtime.

Our large group of Gracemount youngsters were immediately split into four smaller groups and introduced to their instructor for the week. The students barely had time to dump bags in their dorms before heading off for activities; ‘jog and dip’ in the lake, wall climbing and team building.

We were informed that our two day expedition was the next day so some of the groups had to start packing that evening; huge rucksacks were slowly filled with sleeping bags, spare clothes, tents, stoves and food until they were almost as heavy as some of the students.

Our first night at the Centre was fairly noisy and the young people took some time to settle after lights out. There were some tired faces around the breakfast table and not just staff!

The morning cloud soon burned off and for the next two days we enjoyed blue skies and sunny landscapes.

Each group had a slightly different expedition route; some of us were ferried across the lake by speedboat before catching the Ullswater steam boat, other travelled by minibus to the start of their walk.

One thing in common was that all the groups then faced a gruelling two day walking journey with some fairly steep hills and a range of hard physical and mental challenges along the way. I think that at some point during the first day most members of my team stated they couldn’t walk any further and wanted to go home. However, with some gentle encouraging and relentless persuasion they all reached the top of the mountain and could reflect on their achievement before descending to their campsite for the night.

Day two of ‘exped’ was a much shorter walk for most and we were met at the lake with Canadian Canoes for our journey back to the centre. Watching the young people attempt to manoeuvre their canoes in a straight line along the lake shore was hilarious but they all eventually got the hang of it.
Back at the Centre we all had to ‘de-gunge’ which involved putting all the kit back in the stores and cleaning stoves and mugs. The students were then allowed to head off for a very welcome hot shower and some free time before tea.

Suddenly it was Thursday and all the groups were setting off to take part in a gorge walk which is usually everyone’s favourite Outward Bound activity.  With waterproofs and helmets on, each group faced the challenge of clambering up a fast flowing river, learning how to support each other and at times using ropes for the trickier parts. It was fantastic to see the young people help and encourage each other while having a great time splashing about in the water.

That evening we gathered round a campfire, cooking marshmallows and students sharing their personal triumphs and praising others for their accomplishments.

When the students weren’t involved in outdoor activities they spent time learning about the environment and completing the John Muir Award. The OB instructors also taught them about ‘growth mind-sets’, working outside their comfort zones and resilience. Time was spent in their classroom pods discussing the highs and lows of the week and although most agreed that the expedition was one of the most challenging tasks they had ever done it was on reflection their proudest achievement.

We awoke on the Friday morning to another glorious day and we still had one last activity before the journey back to Gracemount.

My group donned wetsuits and buoyancy aids for a lake swim and a shot on the speedboat; other groups took part in raft building or rowing a large boat around the bay. The lakeside was full of laughter and smiling happy people.

With a brief farewell to our instructors we piled on the coach and within a few hours were back in our familiar environment pleased to see family and friends welcome us home.

Iain Twaddle
Youth Worker in School