Before I begin as an Outward Bound Trust Ambassador

OBT

Our Corporate Events Manager, Sam Hardy, was selected to represent Go Ape as an Outward Bound Trust Ambassador for five days. Here, he tells his tale!

This time last year, Go Ape chose The Outward Bound Trust (OBT) as the organisation to support throughout 2015.

When one of the young students, who took part in an Outward Bound experience, recounted her experience to the staff at Go Ape, I knew I would be involved in some capacity.

Getting involved

Snow1In May this year a few of us attempted a 12 peak challenge in Snowdonia, and this helped raise money for the OBT. Not long after this we also found out that there was the potential for us monkeys to take part in the ambassador programmes that the OBT run.

This enables employees from funding organisations to be directly involved in the young people’s learning, and to see first-hand the impact of the funding their employer has provided.

My name went into the woolly hat and I was given the opportunity to join a group of children from the Walsall Academy on a 5 day trip with 4 nights wild camping!

The Academy have had a lot of success with the pupils who experience adventures with the OBT. The teacher leading this particular expedition was Jon Clarke, Ray Mears brother from another Mother, who we think, was on his 57th trek with the OBT!

Walsall City Academy – how it began

Walsall City Academy was founded in 2003 as the first City Academy in an area of multiple deprivations on the site of a failing school. It is now in the top 20% of all schools in the country and learning outside the classroom and the development of the whole person is at the core of its ethos.

To really stretch this particular group of year 9 pupils it was decided, probably by Jon, that 4 nights in the Lake District in December was the best way to develop them.

Looking at the weather forecast for this trip before departure, it was grey clouds and rain varying from one drop, to three drops, and a glance at the wind speeds suggested that hurricane Barney may have a challenger! There was also a symbol that I had not seen before – I think it was for snizzle? A cross between snow and drizzle… We definitely had some snizzle on the Wednesday.

Undeterred we all arrived safely at the rendezvous and the 9 little herberts stepped off the bus at Bowness by Lake Windermere to pack their rucksacks. I was greeted earlier at the Howtown centre by Liz and Rich our instructors, and their boss Nick who had bus duty and kit collection/drop off…

Setting off…

OBT3The centres at Howtown and Halsteads were teeming with instructors getting briefings for their week ahead. For our expedition, everyone was pitching in to make sure we got all the right kit, especially Gav in the stores who hooked me up with a lot of gear that I was to find invaluable (mainly a mug and a spoon). Most of the kit I had packed was heavy and largely unnecessary!

Once we had the right kit and packed the rucksacks, (the size of a single dwelling wheelie bin) we got the canoes ready for departure. This was to be a 1.5 hour trip up to the first campsite, but Hurricane Clodagh decided we had to go down wind, to the South, and back around the other side of the Island which was a little more sheltered. We paddled wearing head torches and glow sticks to the camp site which we found with the assistance of some nifty map reading, the position of the stars, and a GPS on Jon’s watch…

This was the point where we set up camp and the staff realised I had as much outdoor experience as a foetus. As this sunk in, they quickly adapted to having 10 people to be responsible for instead of nine.

However, as I soon discovered, this was not a trip where people were ‘looked after’, allowed to tag along, or be passengers. From this point onwards we were all expected to look after ourselves.

If you were unsure of what to do – the 4 B’s were explained, or my favourite – SNOT;

  • Self
  • Neighbour
  • Other
  • Teacher

So, if you have a dilemma, an issue, or a question – you ask yourself (more than once) and then your neighbour/buddy and then anyone else (other) in the group before finally asking the teacher.

Having paddled for over 2 hours, setting their own tents up and cooking their own food – we talked a bit about the students hopes and fears.

It was clear that most were nervous and unsure of the road ahead, but we did not get much from the group, and there was a little bit of prompting needed. Throughout the epic Trans lake experience, it was also clear that a few students were already looking forward to some luxury experience and wondering why it was all so hard going…

This is not to say that they were devoid of an adventurous spirit, or were lacking in any way, but it was in stark contrast to the experience on the last night of the journey.

To be continued… Read about Sam’s five days away.