Day 2 in the Lakes with Prep V

Day two began with the sun bursting through the curtains and the sound of the birds singing cheerfully in the morning heat. We wish!! The sun was in hiding and the rain clouds were dancing above ready and waiting to pounce on the Prep V pioneers as they eased out of their bunks and got ready to face the tasks for the day. Some of them were up and about earlier than others in the Hostel. Parents will be pleased to know that following this trip getting them up early for school should be a breeze. Getting them to go to bed however…  Good luck with that one, especially Sabri, Luca B, Seb B and Nathan!

For a moment, the impending downpour was forgotten as the smell of bacon drifted across the corridors and breakfast caused a flutter of “eggcitement” for our intrepid adventurers. After a decent, in fact impressive, full English, the group assembled in the car park ready to go to the indoor climbing wall in Ambleside. On the way Jackson and Jessica resumed their conversation on heritage, with Jackson claiming that Jessica must have some “Liverpoolian” in her, even though she was born in Bolton. Josh reaffirmed that eels kill more people than killer whales, whilst Toby claimed cows were more deadly than both. The planned stop for some football, rugby and rounders had to be shelved as the rain was not looking likely to let up. We headed into Ambleside and onto the climbing wall and bouldering activities…. fortunately, all indoors!

The group were once again introduced to the harness, but this time were taught how to be-lay and work in threes to climb safely. Jackson was the first to complete the overhang on the bouldering course, closely followed by Luca C. On the first of the climbs, Seb and Luca B scrambled up the rock face like mountain goats.

Evie and Chloe have clearly some previous experience and made each climb look relatively easy. Esme, Jasmine, Kayleigh and Toby all laid claim to the climber of the day award and justifiable so. However, the best part of the activity was that everybody helped each other in different ways, and nobody turned down the opportunity to test themselves. A well-earned packed lunch was consumed back at the hostel where our next instructors for the afternoon were waiting patiently for us.

With the rain still showing no signs of giving up, an afternoon kayaking was actually an ideal activity. However, squeezing into the wet suits and spray jackets and life jackets and helmets was not as easy as you might think! A quick demonstration on how to use an oar to paddle and steer and we were all quickly into either single or two-man kayaks and out on the lake. Seb set off like a train in one direction and Harrison in another! Kayleigh and Miranda appeared to find a roundabout as they went around in circles, whilst Joel received a paddle in the face from Molly. However, everyone soon got the hang of it and were rounded up and paddled up to the beach up the coast for a swim.

Back in the kayaks, Josh and Dexter were overheard trying to figure out why there were road signs in the water. In fact, they were speeding signs to ensure ferries and boats adjusted their speed as they came into dock. A game of kayak water polo was next on the agenda and this gave Molly and Alfie the chance to show just how competitive they are. In fact, both were eventually sin binned by the instructor for repeated rule infringements. Despite the blatant cheating, it was Mr Altdorf’s red team that took the victory and the fair play award… naturally!

All that remained was to paddle back to shore and jump off the pier to complete the kayak initiation. We soon discovered that the Lakes have a rather unique eco system in that when you first jump in, it feels warm. A foot below the surface and it is like jumping into Antarctica! As if to prove that Mother Nature is really king (sorry Queen) in these parts, as we stepped out of our flattering wet suits, the sun came out!

After tea, another round of board games and the chess and snap contests resumed.  A game of Uno sprung up that started with two players and end up with almost half the group joining in. It is refreshing and reassuring to see that we can live without phones, the internet, WIFI, Nintendos and even television. Moreover, the art of conversation and playing traditional games is still as much fun as it always has been. With so much excitement and exhilarating activities today, surely sleep will come much sooner tonight?!

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Castleton Day 2 with Prep IV

An early start for Prep IV today with a full English at 7:30 (it’s the law when you are on your holidays) ready for our walk to the Blue John caves at Treak Cliff Cavern.   A bit drizzly as we set off but that didn’t dampen our spirits. With Hamza and Blake holding gates for everyone, unprompted, we made our way to our first point of interest.

Avoiding the many cow pats, we stood in a field and looked back at the castle we had visited yesterday, whilst Tim informed us that had we stood there 300 million years ago we would have been completely submerged in water and enjoying a tropical climate. The children then went on to discover that the area is rich with fossils and they set off to find some with great success.

The weather had brightened up and we got back on our way, through a couple of fields and then a pit stop to refuel with a choccie biccie and a drink by an old mine shaft near the red river.

We looked at the different hillsides full of limestone, sandstone and slate and continued on the road to nowhere, that used to be the road from Sheffield to Manchester. The children demonstrated their almighty strength by picking up pieces of slate and crumbling it in their fingers and fully understanding then how the road collapsed in the landslide in the 1970s.

We then carried on our walk, on a narrow path down the hill to the cavern and had a picnic lunch overlooking Hope Valley.

Soon it was time to enter the caves. Mrs Booth and Mrs Seward bravely stayed behind to look after all the belongings, whilst the children along with Tim and Miss Kelsall went off to discover the stalactites and stalagmites, the Witch’s Cave and the Seven Dwarves. The children were shown a special Blue John stone that would have been worth around £15 in 1945. In today’s terms that equates to about £3000. Wow!

The children emerged into the daylight and although the sunshine had disappeared the rain held off on our walk back to the youth hostel.

The children took part in a human history timeline, dressed up as Romans, Celts, Vikings and Anglo Saxons. Even more excitement followed with eyes down for a game of bingo. Mrs Seward was our bingo caller, enthusiastically using all the bingo lingo. Elissa was the lucky winner of the full house prize and then Ada, Tom and Hannah shared a sweet treat prize for getting a line.

Another hearty meal in the dining room and then back to the rooms for showers and pjs on ready for movie night.  The movie reveal of Paddington 2 was met with a big cheer and the children settled down with sweets, chocolates and toffees in the YHA pop up cinema. What a lovely end to a great day.

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Castleton Day 1 with Prep IV

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Prep IV set off from Bridgewater this morning, for Castleton on the coach. “Ooh leather seats!” gasped the children. “Ooh no mini bus to drive!” said Mrs Seward, equally as excited.  As we got on our way the rain thankfully … Continue reading

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Prep V residential – day 1

Prep V set off from Bridgewater this morning, with even the rain not able to dampen the spirits of twenty excited youngsters. The journey to Windermere in the heart of the Lake District passed quickly and as we crossed into the Cumbrian border, the rain stopped and the sun came out. Well done Mrs Sweeney for such incredible planning!

The silver mini bus pulled into the car park at Brockholes Adventure Centre, moments before the blue bus, ensuring the silver bus took the driving honours for the second year in a row.  After a quick stretch of the legs we were harnessed up, de- briefed and led up the gantry and into the trees. Staff had to go first to test the course and be strategically placed around the 16 challenges… and what fabulous challenges they were! Skateboards, tight ropes, leaps of faith, pulleys, climbing nets, walking the planks and zip lines awaited our high flyers. Luca B flew across the trees like Tarzan himself and even went back to guide Nathan over the tight rope. Esme lived up to her family moniker of the little monkey as she swung from branch to branch effortlessly. Molly, Jasmine and Abigail remarkably did not scream once during the climb, whilst Chloe and Evie calmly passed each stage comfortably and Miranda and Kayleigh smiled with relief each time they reached the next platform. In fact, everybody can claim their first Bridgewater Lions award for their tenacity, courage and sense of community.

To complete the morning, everyone was rewarded with a breath-taking ride down the zip wire. High above the tree top trek, one by one, Prep V zoomed across the country park. Esme hung upside down, Dexter went with no hands, Toby went backwards, Joel twisted and turned, whilst Josh, Alfie and Toby went for the pure exhilarating adrenaline rush of speed.

We still had not finished with Brockholes Visitor Centre, as we had performed so well in the trees, that we had plenty of time to make full use of the adventure playground. Slides, pirate ships, climbing frames, stepping stones and a most welcome lunch provided plenty of entertainment of respite for staff and children alike. A trip to the souvenir shop created a fresh rush of excitement that caused a momentary loss of perspective…. we almost missed the boat trip! A mad dash to the pier eased the fears, until it was pointed out that the boat was moored at the other jetty. Fortunately, Prep V have been well trained in PE lessons and were able to pick up the pace and sprint across to catch the boat and hold it up whilst the older members of the crew caught up.

All aboard, we took our seats on the top deck to make the most of the fabulous views from all angles of the lake. There was even time for a hair school to be set up as the girls took it in turns to plait, braid and re-place pig-tails. If anyone needs an Indian head massage than Abigail is an absolute genius, as Jasmine will certainly testify. There cannot be more beautiful and spectacular places to visit than Ambleside and Windermere, and a cruise around the lake conjures up memories of “Swallows and Amazons”.

Off the boat and back on the bus for a roller coaster of a ride, up and down a winding road and we arrived at our home for the next two nights. Windermere Youth Hostel has incredible views over the hills and lakes of Cumbria, but more importantly, rooms had plug sockets… well nearly all. After a tea of lasagne, jacket potatoes and sponge puddings ( a strange combination?!), we all settled down to a variety of good old fashioned games. Harrison astounded all with his eye spy prowess, Seb beat Nathan at chess, Dexter beat Harrison at chess, whilst Molly and Jasmine fleeced Mrs Sweeney at snap. Jackson and Luca C had a good go at the quiz and Toby and Alfie woke the hostel up with a game of Jenga. After much deliberation, Mrs Gill announced that Batman and Robin had won the quiz, but the identity of the general knowledge genius and his helper remained a mystery.

With bed time mercifully closing in, the group retired to their rooms. Some showered, others searched for PJ’s and hair brushes (not Mr Altdorf). Joel eventually realised his missing toothpaste was in his hand all along. Jackson was seen to be doing a strange jig across the corridor and Alfie finally got the answer to his question … yes there are fish in that lake! It has been an action packed day and tomorrow promises to be just as lively. All that remains to be said is goodnight from me and goodnight from Prep V.



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“It was a dark and stormy night…” – Prep VI residential day 3

“It was a dark and stormy night…” – not one of Mr. Grant’s Grindel tales, but actually it was.  Yesterday’s bright blue sunshine had disappeared, and we had heavy rain and wind to greet us as we woke up this morning.  Best way to face up to inclement weather? Have a large breakfast!  Which we did – again!

This morning actually required a bit of extra organisation from the children.  Rooms had to be emptied before breakfast, but those kayaking today were required to leave a change of clothes ready in the drying room for the inevitable soaking they knew they were going to get.  Room inspections passed, off we all trooped after our morning feast, half to the kayaking and the others for the ropes.  No major mishaps today – Patrick and Henry proved to be our only capsizers (they cried foul play and felt they had been tipped, but this was unsubstantiated) although everyone else did take a voluntary plunge into the cold Menai Straits at the end of the session, while  Jake proved to be speediest on the water in the races back to shore.  The Via Ferrata proved just as challenging for the climbing groups, but once again, all completed the course.

It had been far too long since we had eaten, so of course we had the obligatory large meal, before loading up the coach and heading back to Bridgewater.  What a fantastic three days we’ve had!  We might have two Prep VI classes, but we do have a fantastic Year 6 group who have bonded together extremely well and made our new members extremely welcome.  As always, our children have been a credit to the school – a fact mentioned by several centre staff.  So now they’re back with you and you’ve probably had a full run down of everything they’ve been up to.  We just hope you haven’t found anything too unpleasant in their bags when they’ve been unpacked!

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Kippers for you! – Prep VI residential day 2

Kipper verdict – Anya: “I love ‘em!”  Yasmeen: “Hmmn…”  1-1 on that one then, although kipper orders for breakfast tomorrow have gone up.  Breakfast was good – once again, mountains of food for everyone.  Those who had ordered croissants were slightly jealous when they saw the cooked breakfasts but they needn’t have worried – there was plenty for everyone.  In fact, the more astute have ordered croissants tomorrow knowing full well they’ll be sausages and bacon as a bonus to accompany them!

There was actually a pre-breakfast early morning expedition down to the Menai Straits.  With morning wake up call scheduled for 7.30, it was of course obvious that most children would be awake by 6am.  Trying not to disturb a foraging hedgehog – not a flat one, as most of us have only seen – Mr. Suter led a group of early risers through the woods to the Straits.  Beautiful views, the rising sun peaking nervously over the tops of the clouds, the water still as a mill pond, a gentle flowing of the tide towards the Britannia Bridge, the intrepid group decided that wanted to be at one with nature by… throwing about half a tonne of stones and rocks into the water.  You can lead a horse to water…

For our first arranged activities the Nelson and Cardigan groups walked through the woods to the Via Ferrata (Latin for “Iron Way”), where we prepared ourselves to traverse the rocky limestone cliffs we found there.  The children used ‘cow’s tails’ (special bits of rope that they controlled) to attach to the steel cables along the cliff.  Some children were naturally nervous, but all must be commended for completing the course.  Special mention for accomplished climbing must go to Moaed, who hence forth is to be known as Moaed the Mountain Goat.

Wellington and Marlborough donned waterproofs, and headed down to the water and the kayaks waiting there for us.  Kayaks were originally developed by the Inuit as a craft for hunting on the open sea – they were often sewn into these to stop water getting in, although our children discovered that you simply drop out into the water.  Indeed, many spent as much time in the water as in the kayak!

If breakfast wasn’t filling enough, it was back to the dining hall for yet more food – a choice of jacket spuds, fish fingers and ciabattas for lunch to tide us over until tea time.  Replete, we walked around to Plas Newydd to explore the National Trust property there.  Of great excitement before we could even get inside were the family of swallows who had nested just inside the door, with four voracious young.  Intrigued, we watched as it was the noisiest most persistent who pestered mum and dad for the juiciest titbits most often.  It was remarkable to watch just how quickly the parents flew in and out to find food and return to feed constant hungry mouths – if only it was so quick at ASDA.

The house itself is currently undertaking an extensive series of renovations, but there was still plenty to see.  Not, unfortunately though, the Earl of Uxbridge’s wooden leg, fitted after losing his own at the Battle of Waterloo.  In the closing stages of the battle, the Earl – who had reputably had eight horses shot from under him – remarked to the Duke of Wellington next to him, “By God, Sir, I’ve lost my leg,” to which the Duke replied, with equal restraint, “By God, Sir, so you have.”  We explored the upstairs bedrooms of the Lord and Lady, before moving downstairs to the Inside Outside Upside Down room with its intriguing camera obscura, and then on to the dining room with the extremely large Rex Whistler mural with just as extremely large a name: Capriccio of a Mediterranean Seaport with British and Italian Buildings, the Mountains of Snowdonia, and a Self-portrait wielding a Broom – trips off the tongue, doesn’t it?

We hadn’t eaten for a while, so it was time then for dinner: Spanish chicken or pasta bolognaise – and who could refuse the treacle sponge and custard?  It was time then for the highlight of the visit: the gift shop.  After all, everyone needs a dolphin encased in plastic with swirling glitter, don’t they?  And then, if we hadn’t enough calories already, we brought our sweet treats to the bothy where Mr. Grant had lit a campfire for us to toast marshmallows and regaled us, in the dark, smoky, atmospheric surroundings, with the tale of Grindel, a man-eating demon in the saga of Beowulf – just what you need when you want children to have a good night’s sleep!

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Scrambled eggs and marshmallows – Prep VI residential day 1

The joys of traffic jams on the M60 meant that our eagerly anticipated departure from school this morning was actually delayed by half an hour, but fortunately that didn’t affect our activities once we did arrive at the Conway Centre.  Our coach driver overshot the entrance and so had to execute a three point turn in the adjacent National Trust car park – several of our students were slightly confused to see us driving straight out of the car park, especially the one was heard to utter, “Are we leaving already?”

A welcome toilet break and then lunch, which was hoovered up, and then it was time for our first activity, bush craft.  The children split into two groups – Cardigan and Nelson, Wellington and Malborough – and went with our various instructors out into the woods.  We began by building survival shelters, to various degrees of success – whether you would wish to stay in one of these is a slightly different matter!  If you would like a survival shelter with added beautification, Thea, Anya, Yasmine and Emma are the girls for you.  If you want to be told what to do while building it, Nyla’s your girl, and if you want someone to entertain you while doing it, then George’s flossing will do that for you!

We then used flints and steel to light our own camp fires and, best of all, we then got to cook on them.  Half the group made campfire drop scones, while the others toasted marshmallows – if there’s still time for a barbecue before the end of the summer, be prepared for requests!

Perhaps the most taxing activity of the day was putting duvet covers on our beds – a bit more practice required here parents – and then it was time for dinner.  Sausage and mash, pizza and chips, salads, three choices of dessert – everyone was well sated, ready for our last activity for the evening, the Egg Drop Challenge.  Given a selection of materials – newspapers, tape, string – the children were tasked with dropping an egg from two stories up without it breaking.  A variety of strategies were attempted: from the simple “let’s just wrap a big ball of newspaper around our egg and hope” to a more intricate parachute approach – only one group still had something that resembled an egg at the end of the drop.  Let’s just say it’ll be scrambled eggs for breakfast!

Which we’ve ordered already for tomorrow – we’re looking forward to Yasmine and Anya’s verdict on the kippers.  A quick debrief, and now all the children are safely tucked up, ready for a good night’s sleep before tomorrow’s climbing and kayaking activities!  Good night from Conway!

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