After last night’s early night, full peaceful sleep and long lie in this morning, all of our children (and staff) enjoyed a huge breakfast – no kippers here in Castleton, but croissants, yoghurts, fruit, cereals, and a vast cooked selection. Aarav received the prize for the biggest breakfast eaten – even beating Mr. Suter. With the sun shining, we were keen to set off in good time, and quickly assembled on the rear lawn to meet our guide Tim. Our departure was slightly delayed, however, as we variously had to wait for missing jackets, toilet breaks, missing bags, toilet breaks, squashed bananas and more toilet breaks. Eventually we set off and strangely found ourselves standing in a beautifully lush green field that 330 million years ago was the bottom of the sea! Which made it easy for us to find lots of fossils in the adjacent limestone walls – we didn’t expect that in the middle of the countryside. Our path wound its way between limestone hills on one side, and sandstone hills on the other. “Which hill do you think plants would prefer to grow on?” asked Tim. “The big one,” came the astute reply.
Further on, we came to Odin’s Mine, where the Romans oversaw the extraction of lead from the hills. We stood around a huge grindstone where the rock was crushed. Having had lots of instruction in the types of rocks we could see around us, Tim was confident of a good answer when he asked, “What type of rock do you think this grindstone is made of?” “Grind?” offered Molly.
We began our climb then on the wobbly road. Lazy engineers in the early 20th century deemed it to be a good idea to build the road to Sheffield across the shale hillside. It slipped, they repaired it, it slipped, they repaired it, it slipped, they repaired it – you get the picture. Eventually they gave up in 1979, and it’s now left to curious visitors to navigate its jumbled remains. If you haven’t been, it is worth a visit. Just try not to fall over quite as much as our Prep IV children did!
We traversed a steep hillside path down to the Treak Cliff Cavern, where Luke took us into the hillside to see some of the wonders of the caves where the Blue John gems (bleue et jaune) are mined. With stalactites forming at an estimated rate of 1mm every 25 years, it was amazing to see rock formations thousands of years old. Tim promised us if we kept our tickets, we could come back in 1000 years for free to see if the Stork stalactite had actually reached the floor! A few of the children were slightly nervous when all the lights were switched off to allow us to see – or not! – just how dark it would be without light underground. Lucky they didn’t see the huge cave spiders who lived there too!
From there, back to our hostel for a spot of dressing up in our very own history timeline, from Celts, Romans, Saxons, Vikings and through to the Normans. King Harold and his untimely end at the hands of the Norman invaders ended our timeline. “Do you know how he was killed?” asked our Instructor. “With an arrow in his bum?” suggested Luca B. That whirlwind trip through time built up an appetite, which was just as well as we had mountains of Cumberland sausages and mash, followed by lemon meringue pie and cream, to demolish.
And after all that, what better than chill time with a huge beanbag, the biggest TV screen ever, and Paddington Bear for company…