Prep III didn’t hear anything so exciting as a fox howl when we arrived at the Conway centre in Delamere for our day of map skills and orienteering. We did however hear the cooing of the white dove who has just this week taken up residence in the centre just this week, and who seemed to take part in our activities around the centre. Actually, Fox Howl was the name of the lodge that makes up the Conway centre in Delamere Forest, and it was around the centre that we got our first taste of map reading and orienteering skills – with our ‘nose and toes to the north’ we quickly learned to orientate ourselves in the immediate area of the centre and its ample grounds. A quick task to see who could find all the numbered posts around the centre proved that our skills were developing, and so John, our guide, took us into the adjacent pine forest to test them more fully.

The Forestry Commission have recently undertaken a large scale cull of these pine forests – they now resemble something of a Paul Nash WW1 landscape – but there was plenty of room for our teams to explore the area. Great delight was had when each team found an orienteering peg to punch their holes in their record card, proving their map reading skills and teamwork were up to the task.

After lunch back at the centre – which our resident dove tried to join with several times – it was across into the northern tip of the forest to further use our map reading skills and explore the area. We were somewhat intrigued by the frequent sightings of corn husks on the forest floor, until we realised that the neighbouring farmer had been growing corn and these were the remnants from the thieving grey squirrels and badgers! It was off to see the badger setts we went next, looking for tell tale signs of their presence – and they were easy to find! Deep holes, claw marks on tree stumps, excavated soil on the forest floor. Sadly, we didn’t see any badgers – they were all snoozing under the forest floor (well, they were until we turned up!) but it was clear to see this was a thriving colony.

After a hill run challenge, it was on to the river to practise our river crossing survival skills. Not wanting to lose any children while crossing raging torrents and seeing them swept downstream, John showed us river crossing survival techniques for a group crossing. OK, so the water was only about six inches deep and truth be told we didn’t really need them, but next time we’re in the Himalayas they will come in handy and it was good fun! Navigating our way back to the centre, it was was time for our teachers to use their navigation skills to find our way back to school.

A thoroughly enjoyable day – thanks to John for making it so enlightening for us!

Directions, doves, and deep holes in Delamere

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