Aberdovey Trip (September 2016)

Diary Entries:

Staff and pupils boarded the coach at 9.45am, all set for their journey
to Mid Wales. Parents waved goodbye as everyone left in good spirits.
Then the rain began and so did the road diversions...

Three and a half hours later we arrived at the Outward Bound Trust
near to Aberdovey on the coast of Wales. The tide was out, revealing
the sand banks in the local estuary. We were met by the two Outward
Bound Tutors Dan and Helen along with the two DHL mentors John
and Amy.

Once we had moved into the rooms in our ‘private’ accommodation
called Sparkle House and eaten our packed lunches it was straight
into action with a very short trip in the minibus to the local beach. We
were kitted out in waterproof jackets and buoyancy aids, before
being shown how to pack the ropes correctly into the rescue bags.

One canoe was carried out to the beach by a team of boys, which
was followed by a scavenger hunt called: 'Who can find the most
interesting object on the beach?' This was won by Jack T who
discovered a Gladioli flower stem, something that is definitely not to
be expected on the average beach.

Then it was time to jump into the sea, so much for waterproof jackets…
Can you spot Mr Scott’s feet as he ran and dived into the sea? Josh
particularly liked being in the sea and he enjoyed a seaweed throwing competition with Helen, one of the tutors. The canoe was overturned
and then used as a slide into the sea, unfortunately we have no
pictures of the fun had by pupils as they splash landed from the canoe.

Back to the Outward Bound’s shore-line building, to change into
waterproof trousers, ready for the Jetty Jump Challenge. A short walk
out onto the jetty and then a number of boys managed to complete
the challenge, well done to DHL mentor-John, Jack T, Dylan, Nick,
Sam and Mr Scott for doing this without showing too much fear.

Jack C and Dylan helped get the dinghy back into the shed, with a
moment of laughter when Dylan got knocked backward into the sea
as the dingy landed on its trailer. Aiden was excellent at helping the
staff clean all the waterproof clothing of salt water once we had
removed it.

A wet journey back to our house for hot showers and a change
into dry clothing was followed by a tour of the site and some down
time when pupils could play football or explore the area. Both Jack C
and Jack T commented on the amazing views and stated that we
have to return with the iPad at a later date – it was charging. Shaun
agreed with them, but really wants pictures of his football skills…

Dinner – a choice of fish fingers, chicken pasta bake or lamb stew
went down a treat. The highlight of the day was the hot drinks
machine which dispensed such delights as cappuccino coffees.
Following this we were kitted out with walking boots and took part
in a woodland night-line challenge. It was not enough that it was
dark; the pupils had to wear blindfolds too.

The evening was rounded off with hot chocolate and biscuits,
before the boys retired to their bedrooms. As I write this at
1.00am I can hear 5 of the boys still awake and chatting away in
their rooms. They know that in about six hours we will be waking
them up, ready for their breakfast at 7.40am. I hope that the next
installment can be written at an earlier time, with all asleep, but
that could be very wishful thinking.

P.S. It is still raining and has not stopped all day!

Everyone was up and at breakfast by 7.40am today, filling up on
sausages, eggs, hash browns, toast and cereals. Then it was time
for waterproofs (still raining) and a trip in the minibus down the coast.

We spent most of the day at a rocky shoreline, with the boys exploring the many rock pools and the staff slipping over on the rocks.
Thankfully no long term injuries were sustained by anyone and in
even better news – the weather improved as the rain stopped!

At the shoreline, everyone found plenty of interesting things
including a large crab (found by Shaun), mermaids purse or dogfish
cases (found by Mr Scott and Helen our instructor), jellyfish (found
by Jack C and Josh) and plenty of quartz (found by Miss Morrison
and Sam).

Some boys were then shown by Helen how to eat the local limpets -
scoop their body out of the shell and eat them raw. Dylan and Nick
rose to this edible challenge - the only boys to actually eat one.

We then transferred our skills to the cliff-line where a number of
boys and staff climbed the cliff under the expert tutelage of Dan.
Well done to Josh, Nick, Dylan, Sam, Jack C, Shaun, Mr Farrell, Mr
Taylor, Miss Morrison and Mr Scott for getting to the top of the cliff.
This was followed by an opportunity to abseil back down with a
section of free-fall due to a large cave. The following are especially
congratulated for completing this challenge: Dylan, Sam, Shaun, Miss
Morrison, Mr Taylor and Mr Scott. Two boys then took this one step
further and after climbing the cliff for a second time they abseiled
down wearing a blindfold, very well done to both Sam and Shaun!

Meanwhile, some boys learned how to build a successful fire on a
windy beach and then boiled water to make a round of hot chocolate.
Other boys explored the caves with Josh leading the way into the

Late afternoon saw some on-site activities taking place back at the
centre, followed by a chicken korma or large sausage roll dinner. This
evening the boys scrambled up a local stream in the dark – this was
practice for a walk up a deeper gorge tomorrow.

We have decided to move our overnight trek to Thursday night and
may not camp but use one of the wooden cabins the trust owns in

The DHL mentors and Outward Bound staff named Jack C as man of
the day for Monday and Jack T as man of the day for Tuesday – well
done boys.

Today saw the return of the rain. After breakfast we hitched a trailer to the minibus, collected wetsuits and headed deep into the Snowdonia National Park.

The minibus parked up in a clearing, with no civilisation in sight and the boys had to change into their wetsuits. We then walked along an
extremely boggy path with mud up to the knees sampling more of
nature’s wonderful larder: blackberries, soft rush, bilberries and
gorse flowers were on the menu.

Then it was a scramble down the bank and into the river – mountain
water feels a lot colder than the water the boys are used to from the
tap. Everyone worked well together, climbing up the various waterfalls
and rapids; watching out for each other and helping people when they
fell over – usually after some laughter. At one point a team of staff and
boys, namely Jack C, Shaun, Josh, Nick, Mr Scott, Mr Farrell and Miss
Morrison sat across the river and formed a human dam, but as the
water rose behind us it became impossible to remain seated and we
were washed down river.

The last stop was a place where you could sit in the plunge pool of a
waterfall and lean back to get behind the water. We all enjoyed some
hot chocolate at this point before returning to the start of the walk.
This part of the challenge was walking down an even boggier path
which resulted in a number of slippery accidents and plenty of
screams from Miss Morrison, Jack C, Josh and Helen. Then we had the
opportunity to slide down a waterfall in two sections – something that
had to be repeated a number of times because the boys and staff
were enjoying it so much. Due to the nature of this activity we were
unable to get any photos, however the memories will live for a very
long time for all involved.

Once on the minibus again we drove deep into a forest where the
Outward Bound Trust has a log cabin – however no running water,
toilet facilities or electricity were available. Some of the boys took on
the challenge of building a shelter using just the logs and moss around
them whilst others chilled in the cabin. Shaun, Aiden, Jack C & Jack T
were totally committed to their construction with the help of John and
Mr Taylor. They then had to ‘sell’ their property to the Outward Bound
staff in a verbal presentation, demonstration of the shelter in action
and finally the dreaded waterproof test. One shelter had a small trickle
of water entering it whilst the other one was described as having an
indoor shower by its vendors. Meanwhile, Josh cooked everyone some
pasta with a beef bolognaise sauce and chocolate pudding with
chocolate sauce (the pudding was a boil in the bag!).

Once back on-site it was a quieter evening with card games and hot
chocolate before bed.

The man of the day today was Aiden – very well done.

The plan for tomorrow is to return to a similar log cabin and spend
the night in it, so the diary entry for Thursday will not appear on the
website until late on Friday.

Everyone was up and ready for our final full breakfast on-site, with the boys and some staff making the most of ‘seconds’ in order to build up
their energy for the day ahead.

Helen, Dan, John and Amy helped direct all the Northern House
participants in packing everything we would need for our 10
kilometre trek into the mountains and overnight stay. We were kitted
out with a much larger rucksack into which we packed our equipment:
rucksack liner, sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner, packed lunch, mug,
spoon, water bottle, head torch, waterproofs, toiletries and a full
change of clothes, including thick jumpers.

Josh insisted on taking his duvet and a pillow, rather than a sleeping
bag whilst Sam added a tent to his equipment. Extra equipment was
loaded onto a trailer that was hitched to the minibus.

The minibus dropped us off at the start of our route, where we paused
for a quick snack before heading off up the first of a number of roads,
tracks and trails. We followed the directions given by Jack C, who was
using a pictorial planner whilst Dan double checked via an ordnance
survey map. The minibus went on ahead to the log cabin we would be
using for the night.

The views were spectacular as luckily the rain was only a couple of
very light showers. Along the route the boys stopped to cool off at a
stream, with Josh and Dylan not only putting their heads into the
running water – but drinking too (they checked with Dan first). We
also saw a slow-worm – this looks like a snake but is in fact a legless

Once at the cabin the boys got on with a range of jobs, including:
chopping wood for the wood burning stove that heated the cabin;
Jack and Nick helped make flat breads to go with the boil in the bag
dinners; Jack C and Dylan, with the help of Mr Farrell, built a shelter
in the woods behind the cabin (for all three to sleep in overnight);
Shaun, Aiden and Sam set up tents at a suitable campsite 10 minutes
away from the cabin, with the help of Dan – their plan to stay over-
night, Mr Scott agreed to camp too. John and Amy our DHL mentors
decided to camp as well – a short distance from the boys/Mr Scott’s
campsite whilst Dan would sleep in the minibus. This left the log cabin
to Josh, Jack T and Nick with Miss Morrison, Mr Taylor and Helen.

We all enjoyed our dinner and the boys left for their campsite and
shelter where they remained throughout a torrential down pour and
thunderstorm. However, following this poor weather Dylan, Jack C,
Sam and Mr Farrell returned to the cabin and spent the night in the

Congratulations to Shaun and Aiden who spent the night in their tent
rather than returning to the cabin.

Well done to Aiden who was named man of the day for a second time.

John, Amy, Mr Scott, Shaun and Aiden broke camp early in the
morning (in the rain) and had a lift in the minibus from Dan back
to the cabin. There we all had a breakfast snack (yes it was another
boil in the bag meal) before packing everything into the trailer for
the return to the centre.

Once back at the centre all equipment had to be sorted and
accounted for before the boys returned to their rooms to strip the beds and pack all their belongings ready for the return journey. They then
had a visit to the on-site souvenir shop and some down-time playing
pool and table football.

The final stage of their experience was to sit with the Outward Bound
and DHL staff in order to share with all present their most enjoyable
experience and their most challenging one too. All the boys were able
to reflect on the past week and each had different thoughts to share
with us. Dan and Helen then presented the boys with an Outward
Bound Compass as a farewell gift.

That concludes our residential trip to Aberdovey.

Click on the gallery images to enlarge