22 Mar

On Thursday, 6 Key Stage 3 pupils donned their walking boots and ventured up into the hills of Saddleworth for a day of improving self-confidence, self-esteem, independence, resilience, communication and teamwork. The day was organised by the Castleshaw Centre, and we met at Dove Stone Reservoir, not fully knowing what was in store for us.

Mike was our guide and instantly grabbed the pupils’ attention with his enthusiasm and eagerness. He outlined what the plan for the day was, but didn’t give too much away so as not to ruin any surprises or twists that awaited us.

Our first stop was to take in the stunning view of Dove Stone Reservoir and the surrounding hills. Some pupils had never been here before, and the look of amazement on their faces was priceless.

As we moved along the path towards the boat house, we stopped and looked at the formation of rocks that rise high above the waters. Mike identified ‘Indian’s Head’ and, using a bit of imagination, the pupils saw the outline of a Native American chief made from the rocks – can you spot it?

When passing members of the public, who were out for a stroll or walking their dogs, our pupils were polite and courteous, waiting at turnstiles for them to pass or responding appropriately to a friendly “Good Morning”, or “Hello”.

As we approached the foot of one of the many hills, Mike stopped the group and diverted us towards an open grass area and we were about to start our first task.

The task was to get through a swinging rope without it hitting anyone.

  • First was to get individuals through – easy!
  • Second was to get groups of 2 through – okay.
  • Third task was to get the whole group through in one – that was a challenge!

Communication and team work were the key. Everyone had to use their listening and looking skills as to best identify when was the best place to go, and make sure everyone did it at the same time.

After a few attempts, the lads cracked it and completed the challenge. As you can see from the photos, it didn’t always go to plan, but perseverance shone through..

The next quest was Orienteering – map reading to find letters that were dotted around the reservoir. Pupils learnt about Magnetic North, map reading and rotation and contour lines. Our task was to find specific points on the map, and the best route to take to get there.

Mike gave the signal and our intrepid explorers were on their way to find their first marker: ‘X’. Kian was the first to find it, and you can tell just how happy he was by the smile on his face.

On to the next letter, and the terrain began to challenge our orienteerers. The steep hills and boggy thatches tested all the group, staff included, but everyone persevered in achieving the next letter…and a well-deserved rest.

Thankfully, after reaching the summit of our climb, the only way was down… downhill! More outstanding views of Saddleworth and the surrounding areas opened up in front of us. Nicholas was the person who found the next letter on our map, and was proud to point out his achievement!

Moving forward, we walked through a freshly cleared woodland area alongside the reservoir in pursuit of the next letter.

More exploring and mini challenges lay ahead, and we even managed a little game of ‘The Floor Is Lava!’… Pupils used their balancing skills to avoid falling off the stumps and beams. What really stood out for me was the encouragement that each pupil gave to one another in order to succeed. There were a few slips and treads into the ‘lava’ due to wobbly stones, but the pupils looked out for one another and messages were passed down the line “watch out for this stone, it’s wobbly” or “this one is slippy, take your time”.

More rope work as Mike made several knots in the rope, and the challenge was to untie all of them. “That’s easy”, Nicholas said. “Not when you all have to keep hold of the rope!” Mike replied!

What proceeded to happen was a mix of limbo, contortion, seeming dislocation, but ultimately fun as the lads twisted and turned their bodies through the rope and knots, once again utilising communication, teamwork and leadership skills. The challenge was smashed in double quick time. Mike was very impressed and said that he should have put a couple of more challenging knots in to really test our pupils.

Challenge completed and, nearing dinner time, we moved on to Yeoman Hey Reservoir. We had to find shelter to protect us from the wind and keep us warm whilst we ate dinner. There was only one problem, there was no shelter to be seen. We’d have to build our own!

First thing was to learn about how to tie different knots so we could join multiple ropes together, and attach them securely to trees.

Second was how best to attach the tarpaulin to the top to create the windbreak. Teamwork was key as the lads discussed best ways to attach the sheet to the rope. Using logical reasoning and a little bit of physics, they made a sturdy shelter which provided protection from the elements. Dinner could now commence. Thanks to our school cook, Sue, who provided the much needed proteins and carbs to keep our energy levels up.

Moving away from our camp, we began our journey back to the starting line, but Mike had a couple more challenges up his sleeve. More letters were to be found on our Orienteering course, but then Mike dropped the final challenge. It was a simple, but brutal, one – climb the hill.

The hill was steep, the ground was muddy and slippy, and required a rope to scale it.

One after another, the pupils climbed the banking, making sure their footing was sound, their hands were tightly gripped on the rope and that they remained focused as one slip could result in some very muddy clothes! Each pupil rose to the challenge and got to the summit.

What goes up must come down, and pupils had to change their strategy in order to descend safely. Showing care and concern, each pupil managed to get back to the beginning of the challenge with no slips, trips or falls. Throughout the ascents and descents, the pupils encouraged one another and clapped when people reached their goal.

Mr Newton set his own personal challenge to climb the hill without the rope, but despite a gallant effort, had to resort to the rope for support.

This also showed the pupils that it is good to set yourself a challenge and it is ok if you don’t succeed. Should this happen, use the support that is around you to reach your goal. Mr Newton inspired some of the pupils to attempt the ‘no rope’ ascent and there were some incredible efforts made. Each pupil should be proud of what they achieved.

Our challenges completed, and letters discovered, we headed off back to the car park, pupils’ faces beaming with pride…or this might just be the red in the cheeks finding out just how far we had walked! My Apple Watch said that we walked 11km (just under 7 miles), and I have no doubt that there were some sore legs in the morning. Hopefully the mantra “Pain is temporary, Pride is forever” comes through, and the lads will take satisfaction in what they achieved on Thursday.

The day was not just about pushing forward to do new things, but also forming new relationships and cementing existing ones. Every pupil spoke to one another, encouraged each other, shared success and supported in time of need.

I have to say a big “thank you” to Mr Newton and Mr Daly-Greenham for supporting the pupils, and getting really involved with the activities – a bit of healthy competition is always a crowd pleaser!

Another big thanks to Mike from the Castleshaw Centre, who worked brilliantly with our young people, and really captured their imaginations.

But the biggest shout out goes to Kian, Lee, Callum, Jacob, Daniel and Nicholas – your determination, engagement and support of one another reminds me why working with young people like yourselves makes teaching the best job in the world.

Mr Southerington