Year 8: Bushcraft Trip Challenges and Inspires
In the footsteps of the likes of Bear Grylls and Ray Mears, Bede’s Prep’s new cohort of Year 8 pupils embarked on their unforgettable journey of self-discovery.
This residential course was aiming to challenge them on many different levels, although the title 'Mission Survive' raised pulses before we had even arrived!
Into the stunning woodlands of Hatfield House with The Bushcraft Company Miss Muxworthy, Madame Allirot, Mr Sutherland, Miss Dowley and Mr Adam accompanied the 50 pupils on their 3 day course organised and lead by Head of Year 8, Mr Meier.
The main purpose of the trip was to empower the children with the importance of community, valuing one another’s opinions and observations, celebrating uncharted skills and appreciating and respecting the environment around them.
The biggest challenge started at the very beginning when they learnt the riches all children dream of, such as, confectionary, pocket money and mobile technology were a big no no! Some children often find it hard to wave goodbye to their parents, although it was saying a fond farewell to their iPads and Mobile phones that proved most testing!
From the moment children arrived into the heart of the woods they were immersed in the wilderness with roaring fires surrounded by large bell tents. The thought of living under canvas or cooking over open fires instantly generated an air of excitement amongst the children! As with all adventures, it is always good to commence with a hearty meal which was prepared fresh within the camp.
Staying with food, this is normally one area that children ‘love or hate’ and, on this occasion, it was wonderful to see children thoroughly enjoying the outdoor food. As the trip progressed, the echoes of words from Oliver Twist “Please sir, I want some more” and the demand for seconds soon outgrew supplies!
Meals ranged from a ‘full English’, Spaghetti Bolognese with garlic bread, American pancakes with syrup, pizzas that the children made and were cooked in outdoor pizza ovens, chocolate brownies and Salmon which had been panassed by Mr Sutherland, Mr Adams and Miss Dowley!
The course commenced with a fire workshop that explored the different methods used to create a fire, using techniques such as the ‘Bow Drill’, the ‘flint and steel’ which is always a good old standby and the ‘battery and steel wool’ method.
The staff were also left to fend for themselves should their demand for afternoon tea become a must!
Once fires were lit, the next essential part of survival is a shelter! Techniques in shelter construction were explored before the children put these to the test in their ‘tribes’ and started their ‘Grand Designs’! Kevin McCloud would have been impressed with some of the finished products, with their aesthetically pleasing designs accompanied with gardens, pathways and even ‘welcome’ signs made from foliage!
Following an evening meal and a night game of ‘Capture the Lantern’, at least 65% of the children bedded down to a night under the stars in the shelters that they had built. However, many were unaware of the creatures of the night that soon joined them in their sleeping bags for a midnight feast and a bit of warmth.
We awoke to day two with the traditional banging of pots and pans and the aroma of breakfast sizzling away on the open fire. Once we had all reflected on our night’s sleep, or in some cases lack of it, tribes were reassembled and commenced on the morning’s activities.
Budding Robin Hoods had the opportunity to demonstrate their archery skills, whilst some navigated around the woods following a trail blind-folded, which resorted in a lot of screaming! Other activities taught children the art camouflage and concealment, as well as providing them with some real thought provoking skills in tracking and tracing your path through what can otherwise be, a treacherous environment in which to navigate.
The afternoon focused around essential first aid skills which the children then applied to treating their tribe leaders; I am sure some of the tribe leaders were in a worse state once children had transported them into the open and put them into, what they believe, was the ‘recovery position’!
Once darkness fell and dinner had been enjoyed, we were treated to a story about a very special and talented caterpillar called Cecil; I will leave it to the children to fill you in on the story...
On the final day we were once again blessed with warm sunshine, which was a welcome sight after what felt like a very cold dawn. The order of the day was to ensure we left no trace, so packing everything up, taking down shelters and removing anything that resembled our presence was an essential part of respecting our surroundings.
Children then put the culmination of all their learnt skills to the test through an SOS scenario that saw Mr Sutherland, Madame Allirot, Mr Adam and Miss Dowley covered in ‘blood’ at the scene of a crash site of strewn debris and parachutes.
The children had to work as a team to remove the survivors, namely the staff, from the wreckage and apply the essential first aid skills. It was so reassuring to see the children handle the crash victims with such care; I believe Mr Sutherland was dropped a few times, and the way in which the children ‘dragged’ Madame Allirot and Miss Dowley from the wreckage could only be described as ‘painful’ as the flexibility of their bodies were really put to the test!
Following a hard morning of rescuing their teachers, the children were then required to light a fire using traditional Bushcraft methods to cook their own Lamb kebabs.
Mission survive? They certainly did. It was a complete pleasure to take this young group of children on an educational adventure with a difference.
Amongst all the games, riddles and chants the children worked well as part of a team towards achieving a common goal, thinking creatively about their surroundings and ensuring their presence in the woodland left minimum impact on the environment.
For me, it was watching new friendships form, children consoling one another when the going got a little tough and, stepping out of their comfort zones and embracing new challenges with zeal. Memories were certainly made!
I would like to thank Year 8 and my esteemed colleagues who accompanied this trip for making this an adventure one to remember.