Head of Year 9, Mr Sparrow reports from the Year 9 Pioneers' Trip to Royal Wootton Bassett last week.
Wales … Wiltshire … Wales … Wiltshire … Charterhouse … Wiltshire … Charterhouse … Wiltshire. After the to-ing and fro-ing of not one but two governments, we settled on the H5 Adventure Headquarters outside Royal Wootton Bassett in Wiltshire as the destination of this year’s Pioneers’ Trip. And what a trip it was – a return to form after last summer’s lockdown.
Having dodged some heavy traffic, heavy rain and a yellow thunderstorm warning, we rolled through the stone circle at Avebury and into the car park of The New Inn at Winterbourne Monkton, where we were greeted warmly by the H5 Adventure team. After a quick briefing over lunch, the groups set off into the Wiltshire wilderness, overloaded with enthusiasm and hand-sanitiser. Three days and three nights of trekking and team building ensued…
With the exception of one or two wounded warriors, the boys covered over thirty miles in this time – no mean feat with their packs on their backs and the countryside bombarding them with a battery of pollen. Conditions underfoot were soggy too, especially on the first afternoon, and the wet grass mercilessly lashed any uncovered legs. But the boys kept trucking.
And their rewards came soon enough: all the campsites on the trip were beautiful or luxurious or both. Without a doubt the jewel in the crown was the spot by the willowy lake behind Upper Ham Farm: here the boys cooked and camped in view of some shaggy longhorn cattle and of the white horse chalked into the hillside above, while owls hooted in the trees and fish splashed in the water.
Some of the boys did their fair share of the latter too – whether falling off the rafts they had built or tumbling from the bridges they had engineered. Given his acrobatics on the bridge-crossing, Nikita Vishnyak could probably qualify for any Olympic gymnastics team; it was Michael Montague, though, who made the only successful river-crossing, even if he did spend half of his journey on the riverbed, knee-deep in mud and reeds.
The boys also developed their sharp-shooting skills on the archery range and the woodland trail, and tested their fear of heights on the cave-ladder climb.
Cooking trout and marshmallows (not at the same time) on an open campfire proved to be another popular activity. No surprises there: extra food always seems to go down well with teenage boys on expeditions in the great outdoors. Let’s just wait and see how many of them offer to take on the barbecuing duties at home this summer.
All in all, the boys acquitted themselves superbly on this trip – a culmination to their enthusiastic and productive approach to school life across the year – and special mention should go to Mr Dobson’s winning team (Michael Montague, Matthew Rhee, Jai Chatterjee, Luke Leavett-Shenley, Xavier Guerlain-Desai, Andile Thabethe, Shane Ibrahim, Fraser Armitage, Jack Perei and Caspar Wood) and to the most valuable team players of the week (Matthew Rhee and Nikita Vishnyak). Well done to all involved, though, and I really hope it will be the start of lifelong enjoyment of the natural world for some. Thanks as well to the members of staff on the trip: Paul Webb and the H5 Adventure team, Mr Dobson, Mr Tink, Mr Ellis-Woodley and Miss Struttmoore.