SIR WILLIAM BORLASE'S GRAMMAR SCHOOL OUTDOOR CHALLENGE

Thank you for your interest in the SWBGS Outdoor Challenge. We have been running a similar trip for Sutton Grammar School for the last 11 years, and these are always memorable trips packed with activity and personal development. More detailed information will appear nearer the time. For now, here are some comments about the headline activities, a link Biblins campsite so you can see where you’re going, and a kit list.

COMMUNICATIONS

Details of how the group will be split between the two trips, departure and arrival times and so on will be sent out nearer the time. Participants will be able to ask questions at the meeting where we form teams. If parents have any queries, please email dan@outspark.co.uk or ring 01245 830300 which will also be the emergency contact number during the trip, and feel free to get in touch if you feel a chat about your particular child would help us help them have a good time. Please also let us know if there are any changes in medical, dietary or contact information from when you filled in the form.

LOCATION & SLEEPING

For most of the event, you’ll be sleeping in tent groups of 5 at Biblins Youth Campsite https://www.forestry.gov.uk/biblins This is a mile long stretch of campsite on the banks of the River Wye – a magnificent setting. There will be two activity groups on each trip, so for much of the time, your tent will be part of a group of 30-35 with Outspark Leaders, school staff and assistants from the SWBGS sixth form attached.

ACTIVITIES

The running order may be different, but here is a list of some of the headline activities during the week. It’s all subject to weather and the programme can change in response to all sorts of things, but here’s a flavour. Please note that in addition to our own qualified staff, we use other Adventurous Activities Licensing Authority approved companies for the caving, climbing, and canoeing who have appropriate expertise for each activity. So although the activities are adventurous and you can never guarantee that you won’t, for example, fall out of your canoe and get a good soaking, there are experts on hand to instruct you and keep you safe.

CANOE BIVOUAC

Leaving in the afternoon, you paddle two or three people to a canoe down the Wye from Biblins, then using canoes, paddles and tarps to construct bivouacs in which you’ll spend the night at a wild campsite. In the morning, paddle on to the final destination. All your kit gets packed into waterproof barrels for the journey. It will save you time packing if you have one complete change of clothes from top to bottom tied in a roll which you can take with you.

CAVING AND CLIMBING

On one day of the trip, we walk across the Biblins bridge to go to Symonds Yat for a day that combines caving and climbing. This is as much a psychological as a physical challenge, and usually there are some people who think they don’t like heights or enclosed spaces. These are as much a psychological as a physical challenge, but the camaraderie and support from your friends and the patient instruction of the expert, suitably qualified cavers and climbers helps most people get over the fears they thought they had.

Natural rock offers a different challenge to climbing walls, and routes such as Derek, The Flightless Hedgehog and Krakatoa will be an achievement for seasoned climbers. In the caving part of the day, teamwork comes to the fore and the different strengths within your group stand out. We’ll finish the day by walking to the spectacular viewpoint overlooking the loops of the River Wye, where peregrine falcons can often be seen and, often of more interest, ice cream will be provided.

FOOD

One one evening, your team will compete in a Ready-Steady-Cook challenge to produce a delicious meal using camping stoves from your chosen combination of some ingredients provided. Another evening, you’ll prepare and cook your own food for a camp-fire feast. On the evening of the canoe bivouac, the instructors will spoil you by cooking a meal for you to restore your energy after a long paddle. Breakfasts and lunches will also be provided and will be substantial, and we are used to catering for a wide range of special diets and allergies. If you’re just a fussy eater, we encourage you to try things you haven’t eaten: you’ll need lots of energy for the activities so just get stuck in. That said, the most important thing is that you are enjoying yourself, so there are always alternatives available.

Please don’t bring vast quantities of sugary sweets and chocolate (a few treats are fine, but honestly, you will be well fed). No fizzy drinks or, all the more, energy drinks/Red Bull, please.

CAMP FIRE FEAST, WIDE GAMES, BUSHCRAFT

As well as the headline activities that involve going off site, there will be lots going on back in the campsite: bushcraft activities, team challenges, Argumentag Wrestling, and a night-hike, weather permitting. There will also be some downtime in which you explore the site and create your own entertainment. It’s about getting away from the computer/phone screen and enjoying being in the real, natural world.

GROUP FIRST ETHOS

It’s very much about developing independence and looking after yourself and one another. So everyone is expected to help out, clear up after themselves, respect the environment and generally be friendly and considerate. There will be some obvious safety rules (don’t disappear off for a swim in the river, for example) but the general principle is, don’t act in such a way that if everybody followed your lead, the mini-community we are living in wouldn’t work. We have high expectations of you making an effort, pulling your weight and participating enthusiastically. And that you’ll shut up and go to sleep before your teachers want to murder you in your beds.

KIT

There is the risk that in some activities you may get wet, therefore it is wise to have at least 3 complete changes of clothes. I would suggest that these include the following, as the weather may be variable. Items marked * can be borrowed – ask at the meeting when you form tents groups.

Refillable water bottle
A holdall or rucksack to put everything in and store for the week.
Roll mat*
Sleeping bag*
Waterproof Jacket and Trousers
Warm Jumper / fleece X 2
Warm trousers X 2 / not jeans
T shirts x 2
Shorts
Swimming trunks
Trainers x 2 (one old pair for canoeing)
Walking boots (these need to be worn in and comfortable).
2 pairs of thick socks
2 pairs of sports socks
Night wear
Torch (plus spare batteries) – LED head torches are especially handy and quite cheap now
Spare plastic bags
Wash kit and small towel
Woollen hat, gloves
Suntan lotion - IMPORTANT
Sunhat – IMPORTANT
Cutlery – knife, fork, spoon or spork
Any regularly taken medicines

Optional items

Plasters for cuts/blisters or a small First Aid kit
Pack of cards or portable chess set
Camera
String
Insect repellent
Guitar, harmonica, zither, hurdy-gurdy or other musical instrument

Maths question

If 70 people each bring a penknife on a trip, and each has a 2% chance of injuring him- or herself, what is the probability that a member of staff has to spend four hours in A&E getting one of them stitched up? I don’t know the mathematical answer offhand, but the short answer is – don’t bring a knife. 

Also don’t bring:

Ipod or mp3 player. Listen to the birds if you run out of conversation.
Gameboy etc. Live in the real world and create your own games for a week.
Cherished mobile phone. It probably won’t have a signal, and it possibly will get lost.
More than £10 spending money as there’s almost nothing to buy.
Any fizzy drinks or energy drinks
Vast quantities of sugary rubbish

If you do bring valuables that get lost, soaked, broken or spoilt, hard cheese, tough luck and don’t say we didn’t warn you.