Year 7's Ridgeway Adventure.
Highfield buzzed with activity early on Sunday morning as the party gathered ready for the coach journey to Gatwick.
The short flight was smooth and uneventful and we soon boarded our next coach for the journey across the top of Scotland to the Ridgway Adventure Centre. During the journey, we were exposed to some strange droplets of moisture falling from the sky! The first rain we had seen for weeks but certainly not the last!
The rain subsided for the walk to the centre and everyone quickly found their dorms and moved their bags in time for a filling and delicious supper. Afterwards the children were taken to a high point behind the centre from where they could see all the places where they would be spending time over the coming days.
Our first day started with a run or a swim followed by a hearty breakfast and chores before getting into the main activities of the day: climbing or kayaking or learning about fire and food.
The weather conditions were good for walking on mountain day, but not brilliant for seeing the countryside. As we climbed higher and moved into the cloud, we spent many a happy hour walking with the raindrops for company, but without much of a view!
Once the second summit had been reached we headed back by a more direct, and significantly steeper, route. There were a few tumbles on the way but all made it safely down without serious incident. The children had walked further than any past Highfield group, and in very good time. According to my iPhone, we walked 23.1km, 32,131 steps and ascended 182 flights in about eight hours. There were many tired faces back at base but also a real sense of achievement.
Unsurprisingly the children ate well and headed to bed happily. Next day, the activities were Lobster Creel Lottery/Rowing Boat, shelter-building, climbing and kayaking. The children were fascinated to hear about how John Ridgway rowed across the Atlantic in 92 days in 1966 with some pretty primitive equipment by modern standards, although I’m not sure they were particularly ground-breaking back then!
We hauled up a very good selection of brown crabs, including a couple of whoppers, velvet swimming crabs, starfish, sea urchins and the ever prized lobster from the bottom of the loch. Everyone took the chance to take a look at these wonderful creatures.
Next came the Search to Survive orienteering exercise over a vast area of the headland behind the centre. The children
had to use maps to locate posts scattered far and wide over a mixture of terrain. The children worked in small teams to identify the best route between points and then gathered as a whole to share letters collected at the points. They then had to use these 17 clues to work out a four-digit code to unlock a box. This activity gave the children their first taste of self-regulating an activity to help them learn how to work together, manage risk and divide tasks effectively ahead of Surviving Island.
Whilst half the children were competing against one another on the orienteering course, the others were building and racing rafts. The children were given a raft design and shown how to tie the knots to hold it together to greatly reduce the chance of structural failure.
With the rafts built it was time to race! Race 1 involved depositing a teacher on a pontoon in the middle of the loch before returning to shore. Race 2 had the second half of the team rescuing their teacher and bringing them back to dry land. In the morning the teams were determined to race and all efforts were put into paddling hard and straight but in the afternoon there was quite a different approach, including splashing and blocking manoeuvres and even some attempts at boarding the enemy’s vessel with the intent to abduct a crew member or two! Very exciting to watch!
With these activities completed it was time for the big one - Survival Island! I can’t really say much about what went on the island as teachers stay back at base but all children made it back safely, still attached to ten fingers and toes! We saw the children from a distance as we kayaked round the island and they were collecting their kit from where it had been dumped earlier in the day, building shelters and lighting fires, so we knew that the important tasks were in hand.
The final day was spent on the beach at Oldshoremore in good weather. Some took things easy, whilst others were in the sea body-boarding, splashing about or playing beach cricket or volleyball. Later in the day the official fun began with games of capture the flag and tug of war battles. We also took time to do a beach sweep to collect up bits of plastic, strands of rope or fishing net - part of the ‘leaving places and people better than we find them’ ethos of the trip.
Back at base, it was time to do some packing before a supper of haggis, tatties and neeps, followed by the concert evening before some free time and bed.
Our final morning involved all the children cleaning their dorms and making their beds ready for the next school. The boys and girls did a good job so, parents, don’t be afraid to ask them to get cleaning!
My thanks to the staff who joined me this year, it couldn’t happen without you, and to all at Ridgeway who work so hard to make this trip so successful and memorable for all those who are lucky enough to be part of the Year 7 Scotland Trip