May 2013 saw cadets and staff from across Thames Valley Wing put the corps motto Venture Adventure into practice at our National Air Cadet Adventure Training Centre Llanbedr, North Wales.
A sunny start to the summer has seen the Wing rife with adventure training opportunities from squadrons out walking in the sunshine, to indoor climbing and the Wing Adventure Training day that took place 2 weeks ago where we enjoyed a day of climbing and canoeing. All this has meant a busy few months for the Adventure Training staff, all this fun however kicked off on the 18th of May with the staff being joined at Edward Brooke Barracks by 4 eager cadets from all over the Wing. Cadets Joe Morrison, Tom Barnden, Libby Parsons and Emma Popovic were about to be immersed in a week of nonstop adventure training. Here is how the week went for them.
The mini bus hit its top speed of around 50mph on the motorway and we were all off up to Llanbedr, a small seaside town located on the Anglesea coastline in North Wales, just on the edge of the mighty Snowdonia National Park. Snowdonia is home to every type of adventurous activity from mountain walking and climbing, to white water or sea kayaking and lots and lots of mountain biking. Snowdonia has it all, and this was to be our playground for the next week. Arriving at the centre, which is located on the old RAF Llanbedr air base, everyone was given a short tour and after some food we were all kitted out in canoeing gear ready for the next day’s activity.
Day 1, and activities started early. A swift depart was needed and soon the bus was loaded with the canoeing gear and canoes and was trundling along up to Llyn Gwynant. Llyn is Welsh for lake and Llyn Gwynant is located at the bottom of the imposing amphitheatre of mountains that is the Snowdon horseshoe. Canoes unloaded and Plt Off Alex Pye and Flt Sgt Harding had the group warmed up and on the water learning the foundation paddling skills needed to be able to move the canoe around successfully. After lunch what followed could be called many things however I’m sure our instructors would prefer it to be called confidence games. After finding out who had the confidence to lean back and get their hair, and after falling in all of themselves, the wettest it was time for a spot of cooling off by jumping in the cooling water. More games followed however to tell all would be to give the game away, and that would be just unfair to know what to expect next year!
The second day dawned and although it was slightly cloudier than before we were all keen to get out of the centre early for a full day of kayaking. This time we headed to Llyn Padarn which is located in the town of Llanberis. This is the starting point of many great climbers in North Wales who, after a hearty breakfast in the legendry Pete’s Eats cafe, would go and make a name for themselves on the harsh North Wales rock both in the valley and in the slate quarries. We were not here to climb however and after being joined by CI Ollie Holman we were underway on the water in the shadow of the electric mountain. More skills and games were played with a fun game of polo soon becoming serious, especially when the “next goal wins” card was played by our ref Chris Harding. After lunch more games were played and we finished off our day learning how to rescue each other from the water. That evening in the centre there was a surprise as the cadets and staff learnt that all the fun and games were actually part of their British Canoe Union 1* awards and they had all passed, with some even meeting the standard to be awarded with their 2* award. A very well done and a victory pudding of chocolate tart and ice cream were well welcomed at dinner.
After the last 2 days activities it was time for Alex Pye and Chris Harding to leave us with home duties calling. So WO Ian Lowe Cpl (RAF) Rik Walsh and Ollie Holman seized another day of good weather to take everybody climbing. A shorter drive led us to the crag (rock face) we would be climbing at for the day. As we walked up to Upper Tier Tremadog the view of Barmouth and the Mawddach estuary became clear and we could even make out the RAF Tornado and Hawk jets flying into Snowdonia to practice their low level flying. While Ian Lowe was setting up the ropes Ollie Holman and Rik Walsh used the opportunity to pass on some climbing footwork skills to the cadets. These skills were soon put to the test when they were challenged on the graded rock climbs that had been selected. There was much grunting and focused grimaces on the faces of everyone but after defeating gravity everyone managed to make it too the top in some kind of style. The day was finished off with a fantastic abseil of over 25m, more fears being successfully conquered.
Today saw the staff being able to split down and offer a more tailored day. As the climbing team of Ian Lowe and Ollie Holman took Rik Walsh and Emma Popovic to the Barmouth slabs for a day of skills improving before their Climbing Wall Award assessments, everyone else headed off into the hills. Joe Morrison, Libby Parsons and Tom Barnden were joined by CI Josh Spencer (our newly qualified Mountain Leader) and Flt Lt Tom Churnside (our camp commandant and Walking Group Leader Award holder) for a day of micro navigation. Initial Expedition Training and map reading skills teach you how to navigate along paths and through fields, however micro navigation is the skill of being able to find small features that might allow you to find your tent at night in the hills. Everyone out walking was put through their paces by Josh and Tom and managed to navigate around from point to point successfully. Everyone headed back for an early dinner as, even though most people would be heading off home now, the day’s activities for us were only just beginning.
After packing up their walking rucksacks with tents and sleeping bags we departed for our wild camp. A walk up some 700m of Welsh mountains to a campsite in the dark would be enough to make anyone crack, but moral was kept high by Libbys nonstop moral boosting and the determination of all the cadets and staff. Arriving at the camp site we were met with the eerie sight of the wreckage of a crash RAF Canberra aircraft, after quiet respects were paid the pitching of the tents began. This is where things began to get “sporting” to quote Ollie Holman. No sooner than the tents were up the wind kicked up with a vengeance and then came the rain which as the temperature dropped turned to hail. Throughout the night tents were hit by gale force winds and hail however they held firm. The near indestructible Vango Force Ten tents held up and were hardly affected by the wind at all!
Morning broke and the conditions hadn’t improved but this did not deter anyone. After a surprisingly comfortable night’s sleep, a rushed breakfast in the wind, and a brew we were packing up and happened to notice that we had not spent the night alone on the mountain. There were several tents from the Army Adventure Training Centre at Capel Curig pitched not far from ours. When we say pitched this is more of an estimation of how they must have been the night before as most of the fly sheets had been ripped from the inners and the only thing keeping the tents on the ground were the people inside. All this was obviously due to poorly pitched tents, luckily our cadets stayed focused while pitching to ensure they were done properly.
Our days walk began with a little more up, only 200m but this was steep and in 50mph wind and hail. Everyone pushed through and we were soon on the mighty Cardeddau plateau. We battled the conditions to walk the well trodden path across the plateau, conditions were testing but manageable and everyone was still smiling as we headed down into the Ogwen valley via a short scramble. As we met up with our pre parked bus the Welsh conditions threw another type of weather at us. We had already had rain, hail and strong winds but now it was the time for clear blue skies and scorching sun. A bizarre place indeed. Waterproofs were ditched and a well earned brew and slice of cake were in order from the local town Betws Y Coed.
That evening it was decided that the cadets had excelled themselves in every single activity chosen, not only that but they had got stuck in with the day to day running of the centre and had well and truly won the respect of the staff. Because of this we decided it would be their choice what we could do on our last day. Whether it be slate mine tour, go-ape, climb or even just a rest day around the city of Caernarfon the choice was theirs, we should have known better however as they opted for a day indoor climbing.
A well earned rest meant a lazier start to the day and we eventually arrived at the Indefectible climbing wall. After a morning of games on the bouldering wall the cadets were let loose on the climbing wall, having already proven themselves very capable at all of the safety skills required. Cadets out-climbed weary staff and were racing up and down the climbing walls and abseil tower.
A completely relaxed day at the climbing wall paved the way for the end of week BBQ. After lighting the 9 or so bags or charcoal the burgers and hotdogs were cooking away and spirits were high even though energy was low. After gathering in the dining room the cadets had a surprise for the staff in the form of paper plate awards. Paper plate awards are awarded for memorable occurrences or nick names that have just stuck such as the “Baby Officer” award for Plt Off Luke Pepperell for being the junior officer or the . . . . Well we shall leave the awards at that and all that we can say for that one is “you had to be there”.
After the cadets had presented the awards it was the staffs turn, each cadet getting a certificate of attendance and couple of goodies to take away and use on their own adventures.
The last day, time to pack up, clean the centre and leave. Good time was made on the journey home and arriving back in Berkshire farewells were said, the staff convinced there were 4 new converts to adventure being returned.
The Llanbedr 2013 camp was a huge success, each cadet that attended developed their own skills both as a cadet, adventurer and person massively. We had excellent weather for the most and even on the days where the weather wasn’t so kind everyone just took it in the stride. The instructing staff managed to tailor the week so everyone got the best they could out of it. The only disappointment was all of the empty beds that could have been filled by more cadets. Having said that the cadets, as always, really did make the week fantastic. So a big thank you from the staff to cadets Tom Barnden, Joe Morrison, Libby Parsons and Emma Popovic for Llanbedr 2013.
I shall sign this report of the week off with a poem written by our camp commandant who’s first adventure training camp it was. Tom Churnside did a fantastic job of being our CC, well letting us get on with having an adventure and getting stuck in as much as anyone else.
Llanbedr 2013 was a hell of a week,
16 individuals with activities to seek.
Experience for followers of ML(s),
CWA hunters were put to the test.
There was Emma the climber,
And Joe out in front.
And Tom the flip flow dancer,
And Libby cheering him on.
The Naval contingent went paddling the Llyns,
Some came back with paddling star wins.
Climbers alike were put through their paces,
From the novice OC to cadet Flight Sergeant aces.
Instructors were patient and helped us progress,
Those who were leaning thrived on no rest.
Wild camping enjoyed in the wind and the hail,
The desire to achieve went beyond the pale.
In order to feed us whilst we tried to stay lean,
We all had the benefit of fantastic cuisine.
In addition to this we have a centre to maintain,
Keeping it spic and span has kept our good name.
So thank you to all for your strong dedication.
You deserve to have this short celebration