October half term week saw 18 Cadets and 9 Staff travel from all over Thames Valley Wing (TVW) to the National Air Cadet Adventure Training Centre (NACATC), Windermere for a week of Adventure Training in the spectacular landscape of the Lake District.
The primary aim of the Centre is to provide facilities for cadets to participate in adventure training in terrain more demanding than that normally found in their local area. Taking full advantage of the facilities and equipment available from the centre, the TVW cadets were able to have a go at mountain walking, wild camping, canoeing, indoor wall climbing and outdoor rock climbing, orienteering, geocaching and mountain biking.
The week began with a shakedown walk through Kentmere Valley to the reservoir testing map reading and navigation. A wealth of qualified staff made it possible to split the cadets into three teams allowing for a better training opportunity.
Fears, tears and cheers on Monday as the cadets experienced a nerve testing day of outdoor climbing at Hutton Roof Crags with enough qualified and experienced staff to run a selection of character building climbs and a challenging abseil. Nelson Mandela once said ‘I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it’ For those cadets who found themselves miles outside their comfort zone, Monday turned out to be a very triumphant day.
Tuesday morning training was centre based with a rotation of practical lessons on tents, routes and cooking on trangias. Straight after lunch, expedition ruck sacks were loaded and on the wettest day of the week, the mini buses set off for the foot of Blencathra. After half an hour waiting in the car park for torrential rain to ease, the vehicles were abandoned and everyone set off up the sodden mountain path to Scales Tarn where the tents were erected. The cadets were then able to put their trangia training in to practice and everyone enjoyed a starlit evening meal. As the temperature dropped in a blanket of darkness, it was probably the first time since nursery school that the cadets were willingly in bed before seven.
Very early on Wednesday morning the group re-emerged to a glorious pink sunrise and set about producing their breakfast as warm sunshine gradually spread itself over the hillside. Kit was packed and everyone set off for the peak where the obligatory group photo was taken before heading back down to the buses. Homemade soup and hot showers back at the centre were followed by a quick trip to Ambleside for a browse in the outdoor shops. After dinner, everyone retired to the communal area to watch an awe-inspiring film about a climbing expedition in The Arctic.
Thursday’s weather forecast offered the best chance of a paddle so the group was split in half and kitted out with buoyancy aids and wet suits. The first team made their way to Waterhead and paired up in open boat canoes for a trip down the River Rothay and some white water excitement. The second group spent the morning at Kendal Climbing Centre improving their monkey skills in the dry. Some carefully planned logistics allowed a half time swap so everyone was able to enjoy both activities. Two of the afternoon group enjoyed the white water so much they decided to go for a swim in it!
The final day of activities was a three way split in Grizedale Forest comprising Geocaching, Orienteering and Mountain Biking. Three teams rotated around each activity and picked up the only injury of the week on the very last session when one of the mountain bikers took flight over his handle bars. Thankfully the helmet and goggles did their job and he just ended up with some grazing to his cheek and a bruised shoulder. Once he’d been checked over and declared ok, in true adventurous spirit, he was straight back on his bike and completed the activity. Back at the centre the last night activities included paper plate awards and a Halloween themed cake decorating contest.
Whilst the primary focus of the week was AT, the camp also provided other experiences for the cadets. During the evenings they helped in the kitchen preparing for dinner, cleaning up afterwards and preparing lunches for the next day. WO Debbie Lowe even provided some additional training in the kitchen and under her expert guidance the cadets were able to assist with cooking the meals and baking cakes for the packed lunches. In addition, two cadets completed the residential section of their Gold DofE Award during the week by assisting key staff with essential duties.
Camp Commandant, FO Jane Wicks said “the staff team have worked really hard to plan and deliver a jam packed programme offering a varied range of activities. The cadets took full advantage of every opportunity, which I know for some will be life changing. My personal thanks and admiration to Flt Lt Martin Christleib, FO Alex Pye, WO Ian Lowe, WO Debbie Lowe, Sgt Rik Walsh, CI Mark Beasley, CI Carl Sprake and my tent buddy CI Teresa Archer.”