58 Year 9 students participated in the Rhos-y-Gwaliau visit in June. The idea of the week is to disconnect from technology, get to know people in the year group and appreciate the beauty of exploring the outdoors, taking part in a range of activities from wild camping, raft building and sailing.
All 5 groups had the fun of a mini-expedition. True to form, the Welsh weather was not on our side and the students faced wind and rain as they climbed the Welsh mountains. Everything had to be carried; their home for the night, dry clothes, food and of course the optional luxuries, such as a fresh pair of underwear! The students took on this challenge brilliantly; there were heavy rucksacks to be carried and tough hills to climb. Blisters popped up within all the groups, but every student made it to their camp for the night. A small gale was blowing as the students learnt how to safely cook on a trangia in order to have a well-earned pasta packet meal! After a chilly night in the tents, all groups did an excellent job of showing their respect for the environment; as the groups left their camps, it looked as though no-one had ever been there. Another tough descent down, it was then time for much needed showers before the raft-building competition. This was serious stuff, with just four blue barrels, rope and wooden slates to prepare the much needed support to get a whole team floating towards the buoy in the lake. Sadly, most barely made it off the shore…
Sailing and kayaking were different challenges again; for some the coldness of the water after they fell in left them breathless and for others they were a little slow when a loud ‘DUCK’ was shouted as the boom was making their way towards their head. However, after a practice in both skills, all the team members managed to sail out across the lake and play confidently in their kayaks. Any fear of the cold water was soon dissipated and all they wanted to do was get in and swim.
Mining and gorge walking were the final challenges for the teams. Aspects of rock climbing, crawling around in a dark underground cave and working as a team to pull people through a gorge, really saw the best of the students. Some of the quietest members of the team were now leading students up at the front, shouting words of encouragement for those who were nervous about climbing up a dark wall that had a waterfall flowing down it. The gorge was full and slippery due to the rain that Wales had, had, but they offered their hands and helped ensure every single team member got through. There was a lot of excited chatter on the gorge walking evenings as everyone shared their stories of falling into the water.
It was a fantastic week which saw students grow in confidence, try new activities that they had never been involved in before, work as a team with people they had never really got to know and disconnect from technology from one week; conversation really developed between the students when they did not have a piece of technology in their hands. I hope that they remember the skills that they have learnt and transfer them to everyday life, as well as pick up some of the new sporting activities they tried in Wales.