The Perse School

Perse Exploration Society Summit 11 Field Weekend

13 Mar 2014

DSCF5011Early on Friday morning, 47 students of the Perse Exploration Society Summit 11 group gathered. This would be their second and final weekend of training prior to departing for Sweden in the latter part of the Summer Term.

After a thorough kit check the group departed by minibus and van convoy totalling six vehicles for the long journey up the A14 and M6. The group’s eventual destination was the YMCA Lakeside National Centre which has unenviable beachside access to the vast body of water that is Lake Windermere. This is the first time that YMCA Lakeside has been used as a training location, however it proved to be an excellent replica of the conditions students will face on the lakes in Sweden with mixed woodland, open meadow and lake frontage.DSCF5016

On arrival, students broke off into their Fires (groups) and quickly assembled camp comprising a central large group tarp and individual personal tarps. A tarp is simply a sheet of plastic which can be arranged in various ways to provide shelter. The whole aim of Summit 11 is to experience nature and the wild up close, and so no tents are allowed!

With such a short space of time in which to train, students immediately unpacked the boats, donned buoyancy aids and headed out onto the lake with our canoe guides, Jim and Paul. After an action packed day students cooked chicken curry, to varying standards, and then went to bed for a well-earned rest.

Saturday promised to be the key training day and the group woke to some glorious weather. However the wind was up and the students were about to encounter the hidden challenge of open water paddling. Though lakes certainly look more benign than white water rivers, the wind presents a significant hazard which students were soon to encounter. After some complex rafting arrangements to ensure that boats did not capsize on white capped waves, the group set out south down the lake into the wind. Very quickly students realised the impact of the wind and honed their steering skills. Any that didn’t and went broadside to the wind very quickly found themselves going backwards.

After a morning of arduous paddling, the group arrived at Fellfoot, a National Trust owned park where the groups made lunch and viewed the distance covered by the morning’s efforts. For some it was a disappointing distance but the lesson regarding the wind had been learned. Any disappointment was quickly forgotten however, as after lunch students where taught the art of canoe sailing and hoisted their tarps for a quick return to camp. After a very enjoyable and speedy journey, students set about preparing a dinner of pasta bolognese which was followed by a quiz and songs around the campfire.

Sunday morning was spent practising knotting skills, fire lighting and solo paddling skills. All too soon the weekend was over and students had to return by minibus to school. Throughout the weekend the students worked very hard to improve their skills and the instructors and staff very much look forward to working alongside this year’s Summit 11 team on the summer expedition to Sweden.

Here’s also a video clip of the group out on the open water! We hope you enjoy watching.

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