The Perse School

Year 10 pupil wins Outdoor Pursuits writing competition

11 Mar 2014

Year 10 pupil, Fiona McBride has won this month’s ‘Inspiring Trails’ competition; a writing competition organised by the Perse Outdoor Pursuits Department. The competition aims to get pupils writing about an outdoors experience they’ve had outside of school, and to inspire other pupils to get out into the great outdoors.

Fiona wrote an excellent piece recounting a trip to Lake Windermere that she made with her Guide troupe. The judging panel from the Outdoor Purstuits Department praised the piece as being “An honest and lighthearted account of the ups and downs of a trip to Lake Windermere filled with vivid description and insight. Though not a description of a recent trip, the story is worthy of this month’s prize.”

Read Fiona’s fantastic account entitled A Little Paddle below.

“Last August, eight young leaders from Guide units across the county (and Suzanne and Neil, our two leaders) travelled, by decrepit minibus, from the glamorous Milton Tesco Car Park to Fell Foot, on the southern shore of the Lake District’s Windermere. The plan: canoe across Windermere, hike across the fells and complete a short journey on Ullswater, returning home on Monday.

At Fell Foot, we were greeted by Matt, our Mountain Leader, canoe coach and gear supplier. He presented us with one (washed) mango chutney barrel each and announced that we had to fit all of our gear into it. Panic and arguments followed.

After a small amount of faffing with buoyancy aids (“but I can swim!”) we set float on Windermere. Some headed straight across the lake, while others insisted their less-than-perfect steering was in the cause of scenic detour. We stopped in the middle for “games” – traumatising your partner by making them stand up, then wobbling the boat as Matt introduced them personally to the lake.

Once we’d arrived at Lakeside, our campsite for the evening, one girl discovered that she had been bitten by a tick. We then noted the signs warning of a recent case of Lyme’s Disease. After finally removing it in two sections, Matt appeared and told us it should have been left to swell to make it easier to remove.

We set up our tipi, got excited about tents you can stand up in, and started cooking. We had dinner and admired the reflection in the lake of the sun sliding behind the mountains.

The next morning, we packed up and set off across Windermere. The plan had been to paddle, but the weather was in our favour: the wind was strong, and in approximately our direction of travel. We rafted our canoes into two arrowheads and had a sail race across half of the lake for lunch at an ice cream shop. After wiping the chocolate off our faces, we continued our journey. One raft took it in turns to have siestas, while the other (Matt’s raft) gave each other showers with the bailers. This was the favourite means of travel for the entire trip: fast, effortless and not at all vomit-inducing.

On Sunday, we awoke to find a lake descending on us from above. Although some members of the group were keen to hike regardless, a small amount of 3G signal allowed us to ascertain that rain was likely to persist for the entire day and also that it was very wind on top of the hills we would be climbing. We took the decision to travel to the next campsite by minibus and take things from there.

We arrived after a nauseating journey along twisty roads to find the weather at our campsite was perfect, if slightly breezy. Matt led a hike up the nearest fell to a cave where, legend has it, priests used to hide. We didn’t find any priests, but an excellent view of the fells. On the way down, one girl made a hole in her leg with a rock, but she was perfectly happy once we’d stuck it back together.

On our final morning, we were woken by the sound of heavy precipitation. We went back to sleep. Eventually, Suzanne came in with hot chocolate and invited us to get up. We discussed plans, and most (but not all) of the group were more than happy not paddling.

As it happened, the majority made the better call. The combination of the bus’s 56 mph speed limit, its lack of windscreen heater and the steadily worsening weather increased our journey time. We arrived in Cambridge at our original ETA, despite leaving two hours early.”

Well done Fiona!

We look forward to hearing more accounts of the great outdoors over the coming months from our pupils taking part in the competition.

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