Every year, I take roughly sixty children on an adventure holiday to Moorland Hall near Tavistock in Devon and, each time, have a wonderful time with the children and the amazing instructors. It’s incredible to have the opportunity to experience activities which I would otherwise find really challenging to organise due to lack of funding and time.
This year was particularly exciting as it all felt like excellent training for the adventures ahead. This post is as brief a roundup as a naturally garrulous person can manage with a few of my favourite pictures.
Having arrived and ‘unpacked’ after a taxing five hour journey from London, I was all up for my free meal and an early night but this was not on the plan. A hot meal, yes, in which I naturally over indulged to be then told I had to get into my ‘togs’ (trying to pick up some NZ lingo) for a hike up into the moor with the sole purpose of jumping into a freezing cold river pool. Not one to be outdone by the children or any of the men in the group, I bounded straight in and dunked my head under what felt like glacial waters. I then put on a brave face and had a giggle with the kids before drying off and crawling into eight layers of clothing.
The next day was spent on a stunning hike through Cornish countryside. We began at the church where Thomas Hardy, then architect, met his future wife and wound though open fields and woodlands peppered with wildflowers in full bloom before ending at Boscastle Harbour. After a well-earned lunch we drove to Widemouth Bay for an afternoon of ‘surfing’ (I definitely bottled it and stuck with the body-boarders) on the boisterous waves. We ended with a BBQ further along the beach, watching the sun sink and playing beach games.
After all of that physical exertion, what would you hope for most? A hot shower, clean hair and a cosy bed? Tough luck! Bedtime involved camping out with thirty freezing children under a monstrous tarpaulin – completely open to the elements at both ends. This really was beginning to seem like perfect training and got me thinking about the kit that I would take with me. Can I get by with a bivvy bag and a tarp or should I go for a one man tent? This is definitely one for further research and a future blog post. Despite being woken up at least fifteen times during the night by children too nervous to venture into the darkness to relieve themselves, I loved the whole thing. Trundling back to my sleeping bag after returning a child to the safety of their warm bed, I paused to look up at the sky. There is something about a clear night sky that never fails to take my breath away. Surely the positives of the ride are going to outweigh the challenges if I can focus in on these pleasures.
Wednesday morning was spent hiking up Tors, reminding me at every incline of the huge climbs I am going to face whilst I am away but providing the reward of spectacular views. In the afternoon, I took a ‘leap of faith’ with the children and made a feeble attempt at the high ropes course. This has made me more determined on the saving front – I can’t leave NZ without experiencing a sky dive or bungee. Leaving my purse in the pub on Friday night was a cunning start to the saving plan… oops.
The activities on Thursday were what I had been waiting for – gorge walking and mountain biking. Pulling a wetsuit on for the second time in a week and spending two hours in the River Tavy, crawling over boulders and launching myself head first through tight squeezes was ridiculous fun and I loved sharing it with children I’ve known for three years, helping them to push themselves.
But the afternoon – cycling! Hooray! I couldn’t wait. It quickly became apparent just how different the skill of mountain biking is in comparison to road riding and I loved bouncing over the rocks and roots, pedalling through muddy puddles and zipping along bridleways. This was however the moment that I felt disappointed on the trip for the first time. I guess I now know how my roadie friends would feel if I dragged them out for a ride. I have never been significantly better than the children at any of the activities before and have always felt really challenged and I really just wanted to press on. I did still love the afternoon – the sun peeked out from behind the clouds for the last half an hour and it was actually quite rewarding to realise how much my fitness has improved since beginning my long rides in February. Having a bike that didn’t enjoy the granny cog also made matters slightly more challenging but when we arrived back at base, I was itching for more.
Fortunately, this was the first evening where all of the staff were back at the ranch together, which meant that I had an opportunity to steal an accomplice and pop out for a quick spin on the moors with a great teaching pal. The bike I borrowed had a huge comfort saddle and I will definitely be looking in to replacing my painful perch before attempting 4,000 miles of undercarriage agony.
All that was left was to pack up and return to school. Ridiculously, I left my purse in the pub (a friend has it and I will get it back on Monday) but this means getting to support the amazing Lucy in her Mitie London Revolution Sportive is going to be tricky. I really want to be there as she has been a great sounding board for all aspects of the NZ trip, so I best get started with planning a route!