By Shahab Mossavat – 7th April
So after a comfortable train journey, and a happy early evening for Craig – Liverpool managed to see off a spirited West Ham – we arrived at Pooley Bridge just before 7pm on Sunday.
The folks at Outward Bound had made a booking for us at the Sun Inn, a lovely olde worlde kind of tavern.
For such a small place (population about 200) it certainly has a wide choice of places to eat; no fewer than four restaurants. These serve what I would call entry level gastronomy; delicious but not adventurous. The menu at the Pooley Bridge Inn (just across the road from the Sun Inn) was the only one with a duck starter, and since duck is both Craig and my favourite meat, we decided to eat there. It proved an inspired choice, the confit of duck’s leg was sensational; perfectly seasoned and crispy on the outside, moist on the inside.
After dinner, Craig and I went back to the B&B, and long before Match of the Day 2 started we were both asleep. I was roused at about 11 O’clock by John Motson getting very excited about Fulham scoring a second goal, and then getting quite annoyed at how they missed a ‘sitter’ for a third, and then I fell asleep again. My bed was so soft, it felt like it was going give way at any moment, and I kept waking. The next time I woke up, everything was very dark, so I thought it must be nearing morning, I got up, only to discover it was a Quarter-to-One. Finally after several other ‘false dawns’, I finally got out of bed at 7am.
After a quick but substantial breakfast, we made a four-mile taxi journey for which we were charged an extortionate £29.
The first person we met was Kevin one of the instructors at the Howtown Outward Bound Centre. He offered us a warm drink and asked us to wait until our accommodation could be sorted out.
Meanwhile, Uisdean (pronounced a bit like Euston, only stretched out a bit), turned up and introduced himself as one of the instructors who would be taking one of our two groups for the week. He is one of those rare people who is immediately likeable. After thirty years in the British Army, and with five kids, he is in remarkable shape; he won’t mind me saying: “as fit as butcher’s dog”; Uisdean has a thing about dogs. He has a wolf-like seven month old German Shepherd puppy, who standing on its hind-legs can plant it front paws on his shoulders. Uisdean is at least 6’5″ tall.
The group from Phoenix High weren’t due to arrive until 1:30pm, so the best part of the morning and early afternoon was spent planning the program. Craig and I shared a lot of the information we had gathered from our contact with Phoenix with Uisdean and the other instructors who now arrived. These are Fiona who is in overall charge of the Centre, Alex, the Course Director, who is in overall charge of this week’s courses; another Alex who is the attached instructor to Phoenix’s second group, and Andy who is an assessor.
After many traffic jams, delays, and witnessing a crash on the baleful M6, Phoenix arrived at the Howtown at just after 2pm.
They received a rapid orientation, which included room allocation, and kit being issued. Then at about 4pm the activities began.
A wonderfully simple, but amazingly affective trust building exercise involving a tennis ball was followed by the more the arduous task of tackling an assault wall. At just over 9feet (2.5m) high, the youngsters had to devise a strategy not just to get themselves over, but how to drag me, and their teacher, Ms (Jess) Lacheta over too. This they did with consummate ease. Unconsciously, they employed strategies that Uisdean had begun feeding them subliminally. These are called the Kolb method. They involve planning prior to action. These young people are amazingly adept at working together; so much so that they managed to get yours truly over the wall, without too much fuss – all 14 stones of me.
We then went for what is euphemistically called a “Jog and Dip”. This is literally trotting down to the almost-freezing Ullswater and then going in, up to your waist. While there Uisdean was telling us about the origins of Outward Bound, and how this ritual was the very first thing that the pioneers of OB – merchant sailors on the Atlantic Convoys carrying food to a beleaguered, starving Britain – has gone through in 1941, to prepare them for the possibilities of being stranded at sea.
Back at the Centre and with our wet clothes removed, we had our dinner at the ridiculously early hour of 5:45pm.
All groups on Outward Bound are given names after eminent explorers. After dinner, my group, now called Arkless – after noted mountaineer Brede Arkless – and Craig’s group called Muir- after 19th Century, American backwoodsman, John Muir gathered in the courtyard. Muir went off on a night walk up one of the nearby mountains, while Arkless guided by Night Duty Manager, Sam began to ‘Pack and Prepare’. As tomorrow we (Arkless) are going on our overnight expedition. This will involve a long trek up a mountain called Place Fell, and on to a camping site where led by Uisdean, we will camp for the night.
For now I wish all my readers a very happy good night, and as I get ready to go to bed, all I can say is that I have rarely felt I needed to go there, so much.