On Monday morning 108 extremely excited children were waved off from school on their three coaches as they left for their week’s residential at Ilam Hall Youth Hostel in the Derbyshire Peak District. Despite busy traffic on the motorways and a longer than usual journey the children all arrived in high spirits.
After the long coach journey, the children needed to burn off their energy – and there could be no better way than to climb either Thorpe Cloud or Bunster Hill! Coming from Essex they never really anticipated the steepness of the gradients involved, but all were determined to succeed. Collapsing at the top they drank in the amazing views of the countryside around and the almost complete lack of human civilisation.
That evening, back at Ilam Hall, the children had their first taste of hostel food and were greatly impressed. There was a great choice of delicious food was on offer! It was then time to unpack their luggage and make their beds – quite an ‘interesting’ experience for some children!
Tuesday began with dry weather and after a cooked breakfast the children left on their coaches to Castleton. The morning was spent exploring the famous Blue John Caverns, the only place in the world where the gemstone ‘Blue John’ is found and the afternoon involved a hike up Mam Tor with a further walk along the mountain ridge overlooking the start of the famous Pennine Way.
Back at the hostel that evening the children had plenty of time to explore the facilities and the picturesque play areas outside!
Wednesday was a day of two halves. By now the weather had taken a turn for the worse, but at West Leigh we never allow wet weather to put us off! Half the day was spent visiting Chatsworth House followed by an exploration of the gardens. Special highlights for the children were finding their way in (and then out!) of the maze and then ‘paddling’ in the water cascades! The other half of the day was a cycle (in the driving rain!) along the Tissington Trail (now a nature trail but originally the London to Manchester Railway Line) – the only activity all week involving level ground and no steep gradients. Who would have thought that being covered in mud could be so much fun?
By Thursday the week was quickly approaching its end, but a day at Alton Towers ensured that energy levels remained at 100%. Seven hours at the country’s most popular theme park meant that the children had plenty of opportunities to head for their favourite rides and because of the wet weather the theme park was wonderfully quiet. Oblivion, Nemesis, Smiler, Galactica, Rita, Thirteen … these were all popular destinations and were discussed many times over and in great detail throughout the whole evening!
And finally came Friday. By now the staff needed to shake the children awake. Cases needed to be packed, beds unmade and rooms emptied before our final hike of the trip. Despite the unseasonal weather it had been a fantastic week - exciting activities, delicious food, amazing scenery - but most important was that the children were such good company and impeccably behaved - a credit to West Leigh and a credit to their parents.