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Ilam Hall

Early on Monday morning, before the start of the school day, three coaches contraining 108 extremely excuted children were waved off from West Leigh by parents and staff as they left for their week's residental to Ilam Hall Youth Hostel in the Peak District National Park. Despite somewhat busy traffic on the M25 and M1, together with miles and miles of roadworks, the children arrived in high spirits.

After such a long coach journey, the children needed to stretch their legs and burn off some of their energy – and nothing could be better than the steep ascents of Thorpe Cloud and Bunster Hill! Living in Essex, they never truly anticipated the gradients involved, but all were fiercely determined to succeed. Collapsing at the top, they drank in the amazing views of the countryside and an almost complete lack of human civilisation.

That evening, back at Ilam Hall, the children enjoyed their first taste of hostel food. Following the briefing, it was then time to unpack their luggage and make their beds – quite an ‘interesting’ experience for some children! Later that evening, there was plenty of time to explore the hostel facilities and the huge, picturesque play areas outside!

Tuesday was a day of two halves. By now the weather had become unusually warm for the Peak District; after months of wet and chilly weather, summer had eventually arrived! Half the day was spent visiting Chatsworth House followed by an exploration of the gardens. Particular highlights for the children were finding their way in (and then out!) of the maze and then getting a soaking under the Emperor Fountain by the lake! The other half of the day was a cycle along the Tissington Trail (now a nature trail but originally the London to Manchester Railway Line) – the only activity all week involving fairly level ground and no steep gradients. A welcome change for the staff this year was the recent introduction of electric bikes; suddenly the usual exhausting activity became quite leisurely. No such luxury for the children, but they needed to benefit from the true experience. It’s all character building!

Wednesday was once again a day of very warm weather and after a cooked breakfast the children left on their coaches to Castleton and the Hope Valley. 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.

On Thursday, the sun was shining on us all for Alton Towers. The week was quickly approaching its end, but a day at the world-famous theme park ensured that energy levels remained at 100%. Seven hours here meant that the children had plenty of opportunities to head for their favourite rides - Oblivion, Nemesis, Smiler, Galactica, Rita, Thirteen, Wicker Man … these were all popular destinations and were discussed many times over and in great detail throughout the whole evening!

And finally came Friday and the end of the trip. By now it was taking more than a knock on the door to wake the children! Cases needed to be packed, beds unmade and rooms emptied before our final hike around the Manifold Valley. It had been a fantastic week without a drop of rain - exciting activities, lots of fun with friends, amazing scenery - but most important was that the children remained such good company and well behaved - a credit to West Leigh and a credit to their parents.


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