The Ullswater experience

Ullswater never disappoints: raw beauty, proper weather and Block 3s discovering what they can do – both working in teams and individually. In their groups of ten, expertly led by an outward bound instructor and overseen by a Bedales teacher, they spend the first day learning about working together – some relatively simple problem-solving exercises in the beautiful grounds of the outward bound centre on the edge of Ullswater soon give way to more stretching ones – the physically and mentally challenging high pole and Jacob’s Ladder – both difficult anyway but made more so by winds gusting to 40 mph+ on Monday. Away from the centre, gorge-walking gets the thumbs up. Camping this year happens but because of the weather it’s either in a tent, close to a farm and some proper shelter (in case the tents can’t take it) or higher up with with a basic mountain refuge for shelter rather than a tent. The formula has evolved over the 25 years we’ve been going there but, year in year out it often proves to be a galvanizing experience for the year group – there’s nothing like having to work together to get to know people, so boarders and day, Dunhurst and other feeder schools – a good jumble. For me, it’s a chance to see them in action and start to get to know them over the better part of two days I am there. A real treat for me and for two dogs who have an even more interesting time than they do at home – lots of people to meet and, if your instincts incite you, sticks to pull out of a very choppy Ullswater.