Block 3s’ Bedales journey begins at Ullswater


By Alexander Lunn, 6.2


It is all one chase.
Trace it back: the source
might be nothing more
than a teardrop
squeezed from a curlew’s eye,
then follow it down
to the full-throated roar
at its mouth:
a dipper strolls the river
dressed for dinner
in a white bib.
The unbroken thread
of the beck
with its nose for the sea,
all flux and flex,
soft-soaping a pebble
for thousands of years
or here
after hard rain
sawing the hillside in half
with its chain.
Or here,
where water unbinds
and hangs
at the waterfall’s face,
and just for that one
stretched white moment
becomes lace.
– Simon Armitage

I read ‘Beck’ by the poet laureate Simon Armitage shortly after disembarking the Ullswater minibus. Perhaps it was fatigue that compelled me to pick up a poetry book, but this poem really reminded me of Ullswater.

We did encounter many becks – Block 3s camped beside them, the rushing water the least of their problems – and we scaled ‘the waterfall’s face’, albeit in ridiculous wetsuits. If you replace ‘the sea’ in Armitage’s poem with ‘Lake Ullswater’, you have a description of this trip.

Ullswater 2019 really was an abrupt end to summer for the new Block 3s, what with the ‘hard rain’ and singular hash brown for breakfast. This sounds quite miserable, doesn’t it? Well, it wasn’t!

Northern weather is always expected to be far less superior than here in the South. Actually, I know for my tutor group, the bad weather brought people together. There was a general consensus as we were freezing whilst rowing or when the smaller members of our tutor group were almost being blown away near the foot of Helvellyn, that everyone was (literally) in the same boat, so we might as well get on with it!

And everyone did. I speak for every Block 3 tutor group. The week was marred by the weather, but what these Block 3s achieved is truly astounding. From ‘the source’, the menial tasks like organising kit rooms to the de-gunge at the end of the expedition, I’m sure everyone had worn a huge grin on their faces at some point. The Block 3s should be proud of themselves, as should the dozen 6.2 Badley Seniors who accompanied them.

Ullswater 2019 was a cyclical moment for me in my Bedales career. I remember Ullswater as a Block 3 vividly, from being dumped in a sail boat and half-rolling, half-falling down a hillside mid-expedition. (To be fair, the backpack was bigger than me!) The sixth formers who valiantly sacrificed their first week of their final school year had to endure creaky beds that had the authentic asylum experience and lacing up countless walking boots, although I’m sure everyone will say it was worth it.

To be back to where our Bedales journey started was super special. I know everyone has so many memories to share – more than I can put on one page. On the other hand, I bet the only thing that sticks out in the teachers minds is how loud we were every evening playing a notorious card game…