Things eventually seem to be returning to their usual pattern and, after a gap of several years, we were able to get back to our normal expedition cycle.
14 students, mostly L6, took part in the trip to South Wales, to put their newly acquired skills into practice. We had a wide range of experience with a mixture of seasoned campaigners who had been through both Bronze and Silver as well as a sprinkling of neophytes.
After a quick kit check, we loaded the bus and were off over the Severn to the Black Mountains. Here we were greeted by rather damp conditions and the usual veneer of viscous red mud. Tents were popped up quickly prior to all heading off in groups for an instructed navigation refresher and shake down. After supper and a spot of route planning for the following day, dusk had settled and the rain had cleared, allowing for a bit of night time micro-navigation round the valley bottom, teaching everyone the importance of timings and tick off features.
The next morning saw everyone being ferried round to Crickhowell, from where the two teams had fantastic ridge walks back to Capel y Ffin over the high point of Waun Fach. The weather continued to be decidedly mixed with regular April showers and dense banks of cloud giving low visibility to keep everyone on their toes.
Maundy Thursday eventually saw the groups out of bed and leaving Chapel Farm to head up over Twumpa to Gospel Pass and then follow the long ridge of Offa’s Dyke, straddling the Welsh-English border, before dropping down to Llanthony Priory. The ruins here were as picturesque as ever with seasonal lambs gambolling next to the campsite, flowers blooming in the hedges and finally some sun to cheer everyone up.
On Good Friday a slightly shorter but more challenging set of routes brought everyone back to the pick-up point in good time for a well-deserved celebratory crème egg. All the happy campers squeezed on board before falling asleep for the drive back to School and the greatly anticipated joys of Trangia cleaning and tent drying.
Lots of lessons were learnt and we will be able to have a good chat about how everyone can make life easier for themselves in the qualifying venture at the end of the summer. Where are we headed? The jury is still out, but votes seem to be divided between Dartmoor and the Brecon Beacons. Watch this space for their final decision.
Finally – many thanks to Julian and Jay Money for their good humour and help on the trip.