27 November 2023

Image of Derwent Hill

Day 1

After an early start in the drizzle, we all arrived at Derwent Hill in beautiful sunshine. All right, not quite beautiful sunshine but a lot brighter than Usworth. After meeting our course leader, Niv, the first challenge was to make our beds – more of challenge for some than others – before heading down for a fire drill and lunch. Fully fed and watered we each met our group leaders for the week and headed off for our first activities.

Group 1 headed straight for the stores and kitted out with some very fashionable tomato suits and boots, which were stashed in the cloakrooms. Following this, the guys headed out for a spot of orienteering in the grounds. Despite being given the hardest map to follow, Mr Warner was amazed with the skills all the groups had and the teamwork on show. Having completed the task so quickly, there was time to challenge themselves on the low ropes course. As the light started to fade, they headed back in and cleaned up ready for dinner. After dinner, it was off on the buses for the night walk. On reaching the end point, the group set off back to Derwent Hill, passing group 1 on the way before juice, biscuits and bed.

Group 2 collected some equipment from the bushcraft shed and headed out into the forest. First on the agenda was a spot of shelter building using thik sticks, rocks and leaves. Shelters built, the next task was to try their hands at fire starting some fires using cotton wool and flints and steels. After everyone had set their fires, they were rewarded with some marshmallows to toast and hot chocolate to drink. Once the fire was safely put out, it was back to the house, via a quick in the stores before dinner. Belly’s full, they headed out in the dark, complete with torches and high vis vests. Half way along, they passed group 1 before finally reaching the bus and heading back. Juice and biscuits were enjoyed in the common room whilst we discussed the days activities before off to brush teeth and settle down for bed. 

Group 3 followed group 1’s lead and set off to collect some gear from the stores before heading off for some orienteering of their own in the grounds. As with group one, the teamwork and map reading skills were top notch, enabling them to spend a spot of time on the low ropes course as well. After dinner, they also headed out on the night walk but headed for a different spot on the other side of Keswick on the banks of Derwent Water. Having parked up, they set of along the shore, with a spot of stone skimming across the lake, to Friar’s Crag. They then headed back through the forest to find the bus, carefully dodging the wild panthers on the way. Back at the centre it was the same as the other groups – juice, drink and off to bed.

Behaviour has been excellent so far and we are all looking forward to the first full day of activities tomorrow.

Day 2


Our first full day at Derwent brought us breath-taking views over Derwent Water as the sun rose, revealing a carpet of mist hanging over the water and glowing red clouds. With this as our backdrop, we all eagerly headed in for an enormous breakfast to build up energy ready for the day ahead. Stomachs full, we split into our activity groups ready for the day’s adventures.

Group 1 set about the task of packing a days’ worth of supplies for the hill climb. With plenty of spare clothes, food and some hot chocolate, they set off to Catbells. The climb started with a steep incline up the first hump of Catbells, often referred to as Kittenbells. Once they’d conquered the first hump and took a short break to take in the views(even spotting Group 3 on their canoeing adventure), it was on to the next part of the ascent. This involved a tricky scramble, requiring determination and resilience from the group. Once they reached the 450m summit above the clouds, they had a beautiful view of Derwent Water and the surrounding valleys. After a spot of lunch, they began their descent where they were joined by some special additions to the group – a herd of sheep! To reward them for their hard work, they took a trip to the café in the local village, Grange. The group enjoyed some well-earned hot chocolate and delicious cake before returning to the centre for some evening activities.

In similar fashion, group 2 also stocked up on supplies and headed off for their hill climb to Walla Crag. After a short trip to Ashness Bridge in the minibus, they began the ascent. While climbing they were spoilt with panoramic views of Derwent Water. The children were taken aback and couldn’t believe how lucky they were to be there. They had a quick bite to eat for some last-minute energy and then had one final push to reach the summit. Once again, they were in awe of the incredible view and also managed to spot the canoers from Group 3 on the lake. They then began their descent into Keswick where the children were able to purchase some well-earned sweets from the shop. A short stroll through the field, took them back to the centre where they were all glad to have a warm shower and cup of hot chocolate. They enjoyed sharing their favourite part of the day.

Group 3’s day began with a trip to collect their suits from the store and heading across to the marina for a morning on the lake. The conditions were excellent with no wind chill and a perfectly calm lake. With a quick induction on how to paddle forwards, backwards and turn in a 4-man canoe, they set off to Derwent Island. After a lot of team work to steer the canoe correctly, they circled the whole of Derwent Island. They then docked at One Tree Island, disembarking for an investigation of the island, followed by hot chocolate. They then attempted to paddle and stand at the same time – which ended fairly successfully! After the enormous amount of fun on the lake, the race was on to see who could get back the quickest. Once they had all arrived back safely, they had a short stop for some lunch at the centre. This was then followed by an afternoon on the High Ropes where everyone got a chance to test themselves, whether this was stepping two rungs higher than they felt they could or reaching the top and jumping off. The whole group should feel proud of their efforts.

The groups met back up for another huge meal of mash and tatties or curry and then got themselves ready for the Derwent Hill challenge evening. The children worked in 4 groups to complete a series of 5 challenges involving teamwork, determination and self-belief. Everyone excelled in these challenges with a win for Team Littleman! After a night of excitement, it was time for juice, biscuits and bedtime.

Day 3

Our second full day was a cold and frosty start, offering a very wintery view over Derwent Water. Despite the below freezing temperatures, everyone was ready for another fun day of activities. After a hearty breakfast all groups headed off to see what the day had in store. Everyone’s moods were buoyed by the appearance of a special guest visitor – none other than Mrs Forster herself!

First on the agenda for group 1 was a trip down to the stores, with Mrs Forster in tow, to get some buoyancy aids and paddles before the short walk to Derwent Marina. From here the group proceeded to lash together the canoes and prepared to set off across the water under a beautiful crisp winter sky. Both sets of canoes started off with some games to develop their control of the crafts before the race was on to reach One Tree Island (although many of the children were unhappy with this name as there was more than just the one). Mrs Forster was very pleased to inform any one that was interested (and many that weren’t) that it was her team that won the race!

Back on dry land, the team deposited their gear, filled their boots with food and set off for the high ropes challenge. Kitted out with helmets and harnesses, they listened intently to the safety instructions and learnt how to safely rope each other up and take the weight on the safety ropes to keep their teammates safe at all times. Once this was completed, the challenge was on. As with many of the activities, the challenge levels are different for all children depending on experience and confidence but every child came away feeling proud of what they had achieved, not least for forcing Mrs Forster to harness up and have an attempt.

After layering up, Group 2 began their day by heading off to Goldscope Mine. The children were dropped off at a nearby farm and took an icy walk up to the mine. Once they reached the mine, the children learnt about the galena that is mined out of the quartz. Using their torch light, they followed the tunnel into the mine and talked about what it would have been like to work in a mine using only candlelight. They were even challenged to turn their torches off and stand in total darkness to have the full experience! They then returned to the minibus and went back to the centre for lunch. Once they were fully refuelled, they layered up once more and followed a short path from the centre to Derwent Marina for a spot of canoeing. Paddles collected, they set off onto Derwent Water. They all worked as a team to find the most effective and efficient way to steer the canoe and supported each other in doing so. After a short race to reach One Tree Island, the children were able to enjoy a warming cup of hot chocolate and impressive views over the lake. They then began the short paddle back to shore, involving a competitive race. They worked together to put the canoes away and it was time to return for tea.

Group 3 collected the essential equipment and headed off to Walla Crag for their voyage up the mountain. They were dropped off at Ashness Bridge at the bottom of the lake and enjoyed the challenge the climb brought. Some fantastic teamwork brought them close to the summit however, unfortunately, events conspired against them and they were forced to return to the centre for lunch. With stomachs full and hot chocolate flasks replenished, the group set off for their second hill of the day. A short coach ride took them to the foot of Latrigg from where their second ascent commenced. More teamwork saw all of the group provided with stout walking sticks as they supported each other to the top, from where they were rewarded with an amazing panorama sweeping across Derwent Water, with the Imposing Cat Bells in the distance. Full of pride, the group picked their way down the hillside and made their way back to the centre ready for a quick spot of indoor orienteering before dinner.

Burger night was enjoyed by all and the children were eager to discover the evening activity. There was a choice of two options this evening: some stargazing and nature spotting in the grounds or some geographical fact finding indoors. The majority of children booted and layered up before heading into the sub-zero temperatures brandishing torches. Creeping down through to the riverbank, we spotted … absolutely nothing until finally an owl obliged just as we were leaving and shot off into the night sky. After heading up to the fields, we were again thwarted in our star gazing by the clouds. Luckily they did finally part a little to allow us an excellent view of the moon and Mirfak. Even though we couldn’t see a lot, the children were fascinated and asked us to post the name of the free stargazing app we were using so they could try at home (Skyview Lite). The children back in the house began by watching some nature documentaries before scouring the noticeboards, books and maps in the centre to discver as much as they could about the area around them.

Finally, it was time for some juice and biscuits alongside our daily debrief, where the children got to discuss who in their groups had helped and supported them today. It was then off to bed, ready for our last full day of activities tomorrow.

Day 4

Our last full day once again began with a beautiful view across Derwent Water, with mist clinging to the base of the mountains. A full breakfast was enjoyed again and the children were filled with eagerness to find out what our days activities would be.

Group 1 Gathered together to prepare for their visit to Honister Gill. Due to the sub-zero temperatures, a large amount of kit was required, including wetsuits, wellies, waterproofs and helmets. When finally kitted up, they set off in the minibus to Honister. A short walk from the car park saw the children in the gorge, testing their teamwork skills to the maximum to support each other over rocks, through pools and under fallen trees. Halfway up, the children who wanted to were able to really test themselves, crawling through a tunnel to access the next part of the gorge. In the second section, they were able to slide or jump into a pool under the waterfall (even Mr Warner was forced to participate). After splodging back to the bus, a quick lunch was taken before they set off into the grounds to test themselves on a bit of bushcraft skills. Flint and steels were used to help them light fires from scratch in order to warm up after the mornings exertions. Once a blazing fire was built, marshmallows were toasted and hot chocolate enjoyed to round off a thoroughly taxing day.

Group 2’s morning mirrored that of Group 1, with a very similar visit to Honister Gill. After lunch, the groups separated and Group 2 headed back to the stores for yet more equipment. Wetsuits were returned and exchanged for harnesses as the children prepared to test themselves on the big swing. Following a theme of the whole trip, the group rallied around to support and encourage each other to push themselves further than they thought possible. Teams of children helped belay the climbers up, whilst others worked as a safety team to unhook children after their swing. With the light fading, the final jump was made and the children headed back to warmth.

Group 3 mirrored Group 1’s day, with a spot of bushcraft in the morning. Some excellent survival skills were shown with some of the best fires I have seen in all of the years I have been here. All done under the watchful eye of the local pheasants who took great interest in what we were doing! Marshmallows were toasted and enjoyed before considering the skills needed for survival in the wild. After an early lunch, it was Group 3’s turn to head up to Honister Gill and challenge themselves as the other groups had earlier in the day.

With all groups back at centre, showered and thawed out, a full Christmas Dinner was enjoyed by all, complete with crackers and the largest Yorkshire puddings man has ever seen. After our final evening meal of the week, and many very tired children, duvets and pillows were plundered from dormitories and mini campsites set up in the games room for film night. With many children slumbering in front of the screen for most of the film, it was time to head upstairs for our final sleep.

There will be no blog tomorrow as your children (well the 90% that make it) will be back in your arms and able to tell you about their adventures in person. All of the school staff (and Derwent Hill staff for that matter) have been blown away by the teamwork, behaviour and attitudes of all of our children and they have been amazing ambassadors for the school, ensuring that we will once again be welcomed with open arms next year.

When you brave the horrors that lurk in your child’s suitcase, if you find any clothing that does not belong or a lack of clothing that should belong, please let me know next week.

Posted by Philip Arthur

Category: Whole School Events