SHERWOOD SAILORS DO THE HIGHLAND FLING
The twelve Reservists from HMS Sherwood planned and organised Exercise Highland Fling themselves, with funding from the Ulysses Trust, to develop their leadership and team-working skills and resilience.
“We took part in a variety of challenging outdoor activities and everyone learnt new skills,” said Lieutenant Kathryn Jacques from Long Eaton, who led the team. “Importantly this exped provided many opportunities to develop team-working and practical skills in the mountains and on the water.”
Sherwood’s Highland Fling began with two days in Glen Coe to develop mountain craft and navigation skills, during good weather and clear skies. The team initially walked to the Hidden Valley, before scrambling on Gearr Aonach. “We got some great views from the Three Sisters and we to push ourselves on steeper ground than we find closer to home in the Peaks,” said Petty Officer Andy Maltby from Nottingham.
Having gained more confidence on steep ground the team then ventured higher into Glen Coe, making the long ascent to Stob Dearg, the highest summit on Buchaille Etive Mor. “This was a very long day, with lots of rocks and scree to tackle, but we were rewarded with great views across Glen Coe and Rannoch Moor,” said PO Maltby. “We were lucky to have great, sunny weather.”
After two days honing their mountain skills, the team returned, quite literally, to sea level as they departed Fort William for a day of Sea Kayaking on Loch Linnhe. This was a new experience for most of the team, but after learning the basics and practicing safety drills the group paddled for 7 miles down the Loch before lunch. “This was great for developing basic sea-sense – when you’re sat at water level, you feel the effects of winds and tides directly in a way that you are not able to in a Warship,” said Lt Jacques. “We only had one capsize and as our skills improved we even managed to conduct Officer of the Watch manoeuvres in the sea loch!”
Poor weather and fresh snowfall prevented the group from making their planned ascent of Ben Nevis the following day. Instead the group planned a low-level walk along the Nevis Gorge to Steall Falls, to practice their navigation skills. “After testing our map reading we got to test our nerves on the steel-wire bridge across the Water of Nevis,” said Recruit Peter Anderson from Nottingham. “It was quite a challenge, but really exciting!”
They also visited the Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge, which commemorates all those who have served in British Commando Forces since the Second World War.
Before leaving the Highlands of Scotland the mountaineering sailors had the opportunity to test their balance and stamina on mountain bikes in the Nevis Range, at the foot of Aonach Mor. After a warm-up session on the skills loop the team took to the hills, making the hard ascent, before getting to tackle a much faster descent. “On the way down we became quite competitive,” said Able Seaman Jones from Newark. “There were a couple of impressive ‘superman’ impressions and several people got well acquainted with bogs!” While rocks, mud and stream-crossings made some team members’ descents more spectacular than others, everyone reached the bottom safely with only bumps and scratches and pride dented.