In June this year 48 soldiers from 72 Engineer Regiment (V) headed off to the Lake District to conduct our annual adventure training exercise.
Coniston was chosen as the base as it provided easy access to some of the best areas for the activities we had planned which included Walking, Canoeing, Mountain Biking and a visit to the Go Ape Activity Centre.
The first challenge was for the QM’s department to assemble all of the stores, transport them to the Camp Site and to erect a small village – what could possibly go wrong? Well I suppose it could rain non-stop for the 12 hours before the advance party set off and continue for most of the weekend! However their efforts where very much appreciated when the rest of us arrived around 23:30 and it was still chucking it down (Come on guys where did you think lakes come from!), and at least the tents were up and the Chefs were in full swing.
The following day under our instructors we got kitted up and after receiving the mandatory “Elf and Safety” briefs headed off to our chosen activities.
Walking first of all, The Old Man of Coniston via Swirl How, this is the longer route at about 16km and it is far less busy. Climbing to 1022m the walk has some impressive views over Coniston and Furness Fells (so they say), unfortunately this time due to the weather it was views of the clouds! But an excellent walk anyway.
Following a short skills assessment (to determine if anyone needed stabilisers) the Mountain Bikers headed of for Grizedale under WO2 Cooper and Cpl “Flatty” Crake. Grizedale has purpose built tracks of varying terrain, length and difficulty to challenge all abilities. After a gentle start to get everyone confident they set off on along cycle trail taking in much of the forest on the western side of the valley and overlooking Coniston Water. 12 heart pumping, leg burning, sweaty, muddy faced miles later and with everyone now “in the mood” they decided to tackle The North Face Mountain Bike Trail. This has extremely challenging terrain and also includes some tricky board walk sections.
A good day, no injuries and even the unit bikes seemed to stand up well. Only one casualty, following two punctures with his state of the art bike was Cpl Crake who had to be recovered!
It was only a short walk to Coniston Water and having two instructors also meant that that both canoes and kayaks could be covered at the same time. Coniston is only the third largest lake in the park but at 8km long it was more than enough for our intrepid paddlers. Coniston has also been the scene of many water speed record attempts over the years, however despite their best efforts none where under threat this time!
End of day one and every one was back to the camp site for the mandatory BBQ and the Chefs had not let us down, then in to Coniston for a few pints and Euro Footie (enough said). The weather had also taken a turn now and it had stopped raining and there was even a hint of sun, however that was the signal for the mossies to come out and play – well I suppose you can’t have it all ways!
Next morning we struck camp before the canoeists and mountain bikers headed out for more of the same and the admin party headed back.
The rest headed across to the GO Ape outdoor activity centre in Grizedale Forest. Go Ape is effectively a high level confidence course consisting of bridges, swings and a 275m long zip wire.
The aim of the exercise was to deliver a range of activities that would be both challenging and enjoyable, develop individuals and encourage team cohesion and judging by the feedback from both participants and instructors it certainly seems that this was achieved.
Another important element was the maintenance of the skills of the AT instructors, who also found the exercise of great benefit and a number of those taking part have expressed an interest in gaining their own AT qualifications.
The hill walking and Go Ape were also relevant to the next Regimental Expedition which is climbing in the Himalayas.
An excellent expedition, in part thanks to the support of the Ulysses Trust which was very much appreciated.