31 (Tower Hamlets) Squadron Air Cadets set a new precedent last year when it undertook Exercise Towering Heights 2017. This year, we wanted to come back with a bigger and better camp – and so we undertook Exercise Towering Heights 2018, to help our Cadets experience an amazing week of action, adventure and life outside of the city.
After a successful camp last year, we broadened the model to allow us to open up the opportunity to other Cadets within our sector. For many Cadets, annual camp is the highlight of their Cadet year – and we wanted to give them a week of challenging but enjoyable adventurous training to remember!
The Cadets and adult volunteers set off for their action-packed week in the Lake District. The Cadets were a mixture of new recruits, and returning cadets who wished to build on the skills they developed in 2017.
Cadet Warrant Officer Daryl Cortez said:
“I couldn’t make it to the camp last year because I was working during the summer – so I was absolutely delighted that there was going to be another camp running this year. I heard fantastic things about the activities, and all of the life-skills that everyone learned.”
Each Cadet took part in a series of progressional navigation training exercises and day walks, as well as a challenging expedition.
Cadet Frankie Edwards said:
“We found the expedition challenging, particularly some of the navigational aspects, but we’d done a lot of training and so were fully prepared for all eventualities. We completed our expedition in record time!”
Beyond the expedition aspects, the groups also undertook a wide range of adventurous training activities – which aimed to develop teamwork, self-confidence, and a sense of adventure.
A new activity for the camp this year – subterranean exploration was a first for all of our Cadets. Although some areas of the country are probably more associated with caving, the Lake District proved to have an incredible caving region – with labyrinths of winding passageways, delicate rock formations, giant chambers and impressive water features. Our Cadets felt like extremely privileged to encounter this quiet and surreal landscape.
Cadet Richard Ademawagun said:
“It was a fascinating experience to explore the cave networks and learn more about the geology of the area.”
Another new activity for 2018, the junior stream of Cadets on the camp learnt about how to build and lash a coracle. This involved weaving a boat layout from plastic piping, bending it in to shape, and covering the frame with a waterproof tarpaulin sheet to create a finished vessel. The Cadets then tried out their contraptions, with a few quickly realising the importance of securing the frame properly! Cadets worked together to help save the crafts that began to take on water, learning important lessons about cooperation and teamwork.
Despite the weather taking a turn for the wetter towards the end of the week – the activities were well suited to a drizzly day… Cadets spent an adrenaline-filled half day climbing waterfalls, scrambling into ghylls, clambering down the river bed and plunging in to pools. Working in teams of ten with a qualified instructor, the cadets quickly learned the importance of communication. They soon realised the importance of accurately passing messages down the line, as one by one they faced the challenging, exciting, and sometimes scary natural obstacles presented by the river.
Via Ferrata turned out to be the most popular activity last year, so the group were keen for the new recruits to have the same experience. Not for the faint hearted, the Cadets experienced a thrilling climb using specially installed cables along an original miners’ track in Honnister. Nerves of steel were needed to cross the huge chasm using the rope bridge. Adult Warrant Officer Chandon Paul said:
“I have never been more terrified in my life, the Cadets bounced along quite happily – even over the really wobbly bits of the bridge. It was a great experience to complete it, there’s a huge sense of personal satisfaction – although I don’t think I’d be brave enough to do it again anytime soon!”
Having been one of the most popular activities last year, we retained canoeing on the programme. This year we added an element of river journeying, to enhance the experience. Cadets undertook a morning learning the basics of how to paddle on Derwent Water, which involved a lot of cooperation, as well as copious amounts of concentration! The pairs then took to the rapids for a river journey, testing their communication, dexterity, and nerve!
The senior Cadets also had one final activity on offer – sailing. They took to the water on Ullswater, and worked in groups of four to learn basic sailing skills. Cadet Flight Sergeant Mark Kee said
“As Air Cadets, we don’t often get the opportunity to do water based activities, so this was a really exciting new activity to try for a change! It was harder than I thought it would be, particularly the technical elements like jibing and tacking. I really enjoyed it though, and would definitely like to try it again.”
At the end of the week, everyone was thoroughly exhausted but had had an amazing week of exciting and adrenaline-filled activities.
Our huge thanks go to the Ulysses Trust for their support to make this opportunity a reality.
31 (Tower Hamlets) Squadron RAF Air Cadets
Our thanks go to the generosity of the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust for supporting this expedition. www.rafct.com