Bum slides and icebergs!
Fuelled by the adrenaline rush of reaching the top of Cat Bells in August, the young people from Shiremoor Adventure Playground took to the fells once again on 21 October to climb 2,848 feet to the top of Blencathra, in preparation for climbing the highest mountain in Scotland, Ben Nevis, early next year.
It was a 6 am start for fifteen young people and staff as they left Shiremoor Adventure Playground, armed with freshly made bacon butties, and headed for the Lake District. The drive across the north of England on a cool, frosty, autumn morning brought its own delights as we saw the clear starry night sky give way to a brilliant red sun rise, and watched the fields dusted with morning dew start to steam beneath the warmth of the early morning sun, giving rise to a spectacular cloud inversion, which one young climber pointed to and exclaimed, ‘look at that amazing iceberg!’
Everyone was in good spirits and excited as we pulled on our boots and back packs and set off from the small village of Threlkeld, to climb the mountain via Halls Fell Ridge. As we headed higher and onto more challenging terrain, the group naturally split into two – some young people found the walking manageable and wanted to rush ahead, whilst others needed more support to negotiate the rocky outcrops . With enough staff to deal with this split, everyone was able to progress at their own pace, testing their own boundaries as they went. At one point we were preparing to take one young person back down the mountain as she sat down on the grass and stubbornly exclaimed, ‘I hate you lot, I can’t go any further and I’m never coming climbing with you again!’
Needless to say, with a little encouragement, she soon decided it was worth the pain, and tears of frustration and fear, turned to tears of joy as she managed to reach the summit and join the rest of the group, where we enjoyed a well earned rest and picnic.
Taking an easier route down the mountain, we descended into Scales finishing the last few hundred feet doing an amazing bum slide*, before a well deserved (non alcoholic) refreshment break at the White Horse Inn.
Excited chatter and frenzied debate led to discussion about our next mission, bringing a range of ideas from the young people where one asked, ‘When are we doing the next one? Can we climb Everest?’ to another who proclaimed, ‘Which one are we doing next? We can do Ben Nevis easily now! That was amazing.’
The staff and children at Shiremoor Adventure Playground Love Outdoor Play because that day we got to: climb a mountain, chat with other hill walkers, climb up scree, hear birds sing, watch the sun rise, see mist form cloud inversion, read maps, blow whistles, watch hand gliders, make up rhymes, sing songs, laugh, cry, bum slide down the mountain and have fun!
* Where there is a steep track with dodgy footing- try opting for a bum slide. This is the art of finding a suitably steep, wet, grassy slope, with minimal humps, bumps and rocks sticking out. It has to be steep enough to overcome the friction of a lardy bum on grass, but not too steep that you can’t stop… which is only ever going to end in tears. Done right it is fun, fast and effortless. So find your grassy, mossy slope, sit down, lean back and push off.
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Janet Orrock is a Nature Play Development Officer at Play England. For more information, visit http://www.playengland.org.uk/natureplay.