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Plas Pencelli 2018

Monday 5th March 2018

After a prompt departure from school, we were on our way to Plas Pencelli for the much anticipated Year 6 residential! We were ready for action. We were ready for adventure. What we weren’t ready for was decidedly mild weather, though it was certainly welcome. Our bags were shifted up to the dorms and we strode up to our accommodation for the week. After sheeting up our beds and unpacking our bags (the children have clearly been brushing up on their domestic skills– it went surprisingly smoothly this year!), we went to make and eat our lunches and prepare for our first outdoor adventure.

Suited and booted (wellies and waterproofs), we set off with our group leaders to our adventure walk. A little different to our daily walk to school, we faced an entirely new terrain. We climbed down riverbanks, strode against a river current, shuffled along snowdrift, crawled under bridges and even climbed through an ancient yew tree in a Church Yard – it was very tight, but we saw some remarkable determination in the children!

Muddy and damp, we returned to the common room to warm up with a hot chocolate and to begin our Records of Achievement – a book detailing our time at Plas Pencelli. By then we’d worked up an appetite – pizza and jacket potatoes with a side of salad did the trick. No time for a break though; we finished up our food and went straight on to our next activity – Night Time Orienteering. We paired up and we set off into the Brecon night-time with a torch and map to seek out a series of items.

The evening was rounded up with a celebration (happy 11th birthday, Ajay!), a little slice of cake and in bed to rest up for tomorrow’s activities.

“My favourite part of the adventure walk is when we had to help people to cross the rivers. …and my foot got stuck in the river” -Ashton

“I’ve never done it before so it’s a great experience to be able to do new things. It’s awesome!” -Joel

“The instructors for all four activity groups were really impressed by the teamwork and ability of all of our pupils, and said they were a really strong Year 6 group. I think we’re really going to achieve great things this week.” – Mr Shaughnessy


Tuesday 6th March

Apologies for the lateness of this entry. The blame falls on the ‘Dingle Descent’, which I’ll share a little about in a bit!

The 7.30 wake-up call was merely a formality as, at least in the boys’ dorm, there was already a hive of activity. Room inspections were completed and breakfast was eaten. The groups were all given instructions as to what gear they needed; they made their own lunches and then were off, ready for a day of activities.

Green Group were particularly excited as caving was their first activity – the one that many had been nervous about. A 40 minute drive through some breath-taking landscape took us to a little car park above a cave entrance. We suited and booted outside the car and went in. The cave itself was vast, with many tiny crevices to crawl through – including ‘The Toilet’ (a hole down which we plunged and crawled along in 10cm water to the other side). The whole group worked brilliantly as a team and as a result, there was not a single challenge that any member didn’t complete!

Blue and Yellow groups spent the day canoeing – they quickly got to grips with paddling technique, and it was an amazing experience to be on the Brecon to Monmouthshire canal when it was still covered in ice in places.  Most of this we were able to break up as we canoed through, but some was so thick we have to get out and pull the boats over the ice.  Despite this, around 10 children STILL chose to jump into the canal at the end!  Mr. Shaughnessy and Mrs. Fleming chose to sit that part out…Red group had a great time climbing in a disused quarry and managed some really tricky climbs using some impressive skills.

Our return gave us a quick moment to complete our Records of Achievements and there were even a few moments for a very quick game of football (so far, only one ball over the fence). After dinner, though, the children were briefed on their evening activity – the Dingle Descent. Bundled up in multiple layers, water proofs and wellies, each group was connected to one another via a rope attached to belts and in the dark, with only a few head torches to guide the way, we slowly descended a steep hill into a stream which we navigated slowly as a team using guide ropes. Needless to say we all got very wet, with the most impressive splash being attributed to Mrs Fleming’s misstep into a particularly deep section of the stream. We tried to hide our smiles, but I suspect rather unsuccessfully.

The day ended directly after our return and quiet descended over the boys’ and girls’ dorms as we all went to our beds. It was a very action packed day and as I type this I can hear preparations for today’s activities with the same degree of eagerness!

Wednesday 7th March

Yesterday’s bustling morning start was a distant memory as getting up this morning was just a little harder. However the yawning, dreamy bodies, once awake, had certainly learnt from yesterday about our staunch room tidiness expectations. Early morning room inspections have become a fiercely fought ritual as the children fold, tidy and hoover their way to victory. The girls had kept up their high standard of yesterday, with a few rooms achieving the coveted 5/5 score. The boys, who yesterday discovered the inspections to be an unexpected trial in the mornings, had risen to the challenge and had managed a couple of 5/5s themselves. The tension is almost palpable – who will reign supreme at the end of the week…?

Green and Yellow group’s next challenge was to be climbing. So after breakfast they gathered their equipment and waterproofs, dressed up warm and jumped into the mini-buses. After a 40 minute journey to the quarry (during which Malachi entertained the Green group with his ‘sit-down comedy’ routines and absurd voice impressions), we completed a bouldering activity, scrambling among the various rocks and ledges around the quarry following the instructor. Mia quickly discovered jumping in the snowdrift near the rock wall was deep enough to easily swallow her whole leg – a feat of which many of the rest of the group took great delight in joining!

After lunch, the instructors had set up the climbing equipment in the walls and so it was time to scale them! After a cautious start, Luca discovered an innate talent for scaling the cliff-face. Soon Matthew and Grace had also reached the hook and Harry demonstrated an excellent abseil down from the summit. We were on a roll!

Blue group were caving today and every single person in the group (including Mr. Shaughnessy) managed to fit through the letterbox – a hugely impressive feat, given the Northbourne myths that everyone talks about before arriving here.  On the way out, lots of the group also managed a new obstacle – the polo hole – which was easily as tight as the letterbox…but with added water.  Everyone put in such an impressive effort, and a huge number of fears were conquered.

Red group spent the day canoeing along the Brecon – Monmouthshire canal.  Mrs. Enevoldsen’s competitive streak took hold during a paddling race towards the end of the day, when one group attempted to take the upper hand by hanging onto the rope (the painter, to use the proper term) at the end of the canoe.   Needless to say, Mrs. Enevoldsen’s boat fought back and managed to finish first, just before half of the group chose to fling themselves into the freezing cold water to celebrate getting back to the centre.

After returning, the children quickly settled into the already-established routine, completing their Records of Achievement booklets while drinking a hot chocolate. Then dinner was on (fish and chips) and afterwards we congregated in Classroom 2 for our evening activity – a scavenger hunt. After the initial outrage of the boy/girl pairings had dissipated, the hunt was on! William could not convince the instructor that a leaf was ‘soft and fluffy’ while Aleks and Grace were able to get away with their questionably ‘L’-shaped twig.

After an eventful evening, the children made their ways back to their rooms for a well-deserved sleep. 

Charlotte on canoeing: “I really enjoyed the steering, which was contrary to everyone else. It was really cold, but still fun. However, the cold did not affect anyone because we worked so well as a team.”

Mrs Fleming randomly exclaimed “Buzzing in the Beacons!” She seems a little confused so we escorted her to bed. Hopefully tomorrow she’ll be better as the nearest asylum is rather far from our current location.

Thursday 8th March

Despite exciting weather forecasts the night before, Thursday brought with it little in the way of snow, just a relentless drizzle and an icy wind. We had been lucky so far with the weather, with spots of sunshine every day and with it remaining relatively dry, so today was going to bring with it new challenges. The children are now well versed in their routines and after breakfast, preparations were completed swiftly for our final group activities.

Red group, along with Yellow group, were off for their caving sessions. The 40 minute minibus ride took us past snow-capped mountains with an incredible view of the beautiful Welsh landscape. We arrived, slipped into our caving suits and descended towards the cave entrance as the biting wind hurried our pace. The river had risen significantly from Tuesday, bringing with it new exciting challenges for the children (and adults!) to traverse.

John, Red group’s instructor, explained a little about the lime-stone around us (‘ewww! You mean we’re walking on dead animals?!’) and we crawled through the first low-ceilinged cavern. As we went further in, the whole group began to realise that they could certainly do this, and nerves gave way to wonder as they looked around at the glittering droplets spayed across the cavern ceiling (‘Unicorn dust’, as Charlotte remarked). The first little exploration was quickly concluded and we returned to the surface for lunch. Then back down we went…

This time, we had to cross a fast-flowing river to access the second part of the caving system. With a little support, the children hopped from rock to rock and helped one another land safely on the other side. The letter box was an entirely new challenge as the children were literally posted through a tight part of the tunnel, with legs straight and head cocked firmly to the left. Teamwork became the name of the game as the children helped one another by catching each other as they climbed through and helping one another find solid footing.

Paige, Sophia, Jack and Charlotte all took turns in leading the group through a variety of passageways, and the group even managed a minute in one little area with all lights out. Finally, came ‘The Toilet’. Abbie volunteered the lead and ‘flushed’ herself down the pothole and along the watery passageway, ready to wait with her torch to light the way for her fellow cavers. Her fellow cavers all followed along, collecting a large amount of water in their wellies along the way!

The groups all arrived back at Plas Pencelli at about the same time, ready for a hot chocolate, Record of Achievement books, a quick game of football (two balls over the fence so far…) and finally the long-awaited visit to the tuck shop! A roast and dessert of pancakes and ice-cream rounded off the dinner and the children were then told of their final evening activity – Problem-solving. They were to complete 4 problem-solving activities over the course of an hour, working in teams to compete for points. Winners were announced and the children made their ways to their rooms to begin the arduous process of packing their things, as tomorrow one final challenge awaits them: the Gorge Walk!

When asked about the problem-solving activities, Chloe commented, “I liked the spiderweb because everyone worked together and it was really fun.”

About Blue group’s climbing session, Florence was thoughtful, “It was really fun, but it was scary because the person doing the rope had to concentrate.”

Harry was very positive about canoeing, “I think the most fun thing about canoeing is the team-work element because if you don’t work together, you will just go round in circles. The funniest thing that happened was probably when Mia rocked Mrs Enevoldsen’s boat and she fell in.”

Thank you for reading the blog all about our exploits at Plas Pencelli this year. We have all had a wonderful time and are looking forward to seeing you all on our return home tomorrow evening.  We will aim to Parentmail when we set off – keep an eye on route planners so you can have an idea of how long we might be (the postcode of the centre is LD3 7LX).

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