Residential, Expedition, Gorge Walking, Kayaking and a Castle…

It’s 6 am and I’ve been up since 3am due to tummy ache; so I’m now sat in the university’s 24 hour computer room. It’s not been all bad, I’ve managed to organise the academics I need to write about in my first assignment and describe their theories relating to children’s learning and/or outdoor education. I’m also eating a free cooking from the Fresher’s ‘Serendipity’ event yesterday, so my morning is productive so far!

(The event was huge! Over 3 halls of clubs and societies to join. My haul was impressive, so many pens, keyrings and a razor! Sadly I won’t be based in Bangor until January, but I still signed up to BUGS, Storytelling and BUMs clubs)

It’s been a busy week. I am frustrated at the moment as I should have been in Swindon Monday night after lectures had finished. I planned to skip yesterday’s Welsh language lesson to spend longer with family, however, that was not meant to be as we were told last week we had to run teambuilding activities for some Primary Ed Fresher’s this morning for about two hours… hmm.

But anyway, as mentioned it’s been a busy week.

Last weekend all the PGCE secondary were at Glan Llyn Outdoor Activity Centre, with the PE and ODA guys going up on the Saturday and Sunday and the rest joining Monday.

I don’t want to rewrite everything that happened as I’ve already done so for a task on Adobe Spark(our tutor loves his technology; he’s writing a PhD on the use of technology in Outdoor Education); you can view my thoughts and what we did on the residential here: HERE

Screen Shot 2018-09-20 at 05.58.10.png

After not having much recovery time, it was straight into lesson stuff then our overnight hike/bivvy camp.

Now before I get into that I don’t think I’ve mentioned about the mountain biking session we did at Coed-y-Brenin?

I think I surprised our tutor with my confidence on a bike. Certainly standing up and balancing was far easier than on a SUP board for me. Learning some technical skills came fast and quickly but some that required body position certainly did highlight my inflexibility (least I thought so); still, I had SO MUCH FUN. The blue routes are fun to whizz down but we didn’t get much time on the red ones – so I’ve vowed to head back and improve once I’ve picked up my bike from Swindon…

Skills practise. Learning to balance whilst stationary.


… but with the sweet can sometimes come the sour… I certainly learnt to consider myself a lot more than those that deliberately refuse to ‘give it a go‘ as the result can be painful… this is my bruise from falling off a red route. I do think my skills development has been somewhat lacking as I’m concentrating on others than myself and this session highlighted that for me.

The HOUR after I fell off.


So back to this week and the night hike. BUT, not before I mention about visiting Plas Newydd on the north bank of the Menai Strait, in Llanddaniel Fab, near Llanfairpwllgwyngyll (it’s lengthened name is Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch) Anglesey.

Screen Shot 2018-09-20 at 06.23.48Screen Shot 2018-09-20 at 06.23.54

Built in 1470, and was owned by the same family that owns Penrhyn Castle (which btw just had some of the cast of Game of Thrones shoot some scenes there last week!) and is now owned by the National Trust. I highly recommend a visit, it’s just so beautiful inside and the gardens are well maintained.

The photos do not do this place justice.

Back to the night hike… I was on a team of five with four other girls and one guy. Our planning was swift and easy – we all knew what we were doing and were quick to implement it and get our equipment and paperwork sorted and get on our way (lots of years of experience within the group).


Screen Shot 2018-09-20 at 06.35.01.png
The mountains are so beauitful here.


We decided on a low-level route around a reservoir and camping in some woodland as the next day we were gorge walking, plus as we were starting late in the afternoon at 6pm, we didn’t want to be navigating over the Carneddau’s in the dark.



WhatsApp Image 2018-09-14 at 17.54.36
The Dream Girls and Liam.

The sheep and cows kept watch on us as we walked the route then suddenly, in the darkness, a white ghostly figure emerged, then another, then a group of them crept out of the shadows. I love wild ponies and the Carneddau ponies are a dying breed as a study of their DNA in 2012 revealed that they have been isolated as a breed for at least several hundred years and numbers are dwindling due to the harsh winters the area has been having. There’s a talk happening at Moel Siabod Cafe in November about them which I am hoping to attend.

Copy of 2018_0913_224422_004.JPG
Carneddau pony!

So we had an enjoyable walk in the dark having to use our navigational skills to get across a certain area when the route disappeared, then sent up a tarp shelter in a small patch of woodland on some rocky ground. I can’t say it was my most comfortable night but it was great to get outside and into a bivvy bag. Usually, I sleep next to a fire but my Alpkit sleeping bag kept me warm all night so I was pleased with that.

The following morning was an early walk out to the Afon Ddu at Dollegau. Had I been more refreshed I would have enjoyed this a lot more as scrambling/going in the water as favourite things of mine to do. I struggled with climbing some of the boulders (even though they were small ones, not even taller than me!) but I kept at it to complete the route and got some interesting video shots!

Went behind a waterfall:

Up the ‘Elephant’s bumhole’:

Getting pushed in by tutor:

Screen Shot 2018-09-14 at 16.58.10.png
Crossing the waterfall.

So that was a fun, albeit very tiring day… but it wasn’t really due to stop… we still had kayaking to go the next day!

Screen Shot 2018-09-15 at 17.07.18.png

I don’t know where the video has disappeared to showing a technique I was learning but it’s on my twitter page HERE. Our tutor realised that there was a huge range of abilities (some coaches, some low level and some, i.e. me, with no qualifications at all) so I was paired up with a colleague with coaching skills and I think I certainly put his skills to the test! In the end, he just let me turn my boat with a tired smile on his face as I just too tired to paddle properly – amusing for me, probably not for him!

We paddled around the lake at Plas-y-Brenin, before looking at skills then paddling down Afon Llugwy, which was shallow but fast flowing and fun. This is one area I certainly need to develop – my paddling technique was corrected a lot – and learn more about; I’m more familiar with canoes than kayaks.

I think that night I had the deepest sleep for a long while. My van gets incredible hot at about 3-4am so I’ve not been sleeping all the way through each night but that night… perfect!

The following day I said to myself that I would rest and recoup… but I couldn’t sit still for long, so decided to go to for a castle visit! I have a list of castles I want to visit before the end of my PGCE and Caernarfon was on that list!

Caernarfon castle was transformed from a motte and bailey to stonework in 1283 (until 1330) although some parts inside were never completed. This castle has seen a lot of sieges and change of hands and was allowed to fall into disrepair until the 19th Century. It was used for the investiture of the Prince of Wales, and again in 1969 when Charles took that title.

Screen Shot 2018-09-20 at 07.01.55.png
The castle is grand in size.

The castle is grand in size as the design was partly influenced by a desire to make the structure impressive as a symbol of the new English rule in Wales. Caernarfon town itself was made the centre of government in the northern part of the country.

Having several polygon towers (which is unusually for an Edwardian Castle as the towers are usually round), it has strong defences and kept enemies at bay. I, being the curious creature I am, decided that I would explorer ALL the areas of this castle… that included going up and down ALL the towers, of which each had three floors plus an additional lookout tower… so you can imagine how my tired legs felt after all of that ascending and descending!

Still, I’d do it again. I spent three hours here just exploring. It was great fun and I would highly recommend a visit here to view a very impressive building! I even have a video to show it’s grand scale, again, I’ve lost the original but if you want to view it you can on my twitter feed HERE.

I’m going to end the blog here. I still want to write about our bothy exploration but I have a task to do this morning so will write it when I am back in Swindon later on today. At somepoint, I will slow down.

Just Joanne