Hooke Court 2019

Day 1

We made good time from leaving Bratton and broke the journey up with a planned brief stop off and snack at Cartgate services. We then headed to Hooke Court, arriving ahead of schedule. We were greeted by the centre staff and then all the children found their rooms, unpacked a little and we all made our beds…some more successfully than others, but with teamwork and perseverance we were ready and then all enjoyed a well earned lunch outside in the sunshine!

After lunch we got ready for our first activity: low ropes. We met our instructor, Alan, and began with some trust games, as the day was all about cooperation, teamwork and having trust in your partners or team. We then moved into the ropes course, working with a partner to navigate a series of challenges and problems, sometimes having to work in opposite directions to other pairs, sometimes being given additional challenges, such as not being able to talk. All the children showed fine resilience, teamwork and impressive support for each other, especially in the activity where we all had to get across an obstacle and then stay balanced on wooden platforms, where if one child touched the floor, the whole team had to start again. Children overcame their own personal challenges and as a class the work and enthusiasm shown were tremendous.

After a short break we then all moved nearer to the main building and learnt about our orienteering challenge, having to follow clues and use a labelled aerial photograph of the centre to locate numbered points, at which there were letters and numbers, which if correctly collected gave the children a jumbled series of letters, which needed deciphering to answer a riddle or clue. Once again, teamwork was to the fore, along with endurance and orientation skills, as this involved a lot of running and good spatial awareness.

We then managed to squeeze in a bonus activity. Alan agreed to take us on a short walk through the sheep and pigs they keep here, to a scale replica they have at Hooke of a World War One trench. There, Alan gave us a brief history of trench warfare and the children got to experience something of what it felt like, what it looked like and even got to climb the ladders and ‘go over the top’ – an amazing additional activity that we all enjoyed greatly.

We then had a short break back in our rooms, after which we all enjoyed our first dinner, which saw all the children eat well, full of animated discussion about the day’s activities. The evening activity saw us working with a new instructor, Dan, and in this session we formed three teams, learning to work together through clear communication and good listening, as the teams were always linked by their arms to shoulders and they had to navigate as a unit, eventually being blindfolded, then working on using all their senses. We developed the skills and eventually travelled around the whole site, ending with a blindfolded rope navigation challenge on the low ropes course.

What a first day! We then headed back to our rooms and off to bed, ready for another full day tomorrow!

Day 2

The morning started with everyone waking up bright and early, eager to start the day! Once showered, we all headed off to enjoy a hearty breakfast, fuelling everyone for the events ahead.

We then assembled for our first activity: Viking cookery and jewellery making. We were greeted by Simon, in full Viking costume, also having to answer him with traditional Viking greetings! He then led us down to the Viking Longhouse; a fantastic setting, accurately recreating a Viking dwelling for all the children to experience. Simon initially guided us through Viking living and moved the children swiftly into Viking cookery, exploring foodstuffs, preparation, harvesting and the all around health of the Vikings. The children then moved on to preparing Viking foods, working in groups to make: savoury bread rolls stuffed with vegetables, sweet bread rolls with prunes and honey, handmade butter using double cream and then a traditional fish based pottage, to be cooked over the open fire. All the children did the chopping, cleaning and preparation of the food, as well as two of them using willow fronds to hand whisk the cream and salt into fresh butter for the whole group! Tremendous learning linked to their topic, but also developing further teamwork alongside food preparation skills.

Whilst the food cooked, we then went back into the Longhouse, where Simon taught us all about Viking hand weaving and how they hand rolled thin metal wire to create ornate Viking jewellery. All the children then got to try both skills, half at a time, supporting each other with the trickier elements. The weaving they produced was praised by Simon as being some of the strongest he had seen in a long time in this activity by a school and the children will be bringing the jewellery they made home with them for you to see tomorrow. The focus in this session was extremely impressive.

This also meant the bread and pottage had time to cook and we then moved back around the fire, where we use the hand made butter on the savoury bread and then served up a taster of the fish pottage for all the children to try. Some were reluctant to try the Viking fair at first, but pleasingly everyone did try and some who were initially sceptical proceeded to then finish what they were given, along with their mini bread roll, and in some cases even had more! We finally all tried the sweet bread rolls to finish, which were delicious. What a morning!

Following this we went back up to the centre to collect our lunch, which we ate out on the lawn in front of where we are staying. After lunch, and some time playing and relaxing, we all got changed into the right clothes and we were ready for our second activity: raft building! We met Daniel, our new instructor, and headed down to the lake. The session began with important safety advice on how to behave on and around the water and the lake itself. Following this, the children were randomly split into 3 groups; group 1, group 2 and group 38 – name added by Daniel as a twist! The children had a lot to listen to and follow, as they learnt about flotation, moving on carefully to them lashing the rafts together, using rope, tying pocket knots, double knots and hitches and then how these need to be used to lash the four poles together to make a strong frame! Once the frame had been attached, the children had to work together to lash the flotation elements (air trapped inside large containers, which are housed inside recycled bread cases) onto the poles and each time a new element was needed, there was a further tutorial and then additional help coming from the  Hooke Court staff, drawing the children in further with the complexity of the technique. Tremendous perseverance and empathy was needed with their teams, and this had to be displayed by the whole group, all working hard and compromising, showing energy and logic to work through the techniques taught and then overcome challenges in applying them. The teamwork and determination to be accurate in the building of the rafts came shining through, as the children did all the lashing, really having to focus on each instruction in detail in order to have clarity for upto 8 people, cooperating and compromising in a multitude of ways.

We tested the craft on land, then learnt how to put on the buoyancy aids and helmets, also learning how to correctly work as a team to then lift and transport the rafts to the lakeside. During a last minute briefing on how to paddle, the children also named the stopping points around the lake: comprising Cape Town, Disneyland Paris, Greece and Britain! Finally, we were ready to launch, with the children controlling and discussing who went where, when and with whom from their team. The support from the rest of the team around the lake helped greatly as children, in pairs, navigated their way around the lake, some needing longer to master steering, with two paddles often being harder than one! A great afternoon was then had navigating our way around the lake, ending with the children carrying the rafts out the water, all helping to put the equipment away in the sheds. What an afternoon of cooperation, focus, support and enthusiasm and for some to have especially overcome initial fears about the raft building, and to then take part, giving it their best shot,  was pleasing to see.

As we were in the right place on the property, and we had time before dinner, we then all had a few goes on the sites outdoor assault course challenge, burning off some more energy and again enhancing teamwork, problem solving and team spirit!

We all then went back, changed if needed and went down to our lawn, where we enjoyed barbequed food, with sausages, freshly cooked chicken, hot dog baps, fresh vegetables and salad, followed by an ice cream cornet! The children then had some playtime, before getting ready for the evening activity – campfire!

We walked to a new part of the site, which was idyllic, and there we met Simon. The children entered the fire circle safely and then we enjoyed an evening of songs, joke telling, information and even a reading of a traditional Viking saga, all taking place around a roaring campfire. Simon was excellent as leader of the songs and the children (and adults) all had a great time learning and performing the campfire accompaniments. Many of the songs also contained dance moves! The evening flew past and we headed back to the centre, tired but full of amazing memories and stories of  such a full and fantastic day! It did not take long to get everyone to sleep tonight!

Day 3

We awoke on our final day to be greeted by greyer skies and some persistent rain, but the temperature remained warm! It definitely proved a little harder to rouse some of the children on the last morning, with some needing maximum time to re-energise from the exciting and full day’s activities we had enjoyed on Thursday!  Once all were up and showered, we began the task of packing and stripping the beds, neatly folding pillow cases, duvet cover and sheet into two large laundry bags, some with quicker success rates than others! There were some great shows of teamwork and support in this process, with children supportively working together to ensure all the jobs got done.

Following another full and hearty breakfast, where we all enjoyed cereal, croissants, cheese and ham, along with further multiple rounds of toast, we then went back to the centre, completed our packing and moved all our bags and equipment down the stairs, to the common room, where we were greeted by Dan, our instructor for the final task: “bridging the moat.” By this stage the rain was becoming stronger, but we had all dug deep into our bags and successfully located our coats and wellington boots. We were therefore all determined to make the most of our last day in Hooke.

Dan was impressed by this outlook and the commitment of our children, whose enthusiasm remained undimmed by the rain and he in fact commented on their determination to get stuck in from the outset and their hunger to finish the task.

The first part of the activity saw the children split into two teams. They then learnt how to lash together and secure 3 wooden poles, making them into a strong tripod, after which they then had to lash 3 more horizontal poles to the tripod, creating accurate knots,  therefore allowing the whole group to stand on and support their weight on the tripod they had built!

We then enjoyed a break of hot chocolate, a biscuit and some flapjack. Refuelled, we then learnt the next step needed to complete the challenge; using rope to tie up, then tighten up, a ‘tightrope’, which once secure would allow the children to walk along the rope, supported by one partner on each arm. Once again, some great teamwork was displayed in tying the rope correctly and then supporting each other across the obstacle.

With all the individual skills now developed in isolation, we were ready to piece them all together and ‘bridge the moat’. Dan explained the scenario where one side of the moat had the cure to a rare disease and that everyone on the other side needed the medical supplies they had in order to be vaccinated and survive. The only way across the moat was to build two tripods on opposite banks, all tied together from scratch by the children, then throw a line across the moat, rig up a pulley system and pull across the log carrying the medication to cure the other half of your team! This challenge taught the children so much, in terms of knots, construction, communication, adding the correct tension to rope, as well as the strength of certain structures,  and how their shape determines which way their bear a load. The building stage ended with success for both teams, followed by a fun, supportive and encouraging ‘race’ to see who could get their supplies, or log, across the moat first.

Overall, another tremendous activity, developing in the children so many skills in so many areas. We then all dismantled the tripods and ropes, packed all the equipment away and said goodbye and thank you to Dan. Once back in the centre, we all dried off, changed our clothes and packed up our last belongings, then all enjoying lunch, before heading off to the coach…

The children dealt with this delay brilliantly and continued on as they had all week, showing a mature, calm approach. It was a great 3 days and the trip proved a very rewarding time away, with a programme full of great activities, rich learning and strong development of teamwork and problem solving skills. We were very proud of the children, who were a great credit to the school across the 3 days, also being consistently praised for their approach by the centre instructors, and I know they have arrived back full of stories, great memories and a few campfire songs! Thank you to Mrs Midgley, Mrs Bunce and Mrs Callaway for accompanying myself and the children across the week.

Mr Bolton