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In Nature's Classroom In Nature's Classroom
2023-05-26 09:09:00

“Canoeing was very calming. It was almost silent – the only sound you could hear was the water. The best part, for me, was the view.”

-Taleur, Student DNA

"Experience is the best teacher", they say, and it couldn't be more true for the group of young people from the David Nieper Academy (DNA) who recently embarked on an unforgettable adventure in the Ogwen Valley, in partnership with Equip and the Outward Bound Trust.

Led by experienced instructors and dedicated volunteers, the group took part in a challenging program of outdoor activities that tested their physical and mental resilience, self-sufficiency, and teamwork.

From abseiling down cliffs to canoeing across a lake, and from hiking up a mountain to wild camping in freezing temperatures, the group pushed themselves to new limits and discovered strengths they never knew they had. But what was it really like to be part of this journey of personal growth and transformation from the perspective of the young people involved? We share some of the amazing photos captured from the trip, DNA student Taelur's first-hand account of the trip, and Equip employees Anna and Sophia share inspiring reflections on the power of the outdoors to change lives.

Our Partners

The Outward Bound Trust

With a mission to inspire young people to believe they can achieve more than they ever thought possible, the Outward Bound Trust (OBT) was a natural partner for Equip to inspire a new generation of ambitious and determined young mountain enthusiasts.

The David Nieper Academy

The David Nieper Academy, located in Derbyshire, is dedicated to providing its students with the skills and education necessary to achieve their dreams. Equip is proud to support select David Nieper students with the help of the Outward Bound Trust, as many embark on their first taste of adventure and the outdoors.

Trip Overview

In March 2023, 24 children from The David Nieper Academy, supported by the Outward Bound Trust and backed by Equip with two volunteer members of staff, embarked on a trip to North Wales. The itinerary below details the exciting and adventrous footsteps they took through this breathtaking landscape. 

The Itinerary

With a mission to inspire young people to believe they can achieve more than they ever thought possible, the Outward Bound Trust (OBT) was a natural partner for Equip to inspire a new generation of ambitious and determined young mountain enthusiasts.


Monday

Introductions, scene setting, hopes and fears.

Tuesday

Full day adventure (canoeing).

Wednesday

Packed for expedition and set off for overnight camp.

Thursday

Return from expedition, degunge (wash kit and selves!).

Friday

Final review, personal reflections, goal setting

Stories

Equip is proud to employ a workforce of passionate outdoor enthusiasts and active individuals who enjoy spending time in the mountains and immersing themselves in nature. The professional and personal experiences of Equip staff make their involvement in these trips essential.

We sent two members of staff as Equip volunteer ambassadors to work alongside the students to mentor and encourage them through their experience. Here are their stories:

Sophia’s Experience

Sophia works in Equip's busy sales office as a Sales Office Administrator, processing trade orders and managing the full order books and relationships with Equip's valued trade customers. Sophia decided to step outside of her work for a few days, closing her laptop and tying her bootlaces, to get fully immersed in expedition life. Sophia sought something completely different from her normal day-to-day routine and was curious to explore how she would mentally manage the challenges of expedition life.

Approaching the trip with zero expectations and embracing living in the moment, Sophia found herself relating her own experiences as a 13-year-old to the journey of the 13-year-old students on the trip—a realization that took her by surprise. She reflected, "I learned that 13-year-old children in today's society are worlds apart from when I was 13, and that's worrying. When I was 13, I was working down on the farm on weekends... I now realize how privileged and fortunate I was to have had the right role models while growing up."

The trip left Sophia both surprised and concerned about how young people today can feel consumed by smartphones and technology. However, she felt optimistic knowing that schools like the David Napier Academy support students with alternative and engaging curricula, and organizations like The Outward Bound Trust help provide valuable and often life-changing experiences for young individuals.

Anna's Experience

Anna works with Equip as a Digital Marketing Assistant, focusing on improving the brand's web presence. As someone who already immerses herself in outdoor activities like swimming and climbing, joining the trip was an obvious choice for her. Anna expressed, "I have experienced tremendous personal growth and gained a strong sense of self through my outdoor pursuits. I started climbing about four years ago, and it has brought me immense joy. I wanted to be part of the Outward Bound Trust (OBT) to share this passion with young people. It felt like a great privilege to spark their interest and inspire them."

Being a relatively new member of staff, Anna also saw the trip as an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of Equip as a business, its social responsibility, and sustainability goals. It was a chance for her to become a part of the Equip community and expand her horizons beyond her day-to-day role.

Anna's key takeaway from the experience was witnessing a shift among most students, starting from their initial reliance on technology-driven interactions and shyness towards connecting through genuine personal interactions as the trip progressed. Whether it was playing games, trying new experiences together, or engaging in conversations with individuals they wouldn't normally interact with, Anna noticed a positive transformation.

However, as someone who hadn't worked with children before, Anna was heartbroken by some of the worries and challenges the students faced in their lives. Yet, this only strengthened her belief in the transformative power of the outdoors and how it had impacted this group of young explorers.

Taelurs Experience

Taelur Brentnall recounts the challenges, accomplishments, and pure joy of his outdoor adventure in the Ogwen Valley, North Wales.

Taelur, a 13-year-old student, was one of 24 Year 8 pupils from a school in Derbyshire who participated in a five-day residential course at Ogwen Cottage through Equip UK's partnership with the Outward Bound Trust. Here is his story.

Surrounded by snow-capped mountains, we always had a clear view of Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa). Snowdon is such an iconic mountain and living at the foot of it for a few days was a real adventure. One day, I hope to climb it and witness the sunrise.

Getting active

I have always enjoyed being outdoors, but I particularly loved how remote our location was. On our first day, we went scrambling, jumping and climbing on rocks. The only building we could see was our cottage in the distance.

During the scrambling, we supported each other, lending a hand to those who were struggling and helping them up. But when it came to canoeing, we needed real teamwork. Carrying the canoes was a challenge since they were heavy, requiring eight people to lift one.

Getting into the water was tough because the canoes were all connected. One of my friends fell in, and they were freezing for the rest of the activity! Thankfully, the staff had brought some amazing hot chocolate.

At first, canoeing felt very calming. It was almost silent, with only the sound of water surrounding us. The best part, for me, was the view. As we paddled up the lake, we could see three mountains, including Snowdon and Tryfan. It looked like a picture. Some people were taken aback by the incredible views.

When we turned back to return, the wind was blowing directly against us. We stayed close to the side of the lake and took frequent breaks. We paddled for about a mile, and it was very tiring. By the end, my arms felt like jelly.

That night, we all went straight to sleep!

Under the stars

Our camping trip presented another significant challenge. We had to climb a steep mountain to reach our base.

We helped each other up, and at one point, there was a sheer drop and a lot of mud. Many people fell over. Each of us had to carry something—I carried the stoves. The camping bags were massive and very heavy during the climb.

Everyone struggled with their 10kg backpacks. Anna, our Equip employee ambassador, was incredibly supportive and helpful, cheering us on.

As we ascended the mountain, the air felt thinner, and it had a different smell—fresh air. It felt good to have climbed so high and be surrounded by nature.

One of the staff members told us that Wales has a lot of quartz. According to a tale, an English dragon and a Welsh dragon once fought, and the quartz was the English dragon's blood.

We also learned that the mountain used to be a volcano. If you picked up a piece of rock and broke it in half, it smelled like a volcano—sort of eggy and sulphurous. We even came across obsidian.

The rocks were ancient, giving us a sense of history. In that area of Wales, you can find many things, including slate, sapphire, amethyst, and quartz.

Setting up the tents was quite challenging. We had to bend metal rods, and it was very windy. During dinner, people kept tripping over the guy ropes holding the tents in place!

We collected water from a pond and cooked packet food on our camping stoves. For dinner, I had chicken curry mixed with boiled water from the pond. It was pretty nice, and dessert was chocolate brownie.

Sleeping in the tent was the best night's sleep I've ever had! The sleeping bags were comfortable and warm, and I wore four layers of clothes, so I didn't feel cold.

There were three people in our tent. The person in the middle had a bump in the ground underneath, so I suggested using it as a pillow.

For breakfast, some people had cereal, but I had porridge with jam to keep warm.

Winning a Werther’s

During the day, fighter jets flew through the valley for practice. We saw a massive plane with four propellers and the fighter jets.

I loved camping—being in the middle of nowhere, getting my own water, and cooking my own food. I would love to build my own shelter too. It was a special feeling of just being yourself.

One of our activities was abseiling, which was tough. At one point, it started raining, and the wall became wet, mossy, and slippery. Many people kept slipping.

On the last day, we went orienteering, which was one of my favourite parts of the trip. We were in a forest with a map, and the fastest person to find all the points would receive a Werther's Original sweet—and I won!

At first, many people didn't like not having their phones, but as soon as we were busy doing something, they forgot about them. We were always engaged in activities.

Back at the cottage after our daily activities, we would shower, change into joggers and t-shirts, and play table football or call our families.

I loved the food at the cottage. There was a fantastic chef named Paul, and we voted every night on what we wanted to eat. The mac and cheese were amazing, as was the apple crumble. I also enjoyed the full English breakfast—the bacon tasted different from what I had at home.

A journey for life

Throughout the trip, I was surprised by how much we could accomplish, and I learned a lot about myself.

I discovered that I'm not a big fan of heights when pressed against a wall. And the climb to the camp felt never-ending. However, I overcame my fear of heights and long hikes.

We had to think for ourselves too—setting alarms to wake up in the morning, clearing the tables after breakfast, and being ready to learn about the day's activities.

I definitely want to do more camping, canoeing, and orienteering. I enjoy following maps and searching for things.

My certificate from the Outward Bound Trust recommends a 27-day outdoor camping course for me. That made me feel accomplished. I would love to be outdoors forever.

I love trips like this—being outside and doing things I've never done before.

I felt like Bear Grylls! 

Where next?

This marks our second supported expedition in partnership with the David Nieper Academy and the Outward Bound Trust, and once again, it reinforces our strong belief that providing young people with access to outdoor experiences creates an ideal environment for their personal growth, skill development, and mental resilience, paving the way for them to become happy and fulfilled adults.

The incredible journey shared by the students from the David Nieper Academy, supported by Equip and the Outward Bound Trust, exemplifies the transformative power of outdoor adventures.

We are committed to continuing our support for both the David Nieper Academy and the Outward Bound Trust, as we recognise the value these organisations bring to young people's lives. Building upon this successful collaboration, we are eagerly exploring new ideas to further ignite the students' enthusiasm for outdoor experiences. Our goal is to inspire and empower them, ensuring that more young individuals have the opportunity to embark on life-changing expeditions and discover their own potential in the great outdoors.

As we reflect on the remarkable achievements and growth witnessed during this expedition, we are filled with pride and excitement for the future possibilities that lie ahead. By nurturing a passion for the outdoors and providing the necessary support, we believe we can continue to make a meaningful impact on the lives of young people, helping them thrive and embrace the endless possibilities that await them in the world.

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