"My candle burns at both ends, it may not last the night.
But ah my friends and oh my foes,
It gives a lovely light." - Roald Dahl
"This was the best day so far!"
This sentiment has been shared by each and every visiting child and adult alike today and it is absolutely true.
The weather today has been stunning - warm sunshine and a gentle breeze made for an extremely pleasant atmosphere around the place. The children have out-done themselves today and once again the Pencelli staff have been hugely complimentary about not only their abilities with a canoe paddle (or 'spade' as Carly calls it) but with the empathy and compassion shown towards each other.
The day began with another five-star breakfast of sausages, baked beans, hash browns and tomatoes. The potential issues of crawling through caves behind those who had eaten copious amounts of beans were discussed with some concern by some of the boys...and then laughed at heartily.
After some light duties, the children were sent for the last time to their respective areas to be briefed for the day. The groups were in three places today - one caving with Miss Beckwith, one climbing with Mrs Teehee and one canoeing with the Daves (me and Dave).
Upon entering the cave with her group and becoming faced with a particularly tricky spot to negotiate, Miss Beckwith was told in no uncertain terms by one of the children that 'she was going to struggle there.' The child in question's name was duly noted on the 'no seconds at tea and no extra biscuits list' and the group continued.
In fact, the caving team really came into their own today, showing brilliant team skills and encouraging each other (just not the teachers) through the windy passages (!)
At one junction though, the team leader stopped the group to give them a challenge in the dark. Could the group call out a number in order from 1 to 10, without repeating a number?
The tension was unbearable...they began;
And Miss Beckwith enjoyed another proud moment.
The climbing group were at the quarry at Morlais near Merythr and tackled the rocky faces with great gusto, helping each other very stylishly, whilst wearing excellent sunglasses (see photos). The children were pushed to their limits and given higher and harder rock faces to climb; and they really rose to the challenge with no hesitations. All came back smiling their heads off with tales of scaling huge heights with the help of their team.
The canoeing group set off in the beautiful sunshine along the Brecon and Monmouthshire Canal (Google it!), watching the scenery as it flowed past, 'pedalling' along(?) trying their best not to 'run over' the ducklings and swans(??). Sheep were plentiful in the fields around the canal, bleating their encouragement as we cut through the water with our spades. The canoes hold three people each and the occupants were regularly switched around; this usually involving a splash as children fell into the cold canal water. Halfway along we stopped for a spot of luncheon in a scene reminiscent of the Wind In The Willows, the part of (drowned) Ratty being played by many of the children. Shelter building was thrown in after lunch, where the children were split into a boy team and a girl team and asked to build a storm proof shelter from tarpaulin and string. The shelters were then put to the test by 'Hurricane Martin' (team leader Martin chucking a bucket of water at them). The girls won. Easily.
Capsizing and jumping in finished the day and three wellies were lost to the canal depths, never to be retrieved.
Tea time threw up some gems this evening;
A favourite exchange between teacher and pupil was played out;
"Miss Beckwith, what is rice pudding?"
"It's pudding. Made of rice."
Incidentally, in Term 6, Red Class will be mainly working on plurals, after such comments as;
"I've got hundreds of butter on my bread."
"I've got hundreds of water in my boat."
Another question that arose involved the upcoming evening activity of problem solving.
"What actually is problem solving?"
"It's solving problems."
The best one was in the late evening when one boy got very confused at the time on his watch reading 15:16 when it was clearly 9pm. After much consideration by all parties concerned, and much head-scratching and consternation, it appeared that the boy in question's watch was actually in stopwatch mode. THEN, having remedied this, the boy carried on...
"Right. Do we need to wear our bedclothes for hot chocolate?"
"But I only wear boxer shorts in bed."
"No - don't go down in your boxer shorts."
"Ok....what should I wear then?"
"Just wear the clothes you are wearing now."
"Ah... thought so!"
We are glad it's Thursday night.
As I sit here, the children are sound asleep and dreaming of gorge walking tomorrow morning.
This will be my last blog post this week, as, quite frankly, I have run out of evenings to do blogging in.
Tomorrow we will be up early at 7:15pm, when the children will strip their beds and hoover their rooms (in spite of the fact that one boy was alarmed to find out that he was to do this 'on my own?!')
I do hope that you have enjoyed reading about the events of the trip and are ready for the deluge of washing and stories of the week that will avalanche you upon the return of your child.
The coach is leaving at 2:30pm, and so it should return to school between 5pm and 5:30pm.
Saying this though, if we have the same driver that drove us on Monday, we should be back sometime around 2017.
Good night all!
"Those are Sugar Puffs....they already have sugar on them." Miss Beckwith.
We are really enjoying our time here at Plas Pencelli. Today the sun made a huge appearance in the Welsh sky and it has brought the best out in everyone, despite the 2am knock on the door in the girls' suite with information from one of the girls that another 'was dead.' After some investigation, it appeared that the child in question was asleep.
All woke up this morning feeling bright and breezy after a good, heavy night's sleep(!) A hearty breakfast of bacon, hash browns, tomatoes and spaghetti hoops was demolished and the groups were sent again to briefings. Interesting discussions were had about what kit was needed for climbing and some children are starting to see the contents of their clothing drawers diminish rapidly - dry jumpers and socks are becoming rare here at camp!
Two groups went climbing today at a disused quarry near Merthyr Tydfil (Google Earth it!), and one went canoeing along the canal from Talybont back to Pencelli.
The climbers enjoyed a 35 minute minibus ride through beautiful scenery - sliver lakes, pine forests, rocky streams and massive blue skies went past the window....as the children ignored them all whilst singing. Loudly.
Upon arrival, there was plenty of kit to carry and the groups were extremely helpful. Then they all set about the lower rocks, bouldering around them and gaining confidence.
After lunch, both groups tackled the cliff face with vigour. Many climbed very quickly and then needed a little support to abseil back down. Some were tentative and needed encouragement to lean backwards whilst their classmates took the strain. Trust was something that both groups learnt about a LOT today! Once again, the Pencelli staff were very impressed with the attitude of the children. Even those who found it challenging persevered and were beaming by the end.
The canoeing group were very strong. Led by the centre leader, they all helped carry the canoes and listened well to instructions. Once in the water, some paddled effectively and others went in circles. Some screamed and others screamed louder. No-one fell in today, until the end, when (nearly) everyone jumped in the canal. Some jumped in 8 times and did some swimming in the canal on their backs.
Tea tonight was eaten outside in the sunshine on the picnic tables out the front of the lodge. The meal comprised of fish goujons and chips with peas and carrots and apple crumble and custard for desert. The Scavenger Hunt was great fun as the evening activity and then the centre leader set the children a challenge of writing a poem about their stay so far. The rules were;
1. The poem needed 4 lines.
2. The poem needed to rhyme.
Here is one written by some boys in the class, obviously feeling incredibly moved emotionally by the whole experience...
'We are going on a trip
Whilst we are eating orange pips
And having chocolate chips
The food is nice, better than Oakley's nips.'
Miss Beckwith is, as I'm sure you will understand, very proud.
Hot chocolate was made tonight by Mrs Treby (whose name I mis-spelt yesterday, much to her annoyance), with help from some volunteers looking for extra biscuits. Mrs Treebee took on the hot choc duties after outrageously declaring that the hot chocolate I had made on Monday AND Tuesday night was 'too watery.' Mrs Teaflea then proceeded to make hers with milk. MILK! Custard Creams also ensured that the standard was raised entirely this evening whilst I drank my squash and sulked in the corner. Mrs Treesqueak watching on, smugly.
Lights out was at 9:45pm this evening, following a room inspection which saw some wet clothes (and towels!) found in clothes drawers and some very dubious 'bed-making'. One conversation upon inspecting a bed ensued thus;
"Have you made your bed?"
"Where is the sheet?"
"Why are there socks in your bed?"
"I use them in the night."
Again, all is very quiet tonight and the children are resting to be ready for another day of activities tomorrow.
Here's to another quiet night and another cracking day in the sunshine tomorrow.
“Educating the mind without educating the heart, is no education at all.” —Aristotle.
Wow! What a day!
After a (relatively!) quiet first night, the children were woken at 7:30am to get themselves dressed and ready for a delicious breakfast of cereal, toast, sausages, hash browns, mushrooms and tomatoes.
Following breakfast, packed lunches were made (by the children) and they were then separated into their three groups for the briefings for the activities ahead of them.
Two groups went caving today at Porth Yr Ogof caves (Google it!) and had an amazing time underground, facing their fears and conquering the darkness. The instructors really put them through their paces, making their heart rates increase; squeezing them through the tightest of spaces, including the dreaded letterbox. With two groups being in the same cave, one instructor's ploy of pretending that the gap ahead of them was not called the letterbox was ruined by the second group's instructor arriving and proclaiming loudly, "Here it is folks, the famous LETTERBOX!"
All children made their way through the notorious gap and then navigated many other morbidly-named places such as 'Death Ledge' and 'The Spider Cave.' Indeed, both instructors, upon returning to Plas this evening, were reviewing the names that they had given to the different parts of the cave. 'Sunshine and Rainbow Room' was one name suggested instead.
The caving groups were, again, highly praised by the Pencelli staff for their teamwork and encouragement. They made sure that everyone got through most of the tight spaces (including looking out for Mrs Treaby); with boys and girls alike shining brightly as leaders at the front. Many spoke this evening of feeling a real sense of achievement at negotiating the caves and conquering their fears. One girl said she didn't want to witch off her helmet light, but was glad she had had the experience. One of the instructors took candles into the cave for the children to light. It was a wonderful experience.
Canoeing was on the agenda for the third Mere School group. The centre manager took the group and was instantly impressed with their enthusiasm for the water. Indeed, three children were so enthusiastic that they capsized quickly and were soaking for the rest of the day. The fact that this happened early on and yet the children still carried on was testament to the resilience and determination of the whole group. Lunch was taken at the side of the canal in an impromptu hailstorm and the children were really pushed on a long route through tunnels and into a prevailing north-westerly breeze (gale). Miss Beckwith was very proud of her group (some of whom had arms that were, frankly, too short to be paddling canoes) and all came home soaking after the annual 'jumpinthecanal' end to the day.
Hot showers were taken by (nearly) all and then Red Class tucked into a filling tea of pasta, meatballs and garlic bread with chocolate fudge cake for dessert.
The evening activity followed tea. Tonight, the children completed the 'Dingle Descent,' where they are roped together in their activity groups and led up a river (with beautiful scenery of moss-covered logs, rushing water and bluebells that most children couldn't see because they were blindfolded). Again, the teamwork and resilience shone through and each group made it through the challenge to a cup of hot chocolate and a biscuit before bed.
As I type, the children are settling down to sleep. They are remarkably hushed tonight and there were no arguments about lights out at 10pm.
Here's to another fab day in Wales tomorrow, when some groups will be climbing for the first time.
Goodnight to all!
PS - Something you might need to work on parents... a brief discussion was had this evening about the way to dry wet clothing. This has shown itself to be a skill that Red Class have not yet perfected. Most children in the class are under the impression that an item of clothing will dry if you just follow these 3 easy steps:
1. Absolutely, in no circumstances, should you wring any water out the item - simply leave it soaking wet.
2. Ignore the hanging shelves in the drying room.
3. Leave it in a pile on the floor.
We have arrived!
After a bus journey that was slightly longer than expected (due to a curious, 'scenic route' chosen by the bus driver that saw us enter, leave and then re-enter Wales), Red Class arrived at Plas Pencelli at 1pm this afternoon.
Upon arrival, the children were shown to their rooms and all were very happy about the sleeping arrangements.
Due to our late arrival, all of the children were then swiftly ushered to the lodge to devour their lunch - cheese and pickle or egg salad floury baps with choices of crisps, fruit, biscuit and drinks.
After lunch, there was a briefing meeting where the children got to know the site, their activity groups and their schedules for the week.
Then, it was activity time! The children were issued with waterproofs, wellies and helmets and were led on an adventure walk around the grounds. On the walk, ALL of the children navigated forests, traversed rivers, crawled through tunnels, slid down muddy banks and squeezed underneath gates. They encouraged each other and helped each other along the way, supporting their fellow group members very well whilst laughing, smiling and squealing with delight.
By the end of the walk, the children were extremely wet and muddy and thoroughly exhausted.
There was time for a shower and a quick change before a delicious tea of sausage rolls, potato wedges and salad with a choice of arctic roll or yoghurt and fruit for dessert.
After tea the children had some time to put their bedclothes on to their beds (which took a little longer than expected with the obligatory ghost impressions becoming standard in each room) before being summoned to their evening activity. The evening activity tonight was orienteering, where each and every child impressed the Plas Pencelli staff by completing courses that 'other children in Year 6 had previously found tricky.'
Indeed, the staff here have been hugely complimentary about Red Class and how they have gone about their first day with both great enthusiasm and a fantastic attitude towards their pursuits. Their teamwork (and the support that they have shown for each other) has been recognised and they have been highly praised already.
At 9pm we all came back to the lodge for hot chocolate and birthday cake (with a singsong for Martha Womack thrown in on her special day).
As I type, all of the children are tucked up in bed. Lights out was at 9:45pm this evening and all is (relatively!) quiet in the rooms. Let's hope for a quiet and peaceful first night here in the Brecon Beacons...
The weather has been good with some great sunny periods interspersed with some pretty heavy showers and some evening rainbows too.
Activities will start properly tomorrow, when the groups will be caving and canoeing.
Please enjoy a small selection of the photos of the day. All photos will be available to download when we get back to school next week (we are taking LOADS!) so please find a blank disc or memory stick ready for the deluge!
Keep checking the website as we go through the week, as I will be blogging like this each and every night.
Goodnight all! If the week continues as it has started, we will all come back very very happy; adults and children alike.
Pencelli...here we come!
when we leave at 9:00am Monday, 18thMay
Follow our adventures at Pencelli here.
We will try to keep our webpage updated with a few photos each day.
(mobile signal and wifi can be unreliable so don't worry if we are offline for a while!)
Our Summer Topic is...
We will be comparing the River Stour to the River Amazon by looking at the features of the river and how it is used.
Most of our art work and English work will be linked to our River topic and our visit to Pencelli.
Our science topics this term are adaptation and evolution, light and electricity.
We will be finding out about what rainforests are and where we can find them as well as comparing the features of a rainforest with our own forest near Alfred's Tower.
In science we will be learning about the life cycle of a plant and how plants and animals are adapted to suit their environment. We will also be finding out about evolution- what does it mean and what can we learn from it?