A group of young people recently completed their first walks in the Lake District, while participating in the National Navigation Award Scheme. Two of the group, Marco Petrillo and Rizwan Ali, report on their experiences.
Marco Petrillo’s report
As a 19 year old University student living in a large urban area the opportunity to visit a natural and untouched environment was one which instantly appealed to me, if not only to escape the hectic lifestyle we all observe as part of our daily routine. This was my second visit to a remote and rural area although it was my first time visiting the largest national park in the country so I was particularly excited and very grateful to be given the opportunity to take part in the expedition. I had been told in the weeks leading up how fantastic the area was for walking whilst the views to be witnessed were quite spectacular so it would be true to say I had high expectations the morning we set off.
I was part of a group of ten which included four young people continuing their Duke of Edinburgh challenges in order to receive their Silver Award, three people aiming to achieve the Bronze level of the National Navigation Award Scheme (myself included), two experienced supervisors and one mountain leader. Of these people I only knew two, so I would be entering an unknown environment with an unknown group, something which added extra anticipation and excitement to the long bank holiday weekend we had planned.
On arrival in the Lake District the greenery and the enormous dales were prominent in all directions. It wasn’t long before mobile phones had no signal and the striking contrast between city life and country life could be felt. The place we stayed was called Reservoir Cottage which sat directly on a piece of land between unused slate quarries and had a phenomenal view of the Kentmere Mountains. I had predicted an uninspiring building with the most basic appliances and little space, mainly due to the fact that this was what I had stayed in when travelling to Derbyshire. This cottage was quite stunning however, both outside and inside. Built using the materials extracted from the quarries no more than 100 metres away, the shelter was an appreciation of the surrounding environment complementing it in almost every way, from the spring water coming out of the taps to its position amongst natures wonderful creations. It was kept in excellent condition reflecting the appreciation people have of this environment and how it is extremely important to preserve its natural beauty.
Fida Hussain, our mountain leader, planned to introduce the NNAS Bronze students to navigating and map reading on the Friday which covered a large quantity of the syllabus and would set us up for the weekend of activities he had planned. At the early stages we all found this fairly difficult as it was something completely new to us, we had no experience and therefore listened with very open minds. As he taught me the most basic navigating techniques, such as setting the map using the compass and identifying line features/area features, I began understanding the nature of maps and how they can be used to locate current positions and aid decisions regarding direction. Having the one to one tuition from an experienced navigator was extremely useful meaning after only a short time I had grasped the basic concepts and felt confident that I could orientate the map and generate grid references when required.
On the Saturday, we began a challenging hike towards our mountain peaks. These mountains were part of the Kentmere Horseshoe and consisted of Yoke, Mardale III Bell and Froswick. The initial climb was extremely steep and a real test of physical endurance. I found motivation from the people in my group and the willingness to witness the spectacular views from the peaks of these mountains. Being a bank holiday weekend meant there were a fair number of walkers taking on the Kentmere Horseshoe challenge. Unsurprisingly, all the people I spoke to were friendly and polite and I could see they were relishing the walk which lay ahead of them, just as I was. These people choose to embark on what is a physically demanding walk for the simple reason that they enjoy it, walking with a smile and taking in the brilliant features around them.
Luckily, our weekend was blessed with the finest weather we could have hoped for. Waterproofs were brought but rarely called upon as the suncream and water replaced the woolly hat and gloves I thought I’d be wearing. I was reminded by many walkers how lucky I was to have such great weather in spring when telling them that it was my first time in the Lakes, an additional but unexpected benefit which I took full advantage of. On reaching the first mountain peak, Yoke, I was quite overwhelmed by the sense of achievement in what was a fantastic moment. I felt a mix of emotions stretching from tiredness to real joy and happiness. Unfortunately, a thick layer of fog had set in around us so the views which we could have witnessed weren’t possible. As the line of sight wasn’t great, it did however focus my attention to the mountain top which was quite a bleak and rocky place but none the less had a special feel to it, a piece of raw untouched nature which the vast majority of people will not have the opportunity to see in their lifetime.
The next peak I reached was Mardale III Bell, another steep climb which required a fair amount of physical endurance. Our mountain leader ensured we had a number of breaks for drinks and food to keep energy levels up and rest. The breaks allowed me to view the spectacular mountains we were aiming for and prepare myself to climb them.
As well as the mountains, there were a number of other landmarks which I was able to see and reach. Nan Bield Pass shelter was a place we stopped for a break along with many other people as it’s a popular resting spot. The narrow passes funnel the wind down which makes the area quite cool and in bad weather the shelter may be a life saver for some people. The cool breeze was a welcome change in weather conditions however as the fog had cleared up and the sun was again beaming through. As the hike was coming to an end, we began descending down the mountain and our leader made the call to take us a certain way allowing us to see the quite spectacular view of Blea Tarn. This lake was quite remarkable and was one the most impressive natural sights I had ever seen. Alone, it made the seven hour hike worthwhile and coupled with the mountain peaks I reached made the whole day extremely rewarding.
The final sighting was just up from our base at Reservoir Cottage. Kentmere Reservoir was in my sight after travelling down the passage and was a great view to end the day. Although the conditions meant that mosquitoes were plentiful, the reservoir was a fantastic representation of human initiative within nature as early as 1848 when it was built.
After Saturday’s hike, Sunday was much less intense but allowed me to build on the skills I learnt in the first day none the less. Our mountain leader sent the other two NNAS Bronze students and me to Green Quarter with a map, a compass and other necessary supplies with the challenge of returning to Reservoir Cottage. I was confident enough to use the skills I had been taught earlier in the weekend to consult with the other group members and navigate to the correct places until we reached our target destination. I gained a lot of self confidence completing this activity in which team working was essential and we also saw some great landmarks such as waterfalls, disused quarries and Tongue Scar.
Being assessed on Monday was quite relaxed and straight forward thanks to the guidance of my mountain leader. Diverting away from footpaths allowed me the freedom to consider alternate routes to destinations and appreciate the impact contours have on walking times and distances. Like the previous days, the journey was full of great views and a good number of walkers had again taken to the mountains to spend their day in this tranquil place. I walked through various terrains including thick marshland which gave an appreciation of how micro details on maps can be extremely important when leading a group, particular if the group consists of young people.
On returning to our cottage, the demands of the weekend were beginning to set in as I was extremely tired and weary. It was at this time that I began reflecting on the entire weekend, after a de-brief from our leader we were awarded our Bronze badges and certificates which I was proud of. It was reassuring to know that the effort I put in over the weekend could be recognised by others as well as myself, despite getting so much out of the journey I now had a tangible reminder of the time I had spent there.
It would be difficult to pinpoint any one particular highlight from my visit to the Lake District as there were so many. Receiving my Bronze NNAS award was a great achievement and was a fitting end to the weekend which has almost certainly strengthened my character. By the end of the week I had almost forgotten that only three days earlier I had not known any of the people I was sharing a cottage with as they were a fantastic group. There was a fair mix of people in terms of age and background, but the place we stayed at acted as a common ground for everyone as we all shared an admiration for its magnificence allowing us to bond as a group and work well together. The weekend was a great example of how good leadership of a relatively diverse group can generate positive reactions and attitudes which is exactly what we had from our mountain leader. It was great to be part of a group which achieved so much in a small amount of time and has prompted me to look at volunteering and getting involved with similar activities in the future. The Lake District very much exceeded my expectations in almost every way and I will be taking any opportunity to return there in the future knowing I will be returning to a very special place.
Rizwan Ali’s report
Hi, my name is Rizwan and I would like to let everybody know about my experience and how I have achieved so much in such a short space of time. I didn't know about the Duke of Edinburgh programme and mountain climbing, so I chose to run with a bad group which I thought was good. I was young and naive and stayed in my own area creating bad habits.
Fortunately I met my former tutor who is a mountain climbing leader. He told me about the youth projects involving the Duke of Edinburgh Award, mountain climbing, etc and gave me the opportunity to participate in the National Navigation Award Scheme. I was really looking forward to this because it sounded really interesting and would help me develop new skills and interact with other people. I had not been given this opportunity before, so I worked really hard as I knew it would help me to become a better person and see a different life.
I have never done anything like this before and with his help I have learnt so much, like how to understand a two-dimensional plan, using map symbols, scales and features on a variety of different maps. I have also learnt how to take six figure grid references for any given location or position, use orientated maps to identify features and directions of travel. The course has also given me an understanding of contours and major land forms like hills and valleys .
I know now what suitable kit is needed for a mountain walk. I have also learnt to plan a safe, suitable walk, understand country codes and rights and responsibilities, and demonstrate an awareness of local and national access legislation.
I have made a really big achievement for myself. It’s the first time in my life I have walked up three mountains, and I am really pleased with myself because I thought I never had it in me. All thanks to the mountain leader who helped give me confidence and encouraged me to try it and now I would like to help others and show them what they are missing out on.
Marco and Rizwan were introduced to the Lake District by Fida Hussain, who is a youth leader from Rochdale and a member of the BMC Equity Steering Group. Fida is a Mountain Leader and Duke of Edinburgh Award Leader. Fida said,
“They achieved a great deal in the few days they spent in the Lake District. Learning about the environment, conservation issues, local history, tourism and how people live and work in the Lakes. They were taught technical navigation skills, and applied them as part of their award.
Outdoor learning is good for children and young people. It helps them gain a practical understanding of the world around them, build self-confidence, test their abilities, take managed risks and develop a sense of responsibility and tolerance towards places and people.
My aim was to make young people aware of the considerable health and well-being benefits of spending time in natural green spaces is growing. Outdoor learning can help children and young people understand subjects, like maths or science, through real world examples and first hand experience. Whilst academic achievement is important, outdoor education can play a significant role helping pupils develop soft skills like good communication, team work and leadership that are essential to the well rounded education that is vital for life beyond the classroom. Despite this, the countryside still remains an enigma for far too many.”