Alan Jordan
Back to alumni stories

Alan Jordan - Aberdovey, Wales, 1969

I popped into my old school, Outward Bound Ullswater a few months back and I am still smiling! I was on course U139 in May/June 1969, aged 17, four weeks that were incredibly formative in my life. I received a copy of my report, which I have never seen, a very prescient document indeed! It is really good - how sad is that - to see that the only surviving OB tie is the Ullswater model!

I went to O.B. Ullswater as a Police Cadet in the Bradford City Police Force, with mentoring from a good friend of Outward Bound, Police Sergeant John Goodall, a man to whom many, many people owe an enormous debt of gratitude. Bradford City was the smallest force in the country and we had an amazing 'esprit du corps'. After almost seven years as a Police Officer I left to pursue a career in teaching and have recently retired after 35 years as a teacher. I have in the past served on the committee of the Bradford Outward Bound Association and for the past almost 20 years have assessed Duke of Edinburgh's Award gold expeditions in Cumbria.

I applaud the Outward Bound Generations initiative, here are some of my recollections and thoughts to add to the file…

I still regard O. B. Ullswater as 'my' school, friends and colleagues over many years have commented to the effect that the place must have had a profound impact on me
My confidential report talks about my early 'home sickness', how wonderfully PC, in reality I missed my girlfriend!
Squadron Leader Lester Davies was the man at the helm, an inspirational man if ever there was one
I was in Mallory Patrol with some real characters, according to my report I irritated some of them - my two children simply laughed when they read this, they were not at all surprised
I had a serious outdoors background, having spent time in the Yorkshire Dales on my own for four or more years and having completed half of the Pennine Way in Easter 1969, and I guess I was quite confident in the hills
Chris Bonington was visiting the school and writing an article for the Daily Telegraph, I was on my 'Tod' where we rowed across to Howtown and then bivouacked individually on the side of Place Fell - we had a rainstorm that night and I found my sleep being disturbed by a lamb calling for it's mother which was on the other side of a swollen beck - I 'baaaed' and the lamb came to me, curling up on the ground close to my head - we went to sleep together, sharing that patch of earth - when I awoke in the morning the lamb had gone - after I had cooked my breakfast Chris Bonnington appeared, in the company of a member of staff - Chris asked me, in a southern accent, how I was doing and I replied rather tetchily in the vernacular, pointing out that I had just spent the night under a boulder in the rain - he was hurried away - I still owe the man an apology!
Whilst camping close to Dunmail Raise with three other we were approached by Lester Davies in the half-light - we of course offered him a cup of tea - he asked for milk and sugar - it was only in the morning that we realised that we had given him potato powder and salt - the man never said a word and drank every drop!
We used Optimus 80 petrol stoves and soon learned the best, unsafest, method of getting them going - pouring petrol into the ring below the burner to get a rapid warm up!
The rucksacks were Karrimor Outward Bound and I bought one as soon as I could afford it afterwards, that sack went with me into the Alps and the Rockies before I bought a Berghaus Cyclops Serac 3 (for which I was fitted at Ellis Brigham in Manchester)
My force gave me a voucher to buy boots, I went to Pooles in Eastgate, Leeds and bought a pair of Hawkins 'Cairngorm', wonderful boots
I found rock climbing quite scary, I clearly remember climbing behind Napes Needle on Gable - Napes Ridge and Westmoreland Buttress? (does that make sense?) - interestingly I went on to be a very keen climber and a mad-keen pot-holer.
I came 5th in the cross-country run, I still fell-run to this day - I did the Karrimor Mountain Marathon in the Galloway Highlands (1995?) with Pete Livesey (now sadly dead) - unfortunately, but not surprisingly, I was nowhere near as good as Pete and we had to drop out at the start of day 2 - I limped off the hill with torn ligaments
Whilst training to a be a teacher I did my MLC under a fantastic, charismatic man called Wally Keay at Bingley College - I have been leading students and adults in the hills ever since
My time at Ullswater reinforced my feeling that nothing was impossible - a lesson that has taken me to many places in life
In May/June 2010 I walked alone from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela and on to Finisterre - el Camino - 900km - 41 years after U139 and the thread is still unwinding - there is a book there somewhere - thanks to Squadron Leader Lester Davies and O.B. Ullswater
At a rather high-powered meeting many years ago, and proudly wearing my Ullswater tie, I was singled out by a chap who opened up with "Which school?" - he was wearing his tie, from a school in Africa.