Alex Collier
Back to alumni stories

Alex Collier - Eskdale, The Lake District, 1971

Friends and family told me that this was a great opportunity and so I agreed to go. I think I was around 18 at the time and as I learnt later just a little older than most of my fellow “inmates”. So I spent the next few weekends putting together my kit – no jeans were allowed, so I found some police trousers at the market that were thick oiled wool – they turned out to be a good choice for keeping out the cold mist and rain that I was to encounter. I boarded a train to Eskdale – I would swear it was at platform 19 3/4 even back then…. Many of my fellow alumni turned out to be on the train. We arrived at Eskdale and were met by Hagrid or at least one of his family and taken to the beautiful house and ground. As I recall, at our first meeting we were introduced to our house master and our quarters and had our evening meal. We were told that the goal of Outward Bound was to enable each person to discover their inner strengths – and to face and overcome their fears and to learn the strength in being part of a team and trusting and relying on your team mates completely. The next morning we were all awakened by our house master, whose name unfortunately I do not recall, at what seemed like the middle of the night. He told us to get up immediately – no snoozing – get into our running gear and follow him. It did not seem to matter that it was pouring with rain. We then ran rounds the ground, along a path surrounded by bushes which beat us with their cold, wet branches and we were told to swim across the lake and continue our run. It was still pouring with rain and the lake was very cold – but this was the first of many such experiences. I believe the course was three weeks – which at the time seemed to be a life-time. We undertook many team building exercises and had many hikes over the fells, including to the top of Scafell. I do recall camping one day and the insects were absolutely awful. I was the only one who had brought insect repellant (I was brought up in the tropics…) which was shared enthusiastically by all, including our house master. We had many other adventures too numerous to list here but I will mention two that I had particular impact on me. The first was abseiling down a sheer cliff relying on your team mates to keep you safe. I had never done any mountain climbing or abseiling and this was a most exhilarating experience which I really enjoyed. The second was when we were taken to a bridge across a small but raging stream. Each of us had to take turns jumping off the bridge into the stream below. Our team mates were in the water below ready to assist. I am a strong swimmer so this was great fun for me. However one of our team said that he could not swim at all and was very frightened. We assured him that we would all be there to catch him and ensure he was safe. So he jumped and we supported him when he surfaced. He was so excited and thrilled that he had accomplished this feat and the bond that grew between him and all his team mates – it was amazing to watch. Over the duration of the course I put on several pounds of pure muscle – I think I was the fittest and healthiest that I have ever been. In my life I have since taken on many activities that challenge both the mind and body, including flying, sub aqua and sailing. Whenever I find I am in a tough situation, even now 40+ years later, I dig down to my Outward Bound training and find the strength to preserver and overcome the problems at hand. I emigrated to the US a few years after my Outward Bound experience. We live in Boston Massachusetts. Coincidentally, this Summer I am bringing Carol, my wife to see the Lake District and visit Eskdale. Carol has been hearing about Outward Bound and the same stories for many years now so I wanted to show where it all happened. Would it be possible to come and visit Outward Bound Eskdale? Regards Alex Collier