Brian White
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Brian White - Eskdale, The Lake District, 1991

I won a sponsored place at an Outward Bound Centre anywhere I chose to go in the UK. This was a joint venture run between the Councils and Police in Northern Ireland at the time, it was called the Mourne Ramble Scheme. The Police worked through the schools, and in my area there were over 500 kids aged 15-16 taking part each year, and the selection process was spread over 4 courses, with assessments on each course, the numbers were reduced each time, culminating in a weekend expedition when overall winner was chosen. I was that lucky person.

After looking through the brochure I decided that Eskdale was the centre for me. When the time came, I travelled over alone by boat. On arrival in Stranraer I noticed a few other people with outward Bound folders at the station, I got talking with some of them and realised we were all heading to the same place, so I was making friends already and I hadn't even got there yet. On arrival at Ravenglass train station we transferred to what I can only describe as a miniature steam train, which was certainly a novel way to get to our destination at Eskdale Green. Eskdale itself was lovely, and the centre was top class.

One bit that really sticks out was the run each morning around the lake followed by diving in and swimming regardless of the weather (this was all before breakfast). I also recall the high ropes and absailing, as heights would not have been a strong point for me. The feeling when you complete things that you really would prefer to avoid can be exhilarating, which I discovered many times during my stay at Eskdale. The expeditions were brilliant especially the ones without any leaders. Being dropped by bus miles at the other side of the lake district and having to find your way back using a route that you planned on your map was a challenge I really enjoyed. The overnight solo expedition when we had to bivvy in a forest was a wacky one although there were a few of us that came across each other while exploring. One of the guys had somehow smuggled a frisbe with him, which we played with for a while in a field down river before returning to our own camps for the night. I guess that was sort of cheating being a solo expedition and all, but 16 year olds do bend the rules from time to time. I also remember the rules being bent ever so slightly at the end of our 3 day expedition, we found ourselves at Ravenglass and jumped on the train to Eskdale Green to save on sore feet. At the time we passed it off as improvising.

The overall course was amazing and friendships were formed and although over time the links with people fade the memories are still there. The great outdoors and hiking is something I have begun to revisit after quite a few years and am loving it all over again.

I hope someday to send my kids on one of these courses because the rewards and memories can last a lifetime.