Ken Newton
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Ken Newton - Ullswater, The Lake District, 1958

Travelling to Scotland to stay with friends, my wife and I decided to spend a few days in the Lake District. On driving along the road by Lake Ullswater, I saw the sign for the Outward Bound Trust. On a whim, I decided to call in. It had been 56 years since I had been on the Outward Bound course, in Ullswater. On arrival, we met the Head Instructor, Tony Martin-White, who made us very welcome, and offered me the chance to look around the school, to see how it had changed over the years. I was also introduced to Carole Holliday, at reception, who was very friendly, and offered to look in the archives to get the records of my stay all these years ago. It turned out that I was on course no: U27, which was in March 1958. The report compiled by Commander Davis, who was in charge at the time, detailed my progress, on the course, which I had never seen before, as it was sent to the local authority who financed the trip, along with a report to my school’s headmaster. Fortunately for me, on reading it, it was quite complimentary. Carole also provided me with a large photograph of the group, and also the patrol I was attached to. She then asked if I would like to write about my experiences of all these years ago, to show on the Outward Bound website. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Carole and Tony for their time, and making me most welcome after all these years. Below, is my Outward Bound experience.

Best wishes,

Ken Newton


Week 1.

It was a cold snowy day, when I arrived at Penrith station, on the 3rd March, 1958. It seemed to me that everybody that got off the train with their backpacks, were all heading to the Outward Bound school. Coaches were waiting at the station to collect us and the majority of us arrived at the school mid- afternoon. On arrival, we assembled in the hall, where I noticed the team instructors were waiting for us, headed by a Commander Davis, who at that time was in charge of the school. He gave us a talk outlining the programme for the next 4 weeks, and what was expected from each of us during that time, then our names were called out and we assembled in 6 groups of 12. When my name was called, I was introduced to a tall, bearded man, called Mike Burt, who was to be our patrol instructor for the month. Of the 6 patrols, I found myself in Scott Patrol, named after Sir Walter Scott, the Arctic explorer. The other 5 patrols were named as follows:- Shackleton, Whymper, Mummery, Mallory and Watkins. After being shown to our dormitories, we unpacked and went down for dinner. The first night, on getting ready for bed, I found myself on a top bunk with a sash window opposite, having to be quarter way open at the insistence of Mr. Burt. He then told us we would be up at 6.30a.m. run around the yard, twenty times. We achieved this with snow lying on the ground, and then we all had to have a cold shower. This was to be the ritual every morning. By the time we went down for breakfast, we were all glowing and extremely warm. After breakfast we were all seen by a doctor and nurse, to make sure that we were fit enough for the course. Teeth were also checked, and each in turn was weighed at the beginning of the course and at the end. Later in the morning, we split into patrols and Mr. Burt outlined the programme and the activities we would be doing during the next four weeks. He explained that each week we would have to take part in a scheme, the first of which was to climb Helvellyn in 2 days time. We were introduced to the obstacle course, which consisted of a high wall, rope ladders across a stream, and ropes to climb and swing from one to the other. On the fourth week, we were told each patrol would compete against each other to see which patrol could do it in the quickest time. There was also athletics to do during our stay. This consisted of 4 categories, two events in each category. The first was jumping, which included high jump and long jump. The second was throwing which was Javelin and weight. Number 3 was sprinting and middle distance, which was 100yards and ½ mile, and no. 4 was long distance, which was 2 miles and a cross country run. To pass the athletic standard, we had to achieve, in each category 2 honours or 1 honour, 1 merit or 2 merits. This was set against time and distance that you were required to beat. In the first week we had the sprinting and middle distance followed by the jumping. Being more of a sprinter than a long distance runner, I managed to break the records for the 100yards and achieved a good time in the ½ mile. So I managed 2 honours, also in the jumping, again I managed 2 honours. On the Wednesday morning before we set off on our first scheme, one of the boys in our patrol, a lad from London, who looked and acted quick hard, decided he was homesick, and went home. We set off for Helvellyn, by walking 10miles to Glenridding. When we arrived I had 10 blisters on my feet, one for each mile. As I had no hiking boots, my headmaster lent me his and they were a size 8, which seemed fine at the time, but as Mr. Burt pointed out, I took a size 9, and he arranged for me to borrow a pair of boots on our return for the rest of the course. From Glenridding, with our packs on our back, including tents, groundsheets and 2 sleeping bags each, we climbed up to Red Tarn, where we were to spend the night under canvas. I was teamed up with a lad who informed me that he was a Queen’s Scout. We had to clear the snow to set up our tent, after that light the primus to cook our dinner. I volunteered to wash the billycans in the Tarn. On my return my colleague was in his sleeping bag reading. I asked what he had done with his boots, his reply was ‘just throw them at the front of the tent’, which I did. The following morning, I realised he had used his as a pillow, with a towel and a pillow wrapped round them. Mine, were frozen at the front of the tent, which is not good defrosting them, while wearing them to climb a mountain. The weather that morning was not good, and it was cold and snowing, so Mr. Burt had us roped together, before the climb. I volunteered when asked to be the last man on the rope, as he led the party, to make sure no-one slipped or fell while climbing Striding Edge and descending down Squirrel Edge. We then descended back to Glenridding and walked back to the school. The following morning, after seeing the nurse for treatment to my blisters, I was loaned a pair of size 9 hiking boots, which did the trick. The rest of the week was made up of more athletics, practice on the assault course and our first lesson on rock climbing

Week 2.

It was mainly taken up with lessons in map reading and how to use a compass, to get the correct coordinates, which were needed for later in the course. Also an important part of the course was first aid. During our stay we could be called out to help the Keswick Mountain rescue team if required. The scheme for the week, was a 3 day study of our natural surroundings. The survey scheme required each patrol to have an element to observe, investigate and identify. This could be the study of rock formation, lakes and rivers, species of trees. Scott patrol was given the survey of observing birds, and we had to identify and catalogue, draw and paint them back at the centre. Each patrol was marked on their results, and it was great that Scott patrol came out top. Another surprising thing happened at the beginning of week two, I was nominated by Mr. Burt as leader of Scott patrol. Later in the week we did more first aid and learned how to treat broken limbs with splints, administer morphine, if necessary, also how to treat head and neck wounds. We learned how to take a stretcher with a person strapped to it down a cliff face. The first time we did this, I found myself carrying the stretcher walking down backwards. We each in turn had to volunteer to be the injured person strapped to the stretcher. “Scary”. When it was my turn, I made sure that the lads’ were correctly roped to the stretcher, and whoever was at the bottom of the cliff to have tight control. By the end of the day, our patrol was pretty good at going up and down the cliff with the stretcher. Mr. Burt complimented our performance, and all the lads were pleased, as we were beginning to become one of the leading patrols.

Week 3.

We started with athletics, in the throwing, I got an honour in the javelin and a merit in the weights, then came the dreaded 2 miles run, and at the end of the week, we were to have the cross country. Not being a long distance runner I didn’t achieve even a merit in the 2 miles, which was very disappointing. At the end of the week in the cross country, I did surprise myself by achieving a merit, which meant to pass all the athletic standards, I would have to run the 2 miles again in week 4 to try at least to get a merit. The scheme in week 3 was a ‘todd’ scheme, when we were each given a bivouac, compass and map and to make our way across cross country to a designated spot, record what we had observed (mine turned out to be waterfall) and make our way to a set coordinate on the map, where we were required to spend the night in our bivouac . Mr. Burt would drive round to make sure, while looking through his binoculars, we were in the right place . That night, my primus failed to work, and so dinner turned out to be a raw egg, flapjack and a bar of chocolate, washed down with a bit of snow. It was the only time I thought of home, sitting beside a warm fire having a cup of tea, but the thought soon passed, as I watched a wintry sunset, which was really spectacular against the winter landscape. The following morning, we made our way to an agreed spot, where we were picked up and taken back to camp. Later that week one of the other instructor’s George Fisher, who at the time was head of the mountain rescue team, took us out to show us how to use an ice axe. In the snow, he had us slipping down a gentle slope and swinging the ice axe into the snow and ice to get a grip, and to chip toe and hand holds. It was good fun, but one lad cut his hand badly on the ice axe, and needed first aid. George Fisher, was retiring at the end of our course to concentrate on his climbing business in Keswick, which I noticed was still there, bearing his name after all those years .

Week 4.

We began with a rock climbing exercise, climbing Shepherds Crag. I found myself second on the rope after the instructor, and part of the climb was a piece of rock which jutted out from the face which we had to climb over. I lost my footing at this point, and ended up swinging free on the rope. Scary. I had to swing back and grip the face again, and managed to get a finger hold, put my knees against the rock for support, next minute the instructor bellowed “get those knees off the rock, fingers and toe holes only”. Of all the challenges we had to do, I found rock climbing the most difficult. On completion, our next exercise was canoeing on Derwent Water for one and a half hours, and afterwards we were all exhausted.The scheme for the week was to walk from Derwent Water the following day and back to camp using our map and compass, which wasn’t too bad as it was mainly on a flat terrain. Later in the week I had my second attempt at the 2 miles run, I was determined at least to get a merit to make sure I passed all the athletic standards. To my surprise I did manage a merit, so I achieved the success I required for me as a person, and also for the patrol. Finally we had the obstacle course. Our patrol put in a good time, but came second in the event, which was very intense. One of the boy’s in another patrol did the course with a broken collar bone, but overall it was good to report in the 4 weeks events, Scott patrol came out on top. The following day, we had to write a report on our time at the school and what we thought of the course and its programme. We then had a photograph call of all the students and instructors taking part in the course, and also a photograph of each patrol’s members, of which Carole has very kindly provided me with a copy of each. We were then given a blazer badge and a lapel badge with the motto ‘to serve, to strive and not to yield’.

Looking back at my experience at the time, I really enjoyed it. The challenge, adventure and the fun we had, it was character building in leadership and skills, which stood me in good stead for my career later in life. I feel every boy and girl should have the opportunity to experience an Outward Bound course. I am immensely grateful for my old headmaster, selecting me to attend the Outward Bound school at Ullswater. A memory I will never forget.

Ken Newton