Les Mett
Back to alumni stories

Les Mett - Ullswater, The Lake District, 1956

In 1956 my parents had just agreed to me staying on at school to be the first group of boys to take GCE exams at my secondary modern school. A new headmaster had made this possible. He also offered me the opportunity to take part in an Outward Bound course in the Lake District. Lancashire Education Authority gave me a full grant so my Mum and Dad did not have to pay anything.

In those days I was mad keen on all sports being a member of the local gym, had passed many life saving awards and represented the school at soccer and rugby cricket and athletics. I was also a sergeant in the local army cadet force. My ambition was to join the army and become a Physical Training Instructor.

So getting off the train at Penrith in early March 1956 I was up for an adventure. I met the other 30 or so students and was placed in a dormitory of 10 bunk beds. Soon we met our instructor and I was impressed by how quickly he learnt our names. He was an experienced mountaineer and leader of the Keswick Mountain Rescue Team by the name of George Fisher. (I did meet him 20 years later in his shop in Keswick and he remembered my course).

The days started with an early morning set of exercises and followed by a cold shower. We had also agreed to no alcohol or smoking whilst on the course. That was no problem for me. We had cleaning duties to do and each group had to wash up after meals on a rota.

Activities consisted of rock climbing, canoeing, in ground challenges and athletic events. We learnt to map read and use a compass with both day and night exercises. We even did an evening rescue when we had to travel along the valley and help rescue a climber who had fallen off a rock climb. It turned out to be one of our instructors and was just a practise exercise. Another skill we learnt was how to tie special knots.

The overnight expeditions were memorable. I remember spending my 15th Birthday in "Dubbs"� with my group and George's ghost stories about smugglers. I was able to do some Snow and Ice climbing with him on Scare fell and climbed great gable.

I was in my comfort zone and was enjoying every challenge but realised it was showing me that I was capable of doing so much more and how important my team was to the success.

We had a timed run on the road to Glenridding and back, did a long jump and put the shot as well as some sprints. Results determined the type of outer rim to the Badge we eventually got. I was very proud to get the white honours rim with a blue merit inner.

How did all this affect me?

Well, a year later I passed the GCE, became head boy and then transferred to Fleetwood Grammar school. I was determined now to become a Physical Education Teacher. I continued with all my sport, represented the county at rugby and started Judo. I did pass "A"� Levels and received an unconditional offer to go to Loughborough.

I became a British University international in Judo, gained a Black Belt and won the British University Competition and had trials for the 1964 Olympics.

I graduated from Loughborough with a Teaching Certificate and a Hons DLC. I spent 40 wonderful years in Education. This included a research year at Leeds University and a Fulbright scholarship for a year teaching in Florida. My life has been spent in sport both as a player and in administration. I founded the "Olympian School of Sport"� with students spending their summer holidays at the University of Kent and The University of Warwick. 16 sports courses led by world class coaches and performers. This ran for a decade. My Daughter Carolyn became British Junior Squash Champion and captained the English Team (she attended Outward Bound in 80's). I became her chauffer at that time.

How it stays with me

I have now retired from teaching and work as an Education consultant with the Aimhigher Programme and with Gifted and Talented groups. I organise groups of students from disadvantaged backgrounds on a journey from schools to universities. An integral part of this work is a 5 day residential at the Outward Bound Trust schools in Aberdovey, Ullswater and Howtown. I volunteered to work as a member of the Schools Advisory Board to The Outward Bound Trust for the past three years and have kept my link with Judo being co-opted onto the London Area committee this year. I was awarded an Honorary Degree and a Gold Medal this year at the Loughborough University Centenary Ceremony.

So 53 years after my time at Outward Bound Ullswater I find myself escorting groups to the same experience with The Outward Bound Trust. It changed my life, gave me higher aspirations and the determination to do my best and now I see the change the course gives to my Aimhigher students. What a joy and so rewarding.

Thank you Outward Bound