Mick Rampton
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Mick Rampton - Aberdovey, Wales, 1961

Course 212
September 1961
Beresford watch

A month at Outward Bound was the hotly contested prize for the best First Year Apprentice at the large engineering company I worked for in Lincoln. There were 80 of us that year, so to win was just fantastic.

It was my first trip away from home alone to a part of the country I had never been to. Upon arrival we were allocated to watch which comprised of a group of 14 young men aged 16-21 and all from different parts of Britain.

Outward Bound Aberdovey was then mainly a “sea school” and I was looking forward to that part of the activities.

In the month we were there we learnt much about many things – map and compass work, knots and manning the local fire truck, sailing and canoeing. We also had 2 major challenges, one being the 3 day voyage on the Golden Valley, a motorized ketch which sailed across Cardigan Bay to Abersoch and then back to Aberystwyth and then back home to Aberdovey. On the first day at sea we had all been allocated prime tasks and all had to muck in with everything else. I was put down in the engine room because I was knowledgeable about diesel engines. Down in the galley some of the other members of the watch were making corned beef sandwiches, the bread being thickly spread with stork margarine. The sandwiches were passed round to all the lads and we all tucked in. Soon there were lads rushing to the side of the boat and being sick!

Another amusing incident on the voyage took place whilst we were anchored in Abersoch Bay. Seven or eight of us were swimming about 20 metres from the boat when a pair of common porpoises appeared behind us. Some wag on the boat shouted “shark, shark!” You have never seen anyone swim so fast and climb the netting onto the boat!

On the third day of our four day expedition covering 65 miles, we were given instructions to approach Cader Idris from different sides, climb to the top, check in with the instructor at the top and return to a cabin via the opposite route. All went well until on the homeward leg the lad who was map reading at the time directed us down the right flank of the mountain into Barmouth Valley. By the time we realised our mistake and regained the ridge we had lost a good two hours. The trail then lead though some slate quarries with deep pits filled with water. Shortly after this a rain front swept in off Cardigan Bay and we were enveloped in thick cloud and torrential rain. Unlike today, we were ill equipped for this, having no waterproofs or shelter. Clinging together we sought refuge under an outcrop of rock and spent a most miserable night in the pouring rain and low cloud. We dared not move because of the danger posed by the slate workings and we had only one torch. We could hear the search teams in the distance and dogs barking but we were not found. To keep our spirits up we told jokes and sang songs.

At daybreak we were suffering from hypothermia but we didn’t know it. Today we would have been air lifted off the mountain and hospitalised! Fortunately the sun came out and warmed us through and we ate, and eventually walked back to the village.

On the last day the cutters needed to be put away and one of the masts came crashing down. It almost hit our instructor who had his back to the operation – but I instinctively caught it. The instructor said “Good work Rampton – its a pity I have already done your report”.

From that day I often wondered what that report contained and this prompted me after 49 years to try and locate a copy – I did through Generations and its conclusions and observations of me all those years ago were spot on.

The ethos of the OB movement was then, and is still now a marvellous opportunity for young people to learn about themselves under trying conditions, to meet and work with others from diverse backgrounds and cultures and I recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone. My experiences then have helped sustain me throughout life in trying times.