Robert Collier
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Robert Collier - Eskdale, The Lake District, 1954

I will have a stab at rekindling my memories of jan/feb 1954; it was a long time ago, but certain experiences stay with a person forever.

I was asked to attend the Outward Bound at Eskdale by my employers in Bristol. I had no inkling as to what it was all about, but my job was a bore and I was only too happy to escape the drudgery. It must have been mid January '54 that a few of us from the same company embarked on what, at that time, seemed the longest railway journey of all time, to Ravensglass via Whitehave [I think].

The first day we were broken up into patrols and shown our dorms, issued our kit"�I remember quite well the polar bear type sleeping bags. I was a member of Wilson patrol and given the status of quartermaster.

We had an early morning run around the block [around Gatehouse] and because the tarn was frozen over, we had cold showers. I do believe a similar event would just about finish me off nowadays.

During our first week, we were invited to sit in the warden's office, who by the way was the incredible Eric Shipton. What a character. Each person introduced himself and discussed his own interests etc. for a few minutes.

I remember Eric Shipton giving talks and showing slides of his travels some evenings. He was a charming man. Over the years, I have come across two articles about the man; the first was the April issue 1956, two years after I was at Eskdale, and the second was some years ago discussing an expedition in China - I think. The articles were both published in the National Geographic magazine. The journalist, in the former, reported all Eric Shipton thought about the aims of the Outward Bound, and how they catered to all types of boys. There are a number of pictures in the April '56 issue and some Roll of Honour students may recognize themselves. Eric Shipton's eyes told you that he had been there and done that, and to me he appeared very weary.

The instructors were all very good and intent on telling us what not to do. There was also a woodsman who gave short interesting talks on forestry topics. The matron I recall was a nice lady, and if my memory serves me correctly, I believe one young man was returned home for trying to chat her up; I cannot confirm this, but boys will be boys. [It wasn't me by the way, I fulfilled the course].

On the back lawn we took part in various sports, javelin and discus throwing, but the most memorable escapades were the three and five day 'schemes'. Trekking out in the fells, although they looked more like mountains to a city boy, in the snow with our Kendal mint cake and pom [powdered spud for the uninitiated] - bivouac against stone walls and polar bear style sleeping bags. There was the occasional murmur of 'what am I doing here' etc, but not very often. Of course back in the day, winters were what they were supposed to be, and it was cold in Cumberland in January/Febuary '53.

My experience in the forest glade crossing rope burma bridges and the like were also part of the training. Therefore, not long after I had completed the course and entered the forces the aforementioned rope tricks stood me in good stead when it came to ground combat training etc. Happy days.

Well, as you can gather, I can recall most of what I experienced at Eskdale fifty-five years after the event and the memories will always be with me of the good guys. There were no villains at Eskdale, Gatehouse. Maybe one day I shall travel north and visit that wonderful place.