Sandra Smith
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Sandra Smith - Rhowniar, Wales, 1969

As a 17 year old school girl, mad keen on sports, I was lucky enough to be chosen by Birmingham Education Authority to attend a 4 week Outward Bound course at (the then) Girls Outward Bound School at Rhowniar, Tywyn. I was a typical towny from a large council estate but luckily had had the good fortune to experience the call of the mountains and great outdoors when I was 15. I was one of the first girls to attend Ogwen Cottage for a 2 week course, a fantastic experience which whetted my interest in great outdoors. (Interesting to note that Ogwen Cottage is now part of the OB family of centres!)
I recall travelling (alone) from Birmingham to Aberdovey, stopping at various stations where other girls joined me en route to the great adventure. I recall a mixture of anticipation, excitement and yes, a little dread of the unknown from some of my fellow 'Bounders.'
Arriving at Aberdovey we were met by a large 'army wagon' and transported to the school where we met our fellow course members and our Group Instructors for the course ahead. My instructor was Cath Lilwall and our group called 'Tryfan' (- a peak near to Ogwen that I had in fact already climbed!) I can recall our group consisted of girls with a variety of unusual second names - Pegg, Pymm, Uff, Woodiwiss, McNiff etc. The reason was later revealed - at the time it was usual practice for the group instructor to read out the full names of her group at the end of course badge presentation. One of the other instructors (I believe Eddy Walker) had decided to play a prank on Cath so she had all the difficult names to call out. (Cath avoided this trial by only calling out our first names.)
The course was everything I had expected and more - I hadn't expected to be doing drama and an end of course production! However I was soon thoroughly enjoying the variety of challenges presented and revelled in each new experience. Whilst we didn't do 'run and dip', I recall the entire course being rudely awakened at 6 a.m. one morning and ordered to complete a cross country run around the Rhowniar estate. The reason? - the duty instructor had been kept awake by some noisy groups so everyone was punished!
Whilst nurturing us through the early weeks, our instructor gradually handed over the responsibilities as we grew in confidence and competence. My all time favourite was the mid course 3 day expedition culminating in rock climbing on Barmouth slabs - what a fabulous experience that was! We were blessed with perfect weather all the way through. Sadly this led to a lack of experience in foul weather navigation. Needless to say, in our final expedition, the good weather broke and we were well truly dumped in the clag - getting hopelessly lost on Plynlimon and having to be rescued from the Aberystwyth road. We were all gutted. However, the end of course production lifted our spirits once more before departing the centre.
My experience was truly formative, for having trained as a PE teacher, I went back to Rhowniar and spent a very happy 5 years there as a group instructor. One of the other girls in my group, Caroline Pymm, also came back to work at Rhowniar. I then moved on to Howtown centre in the Lake District, working for Durham Education Authority .
Even after I left teaching for a complete career change, I was able to maintain my interest in OB by becoming a member of our local Outward Bound Association, supporting youngsters wishing to attend OB courses.
My Outward Bound experience certainly played a vital roll in shaping my life and I still recall with clarity and fondness my time as a Rhowniar student. I hope that OB will continue to grow and develop to give young people that unique experience that helped shape my life.