Tim Thomson
Back to alumni stories

Tim Thomson - Devon on Ashburton, 1959

I did an Outward Bound course in 1959 in Devon, and many experiences of that period are still vivid in my memory. As a smoker, I found myself having to stop smoking, a rule I complied with to the letter, even when a Naval rating with whom we were doing some training over night asked for help to roll a cigarette for him, and offered one to me.

I was also a non swimmer, so the early morning dip in the river Dart (in October) was a particular trial! Somehow I managed to survive!

I was less worried by the task of sailing a dinghy, as I had some experience, but not enough to avoid two capsizes, with two crew who had never been in a boat before! I was able to foresee the event and stayed dry but they were both taken by surprise and went under.

The rock climbing held the greatest fear for me, as I was, and still am, terrified by height unless I am very well secured. However I enjoyed the abseiling, and have recently abseiled from the top of both County Hall in Truro and the Falmouth Maritime Museum.

We were also required to slide down a 'tight-rope', using a rope sling (and no safety gear), from the top of a tall tree on one side of the Dart, to the ground on the other side. The man before me fell off and landed in the river, and someone after me also fell, and injured his back on the rocks below. My ride was thrilling, but uneventful, although I did ask the instructor to look after my watch as it wasn't waterproof.

Another exercise was to jump off a bridge into the river. I have visited the bridge since, and now realise that it is not, in fact, very high, but the water is extremely shallow!

One of the most enjoyable experiences was shooting rapids in a kayak.

Having had a shot on the obstacle course in more recent years at the same place (now in different hands) I found it very tame, mostly because of all the safety precautions now required. I do feel that one benefit from those days was a willingness to take risks - you learn more about yourself when taking risks than if you are not allowed to!