Hot chocolate, rain, wet socks: how I built my confidence through outdoor adventure

Charlie (aged 15) attended a 19-day Skills for Life Award at Aberdovey in summer 2017. If you've got an Outward Bound story that you'd like to share with us please send it to:

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“A few years ago I attended a week long Outward Bound® residential at Ullswater in Cumbria, which I really enjoyed. So, I applied and I was excited to learn that I had gained an Annington Challenge place on the 19 day Skills for Life Award at Aberdovey, which was funded by The Annington Trust. 

Through the Annington Challenge young people like me from Service families get sponsored (up to 90% of costs) to attend Outward Bound's summer adventures, giving those of us from military communities the chance to benefit from an outdoor adventure course to gain skills you need in life.

I would say I’m a fairly quiet person, self-contained, although I enjoy spending time with my friends as well as my mum and dad and two brothers. I enjoy basketball and football and go to Risedale Sports and Community College at Catterick Garrison, but I also enjoy indoor hobbies like gaming and computer programming. I am fairly ambitious, but in the past I’ve thought that I’d like to be more confident, and also that I’d like to improve some of the skills I need now that I’m going into my GCSE year in September, like time management, determination and organisation.

I wasn’t too anxious before going on the Skills for Life Award, mainly because I knew from my previous experience that there would be people on there that didn’t know anyone and would be in the same situation as me but we could use this to build a team and friendships. The thing about the Award is that you meet other young people from a lot of different backgrounds and the instructors help you to mix and get to know each other.

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Working together

This summer’s adventure residential was the most challenging one I’ve been on – but I really enjoyed it. We were based in Aberdovey, which is on the west coast of Wales and has beautiful mountains and rivers, but the weather was pretty mixed! At the beginning, you are put into teams and there are smaller groups within the teams, called ‘pods’. We worked together in pods and the instructors mixed people up so that the teams were well balanced. We learnt to rely on each other, so you needed a blend of different skills for different challenges.

We went on two expeditions, the second of which was four days without the instructors. This sounds scary, but there’s no need to worry, we were really well prepared and we could always get hold of an instructor if we needed them. The main point is to learn things like team work and self-management in a wilderness environment.

The expeditions were tough and challenging as the weather was really bad some of the time, but we used the maps and compasses to find our way without the help of our instructor who was following us closely behind! On the first expedition, we were the first pod to reach town which was brilliant. When the other team arrived we all canoed down the estuary back to the Centre.

Reaching the summit

The second expedition involved canoeing on our own, in wind and rain, then walking and setting up our tents in awful weather. I thought it was going to be a total failure! But by the end of the second day, we had walked over two summits and we ended up toasting marshmallows around the campfire. The third day we walked to a lake at the bottom of the mountain to camp and we chilled and drank hot chocolate. That was pretty cool. It felt like a proper achievement especially as on this expedition we had to plan the whole route ourselves. We also did a 12 hour 'solo' completely on our own, with team mates nearby.

The rest of the time we did things like gorge walking, zip-lining and swimming. It’s action-packed but you also have a lot of 1-to-1 time with your instructor, putting together an action plan for after the course. It helped me think about my goals and put everything into perspective. It’s not just physical, you learn about yourself as a person.

At the end of the three weeks, there’s an award presentation and ceremony, which is great, and we ended up having a dance off in the evening. I would definitely recommend it – the instructors are the best ever, and you make friends from all over the world and gain skills and confidence. But if you’re going, remember to take plenty of socks. You’ll get your feet wet!” 

You can now apply for funding from the Annington Trust for summer 2018:

The Annington Challenge


The Annington Challenge is open to all Armed Forces children, regardless of background. Applicants will need the support of their school or college. The Annington Challenge is an initiative run by The Annington Trust which is committed to helping families living within Services’ communities across the UK. For further information about The Annington Trust, visit