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Year 6 Bawdsey Manor Residential - June 2023

Day 1

We arrived safely after an uneventful, if not rather loud, coach journey!

Once arriving at Bawdsey, everyone was incredibly excited to see the manor house that we would be sleeping in - apparently it has real 'Hogwarts vibes'! After quickly dropping our bags to our rooms, we were taken on a tour of the site by Toby and Rosie (our PGL leaders for the week). We saw lots the activities that we will be doing throughout the week; after seeing the giant swing in action there was a real mixture of amazement and nerves!

After our tour, it was time for dinner and it's safe to say that this was a real hit with the choices of chicken katsu curry, lasagne and pasta all proving incredibly popular and resulting in many clear plates. Following dinner, we got changed ready for our first evening activity which was a camp fire - this included lots of (very loud) singing and dancing which we all thoroughly enjoyed.

Everyone is really looking forward to our first full day tomorrow and the first set of 'main' activities.

Day 2 

The less said about the first night's sleep - if you can call it that - the better! The vast majority of us were up incredibly bright early at 5:15! This led to a rather long wait until breakfast, however as with dinner the night before breakfast was a real hit with everyone loving the wider range of choices on offer. 

Finally, we were ready to begin our first full day of activities, today's timetable saw every group go on to lake for canoeing - even if some groups spent more time in the lake than on it!  Canoeing was met with much excitement and chatter about 'taking a dip' in the lake, it's fair to say that the canoes were slightly trickier to handle than we had expected. Once we had got to grips with them, the instructors decided to add to the challenge by getting us to play a game of 'Simon says' which included challenges such as put your elbow into the water, stand up in your canoe. Rather unsurprisingly, if not in some cases slightly intentionally, this resulted in several people ending up out of their canoe and in the lake! As the day went on, the groups who did canoeing later in the day didn't seem to end up as wet; it is hard to tell if that is because they were more skilful or simply because they had heard that 'a dip in the lake' wasn't as pleasant as they thought it might be! 

Throughout the day, each group also completed a coastal walk and archery. During the coastal walk, we had a walk around the more historical parts of the site learning a little about the manor's history and we then left the grounds and had a walk down to the beach. It was good to spend some time at the beach, we had fun hunting for shark's teeth and shells, skimming stones and drawing in the sand. Every group also got to channel their inner Robin Hood today during archery; this was enjoyed by all of us even if we did have varying degrees of success! 

Every group also tackled their first 'high-ropes' activity with some doing the zip-wire and others doing the giant swing. Everyone did incredibly well during these first activities involving heights with all of us managing to reach our personal targets. When doing the zip-wire, after jumping off of the tower and travelling down the wire, comes the tricker than expected bit of landing! We were supposed to on feet in a smooth-running type motion - some of us managed to pull off a cool and casual James Bond style landing whilst some of us were slightly less dignified! 

Our evening activity tonight was a PGL tournament consisting of dodgeball and 'multi-sport' rounders, these were lots of fun even if they did become ever so slightly competitive at times!

After a very long and jam-packed day, hopefully tonight will involve a lot more sleeping!

Day 3

Following a more successful night's sleep and a much more reasonable wake up time, everyone woke up feeling refreshed and ready for another day of excitement. During breakfast there was much discussion about Jacob's Ladder with everyone eager to see how high they could go!

Today's timetable saw every group tackle two height-based challenges - every group took on Jacob's Ladder with the majority attempting the Giant Swing whilst those who did not do the zip-wire yesterday had a chance to complete that today. The Giant Swing involves getting in a harness and then getting attached to a large metal beam, you are then pulled into the air with you being able to decide how high you want to go; once you are at your chosen height you release the cord and you starting swinging. As well as the challenge of dropping, the remaining members of the group had the task of pulling the rope which hoisted the swing into the air - this was certainly a good work out!

After lunch all of the groups had a go at Jacob's Ladder, during this activity you had to climb a very large and wobbly ladder where the beams got further and further apart the higher you went up. You climbed the ladder in groups of 2 or 3, as teamwork was an essential part of reaching the top - the teamwork and encouragement that the children gave each other throughout this activity was fantastic. Also, it was remarkable to see the determination of everyone to give it a go and try to reach their personal target, as everyone gave it a go and got off of the ground. For those children who have a fear of heights the huge sense of achievement and pride they felt was truly amazing. We also had several children reach the top beam which is was incredible - the photographs should give a sense of how tricky this really was!

Also, today everyone had a go at rifle shooting, along with a mixture of other activities including the challenge course, survivor and the sensory trail. The success at air rifle shooting was very similar to archery, with it probably being best described as mixed - we had some very accurate 'bullseye hitters' whilst others were slightly more 'wayward' with their aim - however most importantly everyone enjoyed themselves.

During our free time around lunchtime and dinner, we organised games of football and frisbee for the children or they had the chance to 'chill' in their rooms.  Our evening activity today was capture the flag which is essence was a giant game of tag - the day certainly finished with a smile of everyone's face.

Tomorrow, we face our highest challenge of the week - abseiling - and the one the children are most excited/nervous about - the leap of faith!


Day 4

Our final full day started by several rooms having to be woken up in order to avoid them missing breakfast! 

After enjoying another substantial breakfast everyone was ready for a day which included abseiling and trapeze (leap of faith). It is fair to say that these two activities were two of the most eagerly anticipated of the week, with the anticipation coming from a mixture of both excitement and nerves! As each group took on these challenges throughout the day it was amazing to hear the success stories spread throughout the children, with those who had completed the activities earlier in the day providing support and encouragement for those who did them later in the day. 

Despite the challenges, fears and feelings of apprehension, the way in which everyone set themselves their own targets and overcame their individual fears was truly incredible.  To see children who are petrified of heights climb a high narrow pole with the sole purpose of jumping off (trapeze), to step over the edge of a tower (abseiling)  or in some cases to climb the very high abseiling tower and be able to look over the edge is remarkable. The experience and feeling of tackling a fear head-on and the elation felt afterwards is something which will stay with them forever.

During the course of the day, a number of groups also had their survivor, challenge course and orienteering sessions. During the survivor sessions, everyone's Forest School skills came in rather handy when it came to den building and lighting a fire. Everyone enjoyed the challenge course; they had great fun taking on the different obstacles, as well as completing additional tasks as a team such as 'the floor is lava'. When it came to orienteering let's just say the map reading skills were at times very questionable!

After a visit to the shop (which of course resulted in the majority buying more sweets!) and dinner, we had our final evening activity of 'balloon splash'. This involved working in teams to complete challenges (e.g. flicking a shoe, creating a human chain)  to earn coins which could then be spent on materials to help protect a water balloon - the challenges were certainly entertaining! After earning their coins each team had to protect their water balloon before it was dropped from a height; any water balloons that survived were then thrown at Toby and Rosie -  they both ended up rather wet!

We still have a couple of activities to look forward to tomorrow morning before we leave after lunch.

Day 5 

After a busy final early morning of packing, tidying rooms, stripping beds etc. Everyone had their final 'Bawdsey Breakfast', we may find it a struggle going back to regular breakfasts tomorrow morning.

For our final two activities of the week, most groups completed the sensory trail and problem solving. The sensory trail involved completing an obstacle course whilst wearing blackout goggles.  It's fair to say everyone became far more disorientated than they expected, although it certainly didn't help with teachers and the PGL instructors throwing water and putting leaves in our faces. Problem solving involved trying to tackle various different challenges which involved a huge amount of teamwork, excellent communication and often some lateral thinking - the results for these were probably best described as mixed and variable! However, these two activities were most definitely a fun way to end our week.

It has been a truly amazing week!  It has been remarkable to see everyone grow in confidence and independence, with everyone taking on at least one challenge that completely pushed them out of their comfort zones!  It is without doubt that everyone has created memories that will certainly last them a lifetime.

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