Peak performance in the Peak District: boys stretch themselves above and below ground, and on water, too

Peak performance in the Peak District: boys stretch themselves above and below ground, and on water, too

Year 8 boys enjoyed the challenge of demanding new experiences out in the wilds on a trip to the Peak District.

Thirty-five boys took part in activities including mountaineering, canoeing and caving, before heading down into the city for a visit to the University of Sheffield’s Department of Geography and Planning.

It was the first such QE Geography trip to the Derbyshire Peaks.

Head of Geography Chris Butler said: “The boys enjoyed the trip enormously, as did the staff accompanying them. For many of the boys, it was the first time that they had come close to a true wilderness.”

The primary aim of the visit was to take pupils into an open rural landscape and get them to appreciate some of the processes that have shaped that landscape and how we interact with them. The activities were also designed to extend the boys both physically and mentally.

“Day two saw us hike on to the Kinder Plateau [also known as Kinder Scout] and take in its desolate beauty,” said Mr Butler. “The long walk up to the highest point at 601m saw the boys having to scramble Grindsbrook before topping out. To many, this was quite an accomplishment.”

One of the boys, Siddarth Kulathumani, said: “This was my first time going on this sort of trip where I knew there was going to be a lot of exercise and climbing. At first, I was a bit nervous, but that all changed during the huge climbs, learning with my friends and really pushing myself.”

The party stayed at the Edale YHA accommodation (Youth Hostels Association), which is nestled in the almost inaccessible Edale Valley in Derbyshire.

As soon as the boys had dropped their luggage off on arrival, the group immediately set about climbing Mam Tor, an imposing peak to the south of where they were staying.

“Mam Tor is known as the Shivering Mountain owing to its highly unstable geology. Interbedded with layers of shale and coal measures, the entire mass is slowly slipping towards the southwest,” said Mr Butler.

The climb was conducted in overcast, wet and gloomy conditions. However, on arrival at the top, the sky cleared, and the group were treated to magnificent views of the Hope Valley and the Peak District.

“The principal aim of this day was to make sure that the boys were ready for the challenges that lay ahead. All passed successfully, and by the time the weary party arrived back at Edale, they had walked nearly seven miles and gained nearly 200m elevation to reach the peak. Dinner was enthusiastically wolfed down!”

The next day brought an early start for the climb to Kinder Plateau. “The views from the plateau were simply stunning, and the group were extremely fortunate to have had good weather up there.”

Before lunch, the QE staff made the most of the opportunity to talk to the boys about the importance of upland peat deposits and bogs.

Pupil Adyansh Sahai enjoyed the combination of education and exercise: “The vistas surrounding the Kinder Scout peak were amazing, and the hike itself was incredible, because we were gaining knowledge while having fun.”

It was a steep descent back down to the YHA centre via the Pennine Way, where Mr Butler then regaled the boys with a ghost story after their well-earned dinner.

On day three, the boys were in the hands of the YHA activity centre staff. In the morning, the group split, and half went canoeing on a reservoir, whilst the remaining boys visited a number of large cave systems. Here, they were taught how to pothole and cave.

“Perhaps the most impressive cave was Carlswark Cavern – home to the Oyster Cavern, the largest brachiopod bed anywhere in Europe,” said Mr Butler.

Siddarth said this was his favourite activity, while another of the boys, Arinze Ezeuko, added: “The caving was a great experience as I had never done anything like it before, and it made me realise how complex they truly were.”

After one more night at the YHA centre, the group then took the bus into Sheffield to visit the university. “The staff there gave fascinating talks on some of their research, including research with a PhD student who has been tracking the response of large glaciers and ice sheets to global warming,” said Mr Butler.

They also found out about the department’s work with the Mars Rover, and the role that the Planning Department plays in shaping our cities, not just today but also exploring how cities will look in the future.

“It was a fascinating insight into the subject at university and certainly gave many of the boys pause for thought.”

Mr Butler thanked his colleagues, Eleanor Barrett, Bryn Evans and Celia Wallace, who accompanied him. “I would also like to thank the boys for being such good company. Their superb behaviour, willingness to get involved and genuine interest in what they were doing was acknowledged by the YHA centre staff and by the university staff.”

  • Click on the thumbnails below to view photos from the trip.