Yenworthy 2015 - Day 4

Dear Mrs Hawkins,

The Lodge stayed quiet a little longer than usual this morning as our brains and bodies took extra time to rest after their adventure yesterday. In the end, Miss Manley had to come and bang on our doors to wake most of us up. Duvets and pillows were all over the place - we think that some of us might have been practising our new surfing techniques in our sleep! Today, with the aid of modern technology, we got to see something that most of us have never seen before - what we look like when we first wake up in the morning! Now we think we understand why Miss Manley, Miss Piggott and Marie have been laughing so much each morning as our sleepy faces emerge! (We will only show you if you promise to stop laughing before next year!)

As the smell of breakfast cooking wafted down the corridors, we were busy working on making our dorms into places that could rival even the most organised of locations. Our efforts ranged from sorting our clothes into colour order, making sure our toothbrushes were all facing the same way, lining up our shoes with military precision... there are even rumours going around that some of us did flannel origami! We are more than determined to get ourselves the prize for tidiest dorm and more than happy to apply our new skills to the home environment. We'd be happy to take over for a while. You've done more than enough.

We are so experienced at our duties now, we completed them all in record time and were ready to go early so we met in the workroom for a briefing about today's events... Little did we know at this point that we were going to complete quite so much within such a short space of time. One of our tasks was going to be rockpooling. Quite a simple seaside activity for a pleasant summer's day...but not for us! We weren't just sightseeing - we had serious marine biology to do! But you can't do things like this without training. Our dramatic ability was put to the test when Sean asked us to become strawberry anemones and to catch the unsuspecting prawn swimming by. We make a pretty terrifying anemone- prawns of Oxford, beware! Then we learned all about how the anemone kills its prey - we won't print it here because it is far too terrifying a prospect for any little sea creatures who might be reading, but we'd be happy to let you know (and even give you a demo if you ask nicely!) Once we had been given lots of top tips about how to be successful and told what to look out for, we looked at our route on a 3D map (how cool is that?!) and got kitted up ready for the off. Armed with lunches and a drink, we piled into the minibuses and headed down to the beach.

We made some amazing discoveries and we found something even Sean had never seen before - he didn't even know its name! Amazing. Earlier, in the briefing, a couple of us had asked if the animals we were going to handle were poisonous to humans. We're glad to report that because we are all still alive, we assume that they are not. Phew. By now, it was getting a bit chilly down on the shoreline, so we headed back to the shelter of the cliffs to eat our lunch (hot sausage rolls or a cheese and onion pasty today folks!).

Today's fun had really only just begun. Next point on the agenda? Coasteering, Squeezing ourselves through gaps in rocks that we didn't even think that little prawn from this morning would manage soon became just the norm and we found ways to go over, under, through and round so many different formations. Some of us even leapt from rock to rock as the odd wave threatened to eat our toes and we all finished with a victory photo... Guess what? Sean and Pete stood us in front of a rock. We thought they had chosen a nice backdrop. We should know better by now. This rock had just a tiny little gap in it that every so often would let a big splash of the waves spray through. They timed our arrival perfectly and yes, we did get a little bit wet! Never again will we complain during a drizzly PE lesson because we can handle some serious weather conditions now!

We impressed Sean and Pete so much with our skills and teamwork that they decided that we would be one of the few classes to be allowed to tackle the coasteering extension. Picture this: Beautiful valley with lots of amazing rock formations. Along the top is a beautiful ridge path overlooking the sea 1000ft (yes, you did read that correctly - 1000 ft!) below. If you could only get up on to that ridge, the views must be amazing... Well, they are. We went. We saw. We conquered! In some places, we could walk, in others we were briefed to be prepared to get really low down and almost crawl commando style on our tummies. Thankfully, we only had to do this in one spot when it got a little bit windy. Although Pete and Sean have done this a lot, they know how much courage it takes to do this and they were so proud of us. Some of us were really apprehensive about it on the way up, began to get into it along the way, and on the way down, our smiles were so wide at how proud we were that we had done it, you might just have seen them in Oxford this evening! Pete and Sean were also smiling from ear to ear. They might just have been a little bit impressed.

"Let's go fly a friend" ... A quick ride back to the Lodge and it was time to put our helmets back on and head up the climbing wall. We learned to climb and how to belay for another climber. Some of us had additional flying lessons when our climber (taller than us) slipped a little and we shot up in the air a bit - thankfully, we had someone holding on to our harness too to prevent us from entering orbit! One pair looked a little like they were competing in airborne Strictly Come Dancing! We can't quite believe we managed to do so much in just one day - and it wasn't even dinnertime yet! However, after our shower, that too came our way and we tucked in happily to fish or veggie burgers and chips. Never has the divvying up of chips been quite so precise to ensure a fair and even split!

We have had such a brilliant week here, we don't really want it to end. Of course it would be nice to see you all, but couldn't we come up with a way of doing that that meant we could stay here too? Maybe you could all come down to join us? We know some of our parents would be more than happy to have come along....Hmmm. On second thoughts, we're not sure they'd be brave enough to handle some of the things we've aced this week. With that in mind and not wanting to put them through things they couldn't handle, we have reluctantly begun the complex task of repacking our stuff into our bags (we think they might have shrunk while here because it's pretty hard to get everything back in again) and we are trying our very best to bring home only the things that belong to us...though there is already enough clothing to create a new Spring collection for the fashion label "Mr Nobody".

Quotes of the day:

"I'm not sure I'm liking this sea-next-to-wind-next-to-rock thing."

"Rice pudding? I'd kill for rice pudding!"

"Miss Manley, she flew me!"

" I didn't even have a second to read the book I brought!"

" I want to do this all over again!"

Tomorrow we are going out on our river walk but as we will be back in Oxford tomorrow night, we'll give you the lowdown on that in person.

Lots of love,

Year 6 xx

Yenworthy 2015 - Day 3

Dear Mrs Hawkins,

"Let's go surfin' now, everybody's learnin' how! Come on down to Putsborough with me!"

We were right! The clues in the driveway did lead these super sleuths to the correct assumption. We woke up to discover that we WERE going surfing. Some of us leapt into the air when we knew for sure.

Yet before we could do anything of the sort, we had to drag ourselves out of bed, sort out our rooms for inspection (after an unexpected spot check before breakfast rather than after breakfast as is usually the case, it became clear that we may not be quite as good as our first evening is, of course, all to do with maintaining your reputation!) We're going to work on that before tomorrow and make sure we are ready so they can't catch us out anymore. The bell rang for breakfast and we were keen to find out what Paul had on the menu today. The Cereal Bar was open for business as usual so we made our choices (some of us even decided to be a little adventurous and go for the 'half and half' combo deal. One course successfully polished off, we held out for the next. It did not disappoint! Beans on toast with the added bonus of a cup of tea for those of us who wanted it - it is becoming increasingly popular as the week goes on! We might need to install tea making facilities in Year 6 ready for Monday break time.

Our wonderful serving team cleared away our things and started to lay up for dinner while our new sandwich making team got to work on our lunches for today. Our mental maths (along with our decision-making skills first thing in the morning) are improving no end. Today we all chose our sandwiches quickly and even managed to reach the right total first time! Wahooo! One thing only our Eco Warriors for today noticed this morning was that the skies were clear and there was even a funny golden sphere in the sky... apparently it is called Sun. Even Sean and Pete couldn't believe that the weather had changed quite so much in time for us to get the best out of our day. In fact, by the time we got to the beach later, the people in the front of the minibuses had to put the sun visors down!

After our duties, we collected our expertly prepared lunches (this team went for precision rather than speed - the sandwiches were very well made, but we think Sally and Miss Manley were a little concerned we'd be having them for dinner!) and then headed to the lounge for our morning activity briefing. Pete was there, ready and waiting for us. Guess what? We can now tell you what makes a wave, how they are formed and why they travel the way they do. We can also give you advice on how to stay safe on the beach; including all of the meanings of different beach flags (Pete was quite impressed how many of us knew about this - but we guess he didn't bank on one of our topics in Year 5 being Cornwall, did he? We then saw where we were headed...Around the headland to Putsborough Sands, which is on the Atlantic coast. Waves here are much better for surfing because they don't lose their momentum by going up the Bristol Channel. Yes, we learned this in our Waves briefing too. By now, we could tell that the team were itching to get out and, quite frankly, so were we!

You can't be a proper surfer without proper kit of course. So it was back up to the kit store for us! Fully armed with boots, a wetsuit and a rash vest and already wearing our swimming kit under our clothes, we loaded everything into the minibuses and headed out for a day riding the waves. Hmmmmm. Wetsuits aren't much use in bags, so after a quick picnic on the beach, we set about trying to get everything on. This is very definitely NOT as easy as it looks. So many contortions, so many giggles, so many frustrated faces.... and that was just turning the wetsuits the right way round! After a struggle, we are very pleased to say that we won the battle. All ready to go, we had just one more piece of equipment to add to our collection - the most fashionable headgear you ever did see! Neoprene caps on, we paired up with someone about our height, picked up a board and headed down to the sand.

We had a quick surf lesson on the sand, learned the paddle technique ( yes, it does look a BIT weird paddling on sand - particularly if there are 26 of you in a horseshoe on the 6th January...we even attracted a small audience - perhaps we will be famous?! Pete then asked us to conduct an experiment. He asked our partner to give us a shove from behind (that wasn't very nice of him, was it?) and then labelled some of us "Natural Surfers" and some "Goofy Surfers". We all looked a little worried - he knew this already? We hadn't been in the water yet! How did he know if we were natural or goofy and, more to the point, it's not nice to say that! We didn't need to feel bad: We can tell you the difference between a goofy and a natural on our return (if we come back, because we'd rather stay if that's ok?). We then learned how to stand up and the importance of getting things in the right order so our feet and arms don't get tied in knots and then Pete thought we might be ready to put all our planning into action.

Time to catch some waves! In our pairs and with lots of adults around to cheer when we sailed by or to laugh like mad when we wiped out (this happened MANY times) we tried and tried and tried again! Guess what? Miss Manley, Marie and Miss Piggott all surfed too! Surfing teachers and TAs - we weren't expecting that! Some of us immediately got the hang of it and within moments were braving the standing up thing; while others took longer. One thing is certain: we ALL pushed ourselves to the limit and just kept going and going until we could barely breathe from screaming and laughing. We think it's contagious as the more we did it, the more we noticed the adults around us doing it too! When it was time to come in, we did so reluctantly but also with a huge sense of achievement - both for ourselves personally and for us as a group. We are the second school ever to have done surfing in the first week of January. We LOVED it! There was only one problem with the whole thing really. If we thought getting wetsuits on was tricky enough, you should have seen us trying to get them off again! We thought we might have to sleep in them!

Some flapjack and a hot drink was waiting for us in the minibuses and then we helped to pack the trailer and all set off home. A hot shower NEVER felt so good! As for dinner... well, tikka massala and rice followed by a huge slab of chocolate fudge cake seems the perfect way to end such a perfect day! After dinner, Sean sent us out with our Year 9 Leaders to complete the Yenworthy quiz - we are getting good at finding our way around the grounds in the dark now! This gave some of us the chance to peruse the shop and work out how best to spend that pocket money. Some of our deliberations would make us good candidates for major business deals!

Sean then let us watch the start of a DVD about two people who decided to surf... in the Arctic! We will tell you more about that tomorrow as we haven't quite finished yet. one thing is certain, we are all REALLY looking forward to bed we think we might head off now! We have another day full of adventure waiting for us tomorrow!

The only thing is, we're not happy that it is getting closer to Friday. The week is going too fast. Please can you slow it down?'s an idea.... Can we stay here? Just for a little while - another week, maybe? Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaase?

Quotes of the Day:

"I know I am only allowed to go up to my belly button in the sea. But if I am wearing a wetsuit, how will I know where my belly button is?"

"I can't get my foot/arm/knee/head out!"

"I'm stuck!"


Lots of love,

Sleepy-but-oh-so-satisfied Year 6 xxxx

Yenworthy 2015 - Day 2

Dear Mrs Hawkins,

In a day designed to make even Popeye feel slightly apprehensive about his well-known powers, we discovered not just our outer strength but our inner strength and we are pretty confident that if Lord Sugar doesn't accept our applications to appear on his next series of The Apprentice, we might be able to convince TV to bring back The Crystal Maze... Today, ladies and gentlemen, in one word was EPIC.

But first...

It came to light quite quickly this morning that we are fairly skilled at going to sleep. We are, it appears, also pretty up there when it comes to staying asleep. Miss Manley actually had time to sort out all the photos from last night and drink a WHOLE cup of tea before we even started to stir. We think we might have convinced them we can hack this 'mega sleepover' thing. It was a little bit more of a challenge to get ourselves sorted and ready for breakfast...and then came the additional curve ball of having to do all of this AND prepare our rooms for inspection (though actually, some of us were overheard 'rehearsing' our bribery methods last night!)

Inspection duly survived, the bell rang to call us for breakfast. Today was a mere two-course affair: our choice of cereal from the Yenworthy Cereal Bar followed by a hot bacon roll or a veggie sausage sandwich. Some of us actually screamed with delight when we came to know of this fact! Unfortunately, we then had to have a Maths lesson... Mental Maths before 9 a.m. is quite tricky, particularly when getting it wrong might mean someone has no lunch! But we managed to make a choice about what we wanted in our sandwiches (we had 5 choices!) add up to 26 and everyone got fed at lunchtime, so we are in the clear.

Breakfast completed, it was on to our daily duties.... The Yenworthy Team call this "Happy Half Hour"... The look on some of our faces when we were given our tasks made it quite clear that we don't necessarily agree that this is the best title...but, hey, we went with it. Some of us set about making sandwiches for everyone (yes, we did wash our hands), some of us swept the boot room and the corridor, some of us tidied the workroom and lounge and some of us put on our outdoor kit and went with John and Miss Piggott to sort out the recycling. Some of us were REALLY lucky. We got to take Henry for a walk down the corridor and amazingly, his nose sucked up all the dirt. We hear his surname is "Hoover". Though we initially eyed him with suspicion, we think we might be friends come the end of the week. Yenworthy say that when we get back, our parents can all have a holiday...we thought about maybe offering Bob and Alfie a day off from cleaning the school too because new skills have to be practised. Let us know what you think.

So, on to the main task for today. We had to use all our mental and physical energy to cope with a fast, furious and full on day of Outdoor Business. Each team was given £30 (money at Yenworthy comes laminated and while we are not sure it would get us far outside of here, it was a coveted currency for us today!) Each task could win us money - the harder the task, the more money we could get - but also, each task cost us a certain amount of money and we had to decide how best to invest that money to generate the most profit. We were all actually rather savvy about this from the off and actually thought about our method first - we are told this isn't always the case! Today, we also learned how to talk AND listen and just how much better things can be if we all have a plan. Of course, it does help even more if we all have the same plan at the same time...

Did you know that if you are tied to a rope and that rope ties you to another person and that person is tied to a rope, you can still navigate your way around a really difficult obstacle course? Well, you can. The only thing you need to remember is that if one of you decides to make an unexpected move, the other four people behind you, that are tied to you, will be following you too - and they might not be planning to do that quite yet! We learned that communication is absolutely key and that when you are all tied together, you HAVE to work as a team! If you don't think about it, you find yourselves doing all kinds of crazy gymnastics and you also tie yourselves in knots (real ones!) and one group even managed to tie themselves to a tree. Thankfully they worked out how to untangle themselves so Sally and Paul didn't have to bring them "Tree Service" at dinner time! Did you know that it is possible to climb a wall? Yes, so did we. But this was not your average wall. This was a wall with no footholds, no handholds and no ropes. It was just us, our team and a wall more than double our height. But you can climb it. The Yenworthy Official Secrets Act unfortunately forbids us from revealing any information about how this is done. So sorry. Talk to us about it on return and your questions will be met with nothing more than a satisfied smile and a knowing look - though you might spot some of us grow a few centimetres in height or see our chests swell with pride as you talk about it - because our success was pretty awesome! Whatever you do, don't talk to Miss Manley about "Island Swap". We are not sure, but we think we might have seen evidence of light rain coming from her eyes at one point as she saw us in action and pushing through one particularly tricky moment towards ultimate success. Perhaps some of the gravel had got in them?

After a crazy day of physical effort, can you believe that they made showers compulsory?! Tonight, the boys learned to use the showers...and also made another new amazing technological leap forward by inventing a new way to do the washing...Wearing your socks in the shower could save your busy family an awful lot of time you know! Worth a thought.

Tonight, after all that hard work, what better way to refuel than stew and dumplings followed by syrup sponge and custard? We LOVED it (even if we approached it with a certain level of trepidation). We sort of guessed it wasn't bedtime yet. We were right. Pete got us all outside again to do some orienteering. We could totally handle that. We've all had a go at school. Oh, wait? What? Do it on our own? With no help? Outside? In the rain? In the DARK? Whaaaat?! As we worked, we were treated to an impromptu concert by Manley, Piggott and Thompson. They sang all the songs they could think of with "rain" in the title...Pete joined in too. They looked pretty pleased with themselves - we didn't quite know whether to be amused or slightly scared!

Our day came to a close with hot chocolate and a good giggle over today's photos - we have lots to show you already. The adults are wondering if tonight will be as quiet as last night...We haven't quite decided on our plan yet.

Quotes of the day:

(Pointing confidently at waterproofs): "I make these blue things look goooood!"

"Don't worry about what you look like, just MOVE!"

"Hang on, hang on. What's the point of having a plan until you know what the problem is to have a plan about?"

"Wait! I'm tied to a tree!"

"It's so totally ALL about the money!"

"OK. Stop. Can we just find out where everyone's legs are?"

So, we need your help. We know that we should probably say that "we are missing people back at home" but actually, we know that our first school rule is "We tell the truth." Any advice on what we should do about that?

We've seen evidence of a massive trailer with lots of surfboards inside. We think this might be a clue about what is going to happen tomorrow. Watch this space...

Lots of love,

Year 6 xxx

Yenworthy 2016 - Day 1

Dear Mrs Hawkins,

We are here! We know you weren't quite sure we would be when the coach was a bit late this morning... Miss Manley was actually thinking she might have a week on Exmoor all by herself when you messaged her to say the coach hadn't arrived yet! But thankfully, once we had navigated our way out of Oxford, we made pretty good time and surprised the team as we backed down the drive.

Our coach driver was very nice and even let us vote on the DVDs we wanted to watch. UP was the first winner (don't tell anyone, but Miss Piggott was a bit sad about this as she didn't vote for it - but being the lovely person she is, she only sulked for a little bit before settling down and watching too - we think she actually enjoyed it really!) We stopped off en route at a service station to stretch our legs (and have a biscuit) and then set off again... Then we had to face our first challenge of the week - the A39! As the coach wound its way round the coast road, several of us decided to see if we could take on the characteristics of a chameleon and change our face colour - sometimes several shades in just a number of seconds. Thankfully, almost all of us decided we preferred our pink cheeks to our white or greenish cheeks and came through unscathed. Even if we opted for the green, we recovered quite quickly with the aid of Magic Mints!

Miss Manley and Pete came out to meet us from the coach and we took our bags into the boot room, settled in the lounge and met some of the other members of the Yenworthy Team. Then it was time to find out who would be sharing our rooms for the rest of the week...

We didn't have long to settle before we were asked to bring our lunch to the work room. We tucked in hungrily after our long trip and then Becca (one of the team here) talked to us about what we could be recycling this week and then it was up to us to put everything in the right containers. Not as easy as you might think. There aren't just 2 containers here - thank goodness we brought most of St Barnabas' Recycle Squad with us! After that it was up to the Kit Store to get all our outdoor / wet weather kit... We think we are going to make VERY good use of the wet weather kit this week and in just one day, we have put it through its paces not once, but twice! Did you know that here, there is no such thing as "Indoor Play"? We could hardly believe it when Pete told us we'd be going out on the ropes course even though it had begun to rain. Still, we are pretty hard core in Year 6 so we got stuck in...

We climbed over, under, through, round and between ropes and tyres and got ourselves in all sorts of crazy upside down, tangled positions. Our Year 9 leaders did a great job of guiding us through and giving us all the tips they could remember about how to do things. Some of us showed extreme determination - even if we kept falling off, we just got back on and had another go! By the end of the course, we were completely soaked, some of us had ACTUAL MUD on our HANDS!!! Pretty exhausted from all the physical effort of staying on wet, slippery ropes, we came in and hung up our waterproofs to dry. Mrs Hawkins, did you know that waterproofs don't actually hang themselves up and that if you just try and hold them in the air and then let go, they just fall on the floor in a heap? Even greater amazing discoveries have been made here today, Mrs Hawkins! If you leave your waterproofs on a different peg, someone else ends up wearing them and before you know it, at least 3 people have to swap trousers before we can even get going!

Tonight we had the luxury of being allowed to choose whether we wanted a shower - those of us who did had a chance to practise Speed Showering while those that didn't enjoyed some free time. After a yummy dinner of pasta bolognese and meringues with raspberries and cream for pud, we sort of thought it might be time for bed. How wrong were we? We put on those waterproofs again and headed out on to the moor. In the rain. In the wind. In the PITCH BLACK! Every so often, Nic would ask us to switch off our torches and comment on what we could see. We saw some amazing constellations tonight. She asked us to look in the distance to see the next strip of light we could see... We thought it might have been Lynton...but it turned out that the next lights we could see in the distance were actually in WALES! By the time we reached the top of the moor, the rain was horizontal, but we didn't care! We even stopped for photos by the standing stones!

Back inside, all warm and cosy, our pjs went on, our lovely Year 9s made us some yummy hot chocolate while we watched today's photos on the slideshow and then we read another chapter of Goodnight Mr Tom. Amazingly, we made sure everything went very quiet in the lodge very quickly tonight... Maybe we were exhausted after all that rain....or maybe we are just pretending to snore... time will tell!

Quotes of the day:

"You know the prize for the room inspection? It is a proper prize, isn't it? Not like a hug or something?"

"If I have to share a room with someone, then it has to be tidy!"

"So, actually, we'd much rather use our time to play table football than waste time having a shower."

Night night!

Lots of love,

Year 6 xxx

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