Memorable Moments – September 18

The summer holidays were nearly over at the beginning of September however I still had plenty of chances to indulge my photography habit.

A walk round the Roman town of Calleva on the outskirts of Silchester brought me to these two beautiful spots. Just outside St Mary’s Church in Silchester I spotted a British Legion Remembrance silhouette – the sun was just in the perfect position I think.

Inside St Mary’s Church my wife Alison showed me the beautiful Carpe Diem stained glass window – it is in remembrance of two young locals who died tragically, six months of each other.

Silchester Bimble

I get lazy with photography so this month I decided to push myself a little be that with Panoramas and having my kids showing twice and with difficult light conditions such as I found in Abby’s barn.

Experimenting with photography

Mid month found me in North Wales with my Grumpy Chum friends from Crisis. The weather came in all forms from sunshine to hail. We had a fantastic time climbing and the light lent to some great photography moments.

North Wales with the Grumpy Chums

The end of the month found me in East Sussex at the annual Sea Cadet Chosin Cup competition. It was a fantastic Adventure Training weekend where cadets compete for the covetted Chosin Cup. During our Endurance race I snapped this picture of fellow instructor Niamh Kelly as she raced through one of the tunnels.

Chosin Cup

My final Memorable Moment of September 18 has to be my Birthday. Spent at home with my family.

Birthday Time – Picture by Alison Jones

Cheers

George

 

Memorable Moments – July 18

Travelling back from Manchester tonight I decided to re-instate my ‘Memorable Moments’ posts again. It has been a fantastic summer of photography for me – so here are just a few moments from July 18.

Nottingham Nights

On a work trip to Nottingham I happened across this little scene by the side of the canal – I wonder what the story was here?

Wonder what the story was here?

Foggy, Cyril, Cleggy and Compo

Meet three of the Sea Cadet ‘Last of the Summer Wine Troup’ – Graham, John and myself. We missed our final member Dave Lewis this year on our Brecon DofE trip – Hopefully you will be with us on our Peaks trip in October Dave?

Last of the Summer Wine minus one – Dave

Woodcraft School

We attended John Rhyder’s book launch (Woodcraft – A practical celebration of the tree) at his woods. It was great to see the book being launched and catching up with old friends – the kids though had a ball investigating all John’s camp gadgets.

The Camp Stove

A Scottish view from a Welsh hill

I happened across this view on the side of a hill in the Brecon Beacons. I posted it on my Facebook account for all my Scottish friends. I did enhance the purple a little for artistic effect 🙂

A Scottish view – A Wesh hill

Hanging About

My local National Trust property is ‘The Vyne‘. I do spend a bit of time there when I can with the family however on my last trip I went alone. I would never have gotten this shot of the Thistle Down seedhead if the kids had been pulling on my shirt tails.

Just Hanging

Boys and Toys

What can I say – boys and toys 🙂 Finlay and myself had a ball working at our friends Phil and Philippa’s farm – there is just something I love about driving tractors.

Boys and Toys

Farewell to a Friend

HMS Belfast – home to my Sea Cadet unit – City of London. I dont get down for a visit very often as I do not live in London these days. The visit was a sad one as it was for the funeral of our old shipmate Bernie – we did though give him a good send off at the Cathedral and the wake afterwards – Bernie was a WWII vet and a member of the Coastal Forces Association.

A rare visist

Parched Times

My final moment was found at the back of our church – St James. With all the hot weather over the summer I think we only had rain once or twice in July. I saw this wind blown Sycamore leaf lying on some very parched yellow grass and had to grab a shot of it. I used Lightroom to manipulate the colours so as to try and make the raindrops stand out a bit.

One Damp Day

Now for August.

Cheers

George

 

Lowland Expedition Leaders – The 2018 Crew

Moving onto March of this year in my scramble to catch up on my blogging backlog, found me once again, involved in training our Sea Cadet instructors in becoming Lowland Expedition Leaders (LEL).

The 2018 Crew

The weekend was based at TS Black Swan – the Sunbury & Walton Sea Cadet unit on the banks of the Thames. After lots of the usual admin there was plenty of adventure training lessons to be gotten through. We try to get all the basics like Legislation, Health & Safety and Kit covered in class before heading out for outdoor sessions.

Students learn all about tents and stoves in a very hands on way. They need to learn fast as they are expected within a couple of months to be teaching these subjects to cadets (under supervision though).

Training and more Training

From the start we like to get the students practicing their teaching skills. In pairs they were tasked with giving short lessons in subjects such as map and compass work. I was particularly impressed with the cardboard compass they produced to teach everyone about its different parts.

Student Presentations

Much of the rest of the time was spent out and about practicing the use of maps and compasses on the North Downs. It was a much cooler time of the year as you can see from the pictures below – a time of year I find far more comfortable in comparison to the heat we are currently facing – as I write this in mid summer.

Nav Time

Here is to some cooler times soon (I am Scottish) 🙂

Cheers

George

A Mountain Mooch – Carnedd Llywelyn Re-visited – Day 4

Day 4 of our North Wales trip last February with my Sea Cadet friends found us once again on the slopes of Carnedd Llywelyn. This time we were joined by a number of newer instructors looking to get a taste of the mountains.

We started off doing plenty of nav work and re-visited Jacques ‘Peaks in Peaks’ art work – unfortunately one of the peaks had subsided in the time we had been away 🙂

Lowland Nav

Once we had gone over the summit of Pen yr Helgi Du we enjoyed a great scramble down, along and up the ridge of Bwlch Eryl Farchog. The views were stunning and everyone got the chance to test themselves out.

Mid Hight Scrambling

Once up onto the slopes of Carnedd Llywelyn we stopped short of the summit due to the snow and sheet ice. There was though a fantastic temperature inversion to observe all along the horizon and the summit of Tryfan could be seen just poking out of the low lying clouds.

Around the Summit

We had a relaxing walk back off the mountains, passing by  Ffynnon Llugwy reservoir where Graham managed to allow his Bothy bag to roll down into it – after a slight ‘dip’ it was blown back to the side for him to retrieve (all in the video below).

Cheers

George

A Mountain Mooch – Snowdon Horseshoe – Day 2

Day 2 of my winter trip to Snowdonia found me with Jacques on the Snowdon Horseshoe. We struck out early with a mind to tackle the horseshoe from the Crib Goch side first.

The day was slightly overcast to begin with and there was a smattering of snow high up.

Crib Goch

As it was early there were few others around as we ascended Crib Goch. The wind was negligible however you had to watch out for the sheet ice.

I do love scrambling along the edge of Crib Goch – especially when you have good vis from it.

We were soon up onto Snowdon itself and as usual (well it is for me) the clag was right down. There was a small group of climbers sheltering in a bothy below the summit and from the laughs they sounded to be having a good time.

Snowdon

After a short break we headed off down the Watkins path before veering off down to West Peak. It was crampon time here as the snow was pretty hard packed here – one of my crampons kept coming loose so I think a new pair are in order.

East and West Peaks

The weather really cleared up for us as we motored over West and East Peaks. The views were spectacular and we were even spotted someone para gliding around East Peak.

The Horseshoe

Coming off the horseshoe I was knackered however I was so glad I took up Jacques offer of a trek round the horseshoe once again. In the right weather and with the right kit it is a cracking day on the mountains.

I put together this short video of the day.

Cheers

George

 

A Mountain Mooch – Carneddau – Day 1

Last February the London Area Seacadet Adventure Training team headed up to North Wales for some staff training. This annual trip is one I really look forward to as it gives me a chance to test my mountain skills once again.

An advance group of us – Perry, John, Jacques, Jenny and myself all headed up a few days before the main group arrived. For our first day we headed out into the less touristy part of the Snowdon range – the Carneddau Mountains.

Heading Up

Our aim was to take a slow hike up towards Carnedd Llewellyn doing a bit of nav training, scrambling and winter work. All the winter work we planned was to play about in one of the lower snow fields where it is perfectly safe.

I went on ahead of the group at the beginning to find a good spot or two for photography. Jacques soon caught up with me and started playing about with some ice in a pond.

Firstly it was just a case of seeing if he could move the whole sheet with his poles but then as usual – he stepped on it 🙂 We found when it broke that it came out in quite neat triangles.

Peaks in Peaks

Jacques soon had a little range of ice peaks made up so I decided to make up a little video with him – titled by Jacques as ‘Peaks in Peaks’.

From the ice pond we were soon scrambling along ridges, throwing snowballs and watching Kestrels hovering overhead – quite dramatic scenery and hardly any another souls around.

Scrambling

Once below the summit of Carned Llewellyn in a gently sloping area we had a little play with some crampons and ice axes.

Winter Skills

The return home was just as slow as the ascent as everyone was pretty tired out from this first days hike however we were treated to some great views and a fly past by the RAF.

I put together a short video of the day below.

Daty 2 of the trip found Jacques and myself completing the Snowdon Horseshoe in ‘slightly’ wintry conditions – more of that in the next blog.

Cheers

George

A Mereworth Mooch

A great location to get immersed in nature

It has been one busy summer this year and I am just now catching up on all my travels. Way back in July I spent a weekend at a military training area called Mereworth Woods with Northern District Sea Cadets for our Adventure Training (AT) competition.

My friend Dave Lewis organises this competition for our District and what a cracking weekend it turned out to be.

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A Mereworth Mooch

The cadets arrived on the Friday night and set out on the Saturday on a route to test their navigational skills. Along the way there was always something to see, hear or smell. Sometimes that was beautiful, intriguing or sad. As all the cadets are from London so this is a great location to get immersed in nature.

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Nature all around

Thankfully we had plenty of staff on hand to be out and about observing all the teams (we had 7 teams entered). As it was a hot weekend there was plenty of water at the checkpoints and staff were continually checking that the cadets knew where they were going.

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Hard navigation

The Sunday morning concentrated on activities to test the cadets. The Atlatl proved a particular favourite but there were others to test teamwork and the likes of their First Aid skills.

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Teamwork

There was a ropes section and also a stance on hypothermia though there was always time to chill and hang about in the trees.

It is important to run the event like this as some of the teams would be going on towards the London Area AT competition – Chosin Cup – later in the summer.

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Working fun

Now the Sea Cadets have a saying – Serious Fun – I think our competitions try to embody that saying – none more so than the stalking stance. It is fun for the cadets and the staff however it is also serious as there can be good points earned here on the way to winning the District AT cup.

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Just fun

After all the points were totted up Waltham Forest unit came 3rd, Newham unit came 2nd and Enfield unit came 1st.

Well done though to all the cadets and staff who took part. We did not make the competition easy for them however we did make it fun.

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Celebrations

All the units who attended this year were:

City of London, Edmonton, Enfield, Harringay, Newham, Waltham, Forest and West Ham

Cheers

George

 

Picture of the Week – Week 25 – Sundew Snack

Last week found me tabbing around the Tors of Dartmoor with the Sea Cadets on a training week for a Gold DofE Expedition.

As I was observing the cadets from afar I had plenty of time to look for the little details that make up nature. I found that detail with this scene where a fly had been trapped in the sticky glandular tentacles of a Sundew plant.

Sundew Snack
Sundew Snack

The fly had not been caught long as it was still struggling. Within about 15 minutes of being trapped they normally expire with exhaustion and are slowly dissolved by the Sundews enzymes. You can find out a lot more about this beautiful little plant at carnivorous–plants.com

I come across hundreds of Sundews at this time of year alongside the upland streams however it is not often I spot one having a snack.

Cheers

George

How To…. Build a Shear Leg Hammock Stand

This is a post that came about because someone decided to chop down a tree. On a recent Sea Cadet training weekend we ended up with one instructor (Jess), one hammock and one tree – my friend Dave and myself had bagged the other trees for our hammocks :-). Not an ideal situation for Jess you could say.

We could not camp elsewhere and there was nothing in the way of available natural material to help us (we were on a military camp). Thankfully my friends Alan and Dave spotted some old poles (used for team building exercises) at the back of of a building. So Dave with Jess as his assistant in true Seacadet style, set out to apply their seamanship talents to our problem.

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Shear Leg Stand

The Shear Lashing

They collected some assorted pieces of rope and a couple of cadets to help out. The poles were quite long and thick so they decided to tie the poles together about two thirds of the way along their length. The poles were tied together using a shear lashing (I will be using Grog’s Knots to help describe how they did this).

To start the shear lashing they attached the rope to one pole using a timber hitch and then wrapped the rope a number of times around both poles (this is known as wrapping). To make this easier the poles were raised slightly of the ground and the cadets helped to pass the masses of ropes around the poles.

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Wrapping

Once the wrappings were completed the lashing was tightened by being frapped (nothing to do with Facebook). Frapping is the nautical term to describe the tightening of a rope or cable. Dave did this by completing a number of turns around the centre of the lashing and pulling it all in tight.

To finish the lashing off he secured it with a clove hitch to the pole without the timber hitch. There was plenty of rope left over as well to help with anchoring the shear legs down.

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Frapping

Anchoring

Though the poles were large they were surprisingly light so they were soon standing vertical. A spare piece of rigging line was looped over the pole with the timber hitch on it and with the spare rope from the shear lashing the legs were securely anchored by wrapping both ropes around base of a solid fence post.

Both ropes were then tied off around the shear lashing on the poles to make it all secure.

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Anchoring

Alternative Anchors

If you do not have a handy anchor like our fence post you can make your own. In the past I have had shear legs and tripods for hammocks anchored safely with three large wooden stakes.

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Alternative Anchors

Securing

If you cannot drive your shear legs into the ground I would advise you to tie them together near the bottom so that they do not inadvertently splay out. Dave used the last of the lashing rope (it was a rather long piece of old climbing rope) to do this.

Finally, to finish the set up the shear legs were tied securely to our single tree using a top line. This top line as well as securing the shear legs was to act as a line to hang Jess’s tarp off.

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Securing

Testing & Set Up

I did a bit of testing after we had hung the hammock. I figured if it took my weight then Jess would have no problems. The top line went slightly slack when the system took my weight so that was re-tightened while I was in the hammock.

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Testing

After that it was a simple case of rigging the tarp and Jess setting up home for the night.

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Setting up home

This was a great solution from Dave to our missing tree problem and took less than an hour to complete. Jess slept the whole night soundly in her impromptu sleep system and I was chuffed that I managed to capture most of the stages in its construction.

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A Good Nights Sleep

If you are interested in making a slightly smaller and more mobile hammock stand yourself have a look at my two other posts on this subject,

How To…. Make a Freestanding Hammock Stand

How To…. Mk2 – Make a Freestanding Hammock Stand

Cheers

George

Adventure Leaders – 2016

Last April it was time to start the Basic Expedition Leaders course for 2016 here at London Area Sea Cadets. The course is spread over four weekends and the students – if they pass – get accredited by Sports Leaders UK as Adventure Leaders.

I have passed the administration of the course to my friends John Kelly and Dave Lewis. I am happiest working as instructional staff on these weekends – all the paperwork that goes with them sends shivers down my spine 🙂

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Classes, classes and loads of admin

The weekend was hosted by Sunbury and Walton Sea Cadet unit (TS Black Swan) where all of the classes took place on the Saturday. The classes were run by Dave Lewis, John Kelly and myself however all the students had to deliver their own class as part of the weekend.

In amongst all these classes we were well fed the whole weekend by the unit staff. This onsite catering allowed us to really concentrate on all the classes (one less chore to do) so thanks to everyone who helped.

I had ripped a muscle in my calf a few weeks earlier (never go trampolining with your kids!!) and thought it was healing well. Needless to say, within 5 minutes of arriving I managed to re-open the rip so spent the rest of the weekend hobbling around. I did enjoy the unit bonfire though as they burned some old boats.

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Lots going on – Bottom left picture courtesy of Jacob Leverett

There were many classes from navigation to the law but quite a few hands-on ones such as learning about different tents. It is crucial that Adventure Leaders are proficient in putting up a wide a range of tents as they’ll be faced with all sorts of different types when they’re teaching cadets.

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Tentage

I did not get out on the Sunday on the navigation exercise because of my gammie leg, however I did get a great picture of the Swans on the slipway by the unit.

Jess Edwards took the top picture below (taken on the North Downs) and its simple beauty lent itself well to black and white.

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Beauty – Top picture courtesy of Jess Edwards

On the Sunday morning I headed home to rest up but the guys all struck out for the North Downs. They had a morning of intense instruction from John and Dave. They needed it, as they would soon be taking the cadets out and about.

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The art of nav – pictures courtesy of Lee Diss

The next weekend on the course was last month in the New Forest and that report will be up soon.

Cheers

George

The Finale – Assessment Weekend

Getting out and Adventuring

On a cold but dry weekend last October Sea Cadet staff and cadets assembled in beautiful Ashdown Forest for the finale of the Basic Expedition Leader (BEL) course. This was a weekend of assessments for the staff and a weekend of learning for the cadets.

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The BEL Assessment weekend

The BEL award is a nationally recognised qualification in outdoor leadership and comes under the banner of the Sports Leader UK Award. The trainee instructors have to attend three weekends of training and put in many more hours’ work on their leadership and navigation skills.

For the assessment we brought in an independent assessor who had never worked with the students before and we also had another observer from the Sports Leader organisation along to see that we ran the course to the correct standards.

Much of the weekend was spent observing the students’ navigational skills as these have to be to a high standard. Not only do they need to know how to use a map and compass they need to be proficient in teaching others this skill.

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Assessing the core skill of navigation

Interspersed with the navigation tasks the students had to give lectures and run classes in different subjects to each other and the cadets. We were very lucky on the weekend to have a keen bunch along from Sunbury and Walton Sea Cadets. This made the assessment much more realistic and was a good reminder to the students as to why they were looking to gain the qualification.

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Lots of classes and one to one tuition

It is not all about navigation and leadership though. The assessment also tests the students on their knowledge of group management, risk assessing, camping, clothing/kit and the environment.

It is all well and good to be able to read a map and teach that skill but being an Adventure Leader is about a whole lot more. It is about being comfortable and knowledgeable in the environment you find yourself in, and having the skills to make the learning experience for the cadets as varied,  enjoyable and stretching as possible. This has to be done in a safe manner however the instructor must stretch the students enough so that they feel that adventurous spirit that draws us outdoors in the first place.

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Exploring the environment

We had a number of staff along for the weekend who have decades of experience in the outdoor environment including Perry Symes (International Mountain Leader), Duncan Boar (International Mountain Leader) and our very own John Kelly (Hill and Moorland Leader).

John was on our very first course as a BEL student in 2010 and has since gained his Hill and Moorland Leaders award. John takes over running the BEL course from me this year and has the same sense of adventure but far better administrative skills than me so organising future courses should be a doddle for him.

The champagne picture on the bottom right was when he was presented the bottle on the news of his recent engagement to Samantha and the soaking was from his daughter who he had teased just a bit too much.

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The one and only JK

One thing about this weekend was the  beautiful evenings as the sun set over the Forest. The students were a bit too caught up in their navigational assessments to really appreciate them but I sure did.

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Evening Nav

Along the way I did spot some lovely colours in the environment around me. I do not expect the students to be expert in identifying plants, fungi, animals or insects but I do expect them to be able to name some trees, flowers and have a basic knowledge of the history of the area they are working in.

Having this basic knowledge allows them to come across as a well-rounded Adventure Leader to their students and means more fulfilling and educational walks.

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The colours of Autumn

So after a lot of hard work over about 6 weekends the majority of the students reached the standard of Level 3 Basic Expedition Leader Award from Sports Leader UK. A number of the students received their certificates at the Walton and Sunbury Sea Cadet Unit recently.

There are a few more who just need to finish their final assignment and then they can be awarded their certificates.

Certificate Ceremony
Certificate Ceremony

I am looking forward to helping out once again in the BEL course this year as an instructor and assessor but thankfully JK is taking the reins in terms of organising it allowing me to do more of what I like – Getting out and Adventuring.

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A lovely end

Cheers

George