D of E Silver Expedition October 8-10th 2021

Whilst he was lying in his tent in sub-zero conditions, with rations running low and fully aware of his impending death, the famed polar explorer Captain Robert Scott wrote messages to his friends and family, including the following note to his wife regarding his young son Peter: “Make the boy interested in natural history if you can; they encourage it in some schools.” This message clearly hit home- his son grew up to be the acclaimed conservationist Sir Peter Scott. He was also a keen sportsman and played several games to a high level.

At St Anselm’s we aim to embody these values, including in the recent trip to Snowdonia. On Friday 8th Oct we took 50 boys to North Wales, dropping them off via minibus in the Nant Ffrancon valley (famed for its glacial Roche moutonnée as any self-respecting geography teacher will tell you). The boys ascended the Western Carneddau encountering bogs, goats, and teachers before dropping down towards Ogwen Cottage. After another couple of valleys the boys arrived at the picturesque farm/campsite and pitched their tents surrounded by sheep and dogs. Garth campsite is nestled between the Snowdon massif and the stately Moel Siabod, providing scenic views in every direction. Some boys ignored this and preferred the hot showers (Charles O’Connor) and clean toilet block. Even on D of E, it is important to keep up appearances.

Day 2 provided navigational challenges in the form of the small but princely peak of Crimpiau, situated above the wettest place in the UK, Capel Curig. The weather was oddly warm, for October. One group did manage to miss the large obvious feature of Crimpiau, opting to trapse over boggy, gorse covered fell. The esteemed Mr Waters found and re-routed the group, much to our relief. As the said teacher is a former Royal Marine Commando, we knew that the group were in safe hands. Notable mentions also go to Mr Davis and Mrs Meakins who provided a fresh team of horses and enabled the regular D of E staff to grab a drink or stroke cute puppies on the campsite. Incidents on Day 2 included a nasty tick bite, soaking wet sleeping bag (we are unsure what caused this), torn ligaments (unlucky George) and one of the aforementioned puppies stealing food from the boys.

The final day begun with an early start, with the prospect of chips and welsh cakes ahead in Betwys-Y Coed. Despite their obvious weariness, the boys performed incredibly well, embodying all the virtues that Anselmians are known for. For some students being outdoors and camping comes naturally. For others it is a real step outside their comfort zone- to quote one student, “this isn’t like Wrexham!”. The natural competitive nature of our boys was evident, even in the strictly non-competitive arena that is D of E. Desperate to be the first to the finish, Master Dowse and Master Martin walked as fast as they could whilst under heavy load. Rather than a sprint, it resembled a fast waddle. The winner of the race is still under some dispute.

On a personal level, this will be the last D of E expedition that I lead at the College. I take away a multitude of happy memories and a lifetime of friendships. Some of the best times I have had as a teacher have been on D of E, with one notable exception related to Portuguese fortified wine (for more information see Mr Harris or Mrs Rawsthorne retd) in 2009. Many thanks to Mr O’Callaghan, Miss Brown, Mr Waters, Mr Davis, Mrs Meakins and the indomitable Miss Browning without whom this trip would not be possible. Thank you also to all parents for picking the boys up promptly; Mrs Grealis wins the prize for best parent due to the provision of coffee.

Mr R Gott