Castles and Coasts, Wales
Learning about the social history and landscape of Wales
On Monday 1 July 2019, thirty-one (new) Year 9 pupils, 3 members of staff (and a little woolly sheep) departed for the Castles and Coasts Enrichment Week trip to Wales. The aim of this trip was to learn more about the social history and landscape of Wales.
Monday was a busy day, starting with a visit to St Fagans National Museum of History, an open air museum tracing 3,000 years of Welsh social history. Pupils particularly enjoyed learning more about Welsh schools in the past. In the afternoon we travelled to Big Pit National Coal Museum, which was a working coal mine until the 1980s. Pupils were taken 100m underground for a tour of the mining tunnels and heard stories of the roles that men, women, children and even horses played in the mine. While we only had to stoop a little in the mine, our guide showed us much smaller mine shafts and all were shocked at just how small some of the coal faces were. After the mine we headed off to our first hostel where pupils coped well with the lack of Wi-Fi and made the most of the beautiful views and outside space at the hostel in their free time after dinner.
On Tuesday the group were split into two. Group A took a hike on the Taff Trail which passed by our hostel with spectacular views of the Brecon Beacons and Pen y Fan, the highest peak in South Wales. Although some found the uphill walk difficult, we were impressed by the resilience of the group who all made it to the top. Group B travelled to Llangorse Multi Activity Centre in the morning where they undertook caving and climbing challenges. A very active morning for everyone meant that lunch was very welcome. The lovely weather meant the group could picnic outside the hostel before swapping over to have a go at the alternative activity in the afternoon. We ended Tuesday night with more games and a film.
Wednesday was a more relaxed day. In the morning we travelled to Aberystwyth and enjoyed some fish and chips amongst the Norman castle ruins, while in the afternoon we relaxed on Borth Beach. The Youth Hostel was right next to the beach and we were very lucky with the weather so it was the perfect temperature for a paddle. Pupils also enjoyed rock pooling, playing football and making sculptures before we headed back across the road for dinner. Watching the sunset was a lovely way to end a lovely sunny day at the beach.
We had an earlier start on Thursday to make sure we arrived at the Snowdon Mountain Railway in time for our train. We travelled 1,000m to the summit of the highest mountain in Wales and had a very picturesque picnic. The views on the journey and from the top, were spectacular and while we would have loved to stay at the top for longer, our train would not wait. In the afternoon we walked to a local waterfall where we had a welcome chance to cool down before heading onwards to our hostel. As this was our last night in Wales, pupils were keen to get ready for the inaugural Castles and Coasts party. There was lots of laughter as pupils got changed into their fancy dress outfits and some excellent efforts from Kate and Jack in particular with Kate dressing up as Caernarfon Castle and Jack as a hula girl. After some dancing and party games, the group settled down for a round of sleeping lions (the teachers' favourite I think). We had heard that there was a good chance of seeing a sunset across from the hostel and we were not disappointed. With some professing that it was the most beautiful sunset they had ever seen and gorgeous reflections from the lake in the valley, it was a lovely way to spend our last night on the trip.
Friday was the final day of our trip, but we could not miss the opportunity to visit Caernarfon Castle on the way home. At the castle, pupils enjoyed exploring and taking part in a picture quiz over lunch. Caernarfon Castle was built in 1283 by Edward I as a sign of his status and his control over the Welsh. It is also the place where Prince Charles was inaugurated as Prince of Wales, a tradition which Edward I started to honour the eldest son of the monarch in the Middle Ages. After lunch we started our journey back to school and again pupils were patient and good-natured throughout the travelling, although the staff noted that there was less singing and more sleeping this time!
Trip Leader Miss Bluett said "The Wales trip was a really good week, Deer Park pupils were engaged during the site visits and enthusiastic about the activities each day. It was lovely to see them making new friends and demonstrating a sense of adventure in the great outdoors. They were a credit to the school and I hope that they will remember this trip for many years to come."
Lauren: "I loved the amazing views from the top of Snowdon."
Charlotte: "I really enjoyed the climbing, and especially the caving."
Ben: "I enjoyed the Big Pit coal mine because it showed how coal was a big thing in the industrial revolution and what the conditions and people were like then."
Elise: "I loved spending time on the beach."
Abi: "I loved the time that we all spent together, making new friends, conquering fears and general quality time together away from the internet."
Freddie: "I really enjoyed the time we spent together and getting to know new people."
Dizzy: “I loved looking round castles then having a nice evening on the beach.”
Kate: “I really loved this week away, I enjoyed meeting new people and trying new activities.”
Katie: “I loved all of what we did. I mostly love that we got to go down the Big Pit. It was amazing to see what people used to do and have a better understanding of what was happing back then.”
Olivia: "Everywhere we went was such a great experience and it was so much fun!"