Anglesey 2017 Updates

Update 1:

There is rarely anything to report on the journey to Wales, but this year some of the students called Simon Mayo's All-Request Friday show. We are now famous.

Our arrival was on-time and without any real hitches. The day's activities were all underway promptly and students departed to their various destinations quickly and efficiently. This year, the students have thrown themselves into the activities on offer without hesitation. Some are less keen on heights, but they have all had a go which is all we ask.

Each group has two activity sessions each day and the 'standard' suite of activities is:

· Coasteering: Jumping from rocks into the sea, swimming, climbing out – then doing it again.

· Sit-on-tops: What most would call canoeing or kayaking. The boats have no hole in them to get stuck in, you just fall off and then climb back on. Much easier for beginners!

· Open Boating: Big green canoes that take three paddlers. Much of the time is spent on mud-flats getting very messy...

· Climbing: Up a fairly straightforward climb on Holy Mountain. Still a challenge for inexperienced climbers.

· Abseiling: A massive and intimidating quarry face which is in a lovely park near Holyhead.

· Stand-up-paddleboarding: A bigger, more stable surfboard which you propel around in the sea with a paddle while standing on it.

· Gorge-walk: Climbing, scrambling and splashing up a stream in North Wales. Ropes required from time to time. This is a full day activity and many of the young people take the chance to stock up on missed sleep.

· Sea Level Traverse: Essentially climbing around a roped course in a big circle around a sheltered bay. If done poorly then wet-feet are the worst hazard.

· Mountain Biking: Various routes around Holy Island are taken by the bikers. All seem to pass by cafés. No-one can explain this strange phenomenon.

In injury news, the usual scrapes and bumps have been joined with a couple of jellyfish stings. These are not dangerous, but are a bit like a nettle sting. The traditional remedy was not a popular suggestion, though it is supposedly effective.

While Friday's weather was a little drizzly and overcast, Saturday has been glorious. The Evening Church Service was followed by Sandcastle-Building in Trearddur Bay. This is always fun with fascinating creations; this year was no exception.

All of the young people seem happy and to be enjoying the activities. It has been great to see the McAuley spirit alive and well with helping-hands, supportive comments and smiles setting the tone.

Update 2:

We are now at the end of Sunday and the trip seems to be going very well. The activities have all passed by with few incidents beyond a couple of grazed knees and a few bruises. The smiling faces are a joy to behold and seeing the young people challenging themselves and overcoming the difficulties they face is a great reason to give the time to this amazing trip.

The evening activities were sandcastle building, an Anglesey favourite and the annual rounders match. For sandcastle building we all head to Trearddur Bay and each group designs and builds a 'sand-sculpture' reflecting their activities in Anglesey. This year these included a Jellyfish, a Jumper, a multi-activity diorama and a couple of mermaids. We have never seen a mermaid on the island or in the sea around it.

The rounder's match was a hotly contested affair with each team doing their best to outdo the efforts of the others. A special mention must go to Joe Duffy who scored on five out of his six attempts. He was on my team, so we did pretty well. Results are yet to be announced.

In injury news, the worst problem is a number of reported cases of red skin sensitive to touch. Investigations point to a Welsh rarity – sunny days. Dr Hurley has prescribed liberal applications of sun-cream. In fact there have been very few sunburns and most of these have been on Staff who should know better.

The weather continues to be kind to us and it seems to be quite good for the rest of the week.

Options begin tomorrow (Monday) offering the groups a chance to choose activities based upon their preference of activity or even select based on friendships. Sea Kayaking is now set to begin and Mr Taylor will be setting out from a remote beach and will no doubt return late for tea as he just needed to explore that last cove, cave, rock or other feature of the coast. The students love it.

Update 3:

The sessions continue, with all of the accompanying busy-ness and fun. The weather has continued to be kind to us and this just helps everything to run smoothly and with enthusiasm. It seems set to change tomorrow, so we will carry on regardless and in the hope that the inclement weather passes over quickly.

'Options' have started, giving the young people a chance to choose their preferred activities for morning, evening or whole-day sessions. The Sea Kayakers saw seals on their journey and even made it back before tea was served. This is more unusual than you might realise – unless you have met Mr Taylor when it all makes perfect sense. The Options Cyclists covered 20 miles in their afternoon session. This is very impressive given their ages and experience. It is also a new Anglesey trip record for distance in one session.

We went for our annual walk through Penrhos Country Park tonight. There was a sighting of a red squirrel, but it had escaped before the 70 young, noisy people came along. The coastal route is really pretty and it makes for a pleasant and relatively calm evening activity.

If you were hoping to see the photos on the Google page, then please bear with us. The Wi-Fi in rural Wales is not very quick and the site uploads in blocks, rather than as individual photographs. This means that a large number of photos will arrive on the site at some point. Don't give up looking!

Update 4:

I am writing this in the steamy environment of the Holyhead Leisure Centre where the young people are swimming in clean, chlorinated water with no jellyfish, salt or rocks to contend with. I have just seen a Y7 girl screaming "I did it!" having rolled a kayak and escaping successfully. Another personal triumph!

Options continue, with walking, cycling, sea kayaking and more filling the days. There have been no major injuries or incidents, though one of the buses threatened to give up the ghost before settling back to normal operation. More photos are on the sharing site, so please take the time to have a look.

Instead of my words tonight I have a few statements from students about what the Anglesey trip means to them. Over to them:

· Anglesey has been a diaphanous time, filled with fun, friendship building and joy. The climbing is up a cliff, and is utterly awesome. All is well – may the force be with you. E Ojha

· Anglesey is the biggest never ending roller-coaster. Sometimes you are scared, but sometimes it's easy. I'm loving Anglesey and I hope to be coming year after year. V McConway-Gee

· Anglesey is a unique and phenomenal experience that I will never forget. I have made friends that I will never forget and memories that will last forever. C.Duhig

· The best thing about Anglesey is that all the people here are at your school, yet sometimes you never get to know them or even speak to them. The thing with Anglesey is that it makes you bond with people you would never normally speak to. Therefore, it helps create new friends and memories that will stay with you for the rest of your life. It's incredible. E.Weatherley

I was looking through some old photos that had been left on a memory card in one of the cameras and they date back over ten years. Two of our current instructors (Peter Flanagan and Daniel Hurley) appear in those photos as students. A further four qualified instructors (Josh Carr, David Taylor, Graham Taylor and Leanne Benfold) are former students who have returned to give up holiday time to support the trip activities.

Then there are the returning leaders. Another four former students (Becky Jarvis, Ellie O'Neill, Georgia Duffy and Abbie Riddle) have returned as part of the staff team and essential supports for the trip. That's 10 (ten) 'Anglesey Alumni' who attest to the power of the trip and would wholeheartedly echo the sentiments expressed by the current group. They are the friends from the trip who have gone through life together and formed those lasting bonds.

The Anglesey trip is about the activities. But it is also about friendship, support, encouragement and inclusion. It is a privilege and joy to be a part of it. This is the very best of McAuley School distilled into a week and the essence of the whole experience is, in its own way, beautiful.

Final Update:

The last day is well underway and the students are completing their final activities. Last night we had a quiz, prepared and delivered by Georgia and Ellie. This was followed by a period of reflection and then bed.

The students wrote brief comments about their week during the reflection time. Here are just a few:

· I've had an amazing time. I've loved doing new things and meeting new friends. Can't wait to come next year. Liam L

· Best experience ever. Deffo coming next year! Sam W

· Anglesey is an amazing place because it's a great way to make friends and become closer to people. Anon

· We have all had the best time ever. Group C

· The group helped me to become more confident to be myself and made new friends trhat will last me through my life. I'm so thankful for everything and everyone. People have helped me to be happy.

· The trip has helped me to overcome fears and be myself. Many people helped me to overcome jumps here that I would never do again.

· I have enjoyed my first year here so much and can't wait for next year. Coasteering and Paddleboarding was boyo and the Gorge was great too. Savannah and Ellis are the best group leaders!

There was much more in this vein, but the lunch break is almost over and I'm off to the sea level traverse.

This evening we have our celebration of the week. There is an extra dimension tonight as we remember the hard-work, dedication and legacy of Mr Taylor. He is retiring from teaching this year and will have a different relationship with the trip in future. It is right that we acknowledge with gratitude his many (34) years of service on the Anglesey trip and say once again that it simply could not have happened without him.

Mr Taylor always points to the team of staff, volunteers and hired helpers who make the trip run smoothly, and that is absolutely true. However, without Mr Taylor's persistence, inspirational leadership and boundless enthusiasm for opening the doors of experience to young people this trip would not still be here.

Thank you Mr Taylor and enjoy your retirement.

The McAuley Catholic High School, Cantley, Cantley Lane, Doncaster, DN3 3QF
Tel: 01302 537396