A trip in the sunshine!

Date Published:
Wednesday 15 May 2024
John Muir trip

Last week a group of our students enjoyed a residential trip to connect with nature as part of the John Muir Award. 

The group headed to Low Way Farm and really got to appreciate the fact that Upper Teesdale is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The campsite where the group stayed was nestled between the River Tees and amongst fields of bouncy lambs and tree-lined dry stone walls. Matched with some glorious sunshine, the trip was perfect!

After pitching their tents upon arrival, the group were introduced to the first expert of the visit, Alistair from the Durham bat group. Students learned lots of information about bats and the species they might find in the field. They set up their detectors and were off!

Next, Carol from the Weardale Wildlife Group showed them how the moth trap was set up and Ben talked about how birds produce their calls using their syrinx and how research had shown the health benefits of listening to birdsong. They tried on headsets and were shown how to pick up the sounds more precisely. Ben invited everyone to join him on a dawn chorus walk at 4:30am! THe whole group were delighted to come and spotted many bats during the night.

Friday also brought about another very rare and unplanned experience - the ability to see the Northern Lights! 

In the morning, our very sleepy bunch gathered around Carol to check the moth trap which brought some success. The main event of the day was to be the Gorge Walking run by Wilderness. The walk contained several challenges, slides, and jumps which the group could choose to do with the help of ropes and harnesses and of course the expert team.  Everyone exceeded their own targets, and many completed all the challenges!

After all the excitement the rest of the afternoon was spent by the river identifying the hay meadow flowers with Will from National Landscapes and finding toads, crayfish, mayfly, stonefly and caddis larvae and fossils as they dipped in and out of the water. To complete the day, Kerryanne and Kennedy made superb vegetarian and beef chillis which were folded into wraps to eat round the campfire, finished off with bananas and melted chocolate warmed in the embers.

Despite the opportunity of a lie-in on Sunday morning, most were up in good time and designed their own breakfast - fried toasties being top of the menu. The final activity was a circular walk along the river, seeing the spectacular bluebells near Wynch Bridge and mining bees near Low Force.  At Bowlees the group saw the bird art and photography exhibition before a picnic lunch and a look at the special flora of Bowlees Quarry.  The route then passed a fossil bed, evidence of when Teesdale was under tropical seas before returning to our campsite. 

A special thanks to North Pennines National Landscapes for financing the event and especially to Kerryanne who organised the programme and the team of experts. It was a brilliant weekend and I think John Muir would have been proud of what our students experienced and achieved.