What a whirlwind first day at Plas Pencelli! After driving through some of the most British weather imaginable (sunshine, rain, snow, wind…all within a matter of minutes), we arrived to be met by a fleet of minibuses to take us to our cabins. No time to rest, though. We dropped off our bags, made our beds (the first truly challenging activity), stealthily dodged the rainfall and went straight into orientation.

After being split into three activity groups, it was time to be packed into our new waterproof gear and off to our first activity – the local adventure walk! It should be said that walking was only a very small portion of what we did, as we traversed tricky obstacle courses, climbed under branches, through trees, into rivers and finally scaled a waterfall! We returned soggy but proud of our achievements, and took great joy in seeing who had accumulated the most water in their wellies as we emptied them and made our way back for a quick hot chocolate and biscuit before dinner.

Our thoughts about the day:

“I think it’s been really interesting and I’ve been trying new things that I’m not scared to do now. The best part today was going through tiny spaces like the tree and climbing up the waterfall which was very challenging.” 

“It was wet, it was muddy but it was amazingly fun!” – Angus

“I’ve been really impressed with such an amazing start to this year’s residential. Everyone is already just a little bit wet, muddy and cold…but with massive smiles on their faces.” –Mr Shaughnessy

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The day started off with everyone learning more about the routines of the residential.  It has to be said the boys scored far more highly in the room inspection than the girls – pretty spotless, and perfectly hoovered!  Hopefully, Mrs. Fleming and Mrs. Hunt-Brough will be able to help the girls catch up as the week goes on…

After a two-course breakfast (including the “best toast ever” according to George), all three groups set off on their minibuses to their different activities – canoeing for two groups, and a day caving for Mr. Guy and his team – Green Group.  As they made their way up the mountain the cave lies within, the snow descended and the winds blew, but nothing was to dull their adventuring spirit as they continued onwards and upwards.  Lunch was eaten within the cave entrance and then everyone worked wonderfully together to explore every tiny crevice, shouting back words ofencouragement and advice to their friends as they followed on behind them.

The weather conditions for canoeing were similarly challenging, with the two teams taking part being buffered around the canal and pelted with rain.  Our wise instructors managed to pack shelters to be used to eat lunch in, and the sun managed to come out in the afternoon.  Amazing skills were on show all day, and, if anything, the weather brought out the best in Y6 who helped each other and co-operated amazingly well to finish the 3 mile stretch of paddling.  Even after the thorough soaking of the day, the vast majority of each group insisted on capsizing and throwing themselves into the canal at the end…and Mr. Shaughnessy came closer than ever before to also ending up in the water with them (he will name and shame cuplrits on our return to school).

And after all that, the kitchen managed to serve us up pancakes with ice-cream and syrup for our dessert…

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Everyone seems to be appreciating their sleep a little more, as this morning there were far fewer voices chattering away quietly before the official 7:30am wake up call. However, all had certainly found their voices by the time they’d made their way down to breakfast (bacon, hash browns and spaghetti hoops which were very well received) and they all seemed eager to begin their activities.

Green group swapped wellies for walking boots and harnesses as we jumped into the minibus for our climbing session. Upon our arrival at the quarry, we were greeted by glorious sunshine – which seems to be a rare commodity in Wales this week – and we quickly set to work sorting out our harnesses and helmets as the instructors set up our climbing equipment.

Interspersed throughout our climbing sessions, were a variety of climbing-related activities, including a scramble around the quarry and lunch and soup breaks. During the sessions children were put into groups of three and assigned roles in their groups: belayers were tasked with securing the climber by feeding the support rope through a brake, the rope holder supported the belayer in their role and the climber… climbed. With shouts of encouragement, it wasn’t long before every member had attempted to scale one of the challenging routes. Special congratulations must go to Ethan, who reached the top of the ridiculously challenging final wall. But to see every member of the group succeed in climbing at least half way was fantastic. They all left the quarry exhausted but proud of their achievements!

Blue and red groups headed off to Porth Yr Ogof for their caving experience today.  The entrance to the cave stunned us all – and was so different from what we all had in mind when we thought of what the cave would be like.  After an hour exploring the easier, larger parts of the cave, followed by a much-needed lunch, the groups embarked on the harder, narrower and wetter parts of the cave.  The rain had made the river running through Porth very strong, and crossing the river from one side to the other needed a huge amount of teamwork – which everyone provided by the bucketload.  All of the adults have been overwhelmed by how supportive Y6 have been of each other while we have been away – their team spirit and willingness to put others first is so impressive to see.  A highlight for most people was making it through the dreaded letterbox, which almost everyone braved without a moment’s hesitation (including some grown-ups)…meaning everyone could leave the cave with the sense of achievement which comes from everyone trying everything and not letting any worries get the better of them.

“Abseiling was fun because you were relying on yourself instead of other people and you had control over how fast you were going.” Fiona

“I really enjoyed climbing because you got to climb up really high and see gob-smacking views!” Bethany

“I was actually quite scared because I didn’t know where to put my feet and hands. I solved that problem by asking my belayers where to go.” Zack

“In the caves it was cool because it felt like you were in a movie. I liked the letterbox because it was tight and challenging, but tested you.” Maddie

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