First year trip to Coniston, June 2016 by Martha Hutchinson

The Trip

Two weeks ago, the first year students of LANS went on a four day residential trip to the Raymond Priestly Centre on the shore of Lake Coniston. From hiking to high ropes, we took part in various activities designed to help us improve our teamwork and leadership skills – and were also very enjoyable!


Photo 1

The good weather held for the majority of the week, meaning that evenings could be spent outside on the field and by the lake, or going to the local pub in the village of Coniston.

Monday, 6th June

After a 7am start in the North Gate Carpark, we set off to the Lake District on what looked to be a lovely day. Five and a half hours later, this proved to be correct as we arrived at the centre to blue skies. After lunch, it was outside to do some ‘ice-breaking activities’. These contests ranged from passing all members of the team through a hoop in 4 seconds, to racing a ball up and down the hill in sections of gutter; and by the end of the afternoon, all of the teams seemed to be really enjoying themselves.

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One activity involved passing a bean bag between two people stood on either side of an increasingly wide gap – this was attempted with varying amounts of success.

Tuesday, 7th June

On the second day, the teams split up to complete a circuit of activities individually. My group (Team 4), were on land for the morning. We had a rotation of activities: crate stacking, high ropes and low ropes, all of which were very entertaining! I think my favourite would have to be the high ropes, as it was a brilliant way for us all to work together and help each other through. Then, there was a fantastic lunch (quiche) before we set off for an afternoon of canoeing. While many canoes were off to a slightly rocky start, by the time we stopped for ice cream at the Bluebird café it was generally going swimmingly (not literally).

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Our first task was to build a tower of crates for two team members to stand on to reach a whistle in the trees – thank you Jeeves for coming up with the brickwork pattern

Wednesday, 8th June

Our third day was marked on the schedule as ‘activity day’, and so we had only a small idea of what to expect – other than we would need a packed lunch. Over the course of the day, we completed an orienteering trail, a logic puzzle, a hike and a canoe journey, gaining points for various correct answers during the day. While we were all exhausted by the end, the day was a success – I had a great time, and the views were amazing (even if we had to walk up a rather steep hill to get to them)! Plus, we succeeded in winning the prize at the end – ice cream!

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While canoeing on both days was enjoyable, it was a bit more difficult on the Wednesday as the Lake became rather choppy in the afternoon! (Picture from Tuesday)

Thursday, 9th June


On our final day, we were able to choose our morning activity (mountain biking, sailing, gorge scrambling or kayaking). Having chosen sailing, my group spent the morning back out on the lake, which was great fun, and a perfect way to end the trip – especially the water fight with the group in kayaks! After a final lunch and a clean of the centre, it was back on the coach for the drive back to Birmingham. The trip was a resounding success, with everyone enjoying themselves, and it was awesome to be able to get to know everyone on the course. I hope that next year’s group will have as fantastic a time.

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On the final evening, we made a fire in the centre’s fire pit, around which we drank hot chocolate and attempted to roast a doughnut.

Thank you


Finally, on behalf of LAS Year 1, I would like to say a big thank you to everyone whose hard work made this trip a success. In Birmingham, I would like to say a special thank you to Ruth German, Ben Kotzee and Stewart Brown for organising the trip. I would also like to thank Ben and Stewart for accompanying us. Finally, I would like to say a massive thank you to all the staff at the Raymond Priestly Centre, who worked tirelessly to make sure we had a great time – everything was amazing, from the food, to the activities, and even to the atmosphere of the centre! The trip could not have gone ahead without any of you – thank you very much!


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Also, a personal thank you from me to Ben, Miriam and Lorna for allowing me to use their photos for this post!




First-Year trip to the Raymond Priestley Centre, Coniston, June 2015

First year students on the Liberal Arts and Sciences programme took part in our annual adventurous training week at Coniston in the Lake District from Monday 8 to Thursday 11 June 2015.

The University of Birmingham is lucky to have its very own outdoor activity centre, the Raymond Priestley Centre, on the western shore of Coniston Water. The Centre had its beginnings in the annual summer camps that the University of Birmingham set up at Coniston Water in the post-war years, and grew to comprise permanent accommodation and facilities. Today, the Raymond Priestley Centre offers students and staff the opportunity to take part in team-development and leadership courses, field-studies courses and training in sports and pursuits like sailing, canoeing, orienteering and climbing.

The centre is named after Professor Sir Raymond Priestley (1886 – 1974) who was geologist on Shackleton’s expedition to the Antarctic in 1907–9 and Scott’s ill-fated expedition in 1910–13. He later became Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham (1938 to 1952) and was a strong supporter of the educational benefit of adventure and exploration.

Our groIMG_0219up left Birmingham early (if not so bright) on Monday morning and arrived at the Priestley Centre in time for lunch. After a briefing and introduction to the centre, it was time for the first activities, with an afternoon devoted to problem-solving and team-working exercises at the centre’s ingenious obstacle courses. Students had to scratch their heads to solve problems such as crossing a ‘gorge’ using only team work and three short planks, finding their way blindfolded, and passing eight team members through a ‘spider’s web’ without touching.

 All good fun and, along the way, everyone learned a bit more about communicating and what role they best play in teams. Everyone was tired on Monday night, but we got a camp fire going and chatted until dark. On Tuesday morning we went canoeing (a first time for some) and held a raft building competition. Two of the rafts made it around the course safely… and the third group swam out in some style. 20150609_114507_HDR20150609_114325 The afternoon saw us take on the centre’s dedicated ‘high ropes’ and ‘low ropes’ courses. Teamwork was crucial in getting everyone safely around the high ropes course (pretty high) and keeping them out of the mud besetting the low ropes course. IMG_0266

On the Wednesday, students took part in an all day project, working in teams, which involved map reading and orienteering, raft building and canoeing. The tasks required individual ingenuity and teamwork, plus the ability to acknowledge that different members of the group had different strengths which would each come into play in different situations. They spent the late afternoon working on their group reflective presentations for the Thursday morning — everyone took this seriously, and one group in particular put considerable creative effort into planning their presentation (set to the music of Bohemian Rhapsody). In the evening many of them went to the pub but all were back in the Centre in good time and in a reasonable state to return to work on Thursday morning!

On the Thursday morning, students were surprised at having one more physical task to perform. In their groups they were each issued with a length of guttering and a tennis ball and had to manoeuvre the ball down the hill towards the lake without it dropping to the ground. Two of the three groups did this ok, one group did it eventually – with a little help from their friends as it were. Again it was a task about teamwork, leadership and esprit de corps…but maybe 8.30am was a little early in the day for some of the students. After the presentations the groups cleaned up their quarters and headed up the hill to catch the coach back to Birmingham. IMG_0231IMG_0222 After the trip, all were agreed that Coniston was brilliant. Students came to know one another much better and say they felt much closer.

Ben Kotzee and Stewart Brown