Outward Bound course – Diary of 30 years in Business

Outward Bound – 30 years ago this week!

In the early 80’s Outward Bound residential courses were funded as part of ITEC’s training courses and it was something I was fortunate enough to experience first time (although I wasn’t too sure at the time!)

30 years ago this week, in May 1984, our first group of learners (and me) went outward bound in the middle of nowhere to the Brecon Beacons, very beautiful but very remote!   We picked up the coach from the Council Offices, which were then situated in Fodderwick, opposite the Basildon Centre where Westgate Shopping Centre now resides, and set off down the motorway for Wales.   Halfway there we had to stop as some of the learners were not feeling very well. It turned out that their innocent- looking bottles of lemonade contained something much more alcoholic!   A good start! I was already getting a headache!   Arghh!

IMG_0002We reached the remote farmhouse that was going to be home for the next 4 days and settled into our dormitories and sleeping quarters – basic but comfortable and enjoyed a group dinner followed by some recreational games (table football featured a lot if my memory serves me correctly).   We were put into groups and each group took turns on meal duties.   This means that one group per day had to be up early to take over the breakfast duties and one night one joker set the alarm clock for the breakfast group too early and woke us all up at 4am! Ugh!



IMG_0007Over the next few days we experienced caving, orienteering, archery, abseiling, rock climbing and an assault course.   I was terrified of the abseiling but found it was really enjoyable, one of the best activities I’ve ever done! I wanted to do it again and again.   However, the rock climbing, which I didn’t expect to have any problems with, had me quaking in my boots – it turned out I was very scared when I had to climb up with nothing solid under my feet and only very small crevices for footholds – yuk!   The main issue I had was I had to climb up the rock face before I could enjoy the abseil down – one extreme of emotion to the other!   Yes, that is me in the green helmet abseiling slowly down the rock face!   Apologies for the poor picture quality but remember it was 30 years ago (Truprint was our main option then!)

I remember on the orienteering day the weather was very good and none of us had any sun cream!   We were hot, bothered and arguing over which way to go on the map. We finally found our way back to the farmhouse with burnt noses and shoulders and not in the best of tempers!   We were able to release the pent up tension, though, on the assault course which was still muddy and boggy from the rain the day before. I missed a hand hold on the underarm ladder and was heading for a deep mud bath when Mark Robinson grabbed me round the waist and hauled me home – thank you, Mark, I have never forgotten your strong-arm act of kindness!   I remember a mud fight at the end of the course that was very messy but highly enjoyable – we even had mud in our ears but, boy, did we laugh!

There was an evening of ‘midnight manoeuvres’ where the learners had to carry out a mountain rescue in the dark but unfortunately I missed this event as I was struck down with a migraine – it must have been all that sun, arguing, mud and laughing!  It couldn’t have been anything else as there was certainly no restaurants, alcohol or time-off for the trainers!   It was full-on morning, noon and night! *sighs*    (May be one of our learners from 30 years ago can update us on the midnight manoeuvres as a guest blog!)

The caving was wet and cold!   We had to wade through an area of cave called “Lisa’s Gullet” that saw us squatted down and crawling through a small part of the cave half full with freezing cold water. I remember we all surfaced at the other end in wet boiler suits, our boots filled with water and even our underclothes were soaked right through!   An experience I have never been in a hurry to repeat!   I also remember losing a couple of learners and having to go back for them. Where were they? Ah, back round the last corner having a full-on kissing session! Arghh!


Finally on the last day, we had archery. A nice, leisurely game during the morning before getting our coach home. However, the cows in the next field decided to come over and see what we were up to. The learners got a bit nervous when the cows got very close but using an arrow in each hand to extend my reach I was able to persuade them back into their own field. A Lincolnshire lass, born and bred, I was confident handling a few cows! A close encounter was resolved and then we were on our way home!



I remember returning home absolutely exhausted and sleeping the whole weekend away before returning to work on Monday.   It was Malcolm’s turn to go the following year, and he took them to…… Butlins! Yes, with restaurants, alcohol and time off in the evenings!! Ugh!!! *slaps forehead*   As Malcolm can attest to, I have never let him forget this!!


Wendy Vickers


27th May 2014

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