In March 2013 a group of 10 students from Heathermount School met up with a further 12 from neighbouring Charters School and embarked on a trip to Tirabad, an activity centre near Llangammarch Wells, in the stunning mid-Wales countryside. The centre backs on to the Crychan Forest and this, plus the nearby Brecon Beacons National Park, provided many opportunities for exploration and exciting adventures in caves, on rivers and up mountains.
The students were accompanied by six Heathermount staff and two Charters staff, one of whom was Steve Harvey, Deputy Headteacher and a member of the Heathermount Governing Body. Richard Pilgrim, Co-Headteacher at Charters School, explained how the trip came about: "Charters and Heathermount have been working hard to develop a real and long-lasting relationship over many years. There are many benefits for both schools: Heathermount students can access a range of pre- and post-16 examination courses, whilst Charters Sixth Form students are able to develop their leadership skills working alongside Heathermount students, even accompanying them on this hugely successful week's outdoor adventure in Wales."
However there was some initial trepidation from the students before the trip as Jack, one of the students from Heathermount, recounts:
"The feelings in my stomach were like I was about to jump off a cliff with nothing but a blindfold wrapped around my head, covering my eyes and my heart pounding with anxiety and excitement."
But this soon settled down and they all left Heathermount at 9.45 in the morning and made it to Wales, with only one stop en-route.
Jack continues: "We arrived at Tirabad after a tiring but eventful four hour journey, my legs feeling cramped and squashed, especially for me at just over 6ft tall, with long legs. Crossing the Severn Bridge, was to me the 'Gateway to Wales', and a high point."
When they were all settled in, they met the centre staff and began their adventure. Among the many activities that were on offer, the students delighted in canoeing, rock climbing, gulley scrambling and walking, whilst in the evenings they had campfires.
Jack tells of his experience on one of the walks: "We then went for a stroll in the local woods which seemed like something out of a horror movie or Harry Potter because it was so silent and still; you expected something, or someone to jump out at you."
Ben agreed with Jack's comment: "The trip to Tirabad was a huge success and all the students benefitted from it. They tried canoeing, rock climbing and gully scrambling. In the evenings they made fires and participated in a lot of general team building exercises. Some of the students went through a period of grieving for their new friends when they came back, but there have been some really positive comments made by the parents about the changes they have seen in their children; how they have become more mature and independent".
Jack sums it up perfectly: "I was walking and laughing with Olivia, a Charters student, and it was so good to talk to someone without being judged. It was also good to know that she was enjoying my company."