Every year, following exams, all Year 9 students are treated to an enrichment week away before the start of the GCSE course. As well as being extremely fun, the trips have a focus on personal development. These are the experiences of four students on some of the trips this year.

Ullswater, Lake District

On our first day, we were put into groups. My group contained 12 people and our main activity was to jog and dip. This involved a pleasant 2km run before getting in the freezing water, climbing up a small cliff and jumping off. On the first jump everyone was nervous, but after that it became much easier - even though the second jump was higher. To top it off we got a speedboat back!

On Tuesday, the activity for the whole day was gorge walking. Here we really started learning what resilience and teamwork are about. After a few miles walk to the start of the gorge we stopped, put our kit on and were taught a few techniques such as the 'Italian handshake'. As we started getting higher up the gorge there was more and more water coming down. Eventually, we were climbing in water that was up to our chests, and you had to pull yourself along the wall.

When we had completed the gorge walking we returned to base camp, had a shower, and then spent the evening packing our bags for the 36-hour expedition - the main feature of this trip. This included packing cooking equipment, food, sleeping bags and tents to name just a few. The bags weighed a lot which on the expedition made it much harder to carry on going.

On Wednesday morning we caught a boat to the other side of Ullswater where we started our long walk to camp and the top of Helvellyn - which is the second highest peak in the Lake District. At first, we were taking too many breaks because people had not adjusted to the weight of the bag yet, but after a while we were advancing better and then we found the start of the climb to the top of Helvellyn! The uphill sections drained every last bit of energy from you but we wanted to get to the top so we kept on going and putting in the effort. When we reached the top (at 16:20) everyone threw their bags on the floor and felt relief at not carrying it all, at least for a while. We admired the stunning view but then we were told we had another two hours to go until we reached the camp.

When we arrived some of us went to collect water and cook dinner while others went to set up the tents. Even though we were all shattered everyone still put in a shift to help. The hot meatballs in a boil bag felt like a luxury. We sat by the lake after dinner and admired what we had accomplished. Then we all went to bed and slept really well; however, we were greeted with a loud ‘GOOD MORNING!’ from Tom our instructor at 6:30 AM. We all walked very well on the return journey because we knew we were going to be canoeing back across the lake.

Morocco

Both gruelling and satisfying, this trip had it all. We started with taster walks, which slowly grew into harder, more challenging hikes. Our legs burned uphill and our toes started hurting downhill. But our hard work was rewarded with gorgeous views of the Atlas Mountains, amazing sights of peaks showing through clouds, and of forests and goats climbing trees (the best part of the whole trip).

At the end of each day we stayed at Gites, family-run inns that varied from comfy mattresses and flushing toilets to horsehair pillows and holes in the ground. On the final part of the trip, we were given the chance to explore Marrakech, to visit a Berber apothecary to buy spices, and then we were allowed to haggle at Souks. We bought pashmina scarves, toys, and gifts for everyone. As we finished the week, we were both exhausted and missing our beds, but also thoroughly satisfied with a week well spent.

Ardeche, France

Our first activities included a ‘jog and dip’ session and a high ropes course where many students overcame challenges and met new friends. On our first full day, we were split into two with half kayaking down the iconic Ardeche river and the others doing tough mountain biking through beautiful scenery.

At the sound of the birds singing, we were woken up early in the morning for a two-hour coach journey to the highly anticipated canyoning site. When we arrived we were instructed to put on our wetsuits and walk to the starting point. The route we followed had fast rapids, which we took advantage of by doing the famous ‘Superman’ dive and jumping into the clear, pristine water. The highlight for me (and for many) was the towering zip wire that stretched out for some distance above the stunning river below.

On our last two days, we paired up with a friend and set off paddling along the Ardeche river. Special moments included us canoeing under the well-known Pont d'Arc natural bridge and going bow first into as many as thirty rapids. As it was a two-day descent: we slept overnight under the stars, which in itself was a sight to behold.

At the end of the highly enjoyable trip, we were all very tired but happy with what we had accomplished over the duration of the week and grateful for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity we were offered.

The Ridgeway Challenge

As the sun was shining on a new day at DCGS, 21 students loaded up on the minibuses and left fresh and ready for the Ridgeway Challenge.

When we arrived in the open fields around Barbury Castle, the teams were assembled into our various groups, and we had to begin to solve our first physical and mental challenges as a team, involving rope, bamboo and military logistics.

After a gruelling walk up hills and down valleys, guided only by sketch maps, the teams proceeded to attempt more challenges and eventually got to camp. This routine grew familiar to the recruits as we charged on through day two, walk, stop, have lunch, walk, stop, balance a bowl of water on your feet, walk stop, set up tent, sleep.

But by the third day, things got serious. Our accompanying teacher was now a target for Mr Keen and his camouflaged colleagues. The only way to defend them was to utilize our only weapon, the super-soaker. After we fought (with water!), and got completely drenched, we again settled down for the night under canvas, raring for day four.

Dropped in the middle of nowhere, we had to navigate ourselves to Coombe Hill, whilst constructing a 9ft radio transmitter out of bamboo canes and string. A more relaxing lunch in Wendover, followed, before we were assigned to Wendover Woods to go and run in all directions and find orienteering posts, while the teachers had a relax. All except Mr Burn, who was totalling up the scores from all the scruffy, soggy puzzles that the groups had handed in. After a hard 11pm to 1am night mission, we powered on through the last day. With successful navigation from all teams, despite Red Team losing their map, staff and students alike assembled to climb Ivinghoe Beacon together. We had some wise words from the staff, a leisurely stroll back down to the minibuses, and headed back to school: smiles on faces, weary, with aching legs and feet, but satisfied with what we had achieved.