First, that picture - Brathay may be seventy years old but the past is not lost.

Orienteering on Loughrigg Summer 1955

Orienteering on Loughrigg Summer 1955.

Schoolboys from Oxfordshire under Instructor’s (fairly) kindly eye. "No more questions. Just DO it!"

I had this email from ‘out the blue’ last month:

David Phillips writes:

I was one of the 24 lads selected from various Oxfordshire Secondary Modern schools to attend a six week course at Brathay… The main reason for writing is to offer you my very belated thanks… I am sure that any of ‘my gang’ would endorse my feelings of gratitude… we were pushed to new limits on vigorous fell walks, sailing ventures, and two or three day expeditions.

I was Chief Instructor at Brathay, although with a staff of only ten that did not mean very much. Most people – apprentices from industry – came for our regular month courses but the Oxfordshire venture was different. An enlightened Chief Education Officer (having, I think, met our Warden in the fells) felt that the BRATHAY WAY might be right for his 14 year olds to experience before they hit (at 15!) the big wide world. Yes, in those days, school for most youngsters ended at 15.

David goes on: 

One night we had a very impressive lecture on your recent visit to Iceland…..fascinating pictures of glaciers and volcanic activity.

This was thanks to another Brathay venture – the Exploration Group. 1953 saw the first of many trips to that land to do scientific surveys.  In years to come hundreds of David’s fellows would join such expeditions after their time at Brathay.

But hold on! They were not yet ready for that! This next extract from his letter showed how they were put down a peg or two. David continues:

One day several of us lads attempted to “scree ride” on the mountainside. You intercepted us and tactfully warned us of the perils…

Health & Safety eat yer heart out? I hasten to add that screes are no longer in the training programme.  In fact they never were…

If you would like to read more about Brathay's history take a look at our other blog posts here.

Or take a look at our history page here.