When our archivist Maurice Dybeck stayed overnight with us recently he couldn’t help noticing how well everyone got along…

There were two different groups eating in the dining hall the last time I stayed at Brathay.  The largest group, at least 50 people, were university students.

Good turnout,’ I said. ‘Are you filling the whole room?” The dining room seats over 80.

No. We’re just at this end.”

The tables at the other end, not yet occupied, were labelled PURPOSEFUL LEADERS, or something like that.

Are you not also purposeful?” I joked.

Not as much as they are!” he teased back.

And there we had it, surely, a typical Brathay moment that captured the essence of what the charity’s work with young people is all about: two very good groups, both benefitting from some excellent training, albeit in different ways, and both sharing communal spaces and happily getting along side by side.

Earlier on the same day I’d spotted the university students scattered in small groups over many rooms in Brathay Hall. They were studiously silent; presumably totally immersed in some cerebral task. The vision was not dissimilar to that of any college library. I wondered if the others were busy being ‘purposeful’ out on the lake in thick mist. Later that evening, the university crowd were seen socialising in the bar, while the others were tasked with practical activities.

At breakfast the following morning several students were a bit bleary-eyed and subdued. The other group, meanwhile, were already on a pre-breakfast scamper up the nearest hill. It could easily have been the other way around.

I know it’s unfashionable to stratify roles in society, but each of these groups owes much to the other. In our earliest days of the Brathay Exploration Group it was very much the combined ideas and theories of the studious academic types and the practical common sense of the young apprentices that made for success in many a challenging project.   

Where would we be today without the skills of all? And with whom does the most success and satisfaction lie?

It gave me food for thought as I dined among them.