Alan found his love for the great outdoors at a Brathay residential in the early '70s. It sent him and his wife all over the world and now he's saying thank you by volunteering on site.
My involvement was 50 years ago, when over the Easter period I spent 4 weeks at the hall, on a course that included hillwalking, sailing and rowing, acting and some art. I was in the rather privileged position of having secured a place at Oxford to start in the following October. The group I joined had some apprentices from industrial jobs, and some caught up in the youth justice system. Not like my usual circle of friends, but all were fairly cagey about their circumstances.
I had done a little hill walking before, but Brathay went in for some big days, carrying really heavy packs. Quite a challenge for skinny me.
The following summer I went with the Brathay exploration group to the Jotenheim mountains in Norway for 3 weeks. My group had the job of making a very large scale map of a small valley, showing snow margins, so these could be plotted year by year, so see how the snow receded, depending on weather! Ahead of our time. Handling very heavy packs on the way in over boulder fields was a challenge.
So what did Brathay do for me? It left me with a taste for remote places, high mountains. Since then, my wife and I have been to plenty of these over the years. And now, I want to give something back, and I volunteer with Fix the Fells, building and mending paths on the Lake district hills Brathay introduced me to. As an extra, I will be joining a volunteer dry stone walling team at Brathay next Saturday. I’m relatively unskilled at this, but most of the team have plenty of expertise.
One quote I remember, from my month’s course came from a lad who was an apprentice at Unilever’s site in Port Sunlight on Wirral. We were walking up from Coniston to Levers Water and he said: 'Bleedin’ Levers, they get everywhere!'
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