Into The Wild expedition offers young people a new experience

Into The Wild report – 24th and 25th June 2017

On Sunday afternoon, a dozen exhausted and very proud young people, smelling mainly of bonfires and body odour, completed the first Into The Wild expedition. An exciting wilderness adventure into the Surrey Hills.

The expedition, which consisted of two days of self-lead navigation and wild camping, was the culmination of weeks of planning and training for young people for whom many had never experienced map reading, wild camping and wild cooking before.

The young people were all registered onto the John Muir award. This is a registered outdoor accreditation about discovering, exploring and conserving wild places. In their training the young people learnt vital camp craft skills, how to plan a route, map read and how to survive in the wild as well as learning to cooperate and work in teams.

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On the morning of the expedition we all met at BFree Youth café, where the young people got into their teams for the weekend and organised all the equipment, food, water and gear they would need for the next two days.

They set off from Logmore Lane (just south of Westcott) and started the 15km hike that would take them to the heart of Winterfold Forest. After a short walk together the teams set off individually along their pre-planned routes through several checkpoints along the way.

Some of the aims of the expedition were to have a multi-sensory experience of the wilderness and to use wild places to challenge, grow and teach young people lessons about themselves, each other and the world they live in. With this in mind every young person had a reflective notebook and along the journey the youth workers lead reflective exercises for the young people. This gave them opportunities to fill their notebooks with their thoughts and feelings about what they have experienced.

 

One of the exercises was a 20-minute silent walk, paying attention to the sounds and sights of nature. This gave the young people a chance to experience nature in a new way, listening to all the noises, looking all around them. This was quite a challenge for many of the young people who are so used to constant noise and entertainment. Other exercises had young people thinking about their journeys in life so far, their hope and dreams for the future and perspectives on life from the wild places.

The teams did so well at navigating their way through the woods, getting slightly (or in some cases very) lost along the way. They all arrived at the campsite by 7pm and spent the evening with the support of Jay Bristow from Woodland Forest School setting up their wild camps. They started a fire from flint and cooked their evening meal over the open flames.IMG_8009

Everyone was exhausted but spirits were high and all were proud of their achievements and excited about the night ahead. The teams had set up their survival hammocks in the woods and were ready for a night in the open air with only the sounds of nature and the view of the stars as their company.

Spending a night in a hammock was surprisingly comfortable and everyone survived the night ready for Sundays adventure. After a hearty breakfast over an open fire and bellies full, we packed down camp and headed for the hills. Getting lost again the group went cross country and climbed to the top of the Surrey Hills. Here we thought about how the last two days have felt, what we have learnt, and what we will take away from the adventures experienced.

 

The young people all wrote down some words about their experiences which will become part of an art installation leaving their legacy in the hills for years to come.

This whole journey wouldn’t have been possible without the kind support of the Surrey Hills Trust, The Leatherhead Community Association and the Community Foundation for Surrey.

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