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Sussex Scrapbook ~ Wildlife walks throughout the year
Green Man
Sunday 8th to Friday 13th September 2013
Mountain Leader Training with Mere Mountain.
Great Tower Scout Camp - Windermere, The Lake District.

I put my name down for this nationally recognised award a few months ago without completely understanding what was involved but I'd been waiting with baited breath for it to start ever since. The chance to; mix with people who also have a passion for maps, compasses and exploring; have my outdoor, leadership and safety skills tested to the max; to have a full 6 days of intense training and to get out onto the mountains once again was one that I couldn't wait to get started on.
Unfortunately there were quite a few things in the preceding week that put me to the test just as much.
Firstly the bike: it keeps spitting the carburettor off! I can now remove and replace the carb at the side of the road in less than 5 minutes as I've had such a lot of practice at it lately. I was still working on the bike, trying to make the bloomin' thing stay on, right up until the moment I left. Eventually it was forced on by the addition of some strategically placed, rolled-up cardboard and a lot of expletives!
Secondly, my kit. My boots are on their last legs (!) and my jacket was inadequate for the mountains. The boots had to last for one more expedition but I bought myself a new jacket - one which also doubles as a winter bike jacket, so two birds...
I also had to try and organise someone to look after the Scout troop on the Wednesday and I was also missing the first day of the GCSE maths course at Crawley College I'd put myself down for. Still, mountains before maths eh! 

I left at 2.30pm and hadn't got 5 miles north before the bike started playing up - a fuel starvation problem forced me to keep the speed to less than 65mph, to keep filling the tank up every 50 miles and to occasionally hop down the M6 like a kangaroo as the fuel came and went in pulses. 10 hours later when I arrived at Great Tower I was very glad to get off.
The course started the next morning with orienteering and for the next 6 days we were intensively trained in navigation, map work, compass, rope, safety, emergency procedures, river crossing, leadership skills etc. For three days we were on expedition on the mountains and put all of our training into practice, navigating in the mist and rain and carrying 14kg rucksacks. Every night we were set challenges of; finding tiny features on the map; working out their distance from us; working out the time it would take us to get there; taking a bearing to it and finding it - all in the pitch dark and rain. The second night after walking back down from the hill tops we found that our campsite next to the river was close to being flooded by the river. We had to stay up and make sure the level went back down again.
On the third day, just when we thought we were wet enough we practiced river crossings. Finally we had a yomp over very wet sphagnum back to civilisation in the form of the bridge at the bottom of Hard Knott with a waiting minibus.
The trainer gave us all a review at the end and he says that I have the experience and skills necessary and I am ready to take my assessment, which was a wonderful thing to hear. I shall spend the time between then and now reading textbooks, practicing my navigation and making several more trips into the uplands.
Lastly all I had to do was ride 320 miles back home on a poorly bike. I flushed out the tank and fuel tap and after 5 further breakdowns and seven refuels we made it back to Sussex after 8 hours riding.

Apologies for the quality of the picture as most were taken hurriedly on my phone between gaps in training and downpours.

Great Tower.

Rope training. How to aid, help, rescue and give confidence to a hill walker using a rope.

Finding a good anchor for a belay is essential.

Looking down on a gorge as we climb into the area of the first Elizabethan mines.

Up and past Coniston YHA.

The old mine workings.

Higher up we investigate a mine entrance.

Levers Tarn.

Sphagnum moss and Sundews.

We concentrate on navigating using pacing and contours.

Heading from knoll to knoll as we climb almost to the summit of Black Sails.

Ready to leave for our 3 day expedition.

More rope work in the rain.

Some people don't care about wet feet -  A Common Frog (Rana temporaria).

Our water source - from the clouds, onto the rocks, into our bottles. Lovely!

First night's wild camp near Green Hole.

A very atmospheric place to stay.

Our highly skilled trainer - John Mason of Mere Mountain.

It's for views like this that people want to come into the mountains.

Questions: Where are you? Where is your next target feature on the map? How far in metres is the feature?
How long will it take you to get there? What type of terrain is it? What is the bearing to the feature?
How will you know you are at the feature when you get there? How will you know if you have gone too far?
Go to the feature!

You have found a feature. Is it at the distance that you calculated?
Can you give 3 pieces of evidence that it is actually your target feature?
How long did it take to get here? How close were you?

The view across the River Eske from my room.

Coming down from the hills for the last time. See you again soon!

Ready to leave for home. Fingers crossed!

There was some strange traffic about on the way home!

Take the time to read the countryside code for yourself and please stick to it at all times.