Monday, 10th February
After a slight scare first thing, as the bus company toyed with us through their tardiness, we finally set off for, according to the forecast, substantially colder climes. The journey passed (relatively) uneventfully and we arrived at the pub car park at 11.40. The minibus met us and transported our luggage up the hill.
We were greeted by many familiar faces who showed us around the site. Beds were made, with Isaac T impressing with his maturity and kindness in offering to swap beds, lunch was eaten and we prepared for our first adventure.
Mrs Cox and the Badgers headed off on an Adventure Walk. The lanes were awash with water and thick pools of mud, but this only made for more fun. Jack L was particularly adept at splashing Mrs Cox, whilst the latter was aided through the stream by Niya before she deserted her when she needed help most. Millie entered into the Dukes Barn spirit, requiring a hosing down on arrival back at base.
Mrs Brown, Miss Rimington and the Foxes also went walking, albeit further afield around Stanton Moor. They all stood on one of the Nine Ladies, Sasha bouncing on the ancient monument whilst posing for a photo, Aidan lead the group back to the minibus after Colin, the Instructor, had deliberately got them lost and Joshua displayed his inquisitive nature and found a variety of fungi and mosses.
Miss Ash and the Owls went to Stoney Middleton Caves, accompanied by Mr Unsworth. Tom communicated well with the group, helping them negotiate the tricky rock climb on the way up. Tilly impressed with her positive approach to the twists and turns within the cave and Fintan could not contain his enthusiasm which, in turn, rubbed off on everyone else.
Mr Simmonds accompanied the Rabbits to the infamous Miller's Dale for the dreaded abseil. Sandy revelled in the opportunity to lug the heavy bucket along the half-mile to the bridge. The group embraced their challenge, with Noah and Louis swinging down together in a manner that could not be described as text book. Phoebe was adamant she would go last, due in no small part to her apprehension, yet, as is so often the way, one descent lead to plenty more.
Dinner was much welcomed (the sticky toffee pudding receiving universal approval) before we headed out for our night walk. Mr Unsworth lead the troops up into the darkness. James W was first ready and full of wonder at the idea of 'making a friend of the dark', whilst Finlay H took huge interest in his surroundings on the torchless walk back.
Lights are now out and we await our second day with great excitement.
So, all the children are up and showered and as this is being typed, the dorm inspections are taking place. Singing and chanting echoes around the building, but it appears they have forgotten the point of an inspection, to tidy up! Typical, we hear you say.
The boys' dorm are now setting up for breakfast.
The day is now drawing to a close and could easily be entitled 'Four Seasons', such was the range of conditions encountered in the Peaks today.
The Rabbits and the Owls began with an Adventure Walk. Reluctant would be the appropriate term to begin with, as we all peered out at torrential rain. As is Dukes Barn's wont, however, within minutes the rain had turned to sleet, then snow. The lanes remained mini-rivers, but on drier land, it began to settle and soon became a true Winter Wonderland. The walk, needless to say, took much longer than normal, given the many impromptu snowball fights breaking out. Jared focused his attention on everyone with his hastily assembled snowballs, whilst Ben D spent most of his time lying down, creating Snow Angels wherever possible. Lucy W was cheerful throughout the walk, entertaining Miss Ash. Elliot O spent much of the time at the rear of the group, yet remained positive even when the cold and wet set in.
After lunch, the two groups alternated between the Village Trail and the Ropes Course. Lucy H and Sam C impressed their respective groups with their fabulous map reading skills whilst Ellie braved the tunnel, despite serious misgivings. Amelia C displayed terrific organisational skills on the Balance Platform, allowing the group to reach their target.
The Badgers headed towards the bridge first thing, but the unexpected weather change dictated that they ended up above a sheer rock face. Grace was one of the first to brave it whilst Henry, despite his nerves, still managed to pose for the camera at all the right moments. The afternoon saw the group at Mouldridge Cavern. Juliet managed to fall over before even entering whilst Benji helped the group win the award for 'Most Messy' with his propensity for being covered from head to toe.
The Foxes began with a trip to Devonshire Mine in Matlock for their caving experience. James S was really supportive to others, volunteering to go later than others and encouraging whenever required. Edith took on the role of Centorial Gatekeeper, sending others in with a friendly wave.
The group also had to head elsewhere for their abseiling experience. Ben L joined Mrs Brown in sending unusual items up alongside the figures of 8, such as biscuits and wellies. Zack was terrified at the top of the rock but his pride in reaching the bottom was a joy to behold.
Cottage Pie and Cheesecake were devoured before the year group displayed talents we never knew they possessed. Unbelievably, we packed most of our things in readiness for tomorrow's return. However, a good night's sleep will ensure that our final activity is enjoyed as much as the others.
Where to start?! We awoke in good time and were efficient in clearing out our dorms. The forecast was, sadly, right for once and we ventured out in heavy rain.
The Owls were permitted to return to the bridge for abseiling. Noah B was chief carrier on the walk from the car park. Amelie was extremely confident and managed to push away from the bridge on a 'Death Swing'. Alistair continued his fine work of the week through his enthusiasm for the challenge. Miss Ash loved her time with her first group.
Her second group drove to Chatsworth to begin their adventure walk as the weather cleared. Elissa was a fabulous leader, both in her geography skills and encouragement whilst Sadie loved every minute, many of which were slipping around in the sodden conditions.
The Rabbits part 1 drew the long straw first thing by heading to the caves. After a strenuous walk up the hill, and a fair bit of moaning, Mr Simmonds was delighted by their approach in the cave. Elliot H was his usual positive self, giving every challenge his best, whilst Maddie K ensured the safety of the group with her instructions.
Group 2 walked over to Chatsworth in windy, but dry conditions. Michael was very keen to carry the Hot Chocolate bag for most of the way. Jack broke the record for most tumbles into mud but also for sense of direction.
Mrs Cox's Badgers stayed local for the Trail and the ropes. Poppy finished the week as she started, hugely positive and efficient in everything she did, as did Esther, who was first to venture into the underground tunnel on the site.
Group 2 then went to Mouldridge cave. Phoebe overcame her fears and enjoyed the experience, Finlay could have been the instructor with his knowledge of the underground (not London) and Katie successfully managed to lead the group out of the cave in total darkness.
The Foxes' final activity also stayed on site. Gemma displayed great balance in the Tug'O'War, and fine problem-solving skills. Cleo was adept on the Spider's Web rope challenge, managing to hold on when all looked lost.
Mrs Brown's second group headed to Black Rocks. After a rowdy, tuneful journey, Oliver conquered his fear of abseiling, eventually going down twice. Quiet Jess' technique on the cliff face spoke volumes for her confidence.
Just as we lifted our cutlery to tuck in to Fish Fingers and chips, the 65mph winds provoked a two and a half hour power cut.
Never before have 45 people eaten a 2-course meal, played Bingo and performed a Talent Show lit by Miner's Lamps with such aplomb. Typically, power returned moments before lights were out! Here's to a 'normal' Thursday...
Thursday, 13th January
Thankfully, we awoke to lights and a much more settled weather outlook. Breakfast was as good as ever and we wrapped up for the day.
The Badgers went to Higgor Tor for a walk and some 'weaselling', crawling through all sorts of flora and fauna. Annie and Anna particularly enjoyed this unique activity, and proved their commitment by emerging covered head-to-toe in mud. Isaac B, Finlay B and Sam B, allied to their skills in activity, also managed to last the entire journey back in silence at the promise of Haribo.
In the afternoon, they tackled the Trail and Ropes course. Samuel and Charlie made a great pair in leading the group around the finer parts of Beeley.
The Owls went caving in Matlock. Noah Mac was enthusiastic from the beginning, showing no fear towards the dark. Max and Millie impressed Clare with their inquisitive nature and scientific knowledge, Max collecting samples of rock as he went.
Jack B told the group a spooky story once the torches went out.
Abseiling followed at Black Rock. Tom S was really confident and keen to show the way. Martha and Summer were anxious to begin with, but with Sam F's encouragement, they successfully reached the bottom.
The Rabbits had a busy day, beginning with Abseiling from the bridge. Maria began hesitantly but, once she'd managed to climb over the railings, she made it down safely and with joy. Lauren loved the whole experience and this had a profound effect on Lily, especially when they flew down together. Holly found the task to her liking, but not as much as the opportunity to look after Molly, Colin's miniature Jack Russell.
Joseph, our birthday boy, was afforded the privilege of heading the group in the cave whilst Sachin managed to see every aspect of the mine whilst running at the same time. Ben P and Leon maintained their ability to embrace the whole challenge with care and attention, a credit to them both.
The Foxes, escorted by Mr Unsworth today, impressed greatly with their teamwork skills. Anjali and Zoe navigated the group safely around the village; Jake and Archie displayed organisational skills on the ropes course.
On the Adventure walks, Eva found a second pebble of the week to name, the group having to kiss it! Sancho, after a difficult start, settled into the task and loved the scenery. Sam, Oli D and George took turns at leading the group across increasingly treacherous terrain, their reward being some much needed hot chocolate.
The evening has passed smoothly, following a wonderful steak pie and fruit crumble, with dorm inspections and a new Dukes Barn phenomenon, the 'Indoor Night Walk'; much more fun than it sounds.
Lights are out in readiness for one last day...
Friday, 14th February
Here we are approaching our final hour at Dukes Barn. Mrs Brown's Foxes are in Bakewell caves whilst the Badgers and Mrs Cox abseil from the bridge. Miss Ash's Owls and Mr Simmonds' Rabbits are exploring the village and hanging off ropes of all kinds.
The cases lie ready to be loaded on to the coach, the odd piece of stray clothing notwithstanding.
It's time to pass on our heartfelt thanks to the team here: our wonderful instructors Colin, Andy, Clare, Al, Colum and Phil; Heather in the office; Debbie, Matt and Tom on the site. Once again, the welcome and organisation afforded WBJS has been fabulous. We already look forward to a year hence when some of us, along with the current year 3s, can return.
Finally, a huge well done to the children who, without exception, have embraced the challenges such a residential entails. They have been a credit to all.