Reflecting upon a week at Blencathra Field Centre

I have to say, before I talk about the centre, because I haven’t really done so yet, that there are a couple of things that I have realised through blogging everyday. The first is that, having read over my previous posts from earlier this week, I’ve noticed that the weather can influence my mood as though there is sensor built into me. If the weather is bad, I’m in a foul mood (really, really, foul) whereas if the weather is good, everything else is good too. Seriously, I knew it affected my mood, but I didn’t realise quite how badly it did so, although, I was feeling ill, so maybe that had an impact, especially for the first few days. Secondly, I’ve realised that reading over what I have written, I now think about the week completely differently. Blogging this week has been a little like keeping a diary, just everything is there for anyone to read (probably not the best idea for someone who writes / speaks before they think, but oh well). I did exactly the same on my Duke of Edinburgh award expeditions – every step I wanted to be at home, yet if someone asked me now whether I wanted to go, I would say yes in a heartbeat. This week has been similar, in a way, though different because I didn’t want to be at home every minute I was at the centre, unlike DofE, I really, really, enjoyed a large amount of the time – it was just the rain (definite theme – mood and weather – here) that made me want to be tucked up in bed, hiding from the world, but it does that to me anyway, wherever I am. Anyway, I have also realised that the wordpress app means that I am a lot more concise in blog posts, but that’s unrelated to this post…

So the centre – Blencathra Field Studies Centre (I believe that’s the full, correct name). I’m going to split it into subheadings that I’d like to talk about.

Location: What a location. Seriously, it was gorgeous. At the start of the week I began questioning, “where is civilisation?” and by the end I didn’t want to come back to my house with its views of the street. It is situated at the foot of the Blencathra mountain and looks across the valley. I was lucky enough to be put in a room overlooking this valley so waking up and looking out over it was a treat every morning. It was even stunning covered in snow – yes, I did say that.

Rooms / Accommodation: The rooms were decent. Considering their purpose, they fitted it extremely well, to be honest. They were rather on the small side, but we didn’t spend a huge amount of time in them anyway at the end of the day, so it didn’t matter in the end. One thing the centre could do with is more showers and toilets – if not just loos. There were only two (that I could find) for about four (?) rooms and it was the same for the showers. The showers actually worked out okay, I had one quite late in the evening so I didn’t have to queue or wait for one, but I did have to wait for the toilet a couple of times. Other than that though, everything was kept really clean and tidy. I have to add this – the accommodation was lovely and warm. I’ve been on school trips where the heating has not worked or whatever, thankfully at the centre it was perfectly comfortable – something which I am very grateful about!

Facilities: These were really, really good. I must confess I was surprised at the amount there was for us. There were several classrooms (I saw four, but I didn’t wander round too much or visit the other outbuildings) which were equipped with new technology and so the lessons were much more interesting and interactive. Also, there was a library, two recreation / lounge rooms in the main building (my school occupied one of their cottages too which had its own lounge area – which is where I went), one of which had a pool, table tennis and football table in. All three that I saw had TVs. The library had computers for us to use whenever we wanted them, which would have been useful if I needed to type up some work or do further research (I personally didn’t, however I noticed other people at the centre using the computers). The centre wifi was a bonus as well. I was expecting it to only work in a couple of the downstairs, communal rooms, however it worked all over the centre (well, the cottage nearest the main building and my room, which was in the main building) and it was a really strong connection too – something teenagers definitely appreciate! There was also a drying room to leave our wet boots etc and a pantry where we could make ourselves a hot drink or squash and there would be cake when we arrived back after a day out. I know there was a shop too, but I never visited it!

Food: I’m going to start with the breakfast, as normally although I’m hungry in the morning, I really don’t like breakfast as I don’t enjoy breakfast foods. However, every morning I had cooked food and it was so good. The fact that there was the opportunity for tea and coffee helped my morning as well – I have to have a cup of tea in the morning! We had to make our own sandwiches for lunch, but that was fine because of the selection for fillings; tuna, ham, cheese, sausage, cucumber, the list goes on. It was very well thought through and laid out as well. The dinners were probably my least favourite meal of the day, but that does not mean that they were bad, I simply preferred the breakfast! I did like the way that they’d make you a jacket potato if you didn’t like what was on offer – that was a good touch.

Staff: I was with two main members of staff from the centre during the stay; Katy and Richard. I really have to say that they were both so lovely and relaxed, it made the whole experience better (there’s nothing worse than having a sour-faced teacher casting a dark cloud over every lesson). They’d both have a laugh and a joke and I couldn’t fault either of them – I really couldn’t – Thank you both. Katy always seemed to smile and was really patient (especially when we were lagging behind) and Richard would easily have a laugh with us and would wind us up. They both delivered the lessons in a way that didn’t send people to sleep (and although in my first post I said it wasn’t particularly helpful for me, I, in my bad mood, didn’t mention the fact that it was interactive and interesting – and it was definitely more applicable after going out the following day). All the other centre staff seemed friendly too, the instructors more so than the rest of the staff, but everyone seemed pleasant.

Fieldwork / Lessons: Seeing as this is the main reason we actually came to the centre, I can’t possibly miss it out! The way it worked was that we’d have a lesson the evening before we went out (for example on Tuesday we learnt about fieldwork techniques and what the exam would be asking us (which is quite a relief – I had no clue!) and then on Wednesday we went out and completed the fieldwork). Sometimes I didn’t see the relevance of the lesson until the next day, until I realised “That’s why we did that!”. I definitely preferred going out to sitting in the classroom (even on Tuesday in the bitter cold) because I just loved the Lake District and the countryside – it was so stunning! I realise now, when I was thinking about how much we’ve done over the week, how interesting the Keswick walk actually was – I definitely learned  something as I can remember a lot of the things Katy said about defences I’d never heard about before! Ditto the walk up to the corrie, although I enjoyed the walking part anyway! The Carlisle survey I found quite interesting as there were some things that I noticed which I would never normally take note of wherever I was. Today we kept it simple and had a tour of the site, where they showed us how the site was run and we learnt about their biomass and hydroelectric schemes, which I found more interesting than I thought I would as energy is probably my least favourite topic of the course. Hydrology is my favourite, so having two days focusing on rivers was a bonus for me! My favourite day was probably, thinking about it, Wednesday, when we took the river measurements. I learnt so much about fieldwork that day as before I’d only ever done really simple fieldwork with about three or four simple parts to it, whereas there was a lot more to do for this one which made it more interesting, in my opinion.

Overall: This week has been a weird one for me, but a good one all the same. It was not what I expected, because I didn’t know what to expect, instead it was better than I thought it could be. It truly has been an amazing opportunity in an incredibly beautiful location. I say this week was weird because it put me out of my comfort zone and also I never seemed to be able to make up my mind about how I liked everything. However, now, after reflecting upon the experience, I have come to the conclusion that actually, should someone say “Would you go again?” my answer would be a resounding “Yes.” because I would happily do it all again.

One final Lake District post will go up tomorrow; it will include a large number of photos from Tuesday especially, I have some beautiful pictures from that day.

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