Lost for words
December 4, 2013
December 4, 2013

[lead]It has often been said that ‘Barnstondale isn’t a place. Barnstondale is a state of mind.’[/lead]

The residential takes place in the Barnstondale Centre which is in Barnston on the Wirral. But what is the residential adventure holiday for?

The Year 7 Star Project Residential is an opportunity for the new members of our school in Year 7 to get to know each other better, to get to know the teachers and teaching assistants and mentors better, to build as a team and to have, in short, an absolutely FANTASTIC time.

Log cabins nestling beside a wooded valley , comfortable beds with ensuite facilities, fantastic rooms you can put to almost any purposes, disabled access and design, an array of catering choices – all these are available at Barnstondale. That’s what it says on the Barnstondale website and they haven’t got it wrong!

It’s a tightrope type of act to design the Barnstondale experience. The teachers spend many a long evening carefully planning the experience. Should we include this amount of teambuilding? What about drama? Does this give us enough time for manhunt? Or football? When shall we have hot chocolate and toast? How long will they get to do archery? Who is getting the onions for survival? Who are we giving prizes to? And, most importantly, why does the Barnstondale Centre have the best sausages that any of the pupils or staff have ever tasted?

It may be a difficult task to decide how to fit everything that we do into three short days, but the litmus test is always ‘Awww, the pupils will love that! We’ve got to do it!’ And so it goes into the itinerary. We’ll worry about getting the money from Mrs. Wise later. She always says yes anyway. So let’s do abseiling and archery.

So what do we do when we are there? Well….

  •  We go ‘On Survival’. This means going into the dale (the woods next to the centre) and up the hill in the dale with some basic equipment and rations. The pupils, in small groups, then pretend that they have crash-landed in this remote area and that they have to survive the night. Survive the night, that is, with only a few basic vegetables, a stock cube, some plastic sheeting, a camping stove, a penknife and a willingness to taste their own cooking. Of course, they also have to come up with team-names too. Miss Moss and Miss Clarke then mark the pupils for their efforts and try to soak them with water whilst testing the makeshift shelter for its’ waterproofing abilities.


  • We ‘abseil’.DSCF0166 This means putting all your faith in the instructor, into your own abilities, your upper body strength, into God, into the fact that your best friend just did it and…. climbing down a very high wall indeed. It’s absolutely terrifying and pretty addictive once you’ve got over the first attempt. I’m also sure that I don’t have to tell you that this is run by qualified instructors on an even more well-qualified abseiling wall.


  • We ‘Man-hunt’. If a completely new Year 7 pupil, who had lived on the moon since they were three years old, suddenly joined the Hawthorne’s School on the morning that we left to go to Barnstondale…. the first question that they would ask would be ‘When are we doing Man-hunt?’ Man-hunt is the DNA of Barnstondale. In other places in Britain, Manhunt is called ‘hide and seek’. Everyone seems to know that we play Manhunt in Barnstondale. It’s what we do there. Remember what I said about Barnstondale being a state of mind?

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  • We play ‘Football’. Miss Moss runs the football; she knows the rules and everything. Miss Moss organises the football and then runs rings around everyone else. She is unbeatable. Oh. Hang on. Who’s this? It’s Mr. Summers with a football kit on and he seems to know the rules as well. He seems very confident. What’s going to happen here….?!?!?!?!? Like I said, Miss Moss organises the football and then runs rings around everyone else. She is unbeatable.

We try our arm at ‘Archery’.  barnstondale 2This is not as easy as it looks on the television, in actual fact it’s very difficult. Not made easier, either, by the Year 7 pupils who are naturally very good at it. Again, this is run by well-qualified instructors who use the big bows to shoot the very big arrows with pinpoint accuracy.



  • And there’s ‘Drama’. Where every pupil gets to make a sculpture from another pupil, get the teachers to get into ridiculous poses, invent pupil-machines and generally just have great fun.


  • And the ‘Evening games’. All I’m saying is: nobody enjoys a game of ‘ladders’ like a year 7 pupil enjoys a game of ‘ladders’.

And the breakfasts, lunches, teas, hot chocolate and toast before bed. Which is excellent but nowhere near as fun as the … drum roll please…? TUCK SHOP!! Without doubt, the friendliest, most well-oiled, reasonably-priced and attractively-staffed purveyor of sweets and chocolates in the north-west of England!

And there’s much, much more which we managed to fit into half a week. But I am getting too sad thinking that the next trip is ten months away. So why don’t you join me and have a look at the photographs here and look forward to the next Barnstondale State of Mind!

Mr. Bowen                                                                                                                                                                               DSCF0139

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