Adventure and exploration were on the cards for a group of Air Cadets from 121 (Nuneaton) and 485 (Harborne & Quinton) Squadrons who have just completed a four-day expedition training camp during the Easter holidays at the Warwickshire and Birmingham Wing adventure training centre at Elan Valley, Powys, Mid Wales.
The Elan Valley Centre is located at the bottom of the picturesque Elan Valley alongside the River Elan which leads up to one of several dams in the area supplying water to the Birmingham area.
During the camp the cadets took part in a rigorous schedule of expedition training activities, which included leadership exercises, route card preparation, camp craft and navigation exercises.
They also had plenty of opportunities to put their classroom knowledge of map and compass work into practise as they successfully navigated their way around various routes in the Elan Valley area.
Our cadets have been hill walking in the area many times before but this visit to the Elan Valley training centre had something completely different on the programme, an exiting new experience for most of the younger cadets, something that would test their spirit of adventure to the limit and also result in them getting a little bit closer to one of the Elan Valley reservoirs than they expected.
The Cadets had been booked in for a days training at the Elan Valley Lodge Management Development Centre where they were to undergo instruction in Climbing & Abseiling during the morning session and then in the afternoon they were to be introduced to the art of raft building.
The mornings climbing and abseiling session proved to be both physically and mentally challenging for many of the cadets. Not only did they have to find the strength and courage to climb up the rock face but they also had to find the nerve and confidence to be able to rely on someone else to ensure their safety during the abseiling.
In the afternoon cadets received instruction in raft building techniques and a safety brief after which teams of cadets were set free to build their own rafts using an array or poles, barrels and lengths of rope. Before long there was some serious competition between four teams of cadets, each determined to use their pioneering skills to produce the best raft and be the first crew to take to the water without sinking. After lots of frantic activity the rafts were all lashed up and ready to go, the moment of truth, had come, would they float, would they stay in one piece or would they go straight to the bottom and unceremoniously dump their crews in the drink. Once in the water the teams boarded their rafts and paddled off as hard as they could determined to go just that little bit further and faster than the other crews before their craft disintegrated.
Out of the four rafts that were launched onto the reservoir the two, which were crewed by the Nuneaton Air Cadets, came in first and second place leaving the other two crews from 485 Squadron struggling to keep their craft afloat.
Raft building is a great way to develop teamwork and enjoy yourself at the same time. It's mentally and physically demanding and it makes everyone involved fully aware of the need for effective teamwork, communication, motivation and decision-making. Oh! and you get well and truly soaked in the process.
Flight Lieutenant Ian Crewe Officer Commanding 121 ( Nuneaton ) Squadron said, "The Weekend had provided all the cadets with the experience of map reading and adventure training. It's been hard work for everyone but most rewarding, that's what life in the Air Cadet organisation is all about".
The climbing, abseiling and raft building were such a success that we are considering including another visit to the Elan Valley Lodge Management Development Centre within the training programme for our next camp at Elan Valley .