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Cadets and staff from 121 Squadron have just returned from another adventure training weekend at the Warwickshire and Birmingham Wing Adventure Training Centre at Elan Valley, Powys, Mid Wales. This was the first time that many of the cadets had been away on adventure training activities with the Squadron. It was also the first time for Civilian Instructor Norma Easterlow. Having experienced the delights of the Elan Valley camp and the excitement of walking the picturesque hills of the mid Wales, Norma decided to share the pleasures of her first hill walking experience be writing the following article. Norma takes up the story.

"How do you fancy a luxury weekend of sightseeing, walking and relaxation with picturesque views that are out of this world?"

"Is it camping?" I asked "as I've never been camping before"

"No we provide all equipment" they said "its first class accommodation and there is even a chef to cook all your meals"

Naturally I jumped at the chance, and in the coming weeks up to this event everyone told me wonderful stories about it, some of the cadets had been before and were getting really exited about going again.

"Oh I can't wait" picturesque views they promised (must take camera)

First class accommodation (must take TV guide)

Chef to cook all the meals including breakfast (can have a lie in)

HEAVEN HERE I COME

It was a lovely day, and we had a trouble free journey and the views got better and better, and then we stopped. Sheep, lots of sheep and lots of sheep ****. Sheds big sheds (must be where the sheep sleep).

Then I hear "everybody out!" the cadets were running around shouting "we're having these ones" pointing to the sheds. I was then shown to my shed and no-one had bothered to evict the spiders that were squatting there (never mind I will complain later). Got changed and joined everyone else ready for the first walk.

Boss: here's a day bag
Me: why do I need a day bag?
Boss: to carry water and first aid kit
Me: we are only going for a walk
Boss: put bag on
Me: really I don't need a bag
Boss: put bag on
Me: it's only a walk
Boss: PUT BAG ON!
Me: OK
Boss: what are you doing?
Me: putting bag on
Boss: other way round!!

So I got the bag on. I protested about the size of bag with all the straps and laces hanging off it, when all the cadet bags are small and neat. Boss said "that's because its berghaus, new summer range 2005" (oh I feel quite good now)

Boss: take this stick
Me: I don't need a stick
Boss: take the stick
Me: why do I need a stick?
Boss: take the stick
Me: I'm quite capable of walking without a stick
Boss: TAKE THE DARN STICK!!!!!
Me: OK

We all set off, walked up hill and down dale, in blistering heat for hours, it wasn't until I saw three skeletons that looked suspiciously like hikers and three sets of crampons that I realised I was actually climbing Mt. EVEREST!

As I endured this epic journey, I thought it couldn't get any worse, until a dog appeared. It seems the dog was attracted to my berghaus couture bag! Worn out, feet aching and blistered, I saw it! Another hill!

And I decided I was well over it!! I told the cadets I was 60 years old (the frightening thing was they believed me), with that cdt Newbery gestured to the stick and said "come on I'll pull you up the hill" (so that's what it's for - it's a pulley stick)

Then as I'm being pulled up the hill another hand attached itself to the pulley stick and said "room for 1 more?". I knew cdt Newbery wouldn't manage to pull two people, so with that my eyes turned red with a voice that resembled the exorcist, I turned and croaked "GET OFF MY PULLY STICK" (well you have to save yourself in these situations).

By the time I got to the top of the hill everyone else had had a rest (waiting for me, I think) and were ready to set off again. I had now lost the will to live and said in a stroppy voice "I want to take some pictures" (I was stalling for time). I took a picture of cpl McKeowen, as looked through the lens I noticed a cliff behind him (I now had a cunning plan) if I could just get him to fall over the cliff we could be airlifted out of here! "err McKeowen back a bit , back a bit more" but he wasn't falling for it.

So back to walking for a few more miles, walking on autopilot now, (well walking like someone from the ministry of silly walks really) and with about a mile to go, we stopped for a rest, my back was sore from couture bag rubbing on it, I developed clicky hips, legs given up and feet three sizes bigger than boots. As we started on the last mile or so I felt a rush of wind pass me and a voice was shouting "SWO coming through!" it was WO Taylor jogging! back to get dinner ready (there's always one isn't there?)

We have since renamed him the Duracell Bunny.

And then there it was, it may have been a shed when I left but now it was the Hilton. I walked in, lay face down on the bed still wearing my berghaus couture bag and holding pulley stick for dear life.

Just about to fall asleep when I heard voices "dinner is here, dinner is here, dinner is ready!". I knew WO Taylor's cooking is legendary, so I thought I had better make the effort. So with that I got up and took of the bag, I didn't let go of the pulley stick (its mine I tell you). As I am getting ready I hear munching noises and mmmmm mmmmm mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, so I rushed out of Chez Hilton only to find the little voices were a cloud of midges feasting upon cdt Newbery (shall I save him?) thought about saving him as he had saved me earlier but then I remembered, he only saved me because he thought I was 60 (so little midges - enjoy!) lunch went down a treat, I had a shower and went to bed and just to finish off my perfect day someone shouted "I'll call you at 6 and be ready to walk at 7' - oh joy!!!!

Am I really going to do it all again tomorrow?

Been home for a couple of days now, relaxing in front of the TV with my feet up, reflecting upon the weekend past, it was at this point I decided to write a letter and send it to the 'man at the top'.

So I took out my pen and paper and began to write...

Dear sir,

Regarding your berghous summer range 2006 could you please make your day bags in pink and deliver one to me in time for next years trip to

ELAN VALLEY !!!!!!!!!

Further reading
Elan Valley Camp October 03
Elan Valley - Adventure Training Camp - April 2003
Elan Valley - Raft Building

Cadets get another rest, time for the old and infirm to catch up – Click to Enlarge
Cpl McKeowen admires the view, little did he know of Norma’s cunning plan  - Click to Enlarge
Cadets take another rest and take in the view – Click to Enlarge
Cdt Newbery celebrates his birthday in the luxury of the Elan Valley Hilton – Click to Enlarge


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