CCF February Adventure Training Camp

CCF February Adventure Training Camp

Over half-term, a party of almost 50 cadets, NCOs and officers made for the beauty of the Mendip Hills in Somerset and Yoxter Camp, a collection of buildings gradually being picked off by sink holes in the middle of nowhere a few miles from Cheddar Gorge. Saturday saw cadets abseiling at Split Rock, lowering themselves from a nauseating height in gusty conditions down a sheer cliff to the ‘encouragement’ of their friends at the top and bottom. Meanwhile, over in the equally stunning Quantock Hills, an arduous mountain biking package tested stamina and the claims of  laundry powders in equal measure as cadets powered up and flew down the twisting woodland trails. The evening back at camp was spent revising navigation skills and planning routes for Monday’s NavEx.

A sunny Sunday brought a combined package of dry caving and rock climbing at Burrington Combe. Above ground, the dauntless cadets scaled six climbs on a tricky rock face, belaying one another under staff supervision and some seeking the extra challenge of blind-folded or one-handed ascents. Far below them small groups vanished into the myriad natural caves of the Mendips, taking their first steps in caving and learning the basics of subterranean movement and navigation. The beauty of the rock formations combined with the exhilaration of the adventure in what was a claustrophobic’s nightmare, culminating in the Drainpipe: a thirty-metre tunnel just big enough for a grown man (/ OC Army Section after a large breakfast) to wriggle along head-first, and for Rct Hutton to skip along. Such exertions amply warranted a relaxing night of bowling and laser tag for most, while the officers took time out to school LCpls Gill and Baxter in the manly art of pool.

Monday was the highlight of our stay. The juniors set off for a five-hour navigation exercise from camp to caves across the tops, high spirits augmented by balmy sunshine and undimmed by Rct Wolstenholme’s understandable confusion between north and south. All made it safely eventually, having done battle with an intransigent herd of cattle, to Swildon’s Hole, where an afternoon of wet caving awaited, entering the caves in the torrent of an underground river and exploring the waterfalls and thigh-deep streams of the upper series. Meanwhile the senior cadets spent a long and extraordinary day in the famous system. Few young cavers get the opportunity to dive the first sump as our hardy cadets did: they abseiled down (and in) several underground cascades to where the water level meets the roof. A six-foot, pitch black, fully submerged dive, head banging on the roof in vain search for oxygen, was an unforgettable and terrifying experience, but one which the senior cadets handled with a courage and determination that quite bowled over their instructors. For most this was the climax of a very successful, tiring and enjoyable exercise in which the cadets acquitted themselves outstandingly. It was a unique and almost otherworldly experience in the chasms beneath the earth and a reminder of the beauty and adventure England has to offer so close to home.

Back to all news

discover more about caterham