Charlie Bell (15), who lives with his family in Catterick Garrison, shares his experience attending the 19-day Skills for Life Award residential course at The Outward Bound Trust’s Aberdovey Centre…

A FEW years ago I attended a week-long Outward Bound residential at Ullswater in Cumbria, which I really enjoyed, writes Charlie. So, I applied again and I was excited to gain a place at Aberdovey.

Through the Annington Challenge, young people like me from a Service family, get sponsored (up to 90 per cent of costs) to attend Outward Bound adventure courses, giving those of us from military communities the chance to benefit.

I wasn’t too anxious before going, because I knew from my previous experience that there would be people in the same situation. You meet others from a lot of different backgrounds and the instructors help you to mix and get to know each other.

Working together

This adventure was the most challenging – but I really enjoyed it. We were based on the west coast of Wales which has beautiful mountains and rivers, but the weather was pretty mixed.

You are put into teams and then into smaller groups called ‘pods’. We learnt to rely on each other and blend different skills for different challenges.

We went on two expeditions. One was four days without the instructors, which sounds scary but we were well prepared and could always get hold of an instructor if we needed them.

The point is to learn things like teamwork and self-management in a wilderness environment.

It was tough as the weather was bad, but we used the maps and compasses to find our way without the help of our instructor – who was following closely behind. We were the first pod to reach town, which was brilliant.

Reaching the summit

The other expedition involved canoeing, walking and setting up our tents in awful weather.

I thought it was going to be a total failure, but by the end of the second day, we had walked over two summits and we ended up toasting marshmallows and drinking hot chocolate around the campfire. That was cool.

You also have a lot of one-to-one time with your instructor, putting together an action plan for after the course.

It helped me think about my goals and put things into perspective. It’s not just physical – you learn about yourself.

There’s an award ceremony at the end and we had a dance-off in the evening. I would definitely recommend it – the instructors are the best, you make friends from all over the world and you gain skills and confidence. But if you’re going, take plenty of socks – you’ll get your feet wet!”

Apply for a 2018 place at 

Find out more
The Annington Challenge is open to Armed Forces children aged 13-19, regardless of background. Applicants need the support of their school or college. The Annington Challenge is an initiative run by The Annington Trust which is committed to helping families living within Service community. For more details, visit

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