WHEN 15-year-old Oliver Meredith accepted his offer of a place on the 2018 Annington Challenge, he didn’t envisage it would involve spending 12 hours alone in a Welsh field.

“The Outward Bound team deliberately didn’t tell us until two days into our course – it was the last thing I expected we’d have to do but I decided that I just had to go for it!”

The solo expedition is just one of a huge number of activities that make up the 19-day Skills For Life course that is offered to 15-19 year olds taking part in the Annington Challenge. Run by the Outward Bound Trust on behalf of Annington, the Challenge is aimed at Forces youngsters aged 11-19.

Oliver, whose father is in the Royal Military Police, was one of 45 youngsters on the courses during the summer holidays.

“I was excited but nervous as I didn’t know anyone who was going. But we all got to know each other really quickly and by the end of the first 24 hours, we were all friends.”

“During the 19 days we did things like canoeing, Jacob’s Ladder, the trapeze, climbing and scrambling.

“We also did two expeditions, one as a small group of six. We spent three nights out on our own as a group and had to get from the Outward Bound’s Centre in Aberdovey to a place on the map, camping along the way – and then catch the train back at 5.30am. During that expedition, we walked 50km, carrying around 20kg of kit mainly in drizzle.”

The unexpected solo expedition proved to be a real opportunity for self-reflection.

“My instructors Dave and Tom dropped me off in a field with my tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat and rations. The purpose was to give us all time to really think. I spent most of my time sleeping, eating and thinking about my GCSE results!

“But I also used the time to really think about some observations I’d made about how best to collaborate with others in the future.

“At the end of the course we were all much better at listening to each other’s ideas and I’d recommend the Annington Challenge to anyone – it’s a real experience. I’ve made some new friends; it’s good for you and very different from everyday life. The one thing I’d change is the weather – I’m still drying my boots out!”

The Annington Challenge is open to Service youngsters aged 11-19 who would benefit from improved self-confidence, resilience and self-esteem. It comprises three courses – the seven-day Discover Adventure (11-13) and Serious Adventure (13-15) and the 19-day Skills for Life for 15-19-year-olds. Applicants must have the support of their school. The closing date for applications is 28 February 2019. Apply and find out more at outwardbound.org.uk/courses/summer-adventures/the-annington-challenge

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