On the morning of Sunday the 18th of June, 42 weary year 12 pupils – 41 being geographers, the other being Sam Christmas catching a lift – clambered onto three school minibuses. There were three options for drivers, and two options concerning the minibuses – Mr Simmons, Mr Mackenzie, or Mr Mann, and new or old.
The students who didn’t want to risk the high speeds of Mr Mackenzie quickly darted out of the way and onto the other two buses. Those of us who managed to grab a seat on the new, air-conditioned minibus with Mr Simmons were very pleased with ourselves, and I’m sure you can imagine our glee as we watched the begrudged expressions of those left going into the old minibus with Mr Mann. However, our schadenfreude attitude brought karma raining down on us when we reached Longleat Safari Park after a three hour drive; when those of us in the new buses found we weren’t allowed to go through the monkey enclosure but the old bus could, there was uproar.
After going around the rest of the exhibits – including a very awkward encounter with the lions who seemed to be in the middle of mating season – we were allowed to spend an hour walking around and looking at the different animals around the park. Some groups managed to squeeze in a quick ride on the boat, and we saw pelicans, gorillas, and had the opportunity to feed the sea lions. After we all had spent a few minutes buying cold drinks and melting ice creams in the hope of cooling down despite the 30 degree heat, we were all shepherded back onto the minibuses for the three hour drive to St Audries Bay Caravan Park, where we would be staying.
To be completely honest, when Mr Mann told us we would be staying in five-man caravans, we – being rather middle class, and despite our CCF days – weren’t too impressed. However, when we reached the site we were all pleasantly surprised. We had direct access to the beach, and the staff at the reception area were all very nice to us on arrival (the caravans were tiny – we’d got that right). The evening was spent unpacking our bags and clearing our 2 metre by 1 metre rooms of bugs but, despite the creepy crawlies, we managed – eventually – to get some sleep.
Monday brought new opportunities, most of which involved doing our best vampire impressions to avoid the sun. In the morning, we visited Lynmouth to research the 1952 flood, and Mr Mann arranged for us to go on a boat tour of the coast – in case what we were doing became too much like geography. Not to be outdone, Mr Mackenzie had organised a surfing lesson for us all in the afternoon, during which most people proudly showed off their drumstick-squashie-like arms. Side note – Sam Doherty and Kyla Conway deserve a shoutout for their hilarious wipe-outs during the lesson (see @rhsgeogram for a selection of action shots).
By Tuesday, Miss Izod had decided that maybe we should do some work. After an early breakfast, we met with David Holmes (sadly not related to Sherlock) who is a top examiner for Pearson Edexcel, writes for numerous examination boards and is an overall geo legend. He gave us some important advice regarding our coursework titles. After considering his advice in the form of a group mental breakdown, we toured the different locations we would be investigating. In the evening, some people adapted their projects and titles as a result of the day, whilst others began their projects.
Wednesday and Thursday were spent in small groups in different locations across Exmoor investigating our independent titles. Here is a summary of what we learnt: Dunster – collapsing; Exford – a town made up of four people and seven dogs; Minehead – a tourist town for retirees;, Blue Anchor Bay- home to sinking mud; and, St Audries Bay where geography met beach Olympics 2017 (highlights included Ranging Pole Javelin and Storm Beach Boulder Shotput, both won by Kieran Farrer). Thursday ended with a celebratory meal, and a music quiz at St Audries, resulting in us all head-banging to My Chemical Romance’s ‘Teenagers’ alongside the elderly church group we had been sharing the site with.
At this point, we all thought the trip was over. OH, HOW WRONG WE WERE. When we stopped at Cheddar Gorge for a planned break, we were surprised to find Mr Mann marching over to Mr Simmons’ minibus preventing us from getting out. It turned out Mr Mann had managed to lose his phone and, despite never having been in Mr Simmons’ minibus for the duration of the trip, thought it was somewhere inside. We then proceeded to upturn the entire inside of the minibus, before a shout came from the trailer attached to, lo and behold, Mr Mann’s minibus – his phone was safe and sound – concealed by everyone’s over-packed suitcases. A series of traffic jams and weak bladder stops later, and everyone arrived back at RHS a few hours late – everyone except for speedy Mr Mackenzie, that is, who managed to somehow arrive right on time (by somehow, we mean preventing the students on his bus from having any toilet breaks on the six hour journey).
And there you have it, a summary of the world of A-Level geography – what some are calling ‘The Best RHS Trip Ever’, the fun we had, and the horrors we had to face. Thanks must go to all of the staff involved for their guidance and organisation, including desperately trying to provide students with suncream, despite the claims that they wouldn’t burn, just tan. Guess who was right? If you’re struggling, go and ask Harry Jones about why you shouldn’t wear glasses in the sun.