28 March 2018

As the ‘Beast from the East’ descended upon Britain, 40 intrepid student Geographers made their way to the wilds of the Lake District to undertake the research for the NEA (Non-Exam Assessment, or coursework) element of their A Level.

The Grade II listed Castle Head country house in Grange-over-Sands is where the group would be based, learning from the specialists from the Field Studies Council. Although ravaged by the inclement weather, the Geography students held their own in collecting data and even had a great deal of fun in the process.

Here’s what Adam and Matthew had to say:

 

‘The Flippin’ Freezing Foray’ – Adam Probbing

The weather was inhospitable yet inspiring, in a bizarre way. Maybe it was just me, but the conditions made me feel like a real geographer, embarking on an epic exhibition to explore the Arctic circle (instead of the Lake District) to measure how much water infiltrates in to the soil when the soil is frozen harder than what is usually required for foundations of a skyscraper to begin being built on. Anyway, here’s how it all went down:

Day 1: We got off the coach after nearly three hours to a lovely wintery scene which you would happily take a picture of and love to admire next to a log fire in Canada. Whilst beautiful and awe inspiring, it soon became apparent that I would be getting very chilly. The quilt of white in the surrounding area was soon littered with footsteps of 40 odd teenagers and two very enthusiastic teachers. After we had slumped our bags into the rooms we would call home for the next three days, a briefing was held to show us what laid in store for the ramble. The funniest thing though was seeing who had really come well equipped and who maybe could have done with a few more clothes – oh, how they would regret that. We then spent the entirety of the afternoon outside, even (ridiculously) venturing into a stream! Yes, a flipping torrent a water in minus stupid degrees! But at least we came prepared.

Day 2: We had to collect data for our coursework. On our first night, we developed a hypotheses at 9pm: my group thought it’d be a good idea to optimise our time by getting out as early as allowed at 9:30am and stay out till 4pm. Well, I have absolutely no shame in admitting I started the day expecting to be cold, so I had four layers on everywhere. Everywhere. But I finished the day with a minimum of two more layers on. It really was that cold. But, to be fair, trying to get the infiltration tubes into ground was better strength training than a month at the gym. Just to gain the half an inch needed, jumping, banging, smashing, brief recovery breaks, smacking and just pure persistence was needed to stick the circular shape into the ground. However, I must admit, it was excellent fun. I never thought something so straight forward could be so hilarious.

Day 3: Guess what - the wind now came out to play. Whilst the other days where bitterly cold, the wind was nowhere near as bad as the final day. And another guess what - we went to the beach. Where else would we go in such weather to measure rocks and decipher how steep the dunes were. To take the edge off the punishing conditions though, when we arrived, the KFC was one of the only in the country open despite the great chicken mess up. Absolutely brilliant.

Weather aside, I’d like to end on a positive. I did really enjoy it and thank Sandy and the Castle Head staff for putting up with us, and dealing with the weather so well that I learnt several useful skills and believe the trip was very worthwhile. The Beast from the East certainly made it interesting though!

 

Matthew Madden

The two instructors who were taking charge over the two days were great: they taught valuable lessons that will enable us to complete the NEA to a high degree, and they also helped teach us methods that would allow us to perform our own tests and studies. However, when we first arrived, one thing they neglected to mention was how it was so cold, instead of saying ‘HO HO HO’, Santa would be saying ‘OH NO NO NO’.

The facilities within the church that we stayed in were great, with a TV, sound system and table tennis. This was a good way to help us relax at the end of the night.

When carrying out the tests on the second day, the temperatures dropped so much I’m sure I saw a polar bear drinking a warm beverage. The second day was very beneficial to us because it allowed us to figure out the best ways to carry out experiments and collect data: data was mostly easy to collect, which was good because we thought that we wouldn’t need to spend much time outdoors. However, seeing as the ground had become concrete due to the weather conditions, it meant that collecting data for the level of infiltration took three hours and a lot of creativity that involved various heavy objects that we found lying around.

When the data was eventually collected what felt like millennia later, the instructors helped us to create the opening titles for the NEA. This was great because it meant that we were able to pick their brains about what the best thing to write the NEA about would be. Again, however, clearly Britain had angered the weather gods and we had lower temperatures and more snow. It got so cold at one point that even Elsa would’ve been wearing a jumper.

Overall, the trip was a success as it proved to many people that geography is fun and exciting, even if the floor was ice. It allowed us to collect valuable data which the NEAs could be built on and would give us the best possible chance of success.

Posted by The BSFC Blogger on 28 March 2018

Category: The Student Voice