PGCE… still going…

As I sat listening to the stories from the other PGCE ODA trainees last night whilst out enjoying a meal together, I felt reassured that it hadn’t just been me that found my first placement to be challenging at times. Funny stories were shared, the stresses and frustrations, the hopes and wants for the next placements as well as cautionary tales were told around the table. It was very evident to see that each person had matured and grown and there was a passion and drive from each one to do well and educate young people in outdoor adventurous activities… but, a break is needed! Our bodies are telling us we need to rest and relax, and we will do after the 21st, we just need to push on for these final two weeks!

We ate a Hangin’ Pizzeria in Betws-y-coed. Highly recommend this place and their efforts with supporting primate conservation.

Our experiences have varied, as does every schools approach to outdoor activities; some embrace it and devote good quality time to it whilst others, with outdoor-minded teachers like in my placement, use every opportunity, either during a one hour lesson or outside of lesson time, to provide opportunities as best they can with limited resources (ever climbed in worn rock boots from the early ’90s?) just so kids get outside. Beames et al., talked about this Victorian model of indoor education setting which is still utilised today and it resonated so much with me that it actually continues to bother me. I don’t think this ‘indoor model‘ fits society anymore and I don’t think the current ODA model that is emerging is also fully appropriate… the ‘adventure trio‘ as I dub it, appears in every centre – kayaking/canoeing (BCU level 2 coach), mountain walking (ML) and climbing (SPA). It’s adventurous and it is fun, there’s no doubt it is, but it does it encourage enough young people to have a natural curiosity about their world to explore more and realise how vital it is to us and how to conserve and protect it? Should schools do more to incorporate conservation into their timetable? I’m sure the students would be happy to lose a language or maths lesson!

I would prefer to be here than in a Maths lesson!

I only say this because my biggest ‘bug-bear’ on this placement has been the amount of paper wasted/printed on. I watch the trainees at my placement (10 of us altogether) go through a ream of paper (500 sheets) A DAY through printing… and that is not including the colour copies the reprographics print for us as well! So, on average 6% of a tree is lost in a day with just our printing... 30% during the working week, 1 tree lost every three and half weeks… just, wow.

My mentor tells me he likes the resources I produce, I tell him that I want to be at his experience level where he doesn’t need printed resources to be able to teach a class. I only produce the printed resources as I need to show evidence for my portfolio and I need them to rely on, but I just don’t like the thought of how quickly they are discarded…

What would happen if people/schools became more aware of how much they use? Would we develop a stronger mental capacity if we relied more on memory recall and not resources? Would we be more creative without printed materials? I dunno, I’m still thinking about that 6%…

Imagine a world without trees?

My subject mentor asked me what I intended to do once I’ve gained QTS status… and I honestly didn’t have a solid answer, all I could truthfully say was that I just wanted a job outdoors. Where that would be would be anyone’s guess, but as long as I’m not stuck at a desk I think I will be ok. The expedition side appeals strongly but I would be equally happy for a residential centre. Somewhere, where I’m not printing on lots of paper, will do me just fine!

Looking forward to Christmas Day dinner!

– Just Joanne

Time sure does fly…

I haven’t had the time to update this blog since I started my first placement on this PGCE course.

It has been a mixed bag of emotions until this point and with four weeks left I hope it’s still going to go ok. There were times where I felt like giving it all in. I am an emotionally led person and it’s hard to remain logically minded when the lack of self-confidence, low self-esteem and anxiety rears its head. At times I had to get back into nature, outside of the brick walls, noise and constant challenges and just remind myself what I enjoy and what all of this is in aid of. I’ve set myself a goal, broken it down into smaller goals and just trying to achieve it bit by bit!


I have learnt so much in such a short space of time, namely, what is right for me and what I want for me; so hopefully, I can make it all happen at some point in the future!

I wish I could tell you about all the fantastic things I’ve been up to but, honestly, its mostly been working in a school, writing lesson plans, creating lessons, assignment writing, visiting the cinema to relax and just generally working…


I’ve some positives recently which I would like to share…

  • I’m confident my first assignment will pass, I thoroughly enjoyed researching the outdoor/adventure activity theories and have considered a Masters in the subject. Mortlock and Priest have resonated with me and I would like to explore the Adventure paradigm a lot more.
  • My Forest School Level 3 Leader/Practitioner training has been ratified, I just now need to wait a little while longer to be officially registered and receive my certificate then I will be a qualified leader.
  • I’ve taken some beautiful photos of North Wales recently, so am looking at photography training after this course to take better pictures.


With only four weeks on this placement to go, I’m hoping the remaining weeks are going to be ok. The staff are sympathetic as P.E is not my knowledge base and they have been a wonderful help to me; I’m just looking forward to being in a centre next, being outside every day come rain or shine (or heavy North Wales snow!) climbing, walking, canoeing etc….


– Just Joanne

​Wild Swim and National Slate Museum

I had a free morning so decided I wanted to return to a lake we’d visited before for a wild swim. So early Thursday morning I was swimming with the ducks at Llyn Padarn… sadly, they saw me coming!

I decided to sneak up on them…

After this, I decided to head over to the National Slate Museum as I wanted to see it on my last visit but didn’t get a chance.

The entrance to the museum

A few facts about the museum; it is located at Gilfach Ddu in the 19th-century workshops of the now disused Dinorwic slate quarry, which can’t be missed on the hillside, near Padarn County Park. It workshops were open from 1870 to 1969, when the quarry closed, and the museum was opened in 1972 (originally known as the North Wales Quarrying Museum.)

The quarry can be seen top right from the workshops

The museum has a display featuring some slate workers’ cottages that once stood at Tanygrisiau, near Blaenau Ffestiniog. They were taken down stone by stone and re-erected on the site. I thought these were fantastic.

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The restored miner’s houses from Tanygrisiau

Each house is decorated in a different year from when the miner’s worked at the Quarries – 1989, 1901, 1945, 1969 and mentioned a lot about the miners “The Great Strike” at the local Penryth Quarry where they were two prolonged strikes by workers demanding better pay and safer conditions. The first strike lasted eleven months in 1896. The second began on 22 November 1900 and lasted for three years, this was the longest dispute in British industrial history. As a result, orders dropped sharply and thousands of workers to be laid off, almost leading some families into starvation. On the windows, the strike supporters would place a card reading “I am not a traitor” in Welsh and the occupants would go to the mines in the morning when the workers were starting to arrive, and call them traitors whilst hammering pots and pans.

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You can even see the clothes they wore, an opportunity for the young people to try them on.

The museum also has the largest working waterwheel in mainland Britain and was constructed in 1870 by De Winton of Caernarfon and is 50 ft 5ins in diameter, 5 ft 3ins wide and was built around a 12in axle. It’s lovely to watch, a series of connecting wheels and poles turn throughout the museum which powers the machines in the workshops.


There was also an excellent demonstration about slate splitting and what happens to it from a miner who works part-time at the museum and at another quarry nearby.

He told us some very interesting things. Damaged or unused slate waste is often used for pathways in gardens etc but most of it is crushed up into a fine powder and shipped overseas, usually to Germany, where impurities are removed it is put into cosmetics!

Slate is cut into various sizes, named after women such as ‘Princess’ and Duchess’. The Duchess slate size would sell for £8 but the worker would only be paid 8p per slate! They would usually, on a good day, created approx 800 of these sizes by hand. If an order was put in for 100, they would only be paid for 86 of them because of allowances for damages – less would be paid for the further away the cut slate travelled!! So, they were (and still are) exploited on the work they produce. The man told the group that an average wage is £310 per week before tax, so the additional money is needed.

Countries with lower quality slate, like China, sell for far cheaper than Welsh slate and traders went to them to save more money.

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Modern machinery that cuts slate.

The different sizes are similar internationally but the quality differs. A lot of the Welsh mines closed because of competitors from overseas selling for cheaper and, I only recently found out, there is a Welsh community in Patagonia that moved across to work the mines there – so the countries second language is Welsh for this very reason.

This place is worth a visit. I spent about two hours here just exploring the rooms, listening to talks and demonstrations and reading the information. It brings to light just how hard the conditions were and what it was like for them. My next blog post is about going into an abandoned mine where I gained even more perspective about their lives and work.

To find out more about the museum you can visit this link.

Just Joanne

Snowdonia Slate Trail: Part 1 – Bangor to Llanberis

I heard about this Trail late 2017 on social media and thought I’d love to walk it. Starting in Bangor and walking a ‘leaf-shaped’ route (including stem) the route passes through several well-known areas within Snowdonia – Llanberis, Bethesda, Nantelle, Llan Ffestiniog etc.

I decided, as I only had one day, that I’d walk the first two sections Bangor to Bethesda and on to Llanberis before getting the bus back to Bangor.

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I’d love to have walked the complete 83-mile route but time will not allow this year and I just wanted to get out and walk.

The trail starts at Porth Penrhyn, near the castle, along the quiet tree-lined cycleway along Lon Las Ogwen river.

There’s no official starting monument, but one is planned. Waymarkers show the way.

Along the first part of the route, there are several signs to explain about the slate trade and how horses were used on the viaducts to move large quantities to the port for shipment elsewhere.

The first part of this route is low level, flat and absolutely beautiful. I met a couple of dog walkers and runners but it was peaceful overall. There were a couple of geocaches along this route, in fact along all of the routes, but none connected to the route. Hopefully, someone will decide to plan a series along this part connected to the trail as I passed a lot of opportunities for them to do so.

So I happily strolled along, following the guide book’s instructions until I reached the A55. Now in the book, it states that you keep the A55 to your left… which I did, and ended up at the A5/A55 junction! Only then did I look at the map within the guidebook and saw that it should have said ‘Right’, not ‘left’. Luckily, I’m a good navigator so it didn’t take long to cross and field and rejoin the route where I was meant to be. Later on, looking at the website and just about the email the error, I found that they already knew about it:

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I learnt two lessons that day. One, check the map as well as the description and two, check the website before travelling out! Rookie mistakes.

Continuing on, I found a good geocache and crossed Afon Ogwen, where I took a moment to admire the bridge’s structure and the river views.


Moving on, I followed various signs that took me through a small village then into Bethesda high street where everything was closed as it was Sunday! So, no cup of tea for me at Caffi Coed y Brenin (king’s wood cafe), which the guide recommended.

This section didn’t seem like it was the 6.3miles the book suggested it was. I suppose because I was enjoying the countryside so much and making detours to find road junctions and geocaches my mind wasn’t aware of the distance.

I pushed on the Llanberis. As I had left Bangor at 8am I knew I would have time to walk both these sections in a day and get the bus back without hassle.

At the High Street, I continued on to walk along the river and up the road towards Mynydd Llandegai. Here I passed one very noisy dog who was awoken from his guard duties at my presence outside his area.

Passing through the small hamlet of Gefnan, I was now on the access ground and into open moorland. It was at this point that the clouds decided to open and rain (gently) upon me. The cows I encountered took one look and wandered off, probably in search of dryer ground elsewhere.


So, plodding along and crossing many bogs and streams (that seemed to find my feet easily), I pondered about the slate trade around this area. It is evident to see the impact it has had on the countryside due to the heavy quarrying, with large chunks missing, but also its usefulness in terms of building houses, fences etc.



My GPS decided to die on me so it didn’t record all of the route sadly. I’m surprised it even managed 5 hours. I have yet to find where I have packed the charger in my van so it may stay dead for a little while longer…

Near the end of the route, it takes you through parts of the 800 acres, Padarn Country Park with some stunning views over Llyn Padarn, a 3 mile long, 30m deep glacial formed lake that we visited a few days before on the course.

Totally found a geocache at this point.
The country park is dotted with ruins of old buildings belonging to the workers that once used the railways there.

On the boundary of the county park, I found the Quarry Hospital – a museum housing the restored ward, operating theatre and various gruesome 19th Century hospital equipment that once served the slate miners who were injured in the nearby quarry.

I didn’t have time to properly look inside the Slate Museum. I arrived at a leisurely pace at about half-past three, taking in the various geocaches, museum and old buildings whilst on route, and the Slate Museum was only open for another half an hour, so decided that I’ll come back another day to look inside and ride the Llanberis Lake Railway (though I did have a sausage roll at the station).


The bus ride back was simple enough. The buses don’t run late in Snowdonia I found out, so made sure I was there on time. A bargain price of £3 one-way 50-minute journey from Llanberis to Bangor with bus wifi! It took a very scenic route through some very tiny villages (never have I been on a bus that needs to reverse to turn around).

So, that’s my first weekend in Bangor done! This upcoming weekend the entire PGCE trainee group is off to a residential centre, so I’m sure that will be fun.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself on this route and will look to complete the next section Llanberis to Beddgelert (20miles) another free day.

Just Joanne

First week at uni.

And what a week!

Well, it’s just the usual introductory week so the ‘lectures’ have mostly been information about the course, the campus, it’s facilities, general wellbeing and financial support information and a library visit! So nothing terribly exciting at all.

Bangor is a seemingly nice city (it used the title of ‘city’ by ancient prescriptive right until the Queen made it official in 1974). I’m not sure what to make of it. Apparently, there are 18,000 people here but it doesn’t feel like it because 10,500 of those are university students who don’t arrive until the end of September…

The university site the PGCE students are based on is small (compared to having attended the University of West England) but the University has a couple of other sites located around the town. The town has a couple of large brand name shops (Home Bargains, Next, Argos etc) but several of the smaller shops have shut down in the town centre so it looks rather run down in places. Out lecturer mentioned that independent businesses, unless already established, rarely trade for very long (approx 3-4 years) before either closing for good or relocating to large towns and cities.

The views are lovely though…










Bangor has a pier called, Garth Pier, which is the second longest pier in Wales at 1,500 feet (460 m) in length. It opened in 1893 and was a promenade pier, for the amusement of holiday-makers who could stroll among the pinnacle-roofed kiosks.


Garth Pier entranceway.



Grath Pier, quaint, small and peaceful. No large amusement arcades here.


I quite like this little pier. As you walk along there are a lot of memorial plaques on the seating or barriers, a lot of people also quite liked this pier!

Having a car has been quite useful so far, it’s allowed me to explore the countryside around the area and I took a walk up the hills near Conwy Mountain one evening.


Sheep galore on the hillsides!
The sunsets are beautiful here.


So as part of our next five weeks of training, the ODA group have various outdoor activities to partake in – mountain biking, SUPing, outdoor climbing, bouldering etc. so we’re introduced to what the content of an ODA course might look like in a school or outdoor education centre.

There are nine of us on the ODA PGCE course, two of the group are doing a joint course (R.E and Physics respectively) and the rest just the ODA. There are varying experiences the group members have – from school-based, outdoor education based, university-based – and knowledge and interests, so the next couple of weeks should be interesting as we get to know each other and share information.

On Friday, we took part in paddle boarding on Llyn Padarn, learning how to stand, balance, turn and put another person back on their board. I didn’t fall in often this time like I have done before and my balancing has gotten better (but it’s not great yet), just need to work on getting back on to the board.


Llyn Padarn from Union Rock


Afterwards, we went to Union and Lion rock so the members of the group, who have completed the Single Pitch Award training, can teach those that haven’t/the instructor abseil, top-roping and I forget the name of the other one right now.

I found it all really interesting. I’m not sure how the school utilise outdoor climbing, but I’m sure I will learn in time.


So that’s it for the first week, I will write about the weekend activities in another blog, but right now I’m not sure how I feel at this point about it all. I am homesick, still more so than I imagined I would be and to combat this I have been keeping myself busy. It is more, missing various people and a dog named Bailey, than anything else but I feel that this PGCE will be very demanding and I’ve got to get into the mindset for that over these next couple of days.

Just Joanne