Ross High Rock and Water

A write up of 3 wonderful days with Ross High Merit pupils from Ed (Outdoor Learning Associate staff)

Three days of fun with the pupil from Ross High who were awarded the most merits throughout the year.

Tuesday 23rd June, Canoeing (Musselburgh Lagoons / River Tyne Haddington)

When I met the group for the first time in the morning I asked them how they were feeling about the idea of going Canoeing. There were a few hands raised to say that they were quite nervous. I was so pleased that by the end of the day though as everyone was saying that they had all had a brilliant time and that they would all like to do it again.

We started by heading to Musselburgh lagoons where we practiced a variety of strokes that would allow the boat to be steered. This is also a great location to build up some confidence about the equipment they would be using and how it will keep them safe. So with some games played, a short journey undertaken and a few people getting a bit wet (everyone fell in) we packed up and travelled on to our next location, The River Tyne in Haddington.

We arrived at the River Tyne and by now everyone worked as a well-oiled machine to get the equipment ready for the session. We were on the water in no time at all. We then went for a journey upstream until we could not get our boats any higher. Along the way there was a bit of splashing and some fun little challenges to undertake (like the limbo under low branches). They even managed to stay clear of the weir that they all thought they would go down if they weren’t careful.

Wednesday 24th June, Gorge Walking (Soutra Gorge)

The second day of the merit pupil’s activities was to do some gorge walking and then some kayaking. Unfortunately time was not on our side so we had to leave the kayaking for the afternoon and just undertake the gorge walk instead.

The group were fantastic and undertook the activity with huge enthusiasm. In my initial brief to the group I always emphasise about the importance of working together to get through the gorge safely and effectively. I was so impressed with the way they took my advice and supported each other. There were some really strong characters within the group which made a huge difference as moral can drop quite a bit when you are sitting in a cold pool of water waiting for your turn to climb a waterfall.

When it came to the two waterfalls where the harnesses are required the group were patient, supportive of everyone and really keen to give it a go. They completed the gorge really well but unknown to us was that we were going to have our toughest challenge of the day when we got out of the gorge on the return walk. Unfortunately an existing injury to one of our group meant as a team we had to help her back to the bus. Again the group were fantastic in trying helping and after trying a few different assisted carries (involving making a rope stretcher) we managed to all get back to the bus and finish the day. We may have been a little bit late but we had a great time along the way.

Thursday 25th June, Gorge Walking (Soutra Gorge)

With the same activity the day before I had a fairly good idea about how much time we would be able to have and was quite aware that we probably not going to be able to do the Kayaking again. I made this known to the group and unfortunately this was the case but again this was not down to a lack of enthusiasm and motivation from the group.

The gorge is a very special place. Unfortunately (or fortunately! – ed) one of the things that make this such a special place is how inaccessible it is. The walk to the gorge is probably the toughest part of the day. There is then the challenge of walking up stream to where it gets steeper and ropes are required. Finally once this truly beautiful location has been conquered you then have a bit of a slog to get back to the bus.

There were many different occasions where the group helped each other with either verbal encouragement or hands on physical support. However my personal highlight was when once each of them reached the top of the first waterfall climb they then began creating a human dam to try and cause the waterfall strength to increase when they all stood up. Not very supportive but very funny at the same time.

By the end of each day every participant on all the activities worked really hard and had succeeded in completing some very tough challenges. They had to overcome physical obstacles while managing their feelings effectively. However it should not be forgotten the hard work and effort that went on throughout the year for them to earn this reward. Well done to everyone.

A gorge-ous day out

Visibility was about 20m when we approached Soutra Gorge with P5 from Windygoul Primary. And it was cold – ice floating in the river cold – when we reached the river.

I was working hard to keep a brave face in front of the pupils – I knew hold cold this was going to be and was preparing for a mutiny!

Martyn briefs the team – if it looks cold that’s because it was.


Once kitted up though, and actually splashing about in the water, the adventure and the atmospheric location took over from the dread of the cold water.





The class have been working on recording and presenting their experiences of a journey, and this outing gave ample scope for sharing thoughts, fears and feelings before during and after the experience. Unlike canoeing for example, where they would have some concept of

what would be involved prior to the event, none had any experience of gorgewalking and so were coming to this with some degree of uncertainty and trepidation which the weather and location could only enhance – plenty of material for discussion and for their presentations. Video interviews were conducted on the bus, during the activity and afterwards on the return journey.

And they’re in.

The bottom of the gorge is an area which very few people visit – probably only ELC OLS groups a few times a year – and the pupils were able to see unspoilt mosses and pristine icicles – it will be interesting to see their reactions and how/if this comes across in presentations.



After initial instruction and guiding, and once they’d discovered that their gear was keeping them warm(ish), the pupils were given the task of getting themselves back up the gorge and it was great to see them pulling and working together to get each other safely over the icy rocks.

Looking over the edge


What surprised us all was that the pupils were actively asking to get in the water, splashing about and even volunteered to put their heads under an icy waterfall!




Working together to get back out!


So hopefully the pupils left with increased confidence in their own, and each other’s abilities as well as plenty of material for their presentation projects – it will be interesting to get their take on the day!


Ice Station Soutra

Is it all Fun?

Eight hardy pupils from Musselburgh Grammar requested the help of the Outdoor Learning Service to assist in their travels to explore some of our diverse countryside on Thursday. They wanted to explore close up the beautiful Soutra Gorge.

Knowing the current temperatures the group spent quite some time in preparation before venturing out. This included: longjohn wetsuits; wetsuit socks; walking boots; pile jackets; windproof layers; harnessess; helmets; high energy food; spare clothing and equipment. The pupils were looking at Heath and Wellbeing outcomes for themselves. The pictures below link very well to the highlighted statements taken from HWB experiences and outcomes.

I can expect my learning environment to support me to:
experience personal achievement and build my resilience and confidence
participate in a wide range of activities which promote a healthy lifestyle
assess and manage risk and understand the impact of risk-taking behaviour


All the pupils showed strength of chracter and amazing resilience in coping with extremely challenging conditions – abseiling into the gorge; scrambling along the river bed; climbing up the side of an ice covered waterfall.

Through careful reviewing and reflection with the group this resilience will be able to be translated into other aspects of the pupils’ lives. Education Scotland describes it better than I below.

The development of resilience or coping skills is particularly important to young people as increasing numbers are struggling through school and life with social and emotional needs that greatly challenge schools and welfare agencies. A resilient child can resist adversity, cope with uncertainty and recover more successfully from traumatic events or episodes.

Don Ledingham recently spoke about resilience in his blog – pointing out that we are particularly well suited to delivering this through the flexibilty of Curriculum of Excellence.

To answer the question at the top of the page – no it wasn’t fun for everybody all the time – however with reflection all pupils could see the strength and value of what they had done and achieved. Some of their reflection – words taken from the pupils themselves: scared; happy; cold; icy; slippery; tired; effort; overcoming fears; challenging; hardwork; teamwork; great exercise.

Well done all.

Wallyford Primary Innerwick Camp

Wallyford Primary P5 Innerwick camp could not have asked for better weather!  New and exciting experiences had by all including Extreme Rockpooling, River Dipping, Gorge Walking, Environmental Awareness Sessions and for some their first nights away from home…

Sucessfully arranged by the staff at Wallyford Primary, along with Outdoor Education and the Ranger Service.