At the end of the summer term, the Art and Geography departments embarked on a trip to Europe travelling through two European countries on our way to the Netherlands. In all 35 students were greeted by myself, Mrs Ives, Miss West and Mrs Warley on Monday morning at school. This was the first big trip we had run as a school since the pandemic so everybody was excited at the prospect of a proper European adventure!

We left school and headed to London for the first leg of our journey. Here we stopped at the Victoria and Albert museum and had some time to explore the various expositions that were available. The weather was extremely hot as the record-breaking heat wave was in full swing, but the V and A with its wide open spaces was still cool enough for us to relax into the trip. Luckily, we had also bought 80 bottles of water with us…just in case!… (and 42 packets of Shortcake biscuits in case of an unexpected cold snap.. you never know!)

After our visit we went to our hostel at the Elephant and Castle and organised the rooms for the students for their overnight stay. We then headed out for our evening meal at Pizza Express before taking a short stroll to the Dominion Theatre on Tottenham Court Rd to catch a West End show; Grease the musical. This was brilliant production and really got everyone into the swing for the rest of the trip.

Next day we had a very early start and headed off to Dover so we could take the ferry over to Calais. We were all a little nervous as there was a lot of paperwork involved including Covid passes and other documentation. Thankfully we passed through without any problems which was a relief! We were now properly underway!

We stopped off in Belgium and visited Sanctuary Wood Museum at Ypres. Here we got to explore some of the British trenches from the First World War that were still intact and preserved as they had been originally. It was a very poignant visit, made especially so when we visited Tyne Cot cemetery which gave a true perspective on the horror and tragedy that befell so many young soldiers.  We were able to locate the Herefordshire regiments memorial and paid our respects.

We arrived in the Haag that evening and after offloading into the youth hostel we got to have some downtime. The hostel had a fantastic area in which to relax and the students took over the pool table at the centre. Some students showed real potential as hustlers which was disconcerting / encouraging. From the older staff perspective, it was particularly good to see that you can still have fun – analogue- without an Xbox or PC!

On the Wednesday we got ready for our visit to Amsterdam and a morning visit to the Stedelijk museum. In here there were lots of fantastic modern and contemporary art installations. The students really enjoyed the plastic bottle pit which was entered via a slide. Of course, it did not take long for Yoshi to lose his phone (or did the phone lose Yoshi?) either way it was a really fun and interactive visit.

After lunch in the park we headed off for a canal cruise and got to take in the city from the waterways which was perhaps the best way in which to do it. Unfortunately, the boat had a glass roof and as the heatwave hadn’t finished with us yet, it was a rather sweaty experience. Still, after a battle we managed to slide back the roof in order to let in some cooler air. It then promptly rained. Still, it was unforgettable on many levels and as a reward we walked the students back through the city and gave them some free time to go shopping before returning back to our hotel for dinner.

On our last full day we boarded the bus again and headed off to visit the Maeslant storm surge barrier. Here students learnt about the extensive flood defence infrastructure built by the Dutch to protect themselves against a repeat of the terrible floods of 1953. This included a guided tour of the barriers themselves and is testament to their engineering skill. Mr Roger’s who has long since left us for retirement would have been rubbing his hands with excitement!

We then headed back into Amsterdam to visit the Anne Frank museum. Here students could experience a guided audio tour of the hiding place of Anne Frank and learnt about the nightmare of living in an occupied country under the ruthless watch of the Gestapo. This was a very moving visit and included an interactive and informative lesson workshop delivered by one of our guides.

We had the opportunity for students to visit the centre of Amsterdam one more time to grab a street snack and finish off any shopping before heading back to our hotel for the last time. That evening the staff put on a quiz for the students with various rounds, soft drinks for all and prizes for the winners.

On our return trip home we boarded the bus once again and headed off to Bruges enroute to Calais. Here we had a whistle-stop tour of the amazing walled city and a trip to the Chocolate factory and museum. The gift shop was very pleased to see us and could no doubt afford to take early retirement after we had all marched through.

After a smooth crossing back to Dover, we headed home to Weobley via a pit stop at MacDonald’s where we managed to use the last of the trip funds to get every student a meal before dropping some tired, (but hopefully happy) pupils back to their parents. A massive “Thank you” to all the parents and carers for keeping faith with us during the pandemic and not withdrawing from the trip- we made it in the end!! Also, a huge thank you to the front office and finance team who magically dealt with the stresses and administrative paperwork tirelessly in the background. And finally thank you to my lovely team who came on the trip and made it all possible!

Until next time….

Mr Ives