Wales/ Manchester fieldwork: A student perspective!

Please read the article below written by Y12 geographer Katy McMahon after her residential fieldwork experience earlier in the year.

“Even though we were off to a rocky start with stormy weather and the ferry nearly cancelled, we boarded the boat to Liverpool ready for an exciting week away. The stormy weather literally rocked the boat, I could neither see sea nor sky so you could imagine how thankful we felt when we got off – we then set out to North Wales. We arrived at Ben’s Bunkhouse in Llanberis that afternoon; it was perched overlooking a massive artificial lake, which was used by the Dinorwig Hydroelectric Plant; it was an extremely beautiful site to look out to in the morning. Mr. Macgregor and two of the other students who stopped off to get the food arrived just after us with a bounty of different foods to suit everyone and with a brief for the next day and some delicious food prepared by the teachers and students, we made ourselves at home and went to sleep.

With a bright and early start the next morning we set off for Snowdon with a morning full of a walking tour of glacial features followed by river fieldwork. Now this may not sound that exciting to a non-geographer, but to be able to see the extensive awe inspiring valley in the sunlight is a totally different feeling compared to those you see in text books; I would recommend this to anybody considering taking A-level geography as it is so different from all the pictures you see in textbooks and hear about, and really seeing the features you learn about not only improves perception of the area but improves the grasp you have of the information you learn by seeing it first hand.

Glacial lake at the base of Snowdon

After personally almost falling numerous times trying to voyage down the glacial valley of the Afon Glasyn River we had just made it to our third river site when the weather took a turn for the worse, all part of the experience though; and it was all the more enjoyable and rewarding when we had collected our data and travelled back to our mini bus. It was really enlightening to be abled to collect our data first hand and felt quite satisfying as we knew our coursework was quite a big part of our Geog2 exam.

The Y12 geography teachers (and Star) halfway up a mountain kitted up against the rain

Then, after going back to Ben’s Bunkhouse to dry off and for a quick rest went to visit the village of Caernarfon where there was many souvenir shops, a castle, a funfair and lots of traditional welsh cafes – we then travelled back to the Bunkhouse with a plentiful amount of wooden swords and an inflatable dragon later to be called ‘Steven’.

On Friday morning we packed up our things and said goodbye to Ben’s Bunkhouse and the beautiful landscape we had made ourselves home in for the past two days to depart for Manchester city. We arrived at our hotel in the city center and took a metro train to the Salford Quays for an afternoon observing and noting the urban regeneration in the area (and of course some shopping at the Lowry) – taking the metro train was a good experience as it brought us straight into the hub of Salford and was conveniently close to the hotel. The changes in the area of Salford Quays was very interesting to see regeneration in an area of previous decline as this helps us with our ‘World Cities’ topic in the A2 Year 13 course; and after this we ventured (with some help from Mr. Coole’s connections) to MediaCityUK which is a 200-acre mixed-use property development site at Salford Quays on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal in Salford and Trafford. The project is being developed by Peel Media, and its principal tenants are media organisations such as the BBC and ITV Granada.  We visited both Quay house in which we all got our very own nametags and where BBC Breakfast, Match of the Day, BBC Radio 5 Live, North West Tonight and BBC Radio Manchester are broadcast. We also visited Bridge house where Blue Peter, Mastermind, Dragons Den and BBC Bitesize are produced. The overall experience was AMAZING, to be abled to see first hand where the TV we watch every day is filmed and produced, we had a look at all the different areas for production and visited the sets. Plus we even got to sit on the Blue Peter couch, which was a personal highlight. Then after our voyage around the two buildings we took a metro which was placed outside the MediaCity UK complex (thankfully for everyone with sore feet) back to the hotel.

At MediaCityUK, as part of the regeneration project at Salford Quays

That night after we had all recovered, we took the minibus to Rusholme and the famous ‘Curry Mile’; this was a first and quite an experience for us all not being used to the owners of restaurants shouting out deals and asking you to come to their establishment, the teachers had it all under control though and picked us out a great Indian restaurant. Unfortunately on the way out of the Indian poor Danielle fell on on the stairs which was quite an ordeal with the owners wife doing ‘special exercise’s’ to make it better and a random boy at another table shouting ‘I KNOW FIRST AID’, we definitely know how to make an exit at St Ninian’s.

Very hungry Y12s on Curry Mile in Rusholme

On our last day, we packed up all our things and did a walking tour of Manchester city center at urban regeneration and retail provision in the city, and to have a look at the different areas and how they differ. We then had time for shopping in the Arndale (to my great pleasure) and walked back to the hotel for the last leg of the journey before heading home. We checked out and travelled by minibus though a transect out from the city centre stopping at different zones. This was enjoyable as all the information throughout the few days of different areas came together and this will make it easier actually having seen the areas when it comes to writing about them for our year 13 exam, as I mentioned previously its one thing reading about something in a newspaper or text book but seeing it first hand has a whole different concept for learning and retaining information; as i’m sure the rest of the class will agree.

So between our amazing minibus journeys playing ‘spot the dodgiest graffiti”, talking to people on motorcycles out the windows, wooden swords and a lot of Lord of the Rings and an inflatable dragon called Steven who sadly now lives outside the window of the Castlefields hotel in Manchester, our ‘Mexican’ and ‘Italian’ nights at the bunkhouse, Mr. Macgregor’s fearless reversing up the drive of Ben’s Bunkhouse which could have potentially turned my hair grey, our friend’s at the Indian with ‘special massaging techniques’ , and Scott’s tremendous junk food collection which seemed to go on forever; the Geography trip 2012 was an astonishly amazing trip. I learnt more than any text book could show me and it was great to get first hand knowledge of such a vast area with such highly skilled (in many ways!) teachers; I would definitely do it again if I could and recommend it to anybody thinking of doing Geography A-Level; a full “knowledge and perfect amount of unforgettable experiences” type trip.”

Katy McMahon

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