As ‘York 2017’ motorwayed ‘up North’, the Form 5 pupils settled quietly into their i-pad and i-phone world while the teachers noisily wrestled with the pages of their newspapers. After stopping for a welcomed early lunch (just sitting, watching films or listening to music makes children extremely hungry), the coach drivers were soon exercising their gearboxes as we began to climb steeply towards the North Yorkshire moors and Phase 1 of the expedition: Helmsley Castle.
The impressive motte, large bailey and recognisable ruins of this 900 year old castle engagingly moved the pupils into educational mode. They were whisked around this pleasant place, identifying barbicans, battlements, portcullises and postern gates. A brief journey then took us to Byland Abbey (Phase 2) and the real work began. The Assessment exam would be based on what they learnt here about such features as the Infirmary, the Cloisters and the Chapter House.
This hard work and concentration was rewarded with homemade cake and squash at the delightful tea shop opposite. Fortunately, Mr Batchelor had already booked a table for seventy nine! More excitement followed as the pupils were allocated their rooms at the Youth Hostel when we reached York.
Walking a long ‘crocodile’ of children along the banks of the River Ouse, next morning – without crashing into commuter cyclists or tangling with terriers of the Yorkshire variety – can be stressful. However, walking the crocodile through a crowded city of traffic lights, trams, taxis and street entertainers is an even greater challenge. The pupils appeared enviably unconcerned. Phase 3: Having split into groups, there were captivating talks inside the breathtaking Minster and educational activities in the Minster’s Education Centre. After a quick lunch, Phase 4 was a visit to York Museum, a place where one could easily spend many hours in the Victorian Street, looking at the exhibition of old toys, fashions and World War One memorabilia, or in the dark and scary cells of the old prison.
Phase 5: Now walking in two ‘crocodiles’, we made our way through the crowded streets and the famous ‘Shambles’ as we headed for the National Railway Museum. Somehow each crocodile seemed to manage to snap up ice creams as it went. This then fuelled them for Phase 6 which was a simulated ride on Mallard’s World Record breaking run of 126 mph. The pupils – and possibly the ice creams – were certainly shaken. There was then time for a brief wander round this huge site. The comfort and luxury of the Royal Trains seemed to impress everyone.
Back at the Youth Hostel, there was time to relax and let off steam and then revise for the Assessment next morning. Before going to bed, many pupils unwisely chose to attend Mr Batchelor’s Bingo session, a noisy and memorably unrepeatable demonstration of how not to ‘call’ out Bingo numbers.
After breakfast on the final morning, it was time for Phase 7: The Assessment. With this important task completed, the coaches were loaded up and we headed for Phase 8: York Air Museum. Not only did this amazing museum have over fifty aircraft – including a Halifax, a Spitfire, V-Bombers and a Messerschmitt – but it was a special ‘1940s’ day when many visitors were in period dress. A splendid group of women, dressed in army uniform, sang and swung to 1940s music and they were delighted to see many Cranleigh pupils dancing in time with them. This somehow encapsulated the true spirit of yet another hugely successful, action-packed Mr Batchelor York tour: eight phases in only three days! And yet the great man, himself, appeared completely unfazed. I wonder which prep school he went to?