October, they were picked up from Heathrow and delivered to their welcoming host families back at the Prep School.
Despite being tired and travel-weary, the 11 Year 7 pupils were visibly excited about meeting their counterpart Form 5 children. Autumnal walks, horse riding, Air Hop and plenty of unpacking followed for the rest of the day while the Kenyan children acclimatised to our falling temperatures.
Early on Friday morning we assembled to go on our first adventure together: Warwick Castle and Shakespeare Country. A visit to the State Rooms, the Mound and a good look around the castle grounds brought us nicely to the firing of the largest siege machine in the world – the castle’s trebuchet. Eighteen kilos of rock being fired over 250m across the castle grounds was pretty exciting to watch! Lunch in the castle courtyard was followed by a spectacular aerial display by the resident birds of prey. We felt the beat of wings from Rosie the Andean Condor and Frank the Egyptian Vulture as they swooped over the crowds, skimming our faces with their tail feathers.
After a journey through the historical periods of British History in the ‘Horrible Histories Maze’, we eventually wended our way to Stratford upon Avon and our youth hostel for the evening. Some fresh air, good food and a fun-packed games evening sorted us out for a restful and relaxing sleep. The next morning, we had a wander through the streets of the town, taking in the sights of Shakespeare’s birthplace, the canal and the pretty market that was being held in the centre. The children bought some lovely souvenirs, in amongst all the smoothies, Starbucks and hot chocolates.
The afternoon brought a theatre workshop from ‘Dreamshed Theatre’. This was an excellent opportunity for the children to immerse themselves in such Shakespeare’s plays as ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and ‘MacBeth’, with a scary Halloween theme throughout. The girls even recited the three witches’ speech in the minibus on the way home, in character!
Upon our return to school that evening, the children were whisked back to their host families for the rest of the weekend before the start of school on Monday.
School brought swim squad, rugby and hockey fixtures, lessons and assemblies. The highlight for many children was the Boarders’ Fireworks evening on Thursday 2nd November. The weather was kind and the clouds cleared in time for our senses to be wowed by the exceptional display. Fuelled by hog roast, brownies and strawberries, the children enjoyed a bit of a dance to some very loud music afterwards.
Friday 3rd November saw us travel by minibus, train and tube into the heart of London to visit Madame Tussauds. Mixing with the stars of stage and screen, we learned how the wax works were made so life-like – eerily so! We then took a journey on the ‘Spirit of London’ taxi cab ride, to look at the significant events in London’s long and rich history. We bought lunch at Pret à Manger and then made our way to the London Eye. We had two pods to ourselves and our guides taught us about the geography of London, looking at the major sites and scenery. The view was enchanting and we could see for miles into the distance.
The following weekend was the Cranleigh Christmas Fair, with more fireworks in the surrounding villages on the Saturday night. Being an exeat weekend, the host families had arranged a plethora of activities for their children to do, ranging from paintballing to the theatre.
More days at school followed, with a series of great performances in the School’s Informal Concert on the Tuesday evening. The exchange students sang really well and the individual performers shone.
Nearly time to say goodbye; the final farewell was Wednesday night’s presentation supper. The children and teachers talked about their school and what they had been up to during their stay. The lovely kitchen staff cooked us a delicious lasagne which was followed by a cake sliced 30 ways to celebrate one of the girls’ birthdays! Gifts were distributed and many hugs, thank-yous and photos followed as families said goodbye to each other’s exchange pupils.
It is safe to say that everyone involved has had a fantastic time. Seeing the bonds that have been forged between the children from both schools and the parents is really special and a big part of the reason behind the exchange. We are already looking forward to the return visit in February. Kenya, here we come!