Moors, Mines, Making, Moulding, Manufacturing and Mission.

The members of the Year 9 Athenaeum have just returned from their residential scholarship visit to West Yorkshire. The aim of the scholarship programme is to think across subjects and hopefully beyond them and to stimulate the student’s curiosity and imagination; this visit certainly did that. Beginning at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park they not only examined the works of well-known artists such as Barbara Hepworth and Ai Weiwei, but also the work of local sculptors such as David Nash. Deploying the same technique as in brass rubbing and under the tuition of our excellent guide, the students were able to explore the texture and patterns of trees and stones alike.

The next very full day involved a morning in the Royal Armouries in Leeds with a viewing of an adjacent lock, a World War One themed tour of the exhibits and finally a demonstration of the art of the Samurai sword. Then on to Wakefield, to the National Mining Museum and the chance to go underground. The tours led by ex-miners provided so many insights for the students into the technical and physical challenges of mining, the issues around child labour, the importance of the coal and above ground a most informative exhibition told of the social history of mining and its relatively recent demise. Banners, galas, and Trade Unionism were important topics for the students to explore as well as a specific display to commemorate the 40 years since the last strike.

In the afternoon, the group explored the model village of Saltaire and looked at the wide variety of provision laid on for the mill workers by Sir Titus Salt: houses, educational institutes, a dining hall, a Church, a Village Hall, and a Park! They thought about philanthropy, paternalism and examining Sir Titus’ statue, how things are commemorated. The main mill building now contains a gallery housing on of the biggest collections of David Hockney’s work which the students much enjoyed.

On our last day, a morning exploring the Bronte Parsonage was followed by a guided tour of Howarth and a walk onto the moors, with views across the Worth Valley. Our guide expertly explained the importance of the landscape and read from the works of the Bronte sisters as we stood on the windswept hills. Building on work done about the importance of landscape in the novels of the Bronte sisters, the students also considered the importance, or not, of understanding the biographies of authors in order to appreciate their work.

So much was included in a short visit and much of its success was due to the work done by teachers in preparatory sessions before the visit. Hopefully, the visit provided interesting insights and experiences but even more opened minds to the possibility of exploration and investigation into things for its own sake and to see how many themes in one subject area are echoed in another.

Read Fred's recount of the trip

Looking back on last weekend’s Year 9 Atheneum trip to Yorkshire (or ‘scholars’ trip’ to the pupils involved), it is difficult to summarise the trip in one article, let alone in a word or phrase. The best I could produce were: ‘energetic’, ‘action packed’ and others along the same train of thought, which mainly refer to how much happened in a two-night trip and reaffirm my point that as a group, we had a very busy weekend.

After a very early 6:00am start we headed North. Some of us had predicted that Mr Cavendish would announce our arrival into the ‘centre of the universe.’ As expected, at about half past eleven, the Tannoy turned on and Mr Cavendish’s voice announced our arrival into Yorkshire, the aftermath of this was quite representative of the rest of the trip; a light-hearted mood accompanied by plenty of conversation between friends. The sculpture park consisted of a well-led tour which we appreciated various pieces of abstract art, albeit despite our sarcastic admiration of a litter bin as one of the park’s many sculptures. We then embarked on our journey to the youth hostel in Haworth which crossed the well-photographed Yorkshire Moors, before we finally arrived at the youth hostel, at first an enjoyable experience but made even better by the discovery of a pool table and television.

The following morning, we headed straight to the Royal Armoury in Leeds, conveniently passing by Elland Road, the home of Mr Cavendish’s Leeds United Football club, on the way. The highlights from Saturday for the pupils included: looking around the armoury which had a range of guns, swords, models, suits of armour and large replicas of battles (the most notable being Waterloo) and the tour down the coal mine itself, which was very interesting as not only did it explore the history of mining but it was also led by an ex-miner. It is fair to say that the second day was well enjoyed by the group and that the busy nature of the day was iterated throughout the trip. The main activity on the Sunday was the tour of the Bronte Parsonage leading on to the guided tour of the moors, another highlight of the trip was listening to poetry whilst watching over the landscape of Yorkshire as we prepared to embark on our long trip home.

Read Thea's recount of the trip

In March we spent two nights and three days on the scholars’ trip to Yorkshire. We stayed in Haworth, the home of the Brontë family, and from our base at the youth hotel we visited a sculpture park, the Royal Armouries museum and we even went down a coal mine, along with a number of other activities too.

Despite the early start, we all had a great time and found the sculpture park a very interesting experience. Going down the coal mines was nerve-racking, but everybody went, as it was an opportunity that many of us would only go on to experience once. While we were waiting, many people were nervous about the lift down 140 metres into the unknown of the mining shaft. Only a two minute ride down, everyone was holding their breath. Through one side, you could see the bricks gliding past: leaving almost as quickly as they arrived. The sounds of water trickling through the pipes in close proximity set the eerie mood before we even set foot in the mine. 

Torches in hand, we set off through the maze-like tunnels of the mine, all we could do was imagine working these conditions, in the dark, for several back-breaking hours every day for such little pay. We were told to turn off our light, descending the area into complete blackness. Those twenty seconds dragged past, feeling like an eternity before the comfort of electricity broke the tension.

Before our departure on Sunday, we were fortunate enough to visit the Brontë parsonage, and grasp a vivid idea of life in the Victorian era. The tragic tales we were told of the family moved everyone in some way, and made our next excursion onto the moors much more atmospheric, alongside extracts from the Brontës themselves, some well-known and some heard for the first time. 

Their descriptions of the landscape brought it to life even more than the picturesque scenery around us. From the thrilling depictions of mother nature’s touch to the true town rumour that inspired the best-selling novel ‘Wuthering Heights’.

The accommodation that we were staying in was an amazing youth hostel in Haworth, with a games room with a pool table, television and many more activities to rewind after a (very tiring) day in Yorkshire. 

On the last day, we drove the 6 hours back to school… However, by the end of the journey, we had such a laugh that we were all wishing for a few hours more!