Hikers walk on the wild side

10th June 2011 at 01:00
The Formartine and Buchan Way offers an ideal route for large groups of young trekkers.

Getting one teenager out for a walk is enough of a challenge for most parents. So the teachers of Fraserburgh Academy did an impressive job getting nearly 500 pupils out on a nine-mile sponsored walk through the Aberdeenshire countryside.

Some jogged, some walked and by the end some may have been limping. But the school's first, second and third years were out in force on the Formartine and Buchan Way - the longest journey many of these children have ever made on foot.

Their route follows a stretch of the old Buchan railway line between Auchnagatt and Aden Country Park at Mintlaw, with a brief stop at Maud along the way. If you're going to take 500 pupils for a long walk, this traffic-free countryside is an ideal choice.

Maths teacher Anne McCavanagh organised the logistics and more than 50 colleagues accompanied the pupils along the way, with more staff providing back-up. It's a journey the school makes every year and money raised from sponsorship helps boost funds for school trips and activities.

French teacher Lynn Jex has reached Aden Country Park in good time: "It's been a great day and the kids have enjoyed taking part. Their behaviour's been very good and they've been really respectful of their surroundings," says Mrs Jex, well wrapped up in waterproofs and a wide-brimmed rain hat.

That's proved a sensible precaution, as the rain's beginning to come on a bit more seriously now, as the final groups are reaching the finish.

The entire Formartine and Buchan Way is a 53-mile route north from Dyce on the outskirts of Aberdeen through Ellon to Maud, where you can choose to head for Peterhead or Fraserburgh.

This event used to be held for first years during Activities Week, but it's been extended to second and third years and is held on the third day of a theme week in which pupils have focused on recycling and crafting new products from recycled materials.

"The beauty of the location of Aden Country Park is that it is on the old railway line, which provides a safe place for a large group of schoolchildren to walk," says organiser Mrs McCavanagh.

A couple of teachers have run the route with pupils and managed the 15 kilometres in just over an hour. "A lot of the young people weren't aware that slow and steady wins the race, so there was a lot of sprinting going on," says Ed Walton, principal teacher of performing arts.

Second-year pupil Jordi Walker is one of Aberdeenshire's most promising cross-country runners and was first pupil home in 1 hour 10 minutes. It's not a new record though, as one of the teachers, Marie Duthie, had a faster time last year.

"One of the good things about the last few days is that staff get to show a different side to themselves. And the kids get to see you in a different light," says Mr Walton.

It's not all about speed, though, and children get other opportunities to shine. They usually raise over pound;1,500 for school funds through sponsorship and the school recognises the most successful fundraiser.

But for many teenagers, finishing this route is sufficient reward. "It's been quite tiring, to be honest," says 15-year-old John Watt (S3). "The furthest I have walked is three miles and that took me four hours. That was from Fraserburgh to Rosehearty. So this an accomplishment for me."

John's feet are sore and he's unaccustomed to strenuous activity. "I sometimes do dancing and that's it. Then there's always switching the channels through the remote," he laughs.


Children in the north-east are regular visitors to Aden Country Park and the Aberdeenshire Farming Museum.

Last year, 55 schools visited it to enjoy nature trails and walks in more than 200 acres of parkland.

Fraserburgh Academy pupils made the most of the open space for picnics and football after their walk. More pupils will be back in a couple of weeks to camp for their Duke of Edinburgh expedition.

Senior curatorial assistant at the museum, Rosie Robertson, organises visits for schools on a range of themes to suit their needs. The museum and park are owned and managed by Aberdeenshire Council.

"They can see the farming machinery of bygone days, then see the farmworker's two-roomed cottage from the 1920s, before electricity and plumbing and sanitation," says Mrs Robertson.

"They can go to the working farm and see the 1950s two-storey farmhouse. There are guides at each area, so they help bring the items alive."

Teachers can use the hands-on education room and explore a range of different topics like the Victorians and Farming, and they can combine their visit to the museum with outdoor activities run by the Ranger Service, based at Aden Country Park.

The parkland is home to a wide range of wildlife and an access point for the Formartine and Buchan Way.

Aberdeenshire Farming Museum, Aden Country Park, Mintlaw, Peterhead AB42 5FQ; T 01771 624590; www.aberdeenshire.gov.ukmuseumsvisitlocationsfarming.asp; Aberdeenshire Ranger Service: T 01771 620132.

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