Day 4 – Battlefields and Rouen

Hi all, tonight was my evening off but I have just returned to a field of sweaty children who  look throughly puffed. The D.I.S.C.O is getting rave reviews from the boys who prior to the disco took all of 5 minutes to get changed. I made sure some of the boys showered tonight or tomorrow morning as some of those dorms are fairly whiffy. I gave one boys dorm a minus dorm point because their room smelt so bad – my reaction had one boy red faced with hysterics, I’m glad it made him giggle.

Today for coach 1 was The Battlefields and coach 2 had their tour of Rouen, we’ve been first into breakfast at 0730 every day this week which has made for some really prompt starts and we have truly got the most out of each day we have been here.

The Battlefields were great for coach 1 and as the first St Mary’s year to do this, it felt like a real bonus. We had lunch in a field by one of the museums and I think I was getting a little bored/stir crazy when I suggested rubbish bag sculpting as an after lunch activity to make sure all lunch waste was kept in their bags and not blown away. See below for a picture of one child’s effort at a bunny rabbit – maybe you had to be there.

We went to the wonderful monument at the Theipval memorial where children had to find the names of two soldiers on the monument to research at home, they really enjoyed going around the monument and I must have been told 50 times that they had a found a Powell on the inscriptions. It was all really pleasant and our guides ended with a minute’s silence to remember the fallen.

In the gift shop at Thiepval, one boy asked me if he should save Euros for the market tomorrow; he asked me what there was to buy there and I said ‘Oh just sunglasses, hats and jewellery.’ Upon hearing jewellery this boy promptly said ‘Can I get my nose pierced?’ – this did make me chuckle.

Coach 2 had a their tour around Rouen and marvelled at the skeletons buried beneath Rouen’s streets; the archaeological dig had clearly progressed since coach 1 went as now you could see skulls apparently. All children listened well and there are clearly some really keen historians in our group. They all seem to have such a wide knowledge base from the trips they do with their parents. They have been a credit to you.

This will be the last time I blog from France, keep an eye on Twitter for when we are back in the U.K and if there are any delays.

As ever, all children are happy and have had a really great week.

Mr Powell

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Day 3 P2 – Coach 2 with Mr Williams

Yet another early start and off, bright eyed and bushy-tailed, to a farm in a small village in the heart of Normandy where they make goats’ cheese. The children learn about the process of cheese making as well as experiencing walking with the herd of goats – it was quite amazing watching two herds, one dressed in blue hoodies, walking gently to the pasture and mingling together like long lost friends.

The children had the opportunity to taste goats’ milk and two different types of cheese made on the farm using that goats’ milk.  One cheese took less than a week to make but was beautifully creamy; the other was a little more mature as it took one month to make – both were beautiful and appreciated by all.

There were several other animals on the farm; chickens, a horse, cows and two dogs who decided to join us for lunch and ended up “borrowing”a baguette!

We then travelled back to the coach where we walked around Dieppe, saw some of the sights and found out more about the importance of Dieppe as a port throughout the ages but also in the WWII when a raid planned by Ian Fleming – yes, that Ian Fleming of James Bond fame – failed to secure their target of an Enigma coding machine that was supposedly held in Dieppe at the time.  The children re-enacted charging up the beach and realised very quickly how difficult it was, so stopped and made stone sculptures instead or had an ice-cream – much better!

Our final stop of the day was at the local apple farm in Criel where the children had an interesting time listening and learning about apple juice and cider production.  They tasted the organic juice but soon it was time to go home for tea and evening activities and play.

Time for bed, I think. Where is that cup of tea?

Mr Williams

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Day 3 – Dieppe, Cider Farm and The Goat’s Cheese Farm

Hi all, once again you find me sat outside three dorms  doing my usual routine of shhhing until little voices come to a stop. They have only really taken 15 mins or so to settle down so I can’t complain and by day 3 most are so tired that the pillow comes as a welcome relief.

Out first outing of the day was to Dieppe where we learnt about how some 1,800 British soldiers stormed the beaches only to meet their end at the hands of German machine gun fire, with the WW1 battlefields this is quite a sobering week for the children but empathising with those who fought in World Wars is a really important thing for children and they all listened intently to the stories their guides had to tell.

The goat’s cheese farm was also on today’s menu and the children got to go into the fields and pet the goats. Without prompt the children each adopted a goat and they were all given such names as ‘rub a dub dub’ – I asked once child why she went for that name and she said ‘it’s because it rubbed up against me’ – silly me for asking. Coach 1 are a real group of animal lovers and they were much more confident with goats than I was.

There was new baby kid born just last Friday and luckily it was in a little cage because 45 Year 6s descended on the poor thing as if it were a brand new toy. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be three days old and have a swarm of  eager Y6s wearing bright blue coming at you, I quickly checked the kid was ok and moved the children onto the section where Rosmarie, our guide, showed them how goat’s cheese is made.

Over at the girl’s side tonight, we once again are reaching new heights for dorm inspections and Mrs Turner has just sent me this about her dorms:

The girls surpassed themselves with their presentations. Along with marks for floor, beds, tidiness and any extra marks for good answering during the day each room devised some amazing shows involving rhyming couplets, gymnastics, mime, French conversation and some great singing and dancing. Singing included a variation on Be Our Guest and a version of Anne-Marie’s 2002. We had La petite cleaning crew who presented their pristine room. Actors appeared from behind curtains and doors in some impressively choreographed displays perfected in very little time. Rhymes include ‘Bienvenu we have prepared this room for you’ and one that would have made Michael Rosen proud rhyming corner with honour. The girls have brought their talents and creativity to the for and combined their talents with what they have experienced and learned here in France 🇫🇷 There is all to play for in dorm points as some girls have really upped their game.

It all sounds great fun and just reencforces in my mind just how good Aristocats will be with so many talented actors in our midst.

As ever, all children are happy and have just read their letters home, it’s always a nice moment and thank you all for writing.

Mr Williams is once again along the corridor from me and he is going to blog about coach 2’s day shortly whilst I make us a well earned cup of tea.

Mr Powell


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Day 2 – Part 2 – The Battlefields

I am just going to update you on the antics of Coach 2, who today travelled, for the first time, to the battlefields of the Somme.  It is the trip that Coach 1 will make on Thursday so there may be some spoilers for you Coach 1 parents.

It was a 8.30 start on the coach but that did not stop the singing of every song imaginable while we travelled to get to the Trench Museum in Albert.  The museum is totally underground, following a route under the centre ville – literally.  The museum helped the children understand the trials, tribulations and utter hardships that the soldiers from all nations went through during the Great War.  It was a mix of the ordinary and extraordinary and everyone was so impressed with the questions the children posed and interest they showed in the exhibits.

Lunch in the local park (no seagulls this time) then off to see the battlefields. It was poignant driving through the a beautiful countryside full of poppies.  The history of June 1st 1916, the Battle of the Somme (which was in fact many battles across a large area) was told through a series of visits to beautifully kept and respected war memorials, small and large, walks through trenches left from the time and a visit to the huge crater of Lochnagar created by a massive underground explosive charge that created a crater over 100 feet in depth.  The visit ended up at the Lutyens designed war memorial at Thiepval, which was a startling sight and where the children paid their respects in a beautifully observed minute of silence.

More songs and many card tricks later (some better than others – much like the singing!) and we were back in Creil settling down to an evening of dinner, games and eventually bed – a long but very informative and unforgettable day.

Mr Williams


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Day 2 – Part 1 – Rouen

Hi all, day 2 is drawing to a close and the children are just getting down to sleep after their evening activities of ‘mini-Olympics’, ‘scrapheap challenge’ and ‘mutation’ – the last one sounds a bit gruesome but it was basically a card game about werewolves – one child chose to ‘kill’ me when they were a werwolf – I pretended I wasn’t offended.

For coach 1, today was Rouen and for coach 2 they headed off to Albert to visit the WW1 battlefields. Our tour was well received by the children and when I asked them on the field later in the evening what they had learnt, they all came back with lots of interesting facts and figures.

One interesting moment occurred on our tour during a section on Joan of Arc (who met her end in Rouen)  when our tour guide asked the children if they knew who Joan of  Arc was and one chid said ‘yeh, they went two by two.’ The guide politely explained ‘that’s Noah’s Ark not Joan of Arc’ and then she asked me ‘what have you been teaching them?’ – sadly the national primary curriculum doesn’t cover The Hundred Years war – yet.

As we made our way around Rouen we came to the section on a burial pit for people who died of the black death, to our great surprise a local team of archaeologists were excavating some remains which was amazing for the children to see. I asked one of the archaeolgoists if they knew who the skeleton belonged to; they looked at me blankly and said the equivalent in French of ‘just some local guy’ – I guess if you ask a silly question….

As I write I have just had word from the girl’s side from Mrs Mackernan; she’s been doing her dorm inspections and as ever the girls have come up trumps in the creativity stakes. She has been given a French phrase book, had girls dancing out from beneath their beds and has even had a song about crepes. This is all with the aim of winning the coveted best dorm competition which is also under way at the boys side but we are still stuck on just shouting a motto for the ‘bonus’ category. Let’s hope for something more interesting tomorrow – I think I’ll ask for a World Cup based drama sketch from each dorm. I’ll let you know how it goes.

As ever, coach 1 had a great day and all children were happy.

Mr Williams is now going to blog about The Battlefields as he was with coach 2 after I pass my laptop over to him, he’s sat at the end of the boys corridor listening in for any late night chatter…

Mr Powell

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France – Day 1 – Part 2 – Nausicaa etc.

Hi all, I am currently pressing quietly on my keys as I sit outside dorm 51 on the boys side, I’ve done quite a bit of ssshhhing but after 10minutes or so they seem to be settling down after a busy day 1 of their school journey.

Mr Sadler is at the other end of the corridor where he has 10 boys in one dorm, good luck with that, he’s opting for the shhhhing tactic and he seems to be getting some joy.

Our crossing was as smooth as I’ve known it and we arrived promptly in France (just did another shhh towards dorm 52), it always surprises me how many children don’t realise that we ACTUALLY went under the sea to get here. As I said earlier it’s quite a throwback on the coaches and the girls behind me were engaging in some judging of each-others drawings, one drew a banana and one drew some cherries, they gave each other very nice concise written feedback on the drawings so I decided to join in and submit my own drawing of a ‘chochon’ or pig. The girls said I should have joined the ears to the head a bit better and the eyes were a bit funny – I don’t think I’ll submit another one.

Nausicaa was great once again and this year they have a brand new building for us to visit, it only opened in May and it houses the biggest tank in Europe. It’s fair to say it’s big, 60x30x8 to be precise and the tour ends with a spectacularly huge, immerse glass screen to children to marvel at. Despite this wonder, my group seemed happiest when they realised they were stood under fluorescent lights in the deep sea section, those wearing white started to glow and they were simply beside themselves with excitement – it’s the simply pleasures in life I guess.

Dinner tonight was savoury crepes to start, breaded fish and vegetables for main and chocolate eclairs for desert – the accompaniment for all of these fines courses was of course – baguette. I’m pretty sure even Napoleon’s army didn’t eat this much bread. The eclairs were a particular highlight and the diplomacy involved in deciding who gets a second one would put certain world leaders to shame.

I have now stopped my shhhhing and Mr Sadler is bravely leaving his post at the end of the 10 man dorm. I think, finally, they are asleep.

Tomorrow is visiting WW1 battlefields in Albert for coach 2 and Rouen for coach 1 so should be good fun.

As ever, all children are happy and it was a brilliant first day.

Mr Powell

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France Day 1 – Part 1 – We Have Arrived

Hi all, this is where you will find my daily blogs from France, we have just arrived in France and it’s been a really smooth journey.

We had some ‘seagull issues’ during lunch where Folkestone’s finest laid siege to our leftovers, a seagull is a pretty intimidating bird when you see one up close and judging from the girl’s screams – they clearly agreed.

Our crossing was all on time and we are in the capable hands of our coach drivers Malcolm and Andrew who have been superb so far. Coach one is brand new and I asked the children to guess its price, one boy suggested £10,000 which was about £240,000 short – he best get saving if he wants one for when he’s 17.

Things are quite oldy worldy on the coach (we even had a spontaneous rendition of ‘pack up your troubles in your old kit bag’) with travel monopoly and travel cluedo proving difficult to play with four players across two sets of seats, one girl said to me ‘It’s hard because the girls behind can’t see the board’ – you wouldn’t have this trouble with iPad app. Pass the Pigs is also getting an outing but it’s more like ‘lose the pigs under a seat’ – I haven’t seen any leaning jowlers yet.

As ever, all children are happy and are looking forward to Nausicaa aquarium which has been renovated/extended for 2018 so that should be a bonus.

Mr Powell

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our poem

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Day 4 – Criel Beach, Archery + Fencing, The Cider Farm and the Disco by Mr Brampton

So it’s Thursday evening and the children wait in in dry-mouthed anticipation for their final hurdle – the disco. The teachers’ emotions verge more towards fear!

A beautiful day it has been once again, ideal for the day’s main event which was the trip to Criel-sur-mer beach where activities ranged from the more traditional (Mr Williams’ sandcastle building) to the more sporty (football, basketball).

The day started off however with archery and fencing at the chateau in which the children learned the difference between the blunt and sharp end of a foil (plastic ones just to reassure you) and how to hit quite a large target from 10 yards (not always achieved by both children and staff).

This afternoon, in an activity-packed day, we visited the cider farm, where we were schooled in the ways of producing cider and eau de vie (some of us took copious mental notes). It is a truly idyllic environment. The children sat under apple trees and willow trees as they learned the ins and outs of fermentation and distillation.

The competition for ‘top dorm’ is coming to its climax as I type as I hear Drill Sergeant Powell doing his rounds to be greeted by some truly imaginative mottos and performances, some involving re-writing of pop songs and even opera.

Now later in the evening, the children are bedding down for the night – no doubt ready to dream of running into the arms of their parents who have missed them so much 🙂

See you all tomorrow.

Mr Brampton



Hi all, this will be our last blog, keep your eye on Twitter for our journey home details – I will Tweet when we are amongst the green, green grass of home 🙂

Mr Powell

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Day 3 – Rouen

Hi all, we have just come from dinner at the end of a busy day here in Criel Sur Mer, the children are currently enjoying French games and mini olympics as I write. The last I saw was children trying some very strange methods at moving a large football between their knees from one end of the field to the other – some were jumping energetically and others were walking like they had cramp. I must say I did chuckle when I saw the variety of techniques on show.

Dinner was a lovely salad followed by some spicy merguez sausages (which are a real barbecue favourite here in France) and the children didn’t seem to miss the good old British banger too much. Pudding was a real treat; some Normandie apple tart – but to my surprise quite a few of the children turned it down – unbelievable!

This was not the case for all of our tourists however…….one child was left behind as the children left for their field games as he was devouring his second, then third slice of delicious tarte. When finally finished, he took a deep breath and walked uneasily to the door escorted by his group leader. He even made him stop so he could take a swig of water to wash it down. I certainly can’t picture this child currently taking an active role in mini olympics 🙂

Tonight also saw the second of our daily dorm inspections, highlights from the girls include a quiz show drama set-up where a not so bright contestant bribed the quiz master to win – I guess for the class of 2017 – money talks.

The girls dorms are all named after French deserts and one amusing moment was when the ‘crepe’ dorm introduced themselves loudly as a different sounding word that rhymes with rap. ‘we are the crepe dorm!’ they announced proudly – cue giggling from Mr Williams.

On the boys side, we had a very energetic and borderline disturbing Haka, it was odd to see such a vehement Haha at just 07:30 in the morning. I asked that same dorm to perform me a Star Trek based drama for tomorrow as their motto is ‘live long and prosper’ – which is a lovely motto for a week where so many of the children seem to be prospering so much.

Following on from yesterday’s 27-a-side 6P vs 6W football match, we were mercifully down to 16 a-side today and I’m sorry to say 6P were once against on the losing side. Despite my encouragement we seem a little vulnerable on the counter – but I’m not letting it get to me 🙂

Earlier in the day our big trip was to the beautiful city of Rouen where children were taken on a brilliant tour led by the brilliant staff here at the Chateau. In the spirit of our Chinese democracy conversations from yesterday we had some very inquisitive questions from one child in Mrs Turner’s group. He became very preoccupied with whether France was a Roman catholic country and then which other countries had a predominantly Roman Catholic population – I’m assuming this made for an interesting sidetrack to the young guide’s normal, historical tour of the stunning cathedral.

Rouen also bought our first visit to the market and as ever there were some funky purchases, we had children buying all sorts from overpriced fidget spinners to beauty products from Lush for their parents – lucky you if that ends up being your gift!

One amusing moment came from one child who couldn’t believe that Lush and Claire’s accessories were the ‘same as in Kingston!’ – what a small world we live in ay. Conversely, one child in my class couldn’t believe their luck when they were able to pick up Grape flavour Fanta and Dr Pepper ‘cola’ bottle sweets – apparently these are rarer than giant pandas in Twickenham – so they were delighted – obviously 😉

Tomorrow is archery, fencing, cider farm, Criel beach, team tech and the….DISCO!

As ever, all children are happy and are squeezing every last drop out of this busy week!

Mr Powell

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