Mountain Rangers, a non-profit organisation run by a group of volunteers, teaches essential outdoor skills to young people from its base camp of Wood End First School, Stantonbury, Milton Keynes.
Every week, a small yet qualified and enthusiastic team of outdoor instructors, provide 10 to 17-year olds the knowledge and skills they need to embark on memorable adventures in the great outdoors.
Mountain Rangers are taught absolutely everything; from the art of navigation, expedition skills, outdoor first aid and weather law, to basic bush craft, shelter building and the safe use of axes and knives. They also get hands on with starting fires and cooking up a treat or two – carefully supervised by the Mountain Rangers leaders of course.
As it’s a small group (and certainly one of its kind at that), all monies received in subs, camp fees and grants are used solely for the benefit of the group. The leaders explain that it’s imperative the Mountain Rangers have access to the correct equipment and kit when they are taken on overnight hikes, camps and excursions into the UK’s wild places. On these excursions they face the true test of the mountain and the Rangers can take their learnings from weekly sessions and truly put them into practice.
Each Wednesday and Friday evening, the Mountain Rangers team welcome boys and girls from 10 to 17 years of age, who each bring along a bottle of water and clothing suitable for indoor and outdoor activities. Apart from that, all they’ll need is to make the most of fantastic experiences on offer, make new friends and have plenty of giggles!
On Wednesday 18 July, on a slightly warmer evening with just a few threatening clouds, we (Rohan) joined the Mountain Rangers for a bumper session of games, fire lighting, shelter building, hammocking and knife work. The leaders brought both groups together who confidently displayed the skills they’ve gained over weeks gone by. With a variety of activities happening at the same time, there was plenty to observe!
When we arrived, we were greeted by devoted Mountain Rangers leader Dave Quinn. He introduced us to his leader troop and we helped gather up the goods (including a box full of marshmallows which we were quick to spot!) for a fun evening of mountain skills.
We brought with us an overflowing box of donated kit which included essential waterproofs and fleeces. It may have been an exceptionally hot summer, but we know these will be put to good use by the Mountain Rangers on their expeditions and camps. The children’s faces lit up when they saw the gear and one enthusiastic Ranger shouted: ‘They’re donated…free?! That’s AMAZING!’
As we made our way through the school playground to the field, we were presented with a number of ‘stations’ including a fire pit surrounded by wood logs for seats, a tent pitch area, more woodland seating for knife skills and an area dotted with flags for learning the art of navigation. With this level of organisation, planning and attention to detail, we immediately recognised the immense passion and dedication of the team for what they do.
The group of various ages began to emerge. They were confident and raring to go and from the get-go there was a heart-warming ‘feel good factor’ about this place. As they kicked off with a high-paced game of what Dave called ‘Fresh’, we spoke with leader Emma about Gift Your Gear and the importance of the initiative to beneficiaries such as Mountain Rangers.
She explained that although sessions are just £3 to attend, when the group plans excursions in the Lake District for instance, the youngsters require kit that’s going to do the job when the heavens open and when the chill picks up on the peaks. But this kit doesn’t come cheap, especially highly technical kit, and this means costs can soon tot up for families to send their sons and daughters on these adventures.
That’s where Gift Your Gear comes in.
Dave Quinn is a qualified Mountain Leader, Outdoor First Aid Instructor, Climber (SPA & CWI trained) and passionate Hill Walker. He has a teaching qualification and an enhanced DBS (CRB).
A keen Scout in his youth and Duke of Edinburgh participant, Dave has always had a love of the outdoors. He enjoys low level walks through fields and woodland but also bigger expeditions and adventures in the Peaks, Lakeland Fells and the Scottish mountains. For the last 5 years he’s been working towards his karate black belt!
“I’m hoping, with Mountain Rangers, I can give the children the enthusiasm to explore the great outdoors. With time, Mountain Rangers will acquire the skills and knowledge to be able to take to the UK’s wild places with confidence and have experiences that will stay with them all their lives.
“The generosity shown by Rohan customers as part of the Gift You Gear initiative has been amazing. Mountain Rangers have been so fortunate to receive an enormous box of high-quality clothing and equipment. Making sure the children have the right clothing and equipment to be safe in the mountains is paramount to us. The donation from Rohan has enabled us to make sure all the children are properly equipped and can participate fully in our adventurous activities.”
Richard’s passion for the great outdoors began when he was younger, spending his time venturing out into the woods exploring and enjoying freedom on his BMX. He’s supported his local Scout group and went on to complete the Bronze and Silver Award Duke of Edinburgh scheme at school.
He's also been involved in Beavers and Cubs, volunteering as a scout leader, helping children to gain more confidence and overcome fears through different activities.
“My aim with this group is to try to give the young people of today the same opportunities as I had when I was young, which I believe is what played a big part in shaping the person I have become today. I believe every young person out there has the ability to do great things and hopefully, Mountain Rangers will be the stepping stone to their next adventure.”
Emma is a qualified Level 3 Forest School Leader who runs weekly sessions throughout the year, whatever the weather. She hopes to instil a respect for the environment and a love of nature.
She also works as a Teaching Assistant, with a particular interest in Special Educational Needs (SEN) and Speech and Language. Emma’s been working with children and young people for the past 20 years in many different settings.
When it comes to her own outdoor pursuits, Emma is a keen hill walker who enjoys the challenge of endurance walking of up to 40 miles in a day! She particularly loves mountain walking and have enjoyed many adventures trekking in the Peak District, Scotland and Wales.
“Through Mountain Rangers I hope to inspire children and young people to develop their skills and enthusiasm to take on their own walking challenges in the mountains.”