Action-packed weekend in North Wales...
THERE was no sitting back and taking it easy during our recent free weekend.
The Saddlers’ players and staff packed their walking boots and thermals and headed for the North Wales countryside.
Staying in the Capel Tanrallt Holiday Home, a converted former chapel situated in the tiny village of Capel Curig in the heart of Snowdonia, both players and staff were put through their paces in no uncertain terms.
The adventure began at 7.30am on a dark, cold morning in Essington as two minibuses left the Training Ground and headed for the hills.
After a breakfast pit-stop along the way, the first challenge upon arrival was to decide who slept where. There were single beds, bunk beds and mattresses on the floor for the unfortunate ones! Names were drawn out of a hat to ensure a fair competition.
A planned hike up Mount Snowdon had to be shelved due to snowfall the previous day which left the terrain too dangerous to tackle, so instead a slightly smaller nearby mountain was chosen, all 730 metres of it!
Due to Jon Whitney’s map reading and compass skills – or rather lack of skills – a two-hour hike turned into a five-hour ramble over barbed-wire fences, through fast-flowing streams, muddy fields and steep climbs before, eventually, the summit was reached.
It’s fair to say that there were a few concerned looks as darkness started to fall, but with Whitney redeeming himself at the front, a much quicker and safer retreat was made.
Back at base, manager, Dean Smith was cooking up a storm in the kitchen, making Spaghetti Bolognaise for 30, which was devoured by his weary troops as they finally made it home in one piece.
The evening was spent playing pool, table football and various card games as well as a quiz, which ended in controversy due to the answers to some of quizmaster, Richard O’Kelly’s questions being, shall we say, dubious!
Before lights out at midnight, Sam Mantom was crowned pool Champion, Ashley Hemmings and Connor Taylor took the table football honours and Aaron McCarey and Andy Butler came out top of the class in the card school. The quiz was declared null-and-void as the debate about whether a monkey was indeed the first animal into space rumbled on.
The second day started bright and early in readiness for gorge walking.
After filling the tank with breakfast, the players headed to a nearby valley where they donned wetsuits and safety helmets before being divided up into three groups of ten.
A two and-a-half-hour gorge walk stood before them, which involved finding their way across ravines, going under water, climbing up ropes and rocks until making a dramatic plunge jump into freezing cold water at the top.
To a man, everyone completed the challenge – and perversely everyone found it great fun! There were a few fallers along the way, but thankfully nothing too serious and the whole group were back in the minibuses and travelling home by early evening to complete a memorable couple of days.
“It was something different,” said manager, Dean Smith. “It allowed us to get away from the football environment for a time and do some team bonding.
“Everyone had an enjoyable time and it was the opportunity for us to revitalise and get ready for the challenges that lie ahead.
“Only time will tell as to how beneficial it was, but it was certainly a worthwhile way to spend our free weekend.”
By his own admission, tricky winger, Jamie Paterson was a little apprehensive ahead of the trip but returned with a spring in his step having thrown himself into it. “It was very, very cold,” he said. “But, to be fair, it was a really good laugh out there.
“It was nice to go away somewhere different and do some activities that we haven’t really done before.
“We also found it beneficial to have something other than football to think about and it was really good for team spirit whilst at the same time keeping us fit and healthy.”