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Prize-winning pupils learn the art of survival


10 November 2006 - A dozen lucky children from across Britain have graduated as survival experts this week as their map-reading skills earned them a day learning bushcraft skills with survival expert and television presenter Ray Mears.

The pupils learnt navigation and bushcraft techniques during the day hosted by the World of Survival presenter at a secret forest location in Sussex.

The children won their survival day as the top prize in a national competition linked to Ordnance Survey’s Free maps for 11-year-olds scheme. It is one of the largest educational resource initiatives of its kind, with up to 750,000 pupils benefiting from a gift of a detailed OS Explorer Map each year.

“The day was a fitting prize for the twelve pupils, who won the competition by answering questions about map reading and describing how they use their free Ordnance Survey map,” says Ordnance Survey’s Sharron Ward. “I can well believe that the day was a life-changing experience for some of the kids. Ray Mears is an inspiration and is passionate about map-reading skills and caring for and understanding the environment.”

Ray’s love of the outdoors started as he was growing up in Southern England on the North Downs, where he discovered countryside abundant with wildlife. Now he wants youngsters to use their free maps from Ordnance Survey to experience the same thrill as he did when he went exploring.

Ray Mears says: “My passion for the outdoors really began as a child. Looking for adventure, I remember setting off with a compass and my first ever Ordnance Survey map, relishing the freedom these tools offered me. Giving youngsters a map of their own gives them the opportunity to do what I did: get out there and explore while learning vital navigation skills.”

The day involved a navigation skills workshop where Ray Mears showed the children how to work out a map grid reference. This was followed by a demonstration in the depths of the forest, where Ray showed how to mimic the deer mating call – even attracting a buck to turn around and stare at the group of children. The children learnt to light a fire using only raw materials, douse the fire using water from a river and leave the area as they had found it without a trace of their exploits. A question-and-answer session gave the children further insight to Ray’s adventures around the world.

One of the prizewinners, Louis Alberry from Swanage in Dorset says,“This was the most fantastic day of my life. The day was amazing, I learnt so much. I’ve always watched Ray Mears programmes on TV and have been interested in bushcraft for a long time so actually meeting Ray was incredible.”

Sharron Ward says, “Ray Mears was very impressed with the children’s map-reading skills and enthusiasm, and I think he enjoyed the day as much as they did. It was fortunate that, as part of the prize, we had given the children appropriate clothing and walking boots, as by the end of the day they were covered in mud. Some of the kids had never been out of the city environment, but all enjoyed the experience and went home keen to discover more of the countryside and put their newly found navigation skills to the test.”

This is the fifth year of Ordnance Survey’s Free maps for 11 year-olds scheme with over 3 million maps already distributed to British schoolchildren. The children themselves keep the OS Explorer Map of their local area – they can take them home and benefit from having it with them at all times. Further information on the scheme is available on the Ordnance Survey website


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