Set on the beautiful Swan River, Guildford Grammar School is blessed with grounds that are the envy of every other school in the state. What is not so well known is that the School has a campsite, Stronghills, in the Avon Valley. The land at Stronghills is a mixture of steep hills, thick forest and open country alongside the Avon River and bordering the Avon Valley National Park. It has a large permanent freshwater dam and a seasonal creek that provide an outstanding learning environment for our students.
For a number of years now, the School has had access to Stronghills on a year-to-year basis. Eighteen months ago, a long-term lease was secured which allows the School to develop the location further. Stronghills has, for a number of years, been the base for the Year 7, 8, and 9 camps, and for our cadet bivouacs. The Year 7 camp is completely contained on the property, the Year 8 students undertake most of their activities on site then venture further afield on mountain bikes to some of the adjacent land, and the Year 9 students commence their camp close to Toodyay, making their way back to the School by hiking, mountain biking and canoeing. Along the way, they stay at Stronghills for some fun activities such as playing laser tag in the bush. The Cadets have made regular use of the area for navigation, bush craft, survival skills and abseiling. In addition to these camps, a number of Parents and Kids, and Father and Son weekend camps are held throughout the year, allowing the parents and students to spend some fun, quality time together. Last year, in October, we held the P & F Family Picnic Day, the first of what we hope to be an annual event. This allowed families to have a fun time together in a great setting.
The Preparatory School are regular visitors to Stronghills. The Kindy, Pre-Primary and Year 1 students have had fun exploring the creek and finding out more about the natural environment. The Year 6 students have had a number of visits where they have concentrated on their ability to work in teams. The Year 5 students have had some fun sessions of archery and games, and the Outdoor Recreation group have been refining their canoeing skills. Sporting squads such rugby and rowing have complemented their pre-season training with activities based at Stronghills. Senior School subjects, such as Year 11 Biology, have made use of Stronghills as an outdoor classroom. Last year the Senior School staff based one of their Professional Development days at the campsite.
Stronghills is a fantastic location, but what do we do there? Well, simply put, a lot. This ranges from canoeing, kayaking, rafting and swimming on the dam, to mountain biking around the many tracks and trails on the property, including a new single-track mountain bike trail. We have a permanent orienteering course set up across the property, a low ropes course, many and varied interactive activities plus hiking, sightseeing, archery and a whole lot more.
With the long-term lease now in place, more can be done at Stronghills. In the past twelve months a great deal has changed. Old machinery and equipment have been removed along with kilometres of old fencing. A boat shelter has been built for our canoes as has storage for the mountain bikes. The first stage of the mountain bike track and the low ropes course have been constructed. The plan over the next few years is to replace three road bridges on the property, develop some dormitory accommodation, upgrade the current toilet facilities, as well as constructing a high ropes course, abseiling tower/climbing wall and a flying fox. This will take time, but hopefully each time a group goes to Stronghills they will see that something new has been built or some improvement made.
Mr Peter Ashby
Director of Outdoor Education
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