Related Links

Case study: How Stean Gorge

Date Posted: 19/08/2014

Venue: How Stean Gorge, Nidderdale, north Yorkshire
School: Leyburn Primary School, north Yorkshire
Number of pupils: 24
Key Stage: 2

A day filled with confidence inspiring challenges and intriguing legends was in store for pupils visiting a local geological landmark.

How Stean Gorge is a site of Special Scientific Interest and contains a maze of footpaths, caves and potholes that have been hollowed out of the limestone rock by the constant flow of water over thousands of years.

There are many tales about the area to captivate youngsters. Tom Taylor’s Cave is said to be named after one of the many highwaymen who used it as a hideout, and in 1868 a local boy discovered a hoard of Roman coins.

Today the gorge provides an inspirational day out or residential stay for schools, with activities including abseiling, gorge scrambling, caving and canoeing. It also has a via ferrata experience which has recently been extended.

Taking its name from the Italian iron way built for soldiers to traverse the face of mountains during the war, a network of metal cables, ladders and aerial walkways are used to traverse the gorge walls.

Claire Pearson, Year 6 teacher and educational co-ordinator, said: “Having prepared the children through their Literacy and Geography lessons, they had an idea of what they would see and experience. As they filed into the How Stean Gorge minibus the excitement began to bubble over. They chatted about what they were about to do - some with enthusiasm, others showed a little anxiety.”

With highly trained and experienced instructors who know how to build confidence, plus encouragement from fellow pupils, youngsters soon flourish and try their hand at new experiences and to their own abilities.

Claire said: “It was a day for thrills, spills and adventure. Previously I had described how they were going to step into nature, how they would wander with their friends along footpaths, negotiate wobbly bridges and venture through caves. How they would find out more about the Legend of Tom Taylor and make their way along the steep-sided gorge where water rushes over large rocks, constantly carving them into fantastic shapes.

“This was all before they put on their wetsuits, buoyancy aids and harnesses, and experienced the thrill as they abseiled into the gorge, gasping as the cold water hit them. They laughed, screamed, smiled and whooped as they followed the flow of the water that cascades down the gorge, and their experience ended with a leap into the plunge pool.”

The day was such a success that Claire went on to book a two-night residential stay for Year 4 students, which included canoeing, climbing, orienteering, hill walking and caving.

“The opportunities for links to the curriculum at How Stean are vast,” she said. “There is Geology, Science, History and Geography. Add in a bit of Literacy and Art and you have an eclectic mix - perfect for a themed cross-curricular unit of work once you return to school. 

"There is also the via ferrata, which provides a good launch pad for History lessons as well as an opportunity to take part in a unique activity. 

“From an organisational point of view, How Stean Gorge is brilliant. A pre-visit and detailed discussion with the head of education ensured every box was ticked and safety is clearly paramount. The children had an amazing day being able to experience something totally different.”

Useful contact:

How Stean Gorge:

School Travel Organiser's Guide