Adventurer and cameraman Leon McCarron delivered a talk to pupils at St Swithun’s school last week as part of the school’s academic enrichment programme. Leon is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and specialises in self-supported expeditions. He spoke about his latest and most challenging adventure, during which he trekked 3000 miles across China whilst filming a documentary for National Geographic about the journey (www.walkinghomefrommongolia.com).
Beginning in the winter of 2011 he set off from the Northern edge of the Gobi desert in Mongolia and walked south for six months, arriving in Hong Kong at the end of May 2012. During his journey he encountered snow blizzards at -30C in the desert, followed the banks of the frozen Yellow River, camped under the shadow of the Great Wall of China, and taught himself to speak Mandarin Chinese in what was a truly unforgettable adventure.
The girls were enthralled by his tales of adventure and how to escape unharmed from snakes and bears. Their questions ranged from how he kept himself occupied during the endless hours of walking to how it was possible to charge his camera whilst crossing the desert.
Upper sixth pupil Clare Symons said ‘It was inspiring to listen to the enthusiasm and pride with which Leon spoke of the challenges he had completed in his life, although it did make me feel slightly ashamed for considering my Gold Duke of Edinburgh expedition quite so difficult. One of the benefits of the academic enrichment programme, which has been introduced this year, is that we have the opportunity to hear from a wide range of external speakers which broadens our horizons.’
The academic enrichment programme at St Swithun’s is for all pupils, with girls in Years 7-9 following a programme of activities such as astronomy, thinking skills, experimental art, discovering the news and the great egg challenge while girls from Years 10-13 have a choice of courses including ethics and science, Socratic discussion and UK political issues. The programme includes regular lectures from outside speakers.