Headteacher's six-week trek across Morocco's Atlas mountain range
PUBLISHED: 10:24 30 September 2018
Lynda Corry was six hours into her trek across the spine of the Atlas mountains in Morocco when she was left to fend for herself.
Lynda, who is today interim head at Princess Helena College near Hitchin, had been inspired by explorer and travel writer Wilfred Thesiger to trek across the spine of the mountain range that stretches across north Africa.
The route, through hills and villages without running water or electricity, started with a three-day bus trip – which Lynda sought to cover faster by hiring a taxi.
But six hours in, the taxi broke down and, as dusk fell, the driver abandoned her.
“These were the days without mobile phones, without any way of finding help when you are left stranded in a remote mountain location,” said Lynda.
She was found by an old shepherd who took for in for the night, and the next day she started a six-week journey with the shepherd’s son – travelling across the country on foot alongside a mule carrying her bag.
This journey of the unknown saw her staying in animal shelters and communicating through hand signals and drawings she still has recorded on notepads. They ate what they caught on the way.
Six weeks later, Lynda arrived safely at Telouet and was able to contact her family.
“I knew what I had to do and how I had to survive,” said Lynda. “But, had I not been rescued by the shepherd I don’t know what would have become of me.
“It’s through adventures like this that test your inner strength, call upon the resilience and character you learn at school and give you the skills and confidence to sort yourself out and enjoy the adventure rather than taking the temptation to curl up in ball and avoid taking any action.
“Now, I’m not saying I want every boy and girl at Princess Helena College to have to go through something this dangerous and difficult. But I know that my experience made me stronger throughout my adult life. And it all came down to what I had learnt at school, the self-confidence I had developed and the resilience I knew I had within me to get through it.
“That’s what a good education is all about – at least as much as exam results and subject knowledge.”
Lynda is to spend the next year preparing for when the independent girls’ school in Preston opens its doors for boys in September 2019.
Having spent almost 20 years as head at Sherrardswood School in Welwyn Garden City, she has the experience to oversee this period of change – but she says the education and care boys need will not be very different from what the school already offers its girls.
“Every child these days wants and needs that combination of subject-based academic learning and exciting, fun and challenging enrichment whether through sport, the arts, IT or performance,” she said.
“We’ve always taken great care to get that balance right.”
The opening of Princess Helena College to boys at Year 7 and in sixth form will be accompanied by reforms including the introduction of rugby, football and cricket – but Lynda said this would not be instead of what the girls already enjoy.
“Every subject, sport, activity and opportunity will be open to boys and girls,” she said.
“We have always been known for our excellent pastoral support – caring and nurturing each of our pupils to become better and happier individuals.
“These may be softer skills but they are as relevant to boys as girls – and they are proving very popular with all the families we are talking to who want to send their boys to us.
“But likewise, we have never underestimated how much girls relish the opportunities to develop their more adventurous side.”
In Lynda, the school has a leader who knows well the attraction of what might in past generations have been deemed a ‘Boy’s Own’ adventure.