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PGL – The first school residential


My eldest daughter still raves about her time at PGL over three years ago. This week it was the turn of my 11-year-old twins to head off on a five-day adventure away from home; their first residential.

What is PGL?

There are many PGL venues up and down the country (my daughters went to Liddington). They are outdoor adventure holiday centres where children take part in a great programme of fun, physical activities designed to challenge them. Whilst they are encouraged to push themselves and achieve as much as possible, it’s ‘challenge by choice’ and no child is ever forced to take part. There are also Family Adventures.

PGL takes its name from the initials of Peter Gordon Lawrence, the man who started the company 60 years ago. However, it’s more ‘affectionately’ known by children to stand for Parents Get Lost!

What PGL promotes

Like with any residential trip, PGL is all about fostering independence. This was my twins’ first time away from home on their own. Whilst we talked through some of the decisions they’d need to make when there and I’d guided, ultimately they would make the final call (and from a few of the photos I’ve seen, advice on suitable clothing for particular activities was ignored!). The whole ethos is about giving it a go, challenging yourself, working together, supporting and encouraging each other and of course having fun.

Whilst my two took a few favourite items of clothing for evenings, this was never going to be a fashion parade and their usual preoccupation about their wardrobe was left at the door. They actually ended up wearing older clothes in the evenings as they were still doing outdoor activities like sitting around the campfire.

Preparing for PGL

PGL is all about getting stuck in. It’s outdoors, it’s physical and children will get wet as there are water-based activities (and there’s always the strong possibility of wet weather). With this in mind they need plenty of clothes that are comfy, don’t restrict movement and dry easily. Our school recommended packing enough clothes for seven days despite them only being there for four nights. Crucially, whatever the weather they need long sleeves and long bottoms to protect them when doing certain activities.

They take their own pillows and sleeping bags. It’s the UK, so suncream, wet weather gear and warm clothes can be required across the seasons!

Refreshingly no phones or electronic devices are allowed. My two love their phones and would cheerfully spend as many hours on them as possible. However, amazingly, they didn’t bat an eyelid at the news that they couldn’t take them. The prospect of adventuring and having fun with their friends threw iPhones out the window.

The activities

Jacob’s Ladder

Teams of three work together to help each other climb to the top of a suspended ladder of logs, which get progressively trickier to tackle as the rungs get further apart.


A problem-solving activity where teams work together to design and construct the most ‘seaworthy’ vessel. They then test them out in the water and that’s where the real fun begins!

The trapeze

Children climb high up and then manoeuvre onto a small platform from which they jump to catch the trapeze – this is a real leap of faith and requires a lot of courage.


The children learn how to paddle, steer and control their canoes and then in pairs take part in a number of games and challenges.

Zip wire

The children go on an exciting flight. It’s very high and takes many of the children out of their comfort zone. The anticipation is scarier than actually doing it I’m told.

The giant swing (or the death swing as the children call it)

I’ve seen the videos, this is like a theme park pirate ship ride (minus the ship). Two/three children sit in the swing whilst the others haul them up. They decide how high they want to go (up to a max of 10 metres). Then the team pulls their own ripcord and it’s chocks away. Very scary!

Vertical challenge

This is a vertical obstacle course including tyres, ropes, cargo nets and more. It teaches the children climbing and belaying skills. Co-operation and communication with teammates is vital.

Climbing wall

Children are taught climbing skills and gain knowledge of equipment. Perseverance is a must as they learn to tolerate heights.


Teamwork and navigational skills are required as is an understanding of environmental factors in order to build the best shelter suited to their surroundings.

Archery and archery tag

Children gain an understanding of the hazards as well as the techniques required for archery. Archery tag was ‘amazing’ and saw them split into two teams to battle it out, taking aim at their opponents with foam-tipped bows. Several war stories have been recounted.

Sensory trail

With eye goggles on, children navigate a series of obstacles relying on their teammates for help and guidance.

It was great to hear that all the children took part in all the activities even those that had initially been very nervous.

How I felt

I knew neither would be homesick so I didn’t have any concerns on that front. Obviously no phones meant no communication (they don’t have access to phones on site either). This initially seems very daunting as a parent, especially for one that has high daily levels of communication. The school posted lots of pictures on their Twitter account of the children taking part in activities, sitting down for meals and having fun with their friends. I quickly adjusted to the reduction in communication. Although this would have been very hard without any pics, if I’m honest, it was actually quite nice to get respite from Snaps and shared TikTok videos!

It was very strange cooking dinner for three instead of five and saying goodnight to just one child each evening. It was weirdly quiet in the house. I think if I hadn’t got work to occupy me it would have been extremely difficult.

In their absence there was a lot less running around as there wasn’t the usual roster of clubs. There was no rushing in the morning as there was no school run to do. It did also mean I spent more time with my eldest. We played cards, chatted more and watched scary films that we couldn’t have watched with the twins.

What they thought of PGL

They had an amazing time and raved about all of the activities, and loved the camaraderie and independence. They were absolutely shattered on their return, but so happy. Like their big sister, they will be talking about this experience for many years to come.

We would thoroughly recommend it!



About Author

I’m Fran: wife, mother-of-three and freelance publicist. My love for communicating and writing mirrors my passion for trying to be the best mum I can be. I love good food & wine, Italian culture and football and have a keen interest in personal finance. I also blog over on Epsom & Ewell Families and Habyts, and write sporadically for a number of other sites.

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