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Child's play grows up.

Byline: By Jo and Meredith Benson

If the success of an activity holiday can be judged by the amount of dirt a child returns home with, my daughter's trip to PGL was a triumph.

The evidence was found when emptying her suitcase ( sodden clothes, odd socks, sweetie wrappers and several acres of Shropshire soil were all that remained of an action-packed week full of midnight feasts and adrenalin rushes.

And of course, further proof was there in the glow of Meredith's cheeks, the smile on her face and the twinkle of achievement in her eyes.

Bursting with tales of adventures and derring-do, she describes her holiday like this: "Two words sum up my trip to PGL: totally awesome. It's a bit like Big Brother, but without the evictions! After getting to know my new housemates (I was in a room with five other girls of my age), we dived straight into action, taking to the green fields surrounding Boreatton Park on quad bikes.

"Dismounting our bikes, we set off for an afternoon of orienteering, which is a great way of quickly exploring the site.

"The giant swing was the highlight of my holiday. Pull the rope and you're off on an unforgettable ride above the treetops. Super scary but also a blast!

"The next day brought the thrill of the zip wire and the low ropes, before we all turned into Robin Hoods as we took our bows and arrows to the archery arena.

"I loved messing about on the water. We paddled our canoes up the river, gathered together, stood up, sang songs and just in case anyone was still dry, jumped into the water.

"A few days later, we were let loose in kayaks, with more standing, singing, jumping in and washing for mum. Back to the range, but this time we were armed, as I tried my best impression of Annie Oakley during rifle shooting. Bullseye! We also became swashbuckling heroes as we tried our hand at fencing.

"It's amazing how much you can pack into seven days, as I remember the buzz of abseiling, Jacob's ladder, aero ball, dodge ball, trampolining and the puzzle park.

"In the evenings, we played life-size games of Cluedo or Monopoly. During 'Show Night', the boys got in touch with their feminine sides as they dressed as girls and we became boys for the evening. Wickedly funny! The one bit of television I saw all week was the film Nanny McPhee, which we all watched in our pyjamas together on Video Night.

"There were some tearful farewells when we left. I made friends from across the country and have some great memories. I would go back to PGL at the drop of a paddle."

Meredith and her group were cared for by two excellent, young members of staff, who (I am reliably informed) were "really cool". To this anxious parent, they also appeared mature and responsible.

Her home for the week was Lapwing, a redwood lodge, with three double bunks and en suite, in the Tall Timbers development at Boreatton. On inspection of her lodgings at the end of her stay, my apologies go to the cleaning team. Six girls plus seven days plus one room equals one hell of a mess. Mucking out one of the many pony stables at the centre would have been a pleasure in comparison.

It's easy to see why more than 200,000 children attend a PGL outdoor education course, activity holiday, cultural tour or ski trip every year. With 28 centres across this country, France and Spain, the company celebrates 40 years of business in 2007. It's a great place for a child to safely stretch their young wings on the flight to independence.

Known among the younger generation as Parents Get Lost, PGL is in fact the initials of the company's founder, Peter Gordon Lawrence. The first PGL trips, led by Peter, were canvas and canoe holidays along the River Wye in the Welsh Borders.

Peter died in 2004, but his legacy continues. Parents who enjoyed PGL as children are now sending their own sons and daughters to taste the great outdoors, courtesy of the firm.

Today, parents no longer have to get lost, with Family Active holidays offered in eight of PGL's UK sites and four in France. So if you were deprived of the PGL phenomenon as a child, there's a second chance.
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Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 9, 2006
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