I didn’t think team bonding exercises were supposed to be like this. I thought maybe build a raft out of plastic bottles or construct a bridge out of paperclips, but never this. I can't see what practical application living rough in the woods for three days will have in the marketing and communications department of a food manufacturer.
The minibus that collected us was really plush, none of this chewing gum on the seats or fag burns from a hen party you sometimes see. It headed for the Forest and Marcia said she knew of this lovely lodge place, so we thought it must be there. Even the sign pointing to it was elegant and well-tended, so I began to wonder whether in leggings and overshirts I might be under-dressed.
The minibus carried on past the turning Marcia knew, so we thought maybe it was another way in or she’d forgotten the route or something, but it carried on for a few miles before indicating down a path that narrowed to barely the width of a car. At the bottom of the track was a clearing, where the driver stopped. Without a word he climbed down from the front, unloaded all of our luggage, shooed us off the bus and reversed back up the track.
There we were, six marketing and PR professionals, abandoned at least twelve miles from the nearest wine bar or shoe shop, without a pitch or a storyboard between us. Marcia said she was watching out for Ant and Dec but I said I’m not peeing in a plastic bucket or washing in a stream, not even for the cheeky Geordies.
So we waited. We decided it must be some stunt or a practical joke, and that if we stayed put, eventually they would get tired of waiting for us to struggle with our bags, back along the track and up to Marcia’s lodge.
The darkness fell much more quickly with no light pollution. Things rustled and shook and looked funny when the moon came out from behind a cloud. And by then we had to continue being stayed put because it was too dark to see a way back anywhere. Nobody was coming. We had been left to fend for ourselves. We had no food, no mobile signal from any network, major or smaller, no shelter. We could have died out there. Died.
At first light we set off, three of us to get help, three to stay with the luggage. It was the longest twelve miles I’ve ever walked. In fact, the only twelve miles I’ve ever walked, certainly consecutively. My David came back with our estate and I rang Marcia’s Richard to fetch her because she said her gout wouldn’t let her walk that far, so she stayed on guard with my things as well as her own.
I’ll never forget it, never. I don't think any of us will. In time, it may give us a commercial edge to our work. But I need more time and distance from it. I think we all do.