Bideford College students visit Freshspring for ‘Enrichment Week’

Over the course of a week in March, 250 Year 8 students from Bideford College spent a day on the SS Freshspring moored alongside Bideford Quay as part of their ‘Enrichment Week’. Students walked down to Victoria Park from the college and split their day between activities in the park and onboard the ship. The weather was glorious and the week was a fantastic success, with students taking it in turn to learn about different aspects of life at sea.

‘Morse Mike’, a retired radio operator, demonstrated the use of a Morse key, giving the students an introduction to how Morse was developed and used.  Students had the chance to create their own messages and send them to friends in a different part of the ship. Needless to say, this provoked much hilarity and several misunderstandings. We were very glad not to be relying on Morse messages to communicate our location today, as it may have led to some of us being left stranded for some time! A big thank you to Mike for teaching the students, your skill did not go unnoticed, “Mike is so fast at sending Morse. He is awesome!”


Laurence (from Radventures Outdoors) set up a climbing activity for the students, who took it in turns to haul each other up the ship’s mast.  This was a fantastic opportunity for team building and an exercise in trust. Several students who were adamant that they would not go up decided to have a go, with some continuing right to the top and others testing their own limits by lifting a short distance off the floor and coming back down again. All attempts were applauded and the students encouraged and supported one another. One student found the experience extremely rewarding, “I’m not afraid of heights anymore!”


Visiting the engine room was a highlight for some students. They were fascinated to see inside an engine room and to be able to find out how the engineer and the captain were able to communicate using the telegraph.  For the more technically minded, finding out how a triple expansion steam engine worked kept them interested and our tour guides on their toes.  Seeing how the captain lived was an eye opener too – no luxurious cabins on the Freshspring!


The Freshspring virtual reality film was a big hit throughout the week. The students enjoyed the experience of using the Oculus headsets to explore what life would have been like on the ship in the ‘50s and to ‘embark’ on a journey to Malta in the company of members of the crew.  Some students recognised our resident stoker/mast shaper/ship manager as a star of the film and requested an autograph…

As part of the week’s events, students were completing a textile project in school and this involved making a bag from recycled sails.  We combined this project with an on board rope making activity. Students were able to work together to make pieces of rope which they then took back to school to use as handles for their tote bags.  Finding out about the history of rope making and linking this to Rope Walk in Bideford added to the relevance of this activity. The expressions of the students as the magic happened and the strands became rope was worth all the twisted yarn and balls of frayed fibres!

A big thank you to all the volunteers, trustees, teachers and students who made the week a resounding success; “the children haven’t stopped talking about the ship since the trip”, with one student exclaiming that “this is the best school trip ever!” If you’d like to find out how your school or community group can get involved with Freshspring, then please contact us at