Young people from the West Midlands have been warned of the dangers of pursuing their Duke of Edinburgh awards in the Shropshire hills following an increasing number of inadequately-prepared children becoming lost.
The warning has been made by a retired teacher who runs an education centre on the picturesque Long Mynd.
Anne Oakes-Jones, who taught in schools across the West Midlands, said one group of 15-year-olds from a school in Birmingham recently arrived in short-sleeved T-shirts despite several days of severe frost and snow showers.
She said: “It’s a very different world out here and I am just concerned that young people from these towns in the West Midlands aren’t aware of the dangers and don’t know where they are.
“It has been an increasing trend over the last two or three years of more and more children getting lost.”
Anne, who runs the Threshold Centre at the northern end of the Long Mynd, near Picklescott, said they had an emerging pattern of children from the West Midlands visiting the Shropshire hills to do their Duke of Edinburgh totally unprepared.
“They can’t map-read but, even worse, they are inadequately clothed.
“We had one group of 15-year-olds recently from a school in the middle of Birmingham.
“We had had four days of severe frost and snow showers, and a keen wind, but these children were wearing T-shirts without sleeves and no waterproof clothing, with one map among ten and their route on a piece of tracing paper.
“They were following the Shropshire Way but they were two miles off the path even though it is signposted.
“Fortunately we were here but they were lucky to find us.
“Increasing numbers are turning up at our education centre saying ‘where are we?’
“It gets up to 1,400 feet in the hills and the climate changes very quickly. There were snowflakes the other day and we can have snow right up until the end of April. We are getting very concerned for the safety of these kids.”
She said that she used to run Duke of Edinburgh award schemes when she taught in the West Midlands but added that children were better prepared then than they are now. “Fortunately, they usually end up with us and we then have to go out and find their teachers,” she said. “There are dangers that I don’t think people fully realise.
“And it is no good relying on mobile phones because they don’t work in these hills. That is the big, big problem.”
Anne said the weather threat was not just confined to the cold, snow or rain.
“The Air Ambulance has had to be called out in the past because of the heat.
“The children could be walking around for hours in the heat getting more and more lost.
“Walkers should always be equipped with suitable warm or waterproof clothing, water, especially if it’s hot, and a good laminated map with the route clearly marked.”