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‘We ate nettles and used urine to cook breakfast.’

BGSA Ultimate Team Challenge group

Michelle Chenery lives to tell the story of the very first Ultimate Team Building Course at the Bear Grylls Survival Academy.

‘Bear’ Grylls, British adventurer and TV presenter, has a new addition to his Survival Academy. It is the Ultimate Team Building Course teaching the corporate world how to work smarter not harder. I was fortunate, or perhaps unfortunate enough to be on the launch course.

Travelling directly from Paddington to Newton Abbot on First Great Western was the easiest and most convenient way for the group to travel, where we were met by the BGSA team and transported via Land Rover vehicles to what seemed the middle of nowhere.

Dartmoor was covered in mist and rain and the only way to get to our accommodation was by 4x4 vehicle. The terrain was deep puddles, undulating tracks with the odd pothole thrown in for a bumpy ride. As passengers, we looked slightly worried at the angles of the Land Rovers in front.

Our accommodation turned out to be a farmhouse with no running water, heating, electricity or toilet facilities. Inside we found a basic kitchen, a kit room and two rooms for sleeping, one for the men and another for the women. All had blacked out windows.

After a quick briefing, the BGSA team smeared mud all over our faces, not to be washed off until we went to bed. A quick discussion in the howling wind and rain about what category of person we each were and then back into the dining room to be greeted with four dead rabbits and the BGSA team asking if anyone was hungry. The main menu for the evening meal was rabbit liver and rabbit stew. We then skinned the rabbits, removed their innards and heads, prepared some potatoes and went out foraging for nettles.

I opted for lighting a fire to keep us warm and so I was supplied with a knife, a flint, a cotton-wool tampon and some kindling. I only had one chance to get the fire going. There's definitely a knack to create sparks to ignite the tampon and then getting the kindling on before it goes out. My second attempt was successful attempt and after nursing the initial flames, I had a roaring fire in the hearth and the house began to warm up.

The livers and salad were lovely, the stew very good, then followed some surprises in the form of caramelised mealworms. They were quite crunchy in fact, but the live ones I couldn't quite bring myself to eat. But most of the group did. We were all later mesmerised by the BGSA team’s stories about what they had seen and done. One had reached the summit of Everest several times.

Then, upstairs at bedtime we found self inflating sleeping mats to be comfy and the sleeping bags extremely warm.

The following morning we were woken at the crack of dawn, well, 06.30. We had 10 minutes to get ready and assemble outside in wet weather that was certainly a refreshing start to the day. We then ran across the moor carrying a log, with intermittent squats, push-ups and sit-ups, lying in a lot of boggy vegetation and trying to avoid animal droppings. Lying on my back and throwing the log as far as possible but trying not to hit anyone else was interesting, to say the least.

Back at the house, our reaction skills were put to the test as we first tried to hit an opponent with a massive pad as they attempted to block you. Then we used bare hands to tap shoulders, waist and thighs whilst being blocked at every opportunity by our opponents.

A quick change into some dry clothes and the 'wee in a bag breakfast' was presented to us. Yep, that's correct. We were to wee in a bag in order to create a chemical reaction to heat up food within a sachet.

Obviously it was somewhat easier for the men to accomplish this task. Luckily there was some water left over for those of us not so adept at directing our flow. About a minute after adding the liquid to the bag a chemical reaction starts to take place and ten minutes later, after a few massages of the food in the bag and everyone was enjoying a nice hot sachet of beans and sausages.

Outdoors we then donned a helmet and harness and bundled into the Land Rovers heading for the quarry of Foggin Tor. There our first task was to abseil down a 120ft sheer drop, with three team members holding onto the safety rope. We literally were putting our life in their hands. Then we made a duo descend, one person in charge of the rope and the other having no control over the descent rate apart. There's nothing quite like the adrenaline rush when you have to let yourself do something that every fibre in your body is fighting against. But the fun begins as you start to enjoy the view and the descent.

Next we did a hemp rope climb, up a 60ft rock face, directing the climbers to footholds that they weren't able to see. There were great roars and cheers when they reached the top.

At the bottom of the quarry we were challenged to build a shelter, start a fire and collect water. Provided with a couple of bags of tarpaulin, guy ropes, tent pegs, and fire starting equipment, we were off on our missions. Some of us had to collect water in condoms, others erected a shelter and two of us tried to get a fire started. I managed to put to good use the skills I had learnt the previous evening.

Then at the top of the quarry we were faced with the Tyrolean traverse across a 100ft wide gap over a 120ft drop. Four of us were on one side and four on the other side with a safety rope. In order to get hooked up to the rope, I had to get close to the edge, which certainly got the adrenaline pumping again. It’s an experience hanging 120ft up in the air, looking down and all around but before I knew it I had safely reached the other side, a massive grin on my face.

We then packed away the ropes and equipment and travelled to the station to catch the train home.

Comments from members of the 24-hour course
Jane Cetinel, Sales Manager, Ellenborough Park: “The BGSA course has all the ingredients of a traditional corporate team building course and so much more. From the moment we arrived at the old farmhouse, our team skills were put to the test and were tasked with preparing the evening meal together. This wasn’t any ordinary meal - we had to skin and gut rabbits, forage outside for nettles and herbs, build a fire with flint and cotton wool and cook a three course meal for 20 people using the ingredients we had – all by the dim light of oil burners and candles. The BGSA leaders were highly skilled and experienced and the stories they shared after dinner about their mountaineering experiences were so inspirational.
We were up at 6.30am the next morning, for a boot camp-style PT session, followed by army ration packs for breakfast. With that we were off for an action-packed day of adventure activities including tandem abseiling, rope climbing and Tyrolean traverse. It was amazing how much the team bonded in such a short space of time. Natural leaders within our group stepped up to the mark and everyone drew on their strengths and skills to enable us to work as an effective team. This course is a fun, adrenaline filled and unforgettable team building experience. I cannot recommend it highly enough.”

Russell Allen, Engagement Director, Crescendo: “Our 24 hour experience stripped away not only the business ‘distractions’, but also our creature comforts, the things we can sometimes hide behind, leaving us open to new experiences and a deeper level of interaction. It was raw, rugged and regimented. Not for everyone, but coming out the other side you feel a tremendous sense of achievement, pride and connection. I felt we all triumphed and bonded under great adversity.”

Dave Pearce, Course Leader for Bear Grylls Survival Academy, said: “The Ultimate course is designed to not only encourage team work, but produce a workforce better skilled to endure and achieve results in challenging situations. By empowering people to learn core skills that could potentially save lives and encouraging them to push themselves to the limit both physically and mentally the course will invariably increase work-place resourcefulness, productivity and communication. It provides a platform for teams and individuals to investigate, practice and develop, leading themselves and others within adverse situations and really does identify and develop natural leaders, allowing them to flourish under challenging conditions.”

The Bear Grylls Survival Academy is running Ultimate Team Building courses tailored exclusively to company budgets and objectives.
For further information visit or call 44 (0) 1483 424 438
Ultimate Team Building courses can be run at locations across the UK.

Getting there: First class return travel from London Paddington to Dartmoor is available from

To view more images of what went on visit our the Ultimate Team Building Facebook album

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