PUPILS from a North-East school got a special end-of-term treat courtesy of a newly-launched charity dedicated to helping children enjoy the great outdoors.

Eight pupils from Castleside Primary School, in Consett, spent their final afternoon before the half-term holiday exploring the surrounding area with guides from the Walk and Talk Trust.

Walking guides Keiron Young and Richard Ellis led the children and their headteacher over and through the Derwent Valley on the edge of the Pennines, exploring woodlands, moorlands, and riverbanks.

Headteacher Alison Spence said: “This afternoon has been absolutely fantastic. The smiles and the laughter from the children say it all.

“We’ve been with the Walk and Talk Trust since the beginning, and we jumped onboard because we understand how much walking and getting outdoors improves mental health and wellbeing.”

On their way, the class learned about the area’s industrial past, and discovered the local wildlife.

Pupil Emelka Kowalska said: “It was amazing. We saw lots of wildlife. We saw pheasants, and found tracks of deer. We’ve had loads of fun.”

The most exciting moment came when the pupils were confronted with an unexpected challenge: fording a stream. With help from Keiron and Rich, everyone made it across safely – though not entirely dryly.

Alison added: “We’ve been doing assemblies about overcoming challenges and having the right mindset to be determined and resilient, and what we’ve done today has just been perfect to underline that.

“The children had to come out of their comfort zones a little bit today, but in a fun way, and it was just great to see the children having fun outside and encouraging each other along.

“It’s just a really wonderful way to end a half-term when they’ve worked so hard.”

The Walk and Talk Trust was founded this year to promote the physical and mental benefits of walking and talking, and to encourage young people to make the most of the great outdoors.

Money raised by The Big Smile, the Trust’s signature series of guided walks which launches on June 21, will be used to provide North-East youngsters with their own pair of hiking boots.

Keiron said: “Today has really been what the Walk and Talk Trust is all about – helping young people discover the magnificent country on their doorsteps, getting out to walk, talk, and learn about nature together.

“We were really impressed with kids. It was a pretty demanding hike at times, and we challenged them with some real tests – like fording the stream – but they all faced each one enthusiastically and overcame it every time.”

• For more information on the Walk & Talk Trust, visit www.walkandtalktrust.co.uk

• The Big Smile, a series of 50 fundraising walks organised by the Walk & Talk Trust, will launch at Raby Castle on June 21. To get involved, or for more information, visit www.bigsmileuk.co.uk