OP Updates

Cricketer Bethan Singled Out As Stand Out Performer

We have been delighted to hear about Bethan Ellis’ (Class of 2017) cricketing success. Bethan has been opening the batting for Warwickshire Women this season; she has been in excellent form scoring lots of runs, including the first century of the season in a warm up game with the Women’s County cricket team. She has seen plenty of coverage on the Warwickshire County Cricket Club website and even had a mention in the sport’s weekly newspaper The Cricket Paper.

Bethan was even singled out as a ‘stand-out performer’ on the English Cricket Board’s website report on the opening rounds of this year’s Royal London Women’s County One-Day Cup! They said:

‘The Bears may have lost both games across the weekend but young opening bat Bethan Ellis impressed with her 74 against Kent on Monday.’

The Warwickshire Women's team have another strong OP connection as they are coached by the Warwickshire cricketing legend, Dominic Ostler.

Bethan was always a super skilful sporting star back in her Princethorpe days and we wish her every success in her cricketing career.

Bethan is pictured with teammate Marie Kelly.

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Rory And Carrie's World Tour

OP Rory Aitkenhead, who joined Princethorpe in 1997 and has worked as a qualified architect for the last seven years, departed on an eight month around the world travel adventure with his wife, Carrie.

They set off on 28 December 2018 and began their adventure with a month of skiing and snowboarding in Whistler, Canada. Then drove from Seattle via Portland, Oregon to Rory’s brother’s house in San Francisco. Miles Aitkenhead, also an OP, has lived in the Bay area of northern California for the last five years. After leaving their skis, snowboards and winter clothes in his loft they continued onto Los Angeles via the stunning Route 1 coastal road. From here they flew to Cancun in Mexico travelling south to Tulum and then getting a boat to the island of Caye Caulker in Belize. After time spent snorkelling and diving off the second largest reef in the world alongside nurse sharks and huge loggerhead turtles, they continued to mainland Belize. Here particular highlights included Caracol, one of the largest Mayan cities and the ATM cave, home to in-situ remains of human sacrifice dating from 850AD, including noble children with cranial modification.

Crossing into Guatemala, one of their favourite destinations of the trip to date, they explored the jungles of Tikal, the stunning valley of Semuc Champey, the arid western highland and the beautiful Lake Atitlan. They climbed the volcano of Acatengo and spent the night watching its neighbouring volcano (Fuego) erupt, while also finding time to relax on the pacific beaches. In Costa Rica, they visited the cloud forests of Monteverde and the remote Peninsular of Corcovado home to 2.5% of the worlds bio diversity, teaming with wildlife. They continued their adventure, traveling across the border into Panama visiting the surf Mecca of Bocas del Toro, Panama City and then sailing via the beautiful San Blas islands to Cartagena, Colombia. A month spent in northern Colombia, hiking through the Sierra Nevada mountain forests to the “Lost City” spending time in the equally stunning Tayrona national park along the coast and spending Semana Santa (Easter) at the quaint colonial town of Mompos.

Rory and Carrie flew from Santa Marta via a whistle stop tour of Medellin to Lima, Peru. Here they have continued via bus to Cusco visiting the coastal desert of Paracas and the desert oasis of Huachina where Rory managed to get back on a snowboard. In Cusco they trekked for four days along the Inca trail to Machu Piccu arriving at the Sun Gate on a clear, sunny day for Carrie’s birthday. An experience they had both always dreamed of, and it did not disappoint, also giving them the opportunity to raise funds for causes close to them. They also visited Rainbow mountain before continuing on to Lake Titicaca, visiting the floating reed bed islands and communities of the lake.

They are currently in Bolivia where their adventure will continue south into Argentina flying from Buenos Aries to Auckland in June, then on to Fiji, Sydney and Melbourne. Their final month will be spent in Indonesia before returning back to the UK, with Carrie returning for the start of term where she teaches at a primary school in Bermondsey, London. If you wish to see more of their adventure, click here to visit their travel blog.

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OPs Help England University Hockey Team Win 2019 Home Nations Championships

Old Princethorpians Richard Hill (Class of 2015) and Alexander Rooney (Class of 2014) represented England in the British Universities Home Nations Tournament played in Glasgow at the Scottish National Hockey Centre on the 17 and 18 April 2019.

Richard and Alexander travelled up to Manchester on the Monday for a training day and warm up game against Manchester Brooklands. It was a chance to get experience with the squad ahead of the Home Nations Tournament.  They then travelled up to Glasgow on the Tuesday, there they watched Scotland play Wales before a further training session with their England teammates.

Their first game in the tournament took place the next day, Wednesday 17 April, and the team confidently dispatched Wales in a 5-2 win. The team then cheered on the England girls who in a much closer match won on penalties, leaving both English teams with all to play for against Scotland on the final day. The teams enjoyed a joint meal in the evening but then the boys got some much-needed rest ahead of the important make or break game. The next morning England played Scotland and won convincingly 6-3, making England the 2019 Home Nations Champions.

Alexander said, “It was a fantastic week with a really awesome bunch of lads that made up a convincing squad. It was really great to see how Richard and I had developed as players, and how quickly we rolled back the years with some evident Paul Whitehead coaching behaviours. Richard proved himself a dynamic machine in midfield with some superb tackles and tight technical play, and I was very fortunate to let in only 2 of the 9 goals conceded that week. An awesome week catching up and reminiscing with some ‘just like old times’ moments!”

We are delighted to hear of Alex and Richard's success and that they are keeping up their hockey traditions. Well played boys!

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Felicity Crowned Freelance Finance Journalist Of The Year

OP Felicity Hannah (née King-Evans), who left Princethorpe in 2001, was named Freelance Finance Journalist of the Year for the second year in a row at the Headlinemoney Awards in London on Wednesday 8 May 2019.

Felicity now writes for the Independent, Mirror and Yahoo Finance, with her articles also being featured in The Guardian, This Is Money, Sky News, MSN Money and many others.

Many congratulations Felicity - what a fantastic achievement! 

Ashley's Adventures In Canada

OP Ashley Dodds, who left Princethorpe in 2014, gives us an update on her travels and career plans...

After three years of being a paramedic in central London I decided to take a career break. Last November I left the UK for Canada, placing myself in Whistler, British Columbia. My aims whilst away were to make some long term career plans, have a break from the stress of my profession, gain some perspective, travel and most importantly, improve my skiing. 

Since being in Canada, I have done 50 days on the mountain, completed a four day ski camp and met some wonderful people- most of whom are also on career breaks from different countries. 

Exploring BC has been my highlight so far, seeing the beautiful landscapes, lakes, mountains and beaches, all seemingly so untouched and (at this time of year) with minimal tourist activity. I have ventured across Vancouver Island, through mainland BC and to Banff, Alberta.

I have accomplished most of my pre-trip aims and have applied and subsequently gained a place at Imperial College to start my Masters in September, studying Cardiovascular and Respiratory Healthcare. 

After leaving Whistler this week for the final time I am currently travelling via car, down the west coast of the US. I plan to visit Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and LA, but the best sections will be in between these cities via many national state parks. This trip will be a mixture of camping and hostels, to enable me to stay wherever I end up. I hope to see the Washington and Oregon coastlines, before heading in to Crater Lake National Park and Redwood National Park before onto a few days in San Francisco.

Following on from San Francisco, I will spend a week in Yosemite hiking and camping, after which I will travel down the California coastline spending time in the smaller towns and camping in Big Sur. 

I am having a great time but I am looking forward to returning to London, returning to work and starting my course in September. 

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Milli's Gap Year Memories

OP Milli Thornton who left the College in 2018 has spent her gap year as a Teaching Assistant at fellow MSC school Downlands College in Australia, she takes up the story here..

Moving to the other side of the world to a town I knew nothing about for a job I have no experience in… was the most daunting thing I’ve done in my life to date. But after an incredible ten months, it's been the most rewarding.

Working in a boarding house with teenage girls has been an eye-opening experience, was I like that at age 14? (most likely). Bringing back very fond memories of my time at Princethorpe, as the similarities between Princethorpe and Downlands College are endless. Both schools teaching the kids that life is not just about your academic grades but making you a better, well rounded person. Which really becomes evident when speaking to the grade 12 (Australia’s final school year), and how what they want to gain from their last year of school is very similar to what my friends and I desired from our last year at Princethorpe.

Although I adore the job I have in the boarding school, is that best part of my gap year? That’s got to be a no, the best part is… travelling Australia.

What a stunning country I’ve been fortunate enough to travel around. The two-month summer/Christmas holiday being the highlight. Starting down in Melbourne I travelled by plane, bus and train all up the East Coast ending up on a weekend trip driving around Fraser Island’s sand dunes and camping with wild dingos just metres away. Two months I will never forget. Although a warm Christmas… I’m not too sure about that!

A definite highlight for me was my visit to the Blue Mountains, just west of Sydney. As someone who talks a lot, I am rarely left speechless, but the Blue Mountains definitely had that impact on me. Just mountain upon mountain surrounded by Blue Gum Trees for as far as the eye can see. It was truly mesmerising, watching the sun set behind the mountains will be a sight I’ll never forget.

Australia has so much to offer with what to do and see, at no point this year have I been bored or looking for something to do. With Brisbane just two hours away, I’ve often found myself on weekend trips to the city. This year has been filled with countless memories I will treasure for the rest of my life, from the things I’ve seen to the people that have come into my life for a weekend, a month or the year, they have all left a mark on me.

Gap years are incredible things, and to quote the cliché ‘on your gap year you find yourself’, you really do. Over this year I’ve become more certain in the person I am and the person I want to grow to be. I’ve become more independent and self-sufficient but also have a greater appreciation for my family and everything they have done and continue to do for me. I feel incredibly blessed to have been given the opportunity to live in Toowoomba and work at Downlands College for the year and have learnt things I would never have if I was sat at home.

I whole heartedly recommend anyone and everyone to throw themselves out of their comfort zone, go and travel and experience a world so different to ours at home.

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Lillie Bleasdale Runs London Marathon In Aid Of Mind

Since leaving Princethorpe in 2014, I undertook an apprenticeship at Hearst UK and I am now a Client Service Manager!

This year, I undertook the London Marathon in aid of Mind, the mental health charity, and have raised over £2,400 in donations so far. I completed the marathon in 3:27:53 - qualifying me for next year's Boston Marathon.

Later this year I will be hitting the streets of Berlin to take part in my second world major, and hopefully secure a championship entry time for London 2020. Next year I'm heading over to the Chicago Marathon as well, having secured a Good for Age qualifying time!

Huge congratulations Lillie! To support Lillie and donate to Mind please click here


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Helen Fitchett Hits The Theatres In Australia

Since finishing up at Downlands College last July as part of the Princethorpe Exchange Program, I was pretty eager to get back to Australia. I returned in August 2018 after a brief month in the UK seeing my nearest and dearest, and I settled in Brisbane with friends I had made in my previous year.

In September 2018, I was lucky enough to grab a job as a Theatre Technician (as was my degree training) at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) working at Gardens Theatre, The Loft and The Block. At QUT, I completed roles of Lighting Operator, Stage Manager and worked my way up to become Duty Technician for all three venues. I’ve worked with amazing shows, including The Gruffulo tour, Inferno and plenty of Student Shows.

In December 2018, I was awarded ‘Best New Staff Member of the Year’ at QUT which was a firm reminder of my progress in Australia. In January/February time I had friends from university come over to see me in Australia which was extremely exciting, being able to show my friends around Brisbane and introduce them to Australia (with many trips to beaches included).

In March 2019, I was sad to leave QUT due to visa restrictions but I used the opportunity to branch out and work for other venues in Brisbane including Brisbane Powerhouse & La Boite Theatre Company. I became Venue Stage Manager for Brisbane Comedy Festival working with Australian Comedians Tom Ballard & Tim Ferguson. Most recently, I have just finished working as Stage Manager for a show which was described as 'fully accessible theatre' including full captioning and Auslan-Integration, which was a fun and challenging show to work on.

I’m now hoping to branch out to other venues in Brisbane and gain more experience within the theatre industry. I’m looking to stay in Australia, hoping that visa options will allow me to do that so I can continue the life I have built up here.

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Chartered Quantity Surveyor Sean Updates Us On His Career

As a leaver of 1989 Sean Hedigan received an invite to this year’s OP Summer Supper, sadly, he will be unable to join us in June but he has promised to come for a tour of the College soon.   In the meantime, he gave us the following update on the intervening 30 years.

After leaving Princethorpe Sean studied for a BSc in Quantity Surveying at the University of Wolverhampton and then went on to work in the construction industry.  Over the years, he has worked for and alongside a number of well-known blue-chip organisations including working with Intel Ireland, on the world’s largest and most complex tool install project at the Leixlip Plant.  He is currently working for Alexion Pharma International Operations UC on their Athlone Plant in County Roscommon as Project Cost Controller on a multi-million Euro fully disposable Bio-Pharma New Build and Cell Culture Fit Out Project.

Sean is a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the Chartered Institute of Civil Engineering Surveyors and the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland.

Sean married Fiona Hedigan in June 2006 and moved to Ireland later that year.  His daughter Freya was born in June 2009. He set up own quantity surveyor and construction cost consultancy business in 2013, SFQS Ltd.  This year he has also undertaken his own ‘grand design’ challenge and built his own house.  He told us he often reflects back on the good memories from his Princethorpe days.

Thanks for the update Sean and we hope to see you very soon.

Teach First Takes Hannah Back To Princethorpe

We really enjoyed having OP Hannah van Wyk back in school in March as part of her Teach First training programme.  Hannah left Princethorpe in 2014 and went on to study English Language at Cardiff University.  After completing her degree, she joined the Teach First training programme and now teaches English at Whitley Academy in Coventry.  As part of her PGDE (Post Graduate Diploma in Education) Hannah had to gain experience at a contrasting school and Head of English, Mr Kerrigan, and the English department here at Princethorpe, jumped at the opportunity to support her.

After a very busy week teaching mixed ability groups, and a different exam board, Hannah commented, “It has been good to be back, the children are lovely, so polite and welcoming; I have really enjoyed my week here.  Although I must admit, it was quite surreal to teach a class under the watchful eye of Miss Challinor, my former A-level English teacher!

Matilda Returns To Princethorpe To Retune The College's Piano

It was fantastic to welcome OP Matilda Gannon back to Princethorpe College on Wednesday 20 March.  Matilda left Princethorpe in 2014 and went on to York University to study Music.  After successfully completing her degree, she was encouraged to train as a piano tuner.  Matilda said, “I always had a good ear and decided that piano tuning might just be the job for me.”  After completing a one-year intensive course, she now works as a professional piano tuner.  Matilda was in school today to undertake the important job of retuning the piano in the Roundhouse.  She continued, “It is great to be here, it brings back lots of memories.  My instrument is the violin but I remember this piano well.”