We are a Charity of Character

By Honor Wilson-Fletcher MBE,
British Exploring Society CEO


After interviews with staff, volunteers, trustees, partners and Young Explorers, we have been awarded the Charity of Character badge by the Association of Character Education (ACE). As defined by ACE, Character Education is about ‘…helping [young people] grasp what is ethically important in situations and how to act for the right reasons so that they become more autonomous and reflective. [Young people] need to decide the kind of person they wish to become and learn how to choose between alternatives…the ultimate aim of character education is the development of good sense or practical wisdom; the capacity to choose intelligently between alternatives.’ We are very proud to have secured this robustly assessed recognition – and for the CEO of ACE to comment that British Exploring Society “uses incredible experiential learning to implicitly develop character.”


Our own character is put to the test

“I believe that my confidence has leaped forward and has encouraged me to explore the wilderness around me.” – Wildestan 2020 Young Adventurer

2020 has been a genuinely uplifting year. We have been providing access to adventures since May and will do so right up until just before Christmas – through both lockdowns. We will have worked with more young people this year than last. Our first season of Wildestan in 2021 kicks off in January, and we are now recruiting for UK and overseas programmes including the Yukon and Finland in 2021.

We are also having to tackle significant challenges and embrace difficult decisions, of course. We find ourselves looking beyond the legal and operational requirements of running expeditions and considering other factors; our ethical grasp of the wider potential impacts of running an overseas programme are a particular concern right now. The ethical appropriateness of any expedition is considered as a matter of course when scoping new destinations – but it is less common for that landscape to change in the weeks before potential departure.

At our last Council meeting trustees carefully considered whether or not to go ahead with Pinnacle at this time, and reluctantly decided that it should be postponed. This was a difficult decision but, at a time when all countries are struggling to control Covid, and people are being asked to play their part by avoiding unnecessary travel and social contact, Council felt that postponing was the morally right thing to do.

With the support of our donors, we will therefore defer Pinnacle to 2022.

We need to demonstrate the judgement and mature accountability we wish to cultivate in the young people we work with. We work hard to sustain the operational expertise and technical advice we can draw on to allow us to continue to explore wild and remote locations. We remain confident that we can reasonably mitigate the risk of COVID transmission on – and as a result of – the expedition as well as putting together an exciting and rewarding learning experience for young people. But to travel at a particular time or to a particular location could risk a judgement of foolhardiness or insensitivity rather than confidence and competence.

I know that you will understand and support this decision – but will also sympathise with our deep frustration that it had to be taken.

We are proceeding to plan and to recruit for our UK Spring and summer expeditions in 2021. Our first priority will always be the safety of the young people we work with and of the teams who support them and we are of course monitoring the impact of the pandemic we’re living through very closely.

Making expeditions happen is a lengthy business – we need to continue our operational planning, recruiting volunteer Leaders and engaging with young people or it will be another year before we can start young people on a journey with us – and we think that’s too long to wait.


Thank you

This will be our last update to you before Christmas. In addition to wishing you the best possible celebrations, I would like to thank you for your responses to these messages and to the requests we have made for support in all its forms during 2020. We are blessed to be part of such a supportive, practical, warm and energetic community.


I joined British Exploring Society as CEO in February 2016. Previously I was CEO for 6 years at the Aldridge Foundation where I helped establish 12 state schools in some of the most deprived parts of England.

By Honor Wilson-Fletcher MBE,
British Exploring Society CEO