Outdoor Learning

Outdoor Activities

Outdoor pursuits have a strong tradition at Marlborough. The Outdoor Activities (OA) Department has its own dedicated building, the Kempson Centre, named after a former Master at the College who was a member of two early expeditions to Mount Everest in the 1930s. The Department offers a broad range of activities designed to be fun, challenging, varied and adventurous, but offering something for everyone.


Shell (Year 9)

In their first year at the College, pupils can choose from an extensive menu of outdoor activities including climbing, canoeing and kayaking, mountain biking and sub-aqua diving. Towards the end of Summer Term, the whole year group participates in a week of outdoor activities largely based in the Brecon Beacons National Park. Pupils are allocated in their houses to bunkhouse accommodation where the emphasis is not only on the activities but also on domestic and social skills. During the week most will undertake a two-day overnight expedition which can be registered as training towards the Bronze Award of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme.

Overseas Expeditions

The OA Department plans and leads an overseas expedition every summer, alternating between a shorter, seven-to-ten day European trip and a three-week long-haul excursion. These are generally open to all those in the Hundred (Year 11) and above, which reflects the physical and demanding nature of these events. Our expeditions are planned by the Department with meticulous attention to detail and safety, offering our pupils the adventure of a lifetime.

Previous European destinations have included Iceland, the Italian Dolomites and the Swiss Alps. Further afield we have travelled to Ladakh in the Indian Himalaya, summiting a 6,000-metre peak, and the Cordillera Blanca in Peru, scaling 5,000 metres

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award

The College is a firm advocate of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. We currently offer the Gold Award (in Lower and Upper Sixth). The expedition training for the Bronze Award forms part of our Wednesday afternoon ‘Outreach’ programme whilst the Gold Award training is undertaken largely at weekends and during holidays. Qualifying or assessed expeditions have taken place in the Brecon Beacons, Snowdonia and Dartmoor.

Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race

The 125-mile Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race is an ultramarathon that takes place every Easter weekend and is the longest non-stop canoe race in the world. Starting in Devizes in Wiltshire, the route travels down the Kennet and Avon Canal to the River Thames at Reading and then continues to Westminster in London. Marlborough enters both senior and junior crews in the event. The popularity of this race among the Lower and Upper Sixth has grown so much in recent years that the College is one of the largest school team entries.

Training starts in the Michaelmas Term for three afternoons a week to work on endurance, boat skills and portaging techniques (exiting the water with your kayak to run around one of the 77 obstacles that must be negotiated between Devizes and Westminster) so that our crews have the best chance of completing the challenge.

Combined Cadet Force (CCF)

Marlborough College is a foundation member of the Combined Cadet Force (CCF). The Contingent is an army-only organisation with 300 cadets and nine officers. There is a full-time School Staff Instructor (SSI) and a full-time Assistant SSI.

The CCF welcomes all cadets of all genders and seeks to develop their skills of leadership, teamwork and self-confidence. The Contingent does not aim to recruit, but hopes to foster interest and respect for the armed forces.

The unit occupies large buildings overlooking the Parade Ground and has a modern, indoor, six-lane 25-metre range. The College grounds and river are used every week for ‘green’ training, the more formal aspects of drill being saved for occasions such as Remembrance Sunday.

A Brief History

The earliest mention of a Rifle Corps appears in the Marlborough Magazine of March 1860. The first officers were all pupils and were nearly 20 years old when they left the school. The uniform was a light grey dress which earned them the name of ‘The Millers’. By 1881 there were over 300 boys in uniform, a figure which has been more or less maintained to the present day. A cyclist section was formed in 1891, later to be merged into the Signals, and a marching band attended all camps and parades. In 1908 the Officer Training Corps (OTC) was founded and in 1948 this became the Combined Cadet Force.

The Foot Guards Beret

The Contingent has the great distinction of wearing the Foot Guards Beret and flash, in accordance with Regular Foot Guards Regiments. The Contingent is one of only six CCFs to enjoy an affiliation with the Household Division and the Honourable Artillery Company.


The Signals section was formed in 1885 and practised with flags, lamps and field telephones until the early 1930s. The wireless society was formed in 1934 and transmitting licences were granted by the General Post Office; one static, one mobile. Under the inspirational guidance of one officer, AR Pepin, five-metre wavelength man-pack radios were built, the first in the British Army, which brought about an immediate response and support from the Army Signals. As a result, Pepin was awarded the MBE and the Marlborough troop to this day has the right to ‘Royal’ status and cap-badge.

By 1940 there were 28 ex-signallers in the Royal Corps of Signals or RAF Signals. The secret wireless station operated in Stalag Luft 3 was run by an ex-Marlborough College signaller and he used the original Marlborough College OTC call sign of ‘ÄOX’.

Country Pursuits

We are lucky to enjoy a beautiful rural setting with facilities to support country sports on our doorstep.


The College has a historic connection with the Palmer Marlborough Beagles and trail hunting takes place as a supervised activity in the Michaelmas and Lent Terms. Trails are laid across the Marlborough Downs, Salisbury Plain and the Pewsey Vale.

Clay Pigeon Shooting

Clay pigeon shooting lessons are organised at Barbury Shooting School near Wroughton, about 20 minutes from the College. The cost is £40 per session. All equipment is provided but pupils can keep their own guns at the shooting school. There is an annual house match held at Barbury. Trophies are awarded for the best team and the top boy and girl shots. Occasionally there are matches against other schools.


The College owns a half-mile stretch of the River Kennet, a chalk stream renowned for its brown trout. In addition, there are two lakes stocked with rainbow trout. The Fly-Fishing Club is open to all pupils and staff. Membership costs £50 per year to cover the costs of stocking the fishery. Fly-fishing is also available as a Lower School option in the first half of the Michaelmas and Summer Terms. Professional tuition in casting and angling is provided by Paul Maslin (Level 2 Certificate in Coaching, Angling).