TV presenter Helen Skelton guest of honour at Speech Day

TV action-girl and Countryfile presenter Helen Skelton was guest of honour at leading North Yorkshire prep school Belmont Grosvenor’s annual Speech Day, inspiring pupils with her tales of exciting adventures from the Amazon to Antarctica.

The Yorkshire-based mum-of-three delighted the audience at the Harrogate independent school, challenging pupils, from nursery to Year 6, to go out into the world and ‘be anything you want to be’.

She encouraged children at Belmont Grosvenor School to be ambitious, resilient and joyful – three of Harrogate prep school’s core values.

“Life is about challenges, and life is about taking risks. It doesn’t matter what other people think, what other people think you can and can’t do. You can be anything you want,” Ms Skelton told pupils, parents and staff gathered in a marquee on the Head’s Lawn at Belmont Grosvenor School.

“Sometimes life throws curveballs at you but I am sure you have learned the resilience and calmness you need to deal with these challenges. I am sure you have got these tools from this glorious school and these glorious teachers,” she said.

Co-educational prep school Belmont Grosvenor is based at historic Swarcliffe Hall in the  village of Birstwith, just a few miles from the centre of Harrogate.

Recognised not only for its strong academic results – with Acting Head Emma Shea reporting to the Speech Day audience higher than national average results for all classes from Year 2 to 6 in English and Maths – but its commitment to outdoor learning in its 20-acres of grounds and sustainability.

Belmont Grosvenor is the holder of a prestigious Eco School’s Green Flag Award and pupils enjoy timetabled outdoor lessons daily, from Forest School to drama.

Former Blue Peter presenter Ms Skelton, currently fronting Channel Five’s Summer on the Farm,  described the school’s setting as “incredible” and praised BGS for its outdoor learning ethos.

“Teachers – never under-estimate what you do and the benefits of learning outside,” she said.

She shared secrets from some of her most famous challenges, from kayaking the Amazon to becoming only the second woman to complete the Namibia Ultra Marathon.

“I’d never run for 10 minutes, never mind 80 miles in 23 hours. I set my GPS every five miles to zero, and I did another five miles and another five miles until I reached 80!” she said.

And during her Guinness World Record breaking solo kayak down the Amazon in 2010, Helen told the BGS community that pirates chased her and stole coffee from their boat!

Two years later, in Antarctica, she endured temperatures of -48 degrees to ski, kite and bike 500-miles to the South Pole – “it is the coldest, windiest place on earth” and revealed that her support crew gifted her a microwaveable Christmas pudding which she finally ate on her return to the UK.

Acting Headteacher Emma Shea, who leaves BGS at the end of the academic year after 16 years, praised pupils for their hard work and, with the help of Ms Skelton, handed out prizes for a wide range of achievements from science and maths awards to the kindness and consideration cup.

She told the Speech Day audience that the school’s goal was to help develop the whole child “to become the kind of people you would like to spend time with.”

“Interesting, rounded people who have the social skills to engage with anyone they come into contact with in all walks of life. I hope that the strong foundations they build at BGS will help them to face the next steps they have to take. That it gives them the determination to have a go, even if things can be challenging,” she said.

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