UCL Department of Geography


Alumni News

Two news stories from our alumni community

2017: Forty Years On - Revisiting a memorable first-year field class
The Year of '77 at Symonds Yat


Peter Wood writes:

During the 1970s, the UCL Geography Department used to take first-year Geography undergrads on a week’s Easter vacation field class to some part of the UK that was as different as possible from London.

The work included an introduction to both physical and human field methods, usually involving some wading in rivers and encounters with wary locals. The results were gathered and analysed in the evenings for as long as the pull of the local pubs could be resisted without mutiny.

The venues included, at various times, Durham, Swansea and South Devon, but for much of the 1970s, the target area was the Forest of Dean. Along with the academic benefits the most notable outcome of such excursions was the creation of close networks of friendship and a departmental esprit de corps engaging both staff and students.

Remarkably, this survives the passage of time, often re-emerging decades later, especially as former students approach retirement. Thus the cohort of 1977-80 came to meet again in mid-May 2017, at the same venue, in Littledean, where they experienced their first-year field class 40 years earlier.

Around 30 people, over half the year, were able to be there, with some flying in from abroad, and many meeting for the first time since graduating. Memories of UCL came flooding back, and there was much catching-up of life since UCL, in families and in work across an impressive range of national and international commercial, public and charity sector careers.

On Saturday morning the group set off to follow ancestral instincts for fieldwork with a “fun walk” from Symonds Yat along the Wye Valley and lunch at a riverside pub. The event was rounded off with celebratory drinks and dinner in the evening before a no doubt bleary-eyed departure on Sunday morning.

Afterwards, the weekend was summed up in various emailed messages:

“I was a bit hesitant about the reunion because it has been so long – however I am so glad I went. It really was a pleasure to catch up with everybody that attended.”

“To be honest I was unsure how it would pan out and had come prepared to treat it as a works do if it was not my thing, as I had not seen any of you for 37 years. However it was great and I am so pleased I came.”

“Excellent 2 days, and great to see how we have all progressed. It was amazing how everybody re-connected after such a long period!” “I had such a great time catching up with everyone and can only say what a wonderful bunch of people UCL Geographers were back in '77 and still are today.  Forty years is a big gap to catch up on but I think we all managed to do it justice and it was lovely to reaffirm past friendships and acquaintances.”

The event was master-minded by Adrian Day, based on an idea by Sandra Bliss, who also led the Saturday morning excursion. The Saturday evening logistics to the restaurant were arranged by Sue Fennell.

2015 Reunions


2015 saw two June reunions organised by past graduating years. The first, for the Year 1965, was held over a day at UCL. The next week, around 25 1970 graduates got together for a weekend in Swanage, the location of their 1968 first-year field class.

This was so successful that a further meeting was held at UCL in November, when 60 turned up, including a few 1971 graduates as well.  Reports on these appear on the June, July and November 2015 "Latest News" web page. See:

We are, of course, happy to help with the organisation of other reunions. Contact the Department and/or the College Alumni Office if you are interested in such an event.

Regular messages come from former students and we are always interested in receiving more!

We no longer produce an Alumnus Newsletter, but for up-to-date news about the department, and its archive, see the regular News web page.

See also: