A teenager from Blackpool with ambitions to become a British Army officer is back from the adventure of a life time in Kenya.
Jacob Ingham-Gore, 17, beat off competition from more than 2,000 young people from across the UK to win a place on the three-and-a-half week Army-organised expedition.
Jacob, who is the son of former Olympic and Commonwealth Games swimming star Debi Gore, applied as a member of the Combined Cadet Force (CCF) at AKS school in St Annes nearly two years ago.
During the gruelling selection process he was one of 90 applicants to make it through to a residential camp at Halton Barracks near Lancaster to assess physical fitness and leadership qualities.
Of these, 37 were chosen to go on the expedition, which takes place every two years, and Jacob, from Bennetts Lane, was the only Lancashire representative.
The trip involved camping in the wildnerness and activities including everything from safari and trekking through the bush to climbing Mount Kenya, the second highest peak in Africa after Kilimanjaro at 4,985 metres. He also helped to renovate a village school.
“It was an amazing experience and really character building,” said Jacob.
“The highlight was probably climbing Mount Kenya, which took eight days and was really hard going. With the altitude it was very tough physically and I felt sick at one stage. It was hard to speak, and difficult to breath, but it felt really good to see the summit, and it felt like a real achievement to make it.”
Other memorable moments included seeing wild animals including rhinos, lions, giraffes, cheetahs and zebras, and taking it in turns to do night-time sentry duty to guard against attacks by predators. I’d shine my torch into the darkness and see reflections of eyes looking back at me,” said Jacob. “I haven’t got a clue what they belonged to.”
At the Thanghi Primary School near Sagana Jacob helped to build a drainage channel to direct floodwater away from the school during the rainy season and also made wooden toys including hobby horses for the children. He said the “absolute poverty” he encountered there had made appreciate how fortunate he was.
Jacob isn’t putting his feet up for long following his return to the UK this week and is off to Scotland for a four-day expedition with his school next Thursday as he seeks to achieve his Duke of Edinburgh gold award.
He will also lead his CCF from September after being chosen to be its regimental sergeant major for the year.
Beyond that he hopes to study geology at university and then win a prestigious place at Sandhurst to do his officer training.
When asked for his inspiration he cannot look any further than his mum, who won Commonwealth gold in Brisbane in 1982, and was an Olympic finalist in Los Angeles two years later.
“She has always encouraged me and my brother Samuel to keep fit and stay active,” he said.
“She has been a big influence.”