Grange Hill: revisiting 12 memorable school trips

Remember when Grange Hill went to the Isle Of Wight? Or the escaped puma? Here are 12 memorable school trip episodes from the early years...

This article comes from Den of Geek UK.

With just over thirty years worth of screen time, there are plenty of memorable moments in Grange Hill. From its inception in February 1978 the programme proved both entertaining and controversial. It tackled many difficult subjects head-on: bullying, vandalism, racism, censorship, shop-lifting, school uniform protest, teenage pregnancy and – most famously of all – drugs. However, every now and again it would attempt to give viewers a break from the everyday and head off on a day trip or weekend excursion.

Join us and H5 on a bit of escapism then, as we revisit some of Grange Hill’s most memorable school trips from the show’s early years…

12. The UN Weekend (Series 7, Episode 8 & 9 1984)

Mr MacGuffy has the world on his shoulders – well, H5…

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Staff on duty: Mr MacGuffy

Uniform-hating Suzanne Ross has been encouraged to attend a UN weekend by the shambolic Mr MacGuffy, but is disappointed when she arrives in uniform and sees students from other schools in casual dress. A young Gina Bellman plays a girl from another school called Trudy, a name which intrigues ‘Pogo’ Patterson and ‘Stewpot’ Stewart.

The late Caroline Hutchinson, who played Denis’ estranged wife Vera in Auf Weidersehen Pet, appears as the conference organiser. Rastafarian Glenroy (played by Stephen Woodcock, who was later Rodney’s mate Jevon in Only Fools And Horses) causes upset when he is not allowed to be the delegate for Ethiopia.

Claire Scott is chosen to speak at the conference on behalf of the school in front of chairman Dr David Bellamy (playing himself in a rare real-life cameo for the programme) and is very nervous. A private school turns up and the Grange Hill pupils mock a particularly unlikeable boy called Josh, who in return seems to have little comprehension of their lives.

Despite the presence of special guest Dr David Bellamy strutting his stuff on the dance floor, these two episodes are not the most exciting to be honest. A nice idea if a little spoiled by some rather lazy stereotypes, especially in the inevitable culture clash.

11. A nature ramble (Series 3, Episode 3 1980)

Alan the firestarter.

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Staff on duty: Mr Hopwood, Mrs Thomas

After a Biology lesson spent nature walking near the school, the pupils ask Mrs Thomas if they can go into the real countryside. A few days later a trip is arranged by Mr Hopwood to walk across some farm land. Alan Humphries and Andrew Stanton sneak off for a smoke; they accidentally stumble upon an intimate moment as Susi MacMahon is adjusting her new bra that has caused her problems – she and Penny Lewis assumed they had found somewhere private.

Upon discovery, Alan accidentally drops his cigarette and the nearby undergrowth catches fire. Mr Hopwood and several pupils use milk churns to douse the flames and manage to put out the fire, much the the relief of the farmer. Alan, Andrew, Susi and Penny make a mutual pact not to let on what either party saw.

A rare early episode sans Tucker in which Alan and Susi are allowed to shine.

10. The Outdoor Centre (Series 3, Episode 3, 14 1980)

Cathy puts her foot in it.

Staff on duty: Mr Hopwood, Mrs Thomas, Mr Sutcliffe, Miss Peterson

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The pupils take a minibus to help refurbish the would-be Outdoor Centre; on the journey Tucker Jenkins tries to impress his mates with a dirty magazine. Alan is impressed by Susi’s progress with Judo but she admonishes him for continuing his smoking habit. Tucker is given the task of pitching tents and Cathy Hargreaves and Trisha Yates’ tent is pitched on an ants’ nest.

Cathy and Trisha try to avoid the refurbishing work and sneak off to the creaky and unstable upstairs of the building. The floorboards are rotten, as Cathy discovers when she puts her foot through the floor and damages her ankle.

After a Parent/Teachers meeting about the escalating cost of repairing the building, acting headmaster Mr Keating suspends the outdoor centre project. Later Susi uses her improving Judo skills to get the better of bully Jill Harcourt (played by a young Alex Kingston, no less), for whom she has been ‘ghost writing’ homework.

A decent episode that continues some of the themes of the nature ramble. The completion of the outdoor centre was to have been the season finale, however cutbacks meant the BBC had to abandon the final two episodes.

9. Outward Bound Course (Series 6, Episode 15 & 16 1983)

Geoff and Terri muck in. Roland learns Welsh.

Staff on duty: Mr Baxter, Miss Mooney

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N2 are on an outward bound course in Wales. Mr Baxter and Miss Mooney are surprised at the enforced informality: they will be addressed by their first names Geoff and Terri. Later the pupils have to do an underground tunnel activity which scares Roland Browning, so he pretends he has completed it by covering himself in mud. Roland meets a farmer and learns a few words of Welsh.

That night in the girls’ dorm, Diane Cooney is bullied about her acne; meanwhile in the boys’ dorm, a bucket of water placed over the door soaks Mr. Baxter. Roland falls off a bunk in amusement and sprains his ankle. Diane is given some encouragement and surprises herself at canoeing, alerting the staff to save Zammo Maguire, who nearly drowns. Mr Baxter confronts his sudden fear on a zip wire. The injured Roland tries his hand at baking.

Geoff warns N2 to call him ‘Mr Baxter’ or ‘Sir’ once they return to Grange Hill. They end the course with a disco to the strains of Blondie and Captain Sensible.

This trip away from Grange Hill was perhaps more welcome than most given it happened during a series rife with bullying and racism, which saw arch villain Norman ‘Gripper’ Stebson finally expelled.

8. Dartmoor (Series 14, Episode 12 & 13 1991)

Chrissy’s pregnancy is revealed. Mrs Monroe roughs it in a caravan.

Staff on duty: Mr Robson, Mrs Monroe

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Resident tearaway Raymond brings an axe on the minibus trip to Dartmoor, but that is just the start of his problems. Arriving at a decidedly cramped hillside cottage, the pupils reveal Marilyn Monroe T-shirts in tribute to Mrs Monroe, but she surprises them with one of her own. Paul Copley guests as Duncan Yeats, the survival course leader who introduces the kids to “several things beginning with f”. Nick tells a ‘mad axeman’ story.

Next morning, when Justine Dean and Chrissy Mainwaring are stuck on the end of an abseiling rope, Justine realises Chrissy’s reluctance is because she is pregnant. Justine organises for her friend to return safely to the cottage.

Later that evening, Raymond makes the mad axeman story come true and scares Matthew Pearson. During an initiative test, a ‘message’ arrives that Raymond’s brother is following him to the moors. Matthew’s revenge on Raymond and Richard, with help from Mr Robson, is complete when the minibus pretends to leave without them.

A major plot development revealed outside of school, with all the added dangers of abseiling. A brave move and a memorable episode.

7. Beaconsfield Archeology Trip (Series 2, Episode 15 & 16 1979)

Susi and Penny are lost in the woods. There’s a puma on the loose!

Staff on duty: Mr Mitchell, Mr Sutcliffe, Miss Clark

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Following an eventful coach trip to Hill View centre, Michael Doyle seeks revenge on Justin Bennett for getting him into trouble. Susi and Penny ask Miss Clark if they can go off on their own and are trusted to do so. However, they try to ride a lone horse in a neighbouring field, only to be spotted by the course leader (also on horseback) and run off into the woods to escape his wrath.

All the pupils have been warned that the wood is a potentially dangerous place in which it is all too easy to get lost. Doyle, Alan, Andrew and Justin slip away from a guided lecture tour given by Mr Sutcliffe and from a distance happen upon the two girls. In hiding, Doyle frightens the girls by making animal noises. Running away from the perceived threat, the two girls become perilously lost. As darkness falls, the boys – who were the last to see them, do some soul-searching. The situation is heightened when a local zoo announces that a puma is loose in the area.

Eventually Justin comes forward and, despite threats from his nemesis Doyle, tells all to Mr Mitchell. The girls are found safe and well. Ever firm but fair, Mr Mitchell, aware of the boys palpable relief, decides the agony of the situation has been punishment enough for them.

The earliest field trip in the series and one of the best.

6. The Isle of Wight Trip (Series 12, Episode 13 & 14 1989)

Bronson mellows. Cleaver drinks.

Staff on duty: Mr Bronson, Miss Booth, Mr Mackenzie

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E5 set off on a coach tour to the Isle of Wight but not before Trevor Cleaver’s illicit cans of beer are chucked away, despite his attempts to hide them in Vince Savage’s bag. It’s Mandy Freemont’s birthday and Gonch’s desperation to buy Mandy a present strands him as the ferry sails. Trevor buys more beer and joins the other pupils and a rather seasick Miss Booth on the ferry. In an amusing scene, Vince finds Trev’s replacement cans and goes to hurl them off the ferry… only to bin them instead.

Gonch makes his own way over and arrives before the others, much to the chagrin of Mr Mackenzie, who elected to stay back and escort Gonch. Mr Bronson cuts a very eccentric figure in these episodes as he tries to catch the eye of the organiser Mrs Hamilton, wearing a succession of very strange outfits and even looking at the price of property in the area.

Despite Vince and Fiona’s best efforts to cover for him, Trev’s drinking leads him to be stranded out at sea, resulting in a Coastguard call out. Miss Booth shows real steel as she punishes Vince and Fiona (an early role for Michelle Gayle) for attempting to hide Trevor. They are forced to miss the much-anticipated barbecue.

Fun fact: Michael Sheard (Mr Bronson) actually lived in the Isle of Wight [Verified. I once saw him walking down Ryde High Street with a One-Stop bag – Ed]. He cited these as being amongst his favourite episodes.

5. St Albans Field Trip (Series 6, Episode 6 1983)

Annette and Julie get into a stranger’s car. Zammo plays Snap…

Staff on duty: Mr Smart, Miss Mooney and Mr Butterworth

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The Roman city of St Albans provides a picturesque backdrop, as N2 begin a field trip. Annette Firmin and Julie Marchant are nearly kidnapped by a couple of youths with a fondness for Duran Duran, when they drive the girls out of their way. Some commentators have noted an analogy between this episode and Little Red Riding Hood, the youths playing Hungry Like The Wolf stalk two potential ‘Red Riding Hoods’. The girls eventually come to their senses and get out of the car and trudge several miles back to the coach.

Roland decides to use a tape recorder to capture reminiscences from the city’s older residents. Unfortunately, he isn’t especially judicious in his choice of material. Jonah and Zammo decide to buy a guidebook to avoid doing any work. However Mr Butterworth, a History teacher making an enjoyable one-off appearance, recognises their ‘work’ as he bought the same book! Zammo produces his copy and sheepishly stumbles “Snap?”

A cautionary tale, well told. Something at which, in its early years at least, Grange Hill really excelled.

4. The Canal Trip (Series 10, Episode 11 & 12 1987)

Ant stows away. Freddie has his style cramped.

Staff on duty: Mr Kennedy, Mrs Regan, Miss Booth, Mr Scott

From the opening scene, as Mr Kennedy rebukes Freddie Mainwaring for hanging up his trendy threads in a cramped toilet, it becomes clear a canal boat is not the natural habitat of the school’s style icon.

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An ex-pupil, the persistently petulant Ant Jones, stows away in an attempt to get closer to Georgina Hayes on the trip – a plan conjured up between Ant and Georgina, who has roped in Banksie and his would-be girlfriend Laura, whose mother Mrs Regan disapproves of their relationship.

Softly-spoken Mr Scott’s problems (with the difficult class E3) are put to one side. He organises (with some relish!) a tent in the middle of nowhere for an overnight ‘adventure’ for his nemesis Trevor Cleaver, and loveable rogues Gonch, Ziggy and Robbie. Later, a guitar strumming Mr Scott engages the pupils in a Beatles singalong but Freddie, who prefers The Pet Shop Boys, goes to his bunk forgetting he turned the gas tap on to prepare some food…

Freddie nearly succumbs to the escaping gas, only to be saved by Ant, who in turn is forced to reveal his presence. The pupils end up at a disco staged by the local church. A deeply unimpressed Trevor comments this could only be organised by “Selina” – his nickname for Mr Scott.

Shallow Freddie is very much the butt of the humour here. Nicely filmed with some great location work. The canal setting providing both a change from the regular field trips and a real breath of fresh air from the schoolyard and classrooms.

3. Orienteering (Series 7, Episode 16 1984)

Roland becomes a hero.

Staff on duty: Mr Baxter, Mr Knowles

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N3, together with responsible fifth formers Claire and Stewpot, go orienteering. Due to an odd number of pupils, Roland finds himself with ‘Bullet’ Baxter. Sour-hearted double act Mandy and Sarah decide to “have some fun” and hide a vital marker. This confuses Roland and Baxter’s attempt to follow the course. Seemingly lost, Mr Baxter tries to contact the others only to take a tumble and injure his ankle.

History teacher Mr Knowles (an early role for Lovejoy actor Chris Jury, who also auditioned for Doctor Who as a potential 7th Doctor), who hitherto had a difficult relationship with the unruly members of N3, impressively takes charge and organises a search party. As darkness falls the situation becomes more difficult. Then Roland’s whistle is heard. Back at the base, Roland is the toast of the group. A regretful Mandy sheds tears of relief.

This one shares much in common with Series 2’s trip to Beaconsfield and Susi and Penny’s ordeal in the woods, and features great acting from Michael Cronin and Erkan Mustafa as Mr Baxter and Roland. The episode marks a transformation for Roland Browning, now free of bullies like Gripper. It’s good to see Roland finally acknowledged by his peers.

2. Trip to France (Series 4, Episode 12 1981)

Tucker arranges for Tommy to stow away – what could go wrong?

Staff on duty: Mr Baxter, Miss Lexington

Tommy isn’t able to go on the school trip to St Malo due to lack of places. “No monkey business”, ‘Bullet’ Baxter warns Jenkins. but Tucker has a plan: Alan diverts the attention of Baxter and the coach driver by suggesting the coach has a flat tyre, whilst Tommy gets on board using the emergency exit door next to the back seat of the coach.

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On board the ferry the other pupils go on deck. Trisha and Cathy try to chat up some French boys but come unstuck with their poor grasp of the language. In the ferry bar, Alan is caught smoking and drinking by the coach driver and later vows to give up the fags. Tommy manages to briefly escape the coach to get some food.

Before the ferry docks, Tucker and Alan help Tommy to secretly get back aboard the coach. However, soon afterwards passport control decide to examine the coach and Tommy is discovered. The school party is sent back to England and the St Malo holiday is cancelled. Tucker is the focus of derision as all the pupils appear to have lost their money. They are in luck, however – the chalet company offers the school a week in Bournemouth – much to Tucker’s relief.

Perhaps the most famous coach incident of the lot. Talk about Tucker’s Luck!

1. Chessington Zoo (Series 5, Episode 12 1982)

Jonah takes a swim. Annette loves carrots.

Staff on duty: Mr Sutcliffe, Miss Mooney

Arguably one of the best episodes of the entire series, and one of the longest at nearly half an hour. N1 arrive at Chessington Zoo by double decker bus. Roland suffers some derision as he gets stuck in the turnstile. A typically unsure Miss Mooney tries not to be distracted by a loud-voiced teacher from another school, Mr Stewart (played by That’s Life star Gavin Campbell).

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Annette teases Garvey, a ginger haired boy from the other school – nicknaming him “Carrot”, this in turn causes animosity between the two schools. Given a free afternoon by the liberal Mr Sutcliffe, Zammo and Jonah decide to intimidate the boys from the other school. Amid an extended altercation, Jonah’s sports bag ends up in the Sealion enclosure! Attempting to retrieve it, Jonah is chased by one of the zoo keepers and has to swim for it.

Hiding in the Ghost Train, where Annette has managed to share a ride with Carrot, Jonah and Zammo eventually escape to the nearby toilets, where they manage to eventually lose the keeper. Meanwhile, Janet St Clair shows concern for “Ro-land” for the first time, much to his chagrin. Annette swaps addresses with Carrot, pretending her name is Mavis, which the boy thinks is a lovely name.

Roland, who has given Zammo some of his lunch, goes for another meal and delays the bus ride back to school. Mr Sutcliffe, strained by his on-off relationship with Miss Mooney, is totally unaware of Jonah and Zammo’s antics and thinks the trip went quite well.

This is the favourite episode of Lee MacDonald, in part because it was his first day filming as Zammo. Perhaps because Zammo and co. were my contemporaries, I have a lot of time for this particular year group, and for me this episode was the pinnacle of the trips out.