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Unconventional team building with Hunt or Be Hunted

What does team building mean to you?

Being blindfolded and guided through “shark-infested custard” by a group of your colleagues?

Perhaps you’re given three minutes to learn facts about your nominated colleague before having to relay your new-found information to the rest of the group, while inevitably getting it wrong? Maybe a team sports day, learning circus tricks or just the good ol’ Friday afternoon drinks at the local.

The email subject “Team building” normally fills people with a sense of dread, but Chewton Glen’s partnership with Hunted (as seen on Channel 4) is aiming to change that.

Chewton Glen, a luxury hotel and spa in Hampshire, has teamed up with Steve Cottam and Becky Mason, the presenters of the Channel 4 series Hunted. They create exhilarating team-building exercises – or incentives – if adrenaline-inducing activities are your idea of a reward.

Hunted is now in its fifth series, with countless celebrity editions added to the list. The premise of the show is for your average Joe to attempt to stay completely “off-grid” for 28 days, evading capture from special surveillance forces, in order to win £100k. While you might be thinking “easy peasy lemon squeezy” the digital age and the Big Brother society we live in, actually makes achieving this very difficult.

Of course, companies can’t take a month out of the working calendar in the hope that their employees will bond. So, Steve and Becky, formally of military and police professions, have shrunk the programme into a day of fun and I went along to Chewton Glen’s first Hunt or be Hunted experience to see if I could evade being captured.

The briefing took place in The Library one of Chewton Glen’s meeting spaces, surrounded by high-tech equipment, including drones, a thermal imaging camera and walkie-talkies. Steve laid out some ground rules: “Don’t bundle each other to the ground, a tap will do, don’t annoy other guests staying at the hotel and have fun!”

We were divided into two teams, the fugitives and the hunters (later we swapped so everyone got the full experience).

We were dropped off at Chewton Glen’s tennis courts and told where to find our first checkpoint. We made it there and went undetected by the drones humming above us. Solving the first task led us to find our second checkpoint, which is where we discovered an apparent dog-walker who had lost her blind dog.

Human empathy kicked in and we forgot about the game we were playing. Then, someone on my team yelled: “She’s part of it!” A distraction to help the hunters keep us in one area for too long.

It was here the hunters broke the rules and ambushed us, chasing us down the road as we scattered like sand in a desert storm. After much frantic waving and hushed shouting across bushes, four of the original six-person team, regroup and laid low among stinging nettles.

It’s incredible how competitive I found myself getting because if you’d told me I’d willingly get stung by nettles on a Saturday morning, I’d have laughed. But there I was.

After some time we made our way back to the second checkpoint where we found instructions on how to get to the extraction point. The aim of this team-building game is for the fugitive to get to the extraction point first, and let off their team’s flare before the hunters do.

We thought we were on the home straight, running down a muddy path, extraction point in sight, when suddenly my childhood nightmare happened: the bogey man began in hot pursuit while lobbing firecrackers at us. It made me run faster – and swear (a lot).

As we reached the extraction point, we spotted someone from the hunted team running towards the treasure chest “not today buddy” I thought, as one of my teammates legged it. Swiping the box, a comical pursuit ensued but the fugitive team reigned supreme as the blue flare let off its victorious smoke.

Exhausted, muddy and totally pumped, all I could think was: “I really need to join a gym.”

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