Duke of Edinburgh's Awards: Gold Expedition
The Gold practice expedition took place in the Derbyshire Peak District in April, with a record number of 29 students taking part.
Over the Easter holidays, 29 Lower Sixth students completed their 5-day Gold practice expedition in the Derbyshire Peak District. The weather was reasonably kind, the scenery stunning and morale was high as this record number of Gold expeditioners successfully applied all the skills they have acquired this year.
You can read three accounts of the experience below.
Being one of the few who hadn’t done D of E Silver, I felt apprehensive about the Gold practice expedition, however this nervousness was immediately replaced by excitement when I was surrounded by friends, putting up our tents and getting ready for the experience. On the first day, we met our instructors, who were endlessly helpful with guidance on map reading, compass bearings, and general tips for surviving the experience. Though the walking was tough and intense at points, the encouragement from my group kept me going, as well as the games we played to distract us from tiredness. But most of all, the friendly competition between groups motivated us, especially when limited hot water in a shower was on the line!
Though I naturally missed the comforts of home, the experience of camping was something different and exciting; we had freedom to go on walks at night, or to have a feast of sweets while telling ghost stories. One of my favourite memories was stargazing with my friends, appreciating the nature we miss here in London. The views were another motivator to keep going and the diversity of the area meant that one day, after a steep walk, we might be looking out over a valley, the next we might be in a forest, or the next, by a massive reservoir. However, as enjoyable as the views were, the rewarding feeling of arriving in camp, finally sitting down to a hot meal, and catching up with everyone was unmatched. There was definitely a sense of camaraderie between groups, at night joining together to chat or play games, which meant I ended up talking to people I hadn’t talked to before. The expedition did push us to our limits, but overall, it was an unforgettable experience with lots of fond and funny memories that I will treasure for a long time.
On Saturday the 1st of April we set off on a 3-hour journey to the Peak District to begin our Gold practice expedition for 5 days. Despite having done my Silver and Bronze before, it was still inevitably a bit daunting to be hiking and camping for five days straight, however, it was soon replaced by enthusiasm and eagerness upon seeing the reaction of my friends, meeting the lovely instructors and setting up camp. Our instructors and school staff helping out all played a huge role in our expedition and experience through their positivity, generosity and helpfulness. As it was still only the early afternoon of the first day, we planned our route for the following day and set off on a walk for a few hours, each group with the instructor they chose, to get to know the area a bit before we properly hiked and navigated it the next day. The landscapes that we saw when walking in the Peak District were incredibly picturesque, peaceful, and lifted our spirits.
Although the walking over those five days was tough, our group dynamic, conversations and laughs shared really kept us going, as well as bumping into other groups or schools and having locals cheer us on. We were very lucky to have amazing weather during the expedition, and although some nights were cold, nothing could have beaten the experience of everyone reuniting in the evenings to have dinner together, chat and play games. One of my favourite memories was when we were all sat together in the evening wrapped up in blankets, laughing about the things that had happened to each of our groups during the day.
Going through the expedition was a test for all of us mentally and physically, but it was absolutely worth it and the friendly competition between groups to arrive first at each of the campsites and at the end destination on the last day motivated us to try our best and keep going. We also learnt valuable skills such as map reading, orientation, teamwork but also independence and resilience. The memories created throughout the expeditions will be ones which stay with us for the rest of our lives and I am so glad I signed up for doing D of E. When we finally completed the expedition there was a great sense of accomplishment felt by all members of the group as we were very proud of ourselves for overcoming the challenges that we were presented with through the expedition!
After days of constantly checking each different weather app, the D of E gods blessed us with four days of perfect weather (and one day of drizzle) for our practice Gold expedition. Five days of hiking, camping, and not a lot of sleep lay between us and the coach trip home. The first few days were spent practising navigation, map-reading and preventing Ra Ra (our instructor’s dog) from catching rabbits. We were finally let loose into the Peak District on day three with nothing but an old OS map and a radio in case we got lost. Spirits were high until we saw the physical manifestation of the contour lines we had neglected to notice on the map, but with some excellent team spirit we pushed on through and completed our expedition with ease. It was a fantastic experience and I can’t recommend doing Gold D of E highly enough.