D of E: 3 amazing Gold and Silver expeditions
Over 100 intrepid St Benedict’s students took part in Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold and Silver Award expeditions over half term - on Dartmoor, in the Cotswolds and the Surrey Hills.
Dartmoor offered the most challenging terrain, which was made even more exciting by some very stormy weather – perfect for the Gold qualifying expedition which was successfully completed by 21 sixth form students. Mrs Lee, D of E Leader at St Benedict’s, said: “They were BRILLIANT in their navigation and walked between 18-19 km every day, wild camping for 2 days with bare essentials. All their waterproofs were wet through, but despite all of this they did so, so well. Gold itself is quite challenging but having to complete it in one of the wettest weeks of the year is really, really tough. Some of these students have been with us since their Bronze award, so it was emotional for us. I’m so proud of all of them.”
In the Cotswolds, 39 Year 11 students completed their Silver qualifying expedition, walking about 15-16 km each day. After a late start on day one it was a race against time, losing the daylight they need to set up camp. “Again, they faced the challenges head on and did well!” said Mrs Lee.
Finally, the Year 10 Silver practice expedition took place in the Surrey Hills: 42 students, supported by Chase Training Solutions (a D of E expedition provider) walked between 12 and 14 km each day. “The weather was mild to start with but finished with torrential rain on the last day”, said Mrs Lee. “They were all drenched through but relieved that they finally achieved their Silver practice.”
Along the way, we swiftly ate lunch and plotted our course for the next two and a half days. After that was done we headed out to the campsite, where we encountered both steep hills and wet weather." (Thomas, on the Silver practice expedition)
Summing up the three amazing expeditions in two weeks, Mrs Lee said: “All we could remember was WET and COLD; it seemed like an eternity and I know the pupils now appreciate their warm bed and comfort food!”
After dinner, not everyone went straight to bed and most of us stayed up chatting about what happened to each other that day..."Thomas, on the Silver practice expedition
Read Thomas's account of his Silver Practice expedition in the Surrey Hills:
We arrived at school by 6:45am, all bright eyed and bushy tailed ready for three days of walking and adventures. We were told to wait with our groups and talk amongst ourselves until the coach arrived, and we would then head of into the wilderness!
Following an hour and a half journey, we arrived at our destination and our groups were assigned to group Leaders; my group – William, Elena, Benjy, Yakira, Amalia and me - was appointed to Gaz, a very helpful and friendly man who made our first day much easier. After meeting Gaz we headed off to start our first day of the expedition. We walked for around three hours at first. Luckily, we did not end up on any hills nor steep areas, that was for later, though we did encounter rain and a bitterly cold wind (though that did not shake our spirits!) Along the way, we swiftly ate lunch and plotted our course for the next two and a half days. After that was done we headed out to the campsite, where we encountered both steep hills and wet weather. After around two hours of walking we finally arrived at our base camp. We arrived in the dark and so we had to quickly build our tents and cook our food, this was all completed with much ease, and we were all ready for sleep by the time this was all finished.
Once we had all woken up we had to cook our breakfast and dismantle our tents. This took half an hour and we were all ready for the day ahead. We were given the navigation courses that we had prepared the day before and set off. When we started, like the day before we were full of energy. My group set off at around 8.10am. We walked for about four and a half hours before we decided to stop for lunch and regain some much needed energy. We all “indulged” in pre-cooked meals that we re-heated which gave us all the energy that we needed to carry on. We carried on walking for another three and a half hours during which we talked and joked amongst each other to pass the time, until we finally arrived back at the campsite.
We set up the two tents that had been dismantled earlier that day, and then prepared our dinner for that night. After dinner, not everyone went straight to bed and most of us stayed up chatting about what happened to each other that day, and how we were all looking forward to going back home the next day.
We all woke up with excitement and joy, not for the seven hours of walking ahead of us. No, it was in the knowledge that we would be going home that day. We all made breakfast while talking about what we would do once we had arrived home, I believe that the most common answer was “SLEEP”. After breakfast was finished, we dismantled our tents and packed our bags, which seemed ten times heavier than the day before. Once all of that was done, we were finally ready to leave. We had only been walking for about two hours before the rain and cold weather ruined our day. Unfortunately our route included a huge amount of hills, cliffs and peaks that we had to climb. By the end of the day, we had climbed seven. My group did not stop for lunch that day as we had the aim of arriving at the final checkpoint first, but unfortunately this goal we had set ourselves was not achieved as another group had beaten us to it. We waited for the other groups to arrive and then we got on the coach to go home.