15 June 2021
Year 10 students doing their Silver Duke of Edinburgh's Award took part in a successful practice expedition in the recent half term break, as Olivia describes below.
Olivia, Year 10
At the beginning of the half term break, those of us participating in the Silver Duke of Edinburgh’s Award completed our practice expedition in the New Forest, Hampshire, with the help of instructors from A to Z Expeditions. The silver expedition consists of three days of walking and two nights camping and it was highly enjoyable!
On Saturday 15 May we all met at school in the morning to begin the very scenic drive down to the New Forest, which took about two and a half hours. I had never been to the New Forest before and I had high expectations of the scenery. When we arrived, after enjoying the sunshine for a minute and looking at a very adorable baby donkey and its mother, we began our rundown of everything the instructors wanted to check with us: our food, clothes, sleeping bag and mat - and basically everything we were meant to have in our bags. We found out that on the first day we didn’t have to carry our tents and stoves, which was a relief. Halfway through this talk we had to move elsewhere because a very nosey donkey kept trying to eat our food, which we all found pretty hilarious! After finally completing the talk we began to walk.
As this was the first day, we walked with an instructor and we took it quite slowly, in short sections. This was perfect as it was already very hot and continued to get hotter as the weekend went along. We arrived at the campsite at about 6pm, after walking 10 kilometres, and we finally put our bags down. But the day wasn’t over. We had to put our tents up, cook dinner, wash up and tidy everything away. Thankfully this all went smoothly and we could finally rest for the night.
The next morning (for me anyway) was rather slow, as I am not much of a morning person. But I managed to get myself up and out of the tent to prepare for the very, very long, hot day ahead. This time, we did have to carry our tents, poles and stoves. For me, this day was definitely the hardest. We walked a full 18 kilometres and it took us about nine hours, including lunch and breaks. Though it was hard it was still a lot of fun. My group ended up getting a little bit lost at one point, getting our feet stuck in a bog that we weren’t even meant to go through in the first place, and one person in the group even got pooed on by a bird! A very full day of events let’s just say. When we finally got to the campsite, things calmed down a lot and we were able to eat our food in lovely sunshine and play some UNO before going to bed at 8pm (the earliest night I’ve had in a while!).
The next day was my favourite. This was not just because we finally got to go home and sleep in our own beds but also because we all got along really well and we laughed throughout the whole day. Although it was very enjoyable, by the end of this last day it is safe to say I was very pleased to be returning home to the comfort of my proper bed and proper pillow - not just a blow-up roll mat and a pile of clothes.
On the way back from the New Forest, there was a little bit of traffic but to the delight of us students we were able to stop and eat some lovely warm food that we didn’t have to carry and prepare ourselves.
This was my first ever DofE expedition (as I wasn’t able to do bronze) and I really enjoyed it. Thank you to Mrs Payne, who organised everything for us, to the instructors at A to Z and to my group who made this a really memorable and happy experience for me. We are completing the real thing on the South Downs at the start of the summer holidays and let’s hope the next expedition is just as enjoyable as the last.