23 May 2023
Sixty five Year 9s spent last weekend practising hard for their bronze level Duke of Edinburgh’s Award qualifying expedition, which they will undertake in June. Woldingham’s DofE team's summary of the two days was that the students were “very organised and efficient in camp and used teamwork and navigation skills to complete their expeditions in good time and in high spirits”. As Scarlett explains below, the students learned a range of important skills.
Scarlett C, Year 9
Our Year 9 Duke of Edinburgh’s Award practice expedition was spread over two days. Saturday was almost a training day, where we were taught practical things. Pretty much how not to get lost. For this, we walked just outside of the school grounds in groups with our instructor (ours was Rob). We stopped for lunch, where we envied other people’s food. I had forgotten to bring my ham sandwich so I had plain tortilla wraps. Yum.
After lunch, we continued until we reached a junction. Two fields. Both containing cows and calves. We had a vital decision to make. In which field were we least likely to be chased by cows? We stood wearing our high vis vests and massive backpacks as tensions ran high. Soon, the decision was made, and we marched through the field on the left. That day we learnt how to avoid very scary cows and live to tell the tale. Phew, cow gate was over. Eventually, we found ourselves at the top of the back drive and sat down to plan our routes for the following day. Confusion followed as we tried to figure out the best route and distance of our walk, while eating the day’s remaining snacks.
After intense planning, at about four o’clock we got back to our campsite (which was where we have November’s fireworks by the way), put down our extremely heavy bags and met up with the other groups to talk about our day. We all set up our tents - with many complaints about the size - in a cluster and started cooking our dinner. I have never, ever, in my life, seen so many pot noodles. Then we were met with horrific news. We had to get up at six o’clock in the morning the next day. Let me say that again: six o’clock! Ew. No one liked that. Anyway, soon we were sent off to sleep in two and three person tents. Half of us were knocked out cold, others kept up by intense snoring. Hypothermia ensued. Word of advice: on DofE wear more clothes than you think you will need. Because you will need them. The night is VERY cold!
BOOM! Six o’clock came way too quickly as we all stepped out of our tents looking like corpses. We got dressed, brushed our teeth and tried to figure out how to shove our sleeping bags back into their bag things. And then came the challenge of fitting tents, stoves, poles and pegs into our already stuffed to the brim backpacks. We just about managed. Breakfast was fantastic! Everyone had hot chocolate and leftover noodles, and the misfortunate had porridge.
Once the campsite was clear and spotless, we had to clean our stoves, which proved a challenge. After pretending to be Cinderella for half an hour, we set off and immediately took a wrong turn. We corrected ourselves and continued. Then, we realised where we were. Titsey. AKA the most hilly place in all of Surrey and probably the worst place to do DofE. Fab. We met three other groups and constantly overtook one another other before falling back. We made it to our next checkpoint, where things went wrong. At the previous checkpoint, our group misheard the instructor’s specific instruction and went completely the wrong way. Half an hour later, Rob drove up to us and told us we had to turn around. As we walked back, two of the group went ankle deep in a pretty grim looking puddle and then we met our nemesis. Cows. Again. We couldn’t get to the gate so we had to hop over a fence. Then another. And another. It’s important to mention, these were barbed wire fences and we had very heavy bags. We continued on for another hour, stopped for lunch and then started again. By now we were about three quarters of the way through and it was pretty much all up hill. We marched on with few breaks as we were so close and made it to the end!
We walked 14k all in all, when we were only supposed to do 10k. To celebrate, I had a half hour nap on the ground as we waited for the bus to take us back to school. In my opinion, DofE had its moments - ups and downs and all that - and this was only the practice. I can’t wait for the real thing!