A golden DofE adventure across the South Downs
At the start of this term in September, my group (Monica, Laraib, Christy, Ralph, Jack and Leo) set out on our Duke of Edinburgh Gold Expedition. After many months of training, from map reading to first aid we were all very eager to set off and complete our expedition. It was a 4 day adventure across the English South Downs, travelling from Amberley to Eastbourne (a total of 80km over four days), with our longest day being day 2, where we had 10 checkpoints. At each checkpoint, we met our group leader Tuan or our assessor to ensure we were en route and safe. On the morning of the 5th September 2023, we all met at Amberley station. After our previous practice in the Easter holidays, the group morale was definitely higher as we all knew what to expect and were more comfortable with each other – our bags were also lighter as we learnt from our previous mistakes!
Across the 4 days there were many highs and lows, and this was recorded in a group document where we rated our moods at each checkpoint from a scale of 1-10. Fortunately or unfortunately the weather was 30 degrees throughout the entire week, which sounds lovely until you’re climbing a hill with a massive backpack on at midday! Luckily, we had many breaks and laughs together which pushed us up all those hills (and a couple quite comical trips when we went downhill)! Sadly, a couple of us got sunburnt, especially Jack who was rocking a very red farmer’s tan.
By the evening however, the setting of the sun calmed its rays and although very tired, we were all very grateful to be setting up camp and eating dinner around our trangias. Our last night was especially a highlight as we all stayed up late playing uno for hours, despite having to wake up at 6am the next day, and Tuan even roasted some food for us over the fire. There were some lows too, especially on day two where a couple of us were struggling leaving us hours behind schedule and eventually we had to get a lift to the campsite at the end of the day and make up the extra kilometres the next day. But memories such as seeing the stars on night 1 (which I loved as it’s very rare to see them in London), kept us going and also the fact that we had each other. I personally was very grateful to the boys as they kept the sheep away from me when we entered fields as I am terrified of animals. Meanwhile Ralph was very happy to become friends with any insects he came across and pick berries along the footpaths.
Finally, as day 4 approached on the 8th September, we exhaustedly and excitedly traversed through Eastbourne until we came across the train station. Grateful to be finished, the group headed down to the beach, however I decided to head straight home on the train (looking very much forward to a long shower). From what I heard afterwards they all had a lot of fun and bought ice cream to celebrate completing their Duke of Edinburgh Gold Expedition.