Duke of Edinburgh Silver Award Expedition
The MPW Silver assessment expedition was a fun and adventurous journey following the South Downs Link from Guildford to Brighton. For the purpose of the assessment, our team of five cyclists had to demonstrate self-sufficiency by riding at least five hours a day for three days, applying our camp craft training to put up tents and cook food and also by carrying all own gear. Using our orienteering skills and maps, we also had to find our own way through many different villages and unsigned roads. Luckily, the only problems we had were riding in wet weather on the last day and a tyre puncture on our second day.
The Downs Link is a disused railway that was originally built in 1865 but is now open to horse riders, cyclists and walkers as a path following the old railway line. The route links the South Downs Way and the North Downs Way and Shoreham-by-Sea.
The railways previously served the local communities, industries, and people from the cities who wanted a trip to the coast. A century later, in 1966, the country lost around 4,000 thousand miles of railway, including the Cranleigh and Steyning lines, which the Downs Link follows for most of its length. It is now a beautiful wildlife corridor for animals as well as a challenging ride for cyclists.
We began our journey by taking the train from Clapham Junction to Guildford, where the Downs Link starts. Using maps, we rode our way to Sumners Ponds campsite in Horsham. We arrived after dark (because we got a bit lost) and spent a cold night drying our clothes with the hairdryers in the toilet block after a lot of falling in the mud! The path was very muddy and at times we had had difficulty keeping upright.
The second day, we rode to The Barn caravan park in Shoreham-by-Sea, where we spent a very windy night alongside some horses from the nearby stables. The assessor was there to see if we were following the Duke of Edinburgh requirements. On the last day, the landscape changed as we rode through to Brighton. The road was tough with steep hills and the rain made it very difficult. We finally made it at 5pm on the third day – but we had to hold our bikes all the way back home on the train! It was a great experience and we’d like to give a big thank-you to all the members of staff who helped us prepare for such a memorable three-day expedition.
The MPW Silver group: Nurlya (Ameera)Wan Abdul-Rahman, Hai Bui, Valentine Xie, Evgenia Mantatova and Alkham Mukasheva.