Duke of Edinburgh Expedition 2016

London F23

In January, fifteen students from Year 10 embarked on the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, aiming to qualify for the Bronze Award by the end of the summer term. The expedition was to take place around the Ashdown Forest area (home of Winnie the Pooh) during June. Having assembled first at college at 9am, within the hour we were all packed up and raring to go. We reached Bluebell Lane, our destination, just before noon and were soon ready to set off for our first walk. Not quite all of us: Edgar had not changed out of his jeans. He was not to be parted from them for the rest of the trip.

As we embarked on our walk, it started to rain and barely stopped for the remainder of the expedition. However, undaunted, we pushed on and began to learn the basics of navigating, finding our bearings and using a compass. By 4pm we had reached our camp and set up our shelter and tents. That evening, spurred on by the sheer enthusiasm of John, our  D of E leader, we sauntered towards the mini-bus and took a short ride to the Weir Wood Reservoir. This was our opportunity to discover how to navigate at night and we set out on a fascinating walk along the edge of the reservoir. From time to time, John emerged from the darkness – quite scary really! We eventually got back to camp around midnight.

Day 2 dawned to find the group feeling very tired. Nevertheless, after a quick breakfast (a breakfast bar), we were off for our 8-hour training walk of 15km. At the end of this strenuous day, we were able to relax over a game of cards (Cheat, skill 40), eat marshmallows roasted over the campfire and plan our next routes on the map. Sadly, Alex had to leave and we were so sorry to see him go. Eventually we headed off to bed, exhausted and with no idea what the next day would bring.

Day 3 saw us awake at 6.45am and soon busy with taking down our tents. We then headed out in the mini-bus for a short journey to a location near an abandoned railway. From here, we had to make our own way to our new campsite – a rather long slow hike, as poor Theo had sprained his ankle. Once we had recorded our time on the route card, we went off shopping, with £50 to spend on food for our expedition phase.

Day 4 – another early, brisk start. The routine was familiar by now: pack up the tents and make breakfast. This morning it was bacon and pancakes. Although our walk started well, it was soon clear that Theo was not able to keep up as his ankle was by now very painful. We called up John who came to the rescue and helped Theo back to the mini-bus. A short stop for some sandwiches and we were on our way again, very pleased to be on time at our next camp.

The last day dawned and the activity for the day was to walk to various checkpoints. We made good progress, reaching each of the first five checkpoints early and then powering our way through to the final checkpoint, the ninth, which we reached two hours ahead of schedule. We were tired but very happy, especially as we had completed our DofE Bronze award. Even Alex and Theo, who didn’t complete the challenge, agreed that they had enjoyed it and were pleased with our achievement.

We all had a lot of support, especially from John and our teachers back at MPW, Maya Waterstone and Petrouchka Stafford.

Patricia Ward, Based on material included in the students’ presentation to their year group.