Our DofE Expedition - by Jesse Mattinson (Rb)
Every year, the vast majority of the Third Form choose DofE (Duke of Edinburgh’s Award) as an option for their outdoor activities. The DofE course consists of three respective levels: Bronze, Silver and Gold. Each level has its own challenges that the candidate must complete (on Bronze there were volunteering, physical, and skills) and an expedition – like the Third Form ‘DofE-ers’ have just done – must be completed in order to finish that DofE level. The expedition is a two-day and one night journey through a challenging area (in our case, the hills and rural area of Shropshire!). To pass this challenge, the candidate must have completed a practice expedition and must demonstrate team skills, fitness, navigation skills, self-reliance, cooking ability and a host of other things that one would not usually do at home! The following is an account of my experience and the whole group’s experience of our trek through the Longmynd.
Having got to the campsite in Womerton on the Wednesday evening, we were all quite anxious to set up our tents ahead of the rain clouds that were looming dangerously in the sky. Next, we needed to cook our dinner, which the whole group had bought at Sainsbury’s under a budget a couple of hours previously. My team’s instructor, Ant, showed us a range of gruesome photos on his iPad of burnt fingers and ripped off skin that had been caused by carelessness with the trangia (our stove). This was a bit of a shock, but in the end we all managed to have a surprisingly nice dinner of pasta and sauce without getting burnt!
After a rather windy and wet night, we got up to a rare bit of sunshine that allowed us to cook our breakfasts in relative comfort, and pack away our tents. My team got out of camp 30 minutes later than expected, meaning that our planned route and its timings were a bit messed up. However, we were all eager to get going, and with our packs on our backs, we clawed back those minutes by charging up the first hill (and a tough one!) in our first leg. The rest of the day was hard work, but very satisfying when you have completed your walk. There were on and off showers throughout the first day, and the bad weather got to my team on top of the Stiperstones, when everyone agreed that the sun seemed to be avoiding us. Cold, wet and trying to no avail to eat our lunch, we had a bit of a breakdown (a point in which we were arguing all of the time!). Suddenly however, we started laughing hysterically for no reason and concluded that in a week or so we would all be looking back on this moment with laughter. Eventually, we got ourselves together and guess what? – the sun caught up with us for a while!
That night, after a long days walk, we stayed at Brow Farm; a pleasant campsite that actually had showers and good toilets! Again, it was a windy night, and luckily Ant was at hand to turn our tents round the right way, so not to be blown away in the night. In the morning, we were very relieved at this, all the more so when we heard that Colonel David’s tent had collapsed in the night due to a pole breakage! We walked 15 kilometres that day, compared to Thursday’s 19, thus bringing our total up to 37 kilometres. The last few kilometres were probably the toughest, with a few big hills coming up that gradually wore us down right to the very end. When we had actually completed the expedition, there was still the cleaning of trangias and polishing of boots to do under the inspection of Ant!
Concluding my expedition, although it was very tough (and the furthest I have walked in my life), I still found the whole process very rewarding and enriching, as I learned many skills such as trangia cooking and however to pack your rucksack well. I think that one of the key things that doing an expedition, whether in DofE or not, is that you must cooperate with your friends/team members to get through and have a really good time. My team was; Max Morris, Sam McLoughlin, Charlie Tait-Harris, Angus Inglis-Jones, Ben Jones, Alex Penman and myself – and I thought that we worked really well with each other, making it much easier to get up those big hills! Although we were slightly unlucky with the weather, it didn’t affect the enjoyment of the whole thing, and as long as you wrap up, stay warm and dry, and generally just get involved, you are bound to have a great time.