15 September 2017
Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award Expeditions
At the end of August, 17 Lower Sixth pupils headed off to Dartmoor to complete their final DofE Gold Award expedition. At the same time, another six pupils made their way to the River Wye to begin their water-based expedition.
Usually undertaken on foot, this is the first time that a King’s
Gold DofE expedition was to be undertaken by canoe. Having previously shown an
interest in learning to paddle, Harry Cooper-Simpson, Dan Bernardo, Jack Mead,
Angus Lyon, Bradley Rickard and Oliver Martin requested the option to canoe.
Under the tutorship of Mr Pearson the group spent most Wednesday afternoons
during the Lent and Summer Terms perfecting their boat-handling skills as well
as preparing for various rescue scenarios. All their preparation and hard work
paid off when the group embarked on their practice expedition on the lower
stretches of the River Wye, taking three days to make their way from Hoarwithy,
through Ross-on-Wye and into the spectacular Symonds Yat gorge. On entering the
gorge at the infamous rapids they spent several hours learning introductory
white water skills – always a challenge, particularly in a tandem boat loaded
with expedition kit! The coordination and understanding needed to successfully
navigate a tandem boat is not to be underestimated and requires a deep level of
communication and trust between the crew; there’s nothing like the threat of
capsizing to sharpen the mind and focus attention.
With this newly-acquired skill and experience under their
belts the boys began their four-day journey, starting at Glasbury, and wending
their way out of the Black Mountains in Wales and into the rolling hills of
Herefordshire, down into the wide plains below the city of Hereford itself. This
was the first time the group would find themselves truly on their own –
although accompanied by a GPS tracker that allowed Mr Pearson to monitor their
progress whilst giving them the remote experience that is key to the Duke of
The weather was kind and sunny for the first three days as
the group made stops at the wide variety of bridges, where they compared
design, style, age and usage for their presentation as well as exploring their
surroundings from the unique perspective of the river. On the final day it was
a race against the weather as the group embarked at 6.00am to try to finish
before the impending rain storm took hold. Alas, the last few hours were cold
and damp and resembled any trip to Dartmoor on a rainy day!
Speaking of a rainy Dartmoor … just as the canoe group were
starting out, our walkers were hoping the weather would replicate that of their
practice expedition on Exmoor as they arrived on the moor to set up base
camp and await their meeting with two assessors.
Night one under canvas out of the way, the expedition could
commence. Starting out in ‘to be expected’ conditions: constant light
rain, low cloud base and poor visibility, all three groups completed their
first day. Even with a few sore feet, and after enduring a night of torrential rain,
their spirits were not dampened. Remaining positive and upbeat, all the groups
were rewarded with much finer conditions as the week progressed, allowing for
some appreciation of the flora and fauna that is so unique to this type of
environment. On the final day, they even managed to enjoy some sunshine!
Once again, these 17 pupils, just like their canoeing
counterparts, took part in various activities and weekends to prepare for this
We have received some wonderful comments from the assessors involved, stating that all our pupils should be very proud of their professionalism and of their ability to complete their final expedition in such challenging conditions. We are pleased to advise that all pupils completed their final Gold expedition.