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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 Edinburgh ethos.

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 final expedition.

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.

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