For the last few years I have helped out with the provision of Bronze DofE expedition training and assessments. Due to the numbers of participants involved, a number of instructors are needed to supervise and assess the various groups over the course of 6 days. Over recent years, a core team has developed, making it a bit of an annual reunion for instructors as well as being a good week’s work.
We all met up at Shrewsbury School on Sunday morning for final briefings and meeting the groups. The rest of the morning was spent carrying out kit checks, checking route planning and route cards and shopping for expedition food, before moving to a campsite on the northern edge of the Long Mynd in the Shropshire Hills. Once tents were up, there was the chance for a ‘shake out’ walk, just to refamiliarise everyone with important expedition skills and knowledge before cooking dinner and getting some sleep. Heavy rain during the night threatened to leave everyone with wet tents to pack up, but thankfully a stiff breeze in the morning soon had things dry out before the assessed expedition started after breakfast.
With the assessment venture underway, my role became much more laid back, letting the group get on with enjoying the opportunity to be unaccompanied and self sufficient. This is the great part of the DofE expedition section, as it gives the young people the chance to truly rely on themselves and each other, having been given the appropriate training and knowledge. Naturally, there’s always someone lurking in the background, just in case there’s a real problem, but the expedition itself should be through their efforts.
My group were far from perfect in terms of navigation, making a few detours along the way. However, they always sorted themselves out and got back on track without my intervention. It sometimes meant that I was a bit worried waiting for them at the next checkpoint an hour after they should have been there, but that’s my problem!
More heavy rain overnight threatened to put a dampener on things, and left much of the group’s kit a bit wet for the second day of the expedition. However, by now the end was in sight and they performed really well and reached their final destination by 3pm. All that was left was for the clean up operation – drying tents, cleaning stoves and handing all the kit back in.
Although that may have been it for the group, it all started again on Wednesday morning as the next lot of walking groups prepared for their assessed venture over the following three days. By now the pattern was well established and running through the same sequence again with a new group was straight forward enough. Again, they had a few navigational hic-ups along the way (the first being about 200m from the start!), but got there in the end.
Both groups did really well and, as I normally find, thoroughly enjoyed the chance to be independent during the expedition – relying on their own training and skills. Congratulations to both groups!