This was the first chance I’ve had to get involved with the Concord College DofE programme. I’ve been asked for several years now, but always been committed to other work, so I was pleased to see a gap in my diary when they asked me again this year.
I met the staff and students at the college first thing this morning to check kit and agree routes and logistics, before heading off to the Stiperstones area of the Shropshire Hills. We were dropped in Pennerley and, after a brief chat about the map and how to use it, it became apparent that there was quite a variation of levels of experience within the group.
We started to make our way up towards the Devil’s Chair, making very good time, but it was clear that the more experienced navigators and walkers were taking charge of the map reading. So, after a stop for first lunch at the top, we started a rotation of map reading responsibilities to get everyone involved.
Everything was going fine until we met a road, clearly marked on the map. Although the footpath crossed straight over the road, for some reason we turned right and followed the road. It’s always difficult to know how far to let these errors run unchallenged. If you correct it too quickly, the group never actually learn the importance of not making mistakes in the first place. However, let it go too long and everyone is too busy hating you to learn anything else for the rest of the day! As it was, we walked the wrong way downhill for about 10 minutes. It provided a valuable learning opportunity, especially as we had the uphill walk with expedition rucksacks to get ourselves back on track.
From here on, the navigation went pretty well, and after a long trek up Linley Hill, we were rewarded with some magnificent views across south Shropshire.
By the time we arrived in the campsite in Wentnor, everyone was looking fairly tired. This probably explains why the group then forgot to consult the map, turned left too early before the bridge over the river, and walked up the wrong river bank towards the tents, before realising that we were on the side and had to backtrack again. perhaps the earlier lesson hadn’t been fully learnt after all!
It was good to get out with the Concord College DofE groups at last. They were a lovely group to spend the day with, but I hope manage to put a few things into practice tomorrow when they head out on their own.