DofE Gold Award Presentations
To have seven students in Year 13 complete their Award soon enough in the academic year to be invited to Buckingham Palace in May is an astonishing achievement on their part.
Participants technically have until their 25th birthday to finish their 6 months of Skill, 12 months of Physical and 18 months of Volunteering, not to mention the two expeditions they went on last year, as well as the five-day residential experience which they organised themselves, partaking in a group activity with people they didn’t know.
Congratulations to the seven pictured and also to Aadin, Faris, Arjun and Kavilaish who have also completed their Awards but missed the deadline for going to the Palace this year. They will be invited next May instead.
11th – 15th April
The Gold expedition was my first since a little-known bug called COVID-19 prevented my participation in Bronze and Silver, and so I was thrust into a proverbial ‘trial by fire’! Listening to stories from my predecessors, I expected DofE to be a fun little walking trip, that might leave you with a newfound appreciation for your bed, some back pain and a little bit of sweat on your forehead but ultimately, a youthful, low-stakes adventure.
I realised that I might have misinterpreted the situation when, on the top of a mountain, smack dab in the middle of a dead zone, with the fittest member of our squad having dropped out due to the conditions, we were hit with the storm that that Yellow Weather Warning on BBC had told us about the day before. Drenched in mud, sweat and more mud, when I stumbled into camp with some other groups at the end of day one, watching the people who were smiling and laughing mere hours ago shouting at each other with the rage of a thousand sheep, I also realised that this was not the typical DofE expedition. Most people were in a fractious mood at the end of the first day and cheering and/or sleeping on the bus ride home on the second day after our teachers took the decision that we must abandon the expedition!
Thankfully, since I am built a little differently, I was not one of them, enjoying my sleeping bag and having an impromptu karaoke ride with my friends on the way back. If you can get past the mud, the mud and the mud, this trip is actually quite a bit of fun. Face to face with horses, dogs, sheep and the plentiful fields of Cymru, you can learn to enjoy the experience!
Special thanks to the school staff who helped us out in the dreadful conditions and gave up part of their Easter holiday to enable this trip to take place!
Article by Jastej, Year 12
31st March – 2nd April
It began with a missed alarm. With only half an hour left to eat, change, and travel to East Croydon station for the direct train to Crowborough where our expedition would begin, it is no exaggeration to say that it was certainly a rushed start to the trip! Thankfully, I made the train along with fellow team members, and as we headed south. Naturally I felt uneasy at the prospect of three days of trekking through tiring terrain, despite our success at Bronze last year. It didn’t help that that day - Friday the 31 March, the final day of the Spring Term – heavy rain was forecast. A worrying thought, but a core mental challenge to overcome as part of completing the whole award!
After assembling with the rest of my energetic team, it became evident that the waterproofs were most definitely required. On collecting our group kit (tents, stoves and maps), we commenced our journey through the relaxing - and at times quite enjoyable - countryside near and around Ashdown Forest. Distance-wise, the first day would be the longest, but we were all optimistic upon descending on the campsite well before dusk: how wrong we were! While the rain had cleared off by the early afternoon, its effects were still felt throughout the rest of the expedition and was the primary cause of our persistent discomfort across the entire weekend: mud. The sights of tent porches littered with the filthy brown thick substance, complemented by disgust-inducing muddy boots and rucksacks, were enough to compromise the morale of several groups.
Yet we persisted, grateful for a decent night’s sleep of a modest six hours, and made our way across more quick-mud (this should really be added to the English dictionary: at one point my right boot completely fell off and remained stuck for a solid minute!). We passed farms on footpaths, and eventually made it to the other campsite, with a little more time to cook dinner and pitch up tents before we were shrouded in darkness once more. The final day was the shortest, and after passing several shooting ranges and rivers, we were beyond glad to see Crowborough station in the distance. The days after this fun experience were not spent recovering physically, rather they were utilised on scrubbing down and washing all the dirty equipment. Hopefully our qualifying expedition in June near Arundel will take place amid slightly more pleasant conditions!
Article by Haayed, Year 11
29th – 30th April
On a bright and early Saturday morning, a group of excited Year 10 students set out on a practice Duke of Edinburgh expedition. Armed with heavy rucksacks, we were ready to take on the world, or at least the pleasant path that awaited us. The journey started off very well, with our spirits high and enough water to last us a week. However, things quickly took a turn for the challenging when we encountered the hilly terrain of the picturesque area of Shalford. Despite the tough terrain, we pushed on, fuelled by the kind words and conversations we had with the friendly locals. The navigation was tricky, and we did get lost a couple of times, but we were determined to complete our journey. After walking more than 15 kilometres, we finally reached our campsite, where we were tasked with setting up our tents in groups of three.
Once our tents were set up, we had a well-deserved break, and our campsite turned into a playground for some. We played a game of American football, which unfortunately got confiscated by the instructors, but not before we had an absolute blast! As the sun began to set, we set about making our own food using only a stove and the supplies we had brought with us. Despite our limited resources, we managed to cook up some mouth-watering dishes, including a delicious pasta dish that made us forget our aching muscles.
After an eventful day, we retired to our sleeping bags for some much-needed rest. The night provided a mixed experience of comfort levels, with some sleeping soundly and others struggling to get comfortable on the hard ground. Nonetheless, we woke up the next day, ready to take on whatever challenges lay ahead. In total, we walked over 35 kilometres over the two days, and while it was tough at times, it was also incredibly rewarding. We can't wait to find out what the real expedition in July has in store for us!
Article by Emilio, Year 10!