Silver DofE practice walk – perspectives

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Last weekend, 56 Block 4 students took a walk in the countryside surrounding Bedales, initially guided by seven experienced members of the school’s Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) team. Here we share accounts of the trip from three students and one member of staff.

By Julia Bevan, Teacher of English

This was the first extended, practical opportunity for students to put into practice the basic navigation, pacing and map reading skills we’ve explored in our after-school sessions, and it also gave the students a chance to experience first-hand the importance of route cards, try out their kit and work as a team.

On Saturday morning, it looked as though we were going to get very wet in the afternoon, but in fact it was heavy wind and the onset of darkness that we had to contend with over Shoulder of Mutton in the nearby Ashford Hangers. The important business of putting participants into groups, and then reassembling the groups so that everyone was walking with at least one close friend, took some time. Once this was sorted, groups set off with a large rucksack containing emergency kit such as a high-vis jacket, head torch and tent, which they were instructed to take it in turns to carry.

Learning certainly occurred. Those students with sturdy shoes found the mud and wet terrain was manageable; those with white trainers got them covered in mud and acquired wet and cold feet. I really enjoyed walking with my group, helping them spot hidden footpaths and teaching them the difference between a footpath and a bridleway – and learning from Zack Prior that you can legally drive a motorbike on a bridleway! Many groups also had to put up a tent somewhere on route, and some found the wind made this pretty challenging. The walks had been planned so that my group bumped into most of the groups and I was impressed with the high spirits and generosity of some who shared their snacks and water with those less organised.

A big thank you to David Mann, Paul Turner, Allen Shone, Clive Burch and Kirsten McLintock for supporting the walk and providing invaluable training to their respective groups.

By Eben Macdonald, Block 4

I, being the most unprepared of the group, set out with six others – including the team’s leader, Julia – on our practice Silver DofE walk. We practiced various skills required for the DofE Award, recognising hypothermia, navigating the English plains and setting up a tent, a task which was completed after some hassle and unrest.

Along the way we stopped for a snack break, when we took advantage of each other’s confectionaries. As many others would agree, my favourite part of the trek was the journey through nature, granting us the opportunity to break away from the business of everyday life (and Brexit!) and enjoy the subtleties and beauty of Mother Earth.

At 5.30pm, stumbling through the dark, equipped with SAS-like head torches, we found our bus which had been parked on the outskirts of the woods. Exhausted, wet and desperate, we clambered on and returned to Bedales – a return to wifi, running water and the rollercoaster of the Iran situation.

This journey allowed us to connect with nature and the essence of England. It was a truly splendid experience.

By Millie Kennedy, Block 4

The Block 4 DofE practice walk was surprisingly fun. Our group started with anxious apprehension for the trek ahead. However, once our feet were fully covered in mud,  our group came together for a day of laughs. Half an hour into the walk, our group’s leader, Clive, sprung a surprise challenge for the group to respond to – he had secretly recruited Ava to fall over and pretend to hurt her ankle! We all responded to the imagined emergency scenario well, but Romilly was not fooled.

By Arlo Martin, Block 4

When my group started going through the woods on Steep Common, the path was literally a stream. We continued on the way up to the Poet’s Stone, past the small waterfall and the lake. Arriving at the road before the Poet’s Stone, we went left, taking the longer route up to the top, where we took photos of the view and came across a few horses and a rival school’s deputy head! We started making our descent down the ridge and I slipped over and got really dirty, before the group took a wrong turn, adding five minutes onto our walk. As we walked back to school, Guy fell over with a sprained ankle. We had to help him up, only to realise that Paul had plotted with Guy to fake it as part of an imagined emergency scenario to test our skills. Once back at school, we all had a well-deserved rest.