Adventure @ Bedales

Rob Reynolds, Director of External Relations and DofE Manager

I write this from Dartmoor on a sixth form Gold Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) award expedition. Thirteen students are enjoying good weather and the beautiful surroundings of this national park which is the largest and wildest area of open country in the south of England. Working in teams, students are walking, navigating, carrying their kit, cooking, wild camping, and supporting each other, under the expert eye of Ridgeline Adventures who provide the specialist training and assessment.

Bedales is proud to offer DofE which is delivered through the Activities programme for Blocks 3-5 where students can progress through Bronze and Silver, and the Enrichment programme for sixth formers to pursue Gold. Virtual information sessions are offered by the DofE for parents where you can find out more about the award and how to support a young person through DofE. Click here for more information.

The DofE award was founded by its namesake in 1956, and has become an internationally recognised mark of achievement. For many participants, the DofE can be a life-changing experience and a lot of fun. Students discover new interests and talents, and the tools to develop essential skills for life and work. Participants describe how they have developed character traits like confidence and resilience, which have boosted their mental health and wellbeing and helped them face and overcome personal challenges.  

The programme has three progressive levels with four sections to complete at Bronze and Silver, and five at Gold. They involve helping the community/environment, becoming fitter, developing new skills, planning, training for and completing an expedition and, for Gold only, working with a team on a residential activity.

As a Round Square school, Bedales has made a commitment to character education and experiential learning built around the six themes of International Understanding, Democracy, Environmental Stewardship, Adventure, Leadership and Service. The DofE award has a lot of synergy with Round Square, both having been heavily influenced by the thinking of educationalist Kurt Hahn.

At Bedales each level is overseen by a DofE ‘leader’. To find out more, interested students and parents can contact one of the Bedales DofE team: Paul Beauchamp (pbeauchamp@bedales.org.uk) for Block 3; Allen Shone (ashone@bedales.org.uk)/David Mann (dmann@bedales.org.uk) for Blocks 4-5; Julia Bevan (jbevan@bedales.org.uk) for Sixth Form. I oversee the award programme, organise the expeditions in conjunction with Ridgeline Adventures and liaise with the DofE staff (contact: (rreynolds@bedales.org.uk).

Preparing for expedition

By Julia Bevan, Teacher of English and DofE Manager

Last weekend we were joined by Isaac Walker and his team from outdoor education provider Ridgeline Adventures, who ran a successful Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) training weekend in the sunshine for Bedales students undertaking their Bronze Award.
 
On Saturday, students took part in a range of team building activities at the Sam Banks Pavilion. Gordon Dale, Clive Burch, Paul Beauchamp and I were there to see Ridgeline lead the various sections, which saw the students put up tents in a fairly strong breeze, cooked lunch on Trangias, washed up (a skill that always needs perfecting!), discussed first aid scenarios, learnt to tie slings, planned the routes they will use on their Bronze qualifying weekend in three weeks’ time and learnt how to read maps of the local Hampshire countryside.
 
On Sunday, the students headed out for a walk in Steep Nature Reserve in five groups of five or six. An opportunity to explore the school’s picturesque surroundings (“I didn’t expect it to be so pretty,” were one student’s words; another said it was simply “stunning”), the day was also insightful. Students quickly learnt the importance of rucksacks rather than shoulder bags, and they stopped en route to explore first aid scenarios and navigate carefully. Group 4 particularly enjoyed meeting Magnus’ dogs on the Hangers!
 
The Block 3 students who took part in the weekend were attentive and enthusiastic throughout, and there were many memorable moments: Otto Scarlett’s delicious, and enormously popular pancakes; Dominic Rowell looking a little like a mummy as he wandered around covered in bandages after a fun first aid session; and Tilly Wall spontaneously commenting that their group leader from Ridgeline Adventures, Neil, was incredible and thanking him for a great day’s walk.
 
Thank you to everyone who made the weekend a success and I look forward to accompanying the students on an expedition very soon.

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.

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First Duke of Edinburgh expedition of the year

By Julia Bevan, Teacher of English

When 37 students in Block 5 headed out on their qualifying Silver Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) expedition, they might have been extras in John Keats’ seminal poem, To Autumn. Last weekend on the South Downs, the world was rich in “mellow fruitfulness”. They plucked ripe blackberries from hedgerows, scrumpt apples from “moss’d cottage-trees” and in the evenings you might have come across the odd corn on the cob cooking alongside Wayfarer’s meals and pesto pasta.

On Friday morning it took a while to organise routes and check kit at the Triangle Car Park near the Trundle. As classic cars drove past on their way to the Goodwood Revival, assessors made a note of who had packed particularly carefully, and made sure those that needed an extra compass or water bottle were looked after. Routes were checked and starts were then staggered so as to make sure the groups were not tempted to mass together, before they headed off in different directions: east towards Graffam or west to Treyford.

There was no doubt that the participants had the weather was on their side, and navigation was considerably easier than on the practice expedition in the New Forest. That said, the West Sussex terrain presented the groups with different challenges, and many arrived in camp on Friday sore and exhausted from 400 metre climbs past fields of “full-grown lambs” and nosy herds of cows. After a glorious sunset, the full moon lit up the campsites making the night colder than expected and thus the tents were drenched in moisture on Saturday morning.

As the weekend bore on, it was clear that all 37 participants had personal challenges to meet. Some found the walking very tough, others had to manage their frustration with slower members of their group. Some had to share their food and kit, others to manage sore ankles and painful blisters. It was impressive to see groups leaving relatively early on their second day, and even earlier on the third, determined to get the bulk of the walking done in the morning. It was even more impressive to watch groups share out the load, so that all could complete the walk. All did and can hold their head high, having successfully completed this section of their Silver award.

A big thank you must go to Allen, David, Gordon and Rob for bringing wisdom, humour and years of experience to the trip. A thank you also to Duncan Selmes, who joined us from Dunhurst on Saturday afternoon, bringing more DofE expertise and enthusiasm to the team.