A huge congratulations to the 15 participants who completed their Duke of Edinburgh assessed journey last weekend. It was a turbulent adventure but one that will live long in the memory, I am sure. I did say at the beginning of the recruitment process that whatever happens they wouldn’t forget it!
Some of the students had been preparing for this over the previous month or so by pitching tents at school, reading maps and familiarising themselves with the Trangia gas burners. We also had the practice journey during school time the week previous, where the three groups led by myself (and Ms Elena), Mr Marsh and Mr Stowell-Smith hiked around 12km in about two hours. This was a necessary part of the process and a great way to give the students an idea of what it’s like to carry a sizable backpack and navigate with team members.
For the assessed journey, we met at Gorky Park at 10.00 and left at around 10.30 in our three groups. Each group had their own specific objectives and routes planned in advance. We knew the weather forecast wasn’t great but we were committed and the students were largely wearing the appropriate kit, which was encouraging. My group were lucky enough to be around shelters when the rain broke - heavily on occasion - but I know the other groups weren’t as fortunate. We landed back at the school around 16:15 and pitched our tents; even at this point the ground was looking waterlogged and the predicament was becoming more concerning. By the time Mr Stowell-Smith arrived, then Mr Marsh at around 18:00, it was clear that we needed to resort to ‘Plan B’. So, we elected to sleep in the school premises. Some of the students pitched tents inside and we all used the gas burners for food; some even toasted marshmallows!
The next day, we packed up and ate breakfast using our Trangias before leaving at around 9:30. We all knew the rain had been relentless and didn’t look like stopping – we were right. The final three-hour hike to Gorky Park was all about grit and determination. By the time we arrived at the finish line there were a lot of tired bodies and muddy clothes but the mission was accomplished. We were all incredibly proud of their conduct and resilience throughout. Well done, guys, amazing!
I would very much like to thank my co-assessor Mr Marsh because without him I doubt I could have pulled this together and made it the success it was. Also, of course, to Mr Stowell-Smith and Ms Elena, not only for giving up their free time but for their support throughout it all.
The students aren’t finished their Bronze Award just yet but they’ve surmounted a huge hurdle. Congratulations!