A whole lotta DofE…

It’s that time of year again – Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Expedition season has begun! I like this time of year, the flowers are starting to bloom again, the leaves are growing back, the grass is greener and we’re finally starting to see some more sun! Yesss. This means 1,000s of young people aged 14-24years old are planning walking routes, trying on and purchasing walking kit and getting outside, exploring and having fun adventures!

DofE Part 1:

So first up this season was a Silver practise for Explorer Scouts in the FForest Fawr/Black Mountains area starting at Abercraf. Time to dust off the walking kit and put it to use again…

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This weekend’s kit.

My Kit consisted of:

Even Bailey has his own walking equipment:

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Bailey’s kit.

We decided, after this foray into wild country, that we will find a harness that has pockets so Bailey can carry some of his own kit with him when we go out walking…(he’s going to hate us!)

Leaving the cars in a layby we set off from the Show caves in Abercraf to the hillside. We’ve often used this place as a starting point/campsite for expeditions etc but have never been inside the caves… one day we will do something about that!

I love this area. It has been previously used by the army due to the number of shake holes in this area (not sure if they still use it) for navigation practice so makes it ideal for getting DofE participants to think seriously about navigation – there are also so many false paths, interesting contours and changes in ground vegetation which do offer a good learning challenge. Just looking at part of the Ordnance Survey map covering the area will explain what I mean>>

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I use OS Get-a-map for route planning etc. It’s amazing! Highly recommend it.
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Tracks on the hillside. Such a beautiful fun area to explore.

After a day teaching navigation to the group, they found a spot that was one of the nicest wild camping spots I’ve stayed in – near a stream, protected from the wind, discreet and had fantastic views. My idea of heaven.

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Wild camping spot for the night.
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Testing out the Brukit
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Filtering water using Steripen filter. Glad I’m getting opportunities to use this – it pen itself wasn’t cheap but was useful in Nepal.
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Time for a quick selfie of Terry and myself.
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The morning view of Terry talking to Bailey whilst breakfast is ‘cooking’.

The next day, wasn’t as glorious as the first weather wise sadly, but we made the best of it by some more navigation then popping into Craig-y-Nos Country park for Welsh cakes and tea before moving on to explore the waterfalls nearby at Bro’r Sgydau .

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Craig-y-Nos Country park.

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****

DofE Part 2:

The following weekend (this weekend) saw me travel to Windsor to the headquarters of the DofE Award at Gulliver House on the train (great, easy and quick links from Swindon with GWR trains) to attend an orientation course for National Operating Authorities (such as Scouts, Girl Guides etc) to be able to deliver the Introduction to the Award, Supervisor and Assessor courses for volunteers.

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Now I don’t mind doing these kinds of things – I always find some use out of them and I found a lot of useful stuff from this course (and it was very well delivered) however I’d been helping run these courses when I was working as a DofE Development worker for Wiltshire Council before they closed the service so it was already all familiar so did wonder why they couldn’t accept previous experience…

Anyway, the bunch of adults we had from Scouting and other national authorities were brilliant and helped make the day really enjoyable. I picked up a lot of information about how the DofE is delivered and managed in other counties and whilst it is not my role within Wiltshire Scouts it did give me pause for thought and considerations for delivery of the award within our district.

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Great packs full of training materials for the courses.
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New resources to use!

After the course had finished, it was back on the training and straight out to the countryside for a Scout Bronze DofE assessed expedition in Oxfordshire around the Ridgeway area in the lovely sunshine!

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Uffington White Horse on the approach from the road.

There were two groups this time, a group from the Sea Scout Explorer Unit, Poisedon ESU, and one from a land-based group, Phoenix Archer ESU (and all Young Leaders at a Highworth Cub pack). When I arrived at Britchcombe Farm campsite (expensive but a fav) they were just putting up their tents and starting their dinner so I caught up with the day’s events about team’s getting lost within the first hour, the banter and the lastest toy that Terry had purchased (a drone…)

That evening, upon hearing that there would be thunder and lightning, we ventured up to Uffington Hill to watch ‘nature’s fireworks‘ in the skies and we weren’t disappointed! A very dramatic and colourful sunset followed by bursts of sheet lightning and fork lightning over Swindon in the distance. Only the threat of rain prompted us to go to bed.

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Dramatic skies from Uffington Hill. Views like this explain why I love being outside.

And oh my did it rain! The thunder and lightning moved above us and the skies opened and it poured and poured throughout the night. I opted to sleep in the car, rather than a tent, with Bailey as sleeping in the car is cosy and warm (he’s like a hot water bottle) and I generally get a good night’s sleep.

Bailey was up and alert in the morning when the sun started to peek out over the trees at the campsite.

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Bailey alert at 6am in the morning.
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Glorious sun rise.

Then it was just a case of waiting for the groups to wake, cook their breakfast and pack up. Our first checkpoint was Wayland’s Smithy where we played with the drone before a mass horde of Cub Scouts turned up so decided to move on to the next place to meet the young people.

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DofE Teddy enjoying the sunshine at the Smithy.

The groups weren’t a concern this time, they navigated themselves to where they were meant to be without any issue today and went home happy knowing they’ve passed this section of their award. We grabbed a couple of Subways and headed home to put the tents out to dry, wash the kit and put it away ready for the next outing.

Next up is the Silver assessed expedition and I believe I have signed up to help on the school’s expedition at some point in the future but these are the only DofE I’m doing this year – I counted the number of expeditions I was Supervisor/Assessor/Leader on whilst at Wilts Council amounted to approximately 22 within the space of two years (during expedition season of March to October excluding August) and not counting weekends helping run training and day hikes… I do miss it sometimes but it’s nicer running/being on expeditions where you’ve gotten to know the young people beforehand – more so Scouting ones as they have fewer worries and concerns about camping/navigation etc due to prior experience.

First, before them, we have a Scout Wales hiking weekend in the Brecons for Jamboree on the Trail (can’t do it on usual date) which I am very much looking forward to.

Just won’t be putting any personal kit away as it won’t be long before it’ll be used again!

Just Joanne

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