Y10 Duke of Edinburgh Expedition
We arrived in Sussex bright and chipper, bags overflowing with kit, and were greeted by the threat of thunderstorms. Therefore, task one was for the girls to rid themselves of everything they wouldn't need for the day and pack all their kit into waterproof bags inside their rucksacks. They then head out on their first trial walk! While the girls met the humidity and heavy bags bravely, they were less stoic when it came to horseflies and beetles – there were plenty of squeals and screams.
After three hours out in stunning countryside, it was back to camp to learn how to put up tents and cook on a camping stove. We learned that the phrase 'a watch-pot never boils' should really be reserved for camping stoves, where everything takes three times as long as it does on a hob. As the threat of thunderstorms became very real, everyone retired to their tents and tried to sleep through the torrential rain.
The next morning, the rain kindly abated at a very well-timed 7 AM. Most girls were up bright and early, delighted to find that they weren't cooking on camping stoves again but instead were greeted by a breakfast of hot bacon, hash browns, and beans that had been delivered.
We then settled in for a more gentle morning of map reading and navigation skills. After lunch, the challenge really began in earnest, as the groups were given a map and a local route and had to navigate from one checkpoint to the next. All returned successfully and feeling confident in their map-reading abilities.
The delights of civilisation awaited the girls on Wednesday! On this 'day-off', the groups headed into town to have some lunch and shop for their expedition food. Sainsbury's and Starbucks were met with a palpable sense of excitement and relief.
After returning to the campsite, the afternoon was spent completing route plans for their assessed expedition. The reward for completing their routes was a session on the terrifying high ropes in the woods, where several adrenaline junkies went for a second round.
Miss Devine showed off her campfire skills in the evening and as darkness fell, we all roasted marshmallows and tucked into s'mores.
'The Big Day' - Thursday was the first and longest day of the assessed expedition. Girls cleared up camp in the morning, packed tents and stoves into backpacks, and headed out to walk the 12km to the next campsite. The beautiful weather, while very much appreciated, was a little hot for hiking with so much kit. The shady and cool woods at the lunch stop were a welcome relief.
All the groups arrived at the stunning scout campsite hidden in the woods mid-afternoon, after a very successful first day of expedition. Tents were set up, followed by much napping, relaxing, and recuperating. The expedition assessors popped by to check on their cooking skills at dinner. The girls then showed that they'd been taking campfire 'tips' and made their own campfire, celebrating with a great 'DofE song'.
To make the return coach, the girls packed up camp early in the morning (though not before one group had made pancakes on their camping stove) and set off to walk back to their original camp by a slightly shorter route, taking them along a very pretty reservoir and through a nature reserve. With no-one getting lost, the girls speedily made it back in time for lunch and collapsed, exhausted, in the sun.
A great time was had by all, helped by the weather. All the girls have now completed the expedition phase of their Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award!