GOLD DofE Expeditions 2019
25 sixth formers set off on two four-day Gold DofE qualifying expeditions in the last fortnight before half term – 17 of them, including nine girls from Westfield School, walked 60-70 km in the Lake District with three teachers, while the remaining eight boys canoed in pairs down 70km of the River Tay in Scotland, accompanied by one teacher and three canoe instructors from Simonside Outdoor Adventure.
Fortunately, everyone survived. The walkers faced bitterly cold conditions 3,000 feet up on top of a big hill near Keswick. The weather was not as wet as the deluge they experienced during their practice expedition in Swaledale and Wensleydale in September. In fact, the risk of flooding had forced the mountain leaders to abandon that expedition early. So, it was even more of an achievement that all three teams of walkers completed their final expedition. Mountain leader Peter Lister said of the walkers:
Without exception, each team member was up for whatever challenge they encountered. They were excellent ambassadors for their schools and should all be proud of what they achieved both in their teams and as individuals.
The eight canoeists started at Kenmore on the east end of Loch Tay. Day one presented them with a steep learning curve as they sped down the fast-flowing river. They grew in confidence each day and had to muster their jangling nerves to navigate one or two perilous rapids under the watchful eye of the three canoe instructors. Each pair had to get the right line in their two-man canoe. The teacher missed his line on the fourth day and ended up clattering over the lip of a weir onto partially submerged rocks. On the same day, which posed some of the most challenging rapids of the expedition, one of the four pairs of canoeists found themselves in white water which then swamped their canoe. Fortunately, the training kicked in and they stayed in the half sunken boat long enough to paddle to the bank. What impressed the instructors most was the commitment of the boys to the task and to each other, as well as the growing autonomy and confidence of the team in every aspect from campcraft to paddling skills over the four days, which included two wild camps on the river bank.
Many congratulations to all 25 participants.