In September twelve Y10 students set off to the Ullswater valley for their qualifying expedition which forms part of their Bronze DofE Award. This group of students chose the DofE CaVE as their bookend experience week at the end of the summer term in year, where they completed their training and practice expedition on the North York Moors.
After an early start packing rucksacks at the academy, both teams set off to the Lake District where they completed final route checks and preparations at Howtown before departing off on foot along different routes, heading ultimately towards Gilside campsite in Glenridding. Mr Rhodes from the studio team followed one group for the first part, then joined the other group for final stages into the campsite.
Following a successful first day, both groups set up camp and cooked for themselves in the gathering gloom, whilst reflecting on their first day. A good night's sleep, and both groups were up and ready for the second day, starting with a hot breakfast. Both groups' routes took them via the spectacular Aira Force, with a trek across the lonely fells north of Helvellyn, aiming for a finish point near Watermillock, and then home to clean up, or "degunge" as it is known!
Both teams performed superbly well and happily completed their assessment with flying colours. Well done to all - now focus on completing the skill, physical and volunteering sections! The video produced by Mr Rhodes (who is well on his way to earning his own DofE badge!) is available to see below.
The Gold Award is the most prestigious of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme levels, and for no small reason. The expedition section of the sward requires participants to undertake two expeditions, each of four days and three nights duration. As with other levels, everything required for those four days must be carried in a rucksack. In addition, the expedition must take place in "wild country" - areas of the countryside remote from the usual luxuries of roads and houses. In reality, this usually means in the mountainous areas of the UK, and in this case in some of the most wild and remote parts of the Lake District.
Two teams travelled on Thursday evening after school to the Borrowdale valley, setting up tents in the darkness before a quick trip into Keswick for a pre-expedition treat, knowing that for the next three nights they would be cooking their tea outside, possibly in the rain on a spirit burning stove. Early on Friday morning, both groups were ready to set off, one from the north end of Thirlmere, travelling over the summit of High Tove, through the tiney hamlet of Watendlath and down to the "jaws of Borrowdale" to a campsite near Rosthwaite. The other group departed from near Portinscale to travel through the extremely wild, remote and totally uninhabited valley of Sail Beck to eventually arrive at Buttermere for the evening. Mr Rhodes from the studio team joined both groups for part of their journey and the resulting video can be found below.
Despite some problems caused by closure of the footpaths around Thirlmere, both teams arrived safely at camp for the night.
Day two really did up the ante as far as wild and remote is concerned. One group travelled from Borrowdale, via the wild and spectacular Styhead pass, between the massive and imposing peaks of Great Gable and Scafell Pike to drop down into the very remote valley of Wasdale. The other group had an even more wild journey from Buttermere to Wasdale via the Scarth Gap and Black Sail passes. This route journeys through Ennerdale, the only valley in the Lake District with no vehicle access, and the isolated and only accessible by foot Black Sail Hut. With the weather forecast wildly wrong - very little rain was expected, both teams were well and truly drenched from the heavy and persistent rain which lasted all day and all night.
Following a soggy night, and with the cloud at valley level offering zero visibility, the groups re-routed along the side of Wastwater. Seemingly simple, this route crosses the infamous Wasdale Screes which makes for arduous and slow progress, and both groups found it extremely hard going.
Day four dawned bright and sunny, and original routes were resumed, one from Buttermere to Portinscale and the other from Seatoller to Keswick. With an expected arrival time of about 4pm, ahead of a two-hour drive home and degunge (big clean up!), it was likely to be a long day. However, both groups arrived with wide smiles and a huge sense of achievement. Good friendships were made stronger, differences settled and forgotten and acquaintances became friends for life.
This really is a fantastic achievement and all of those involved should be hugely proud of themselves. Smiles, frowns, tears and laughs, but always pride.