After completing the three sections of physical, skills and volunteering, we prepared for our final expedition. We first completed a training event and a practice expedition. The training involved us learning how to do basic map reading, alongside a teacher for one day and one night. The practice involved the group walking for two days by ourselves, without any help. The final assessed expedition was in the Vale of Glamorgan, walking from school, camping at Southerndown and finishing at Llantwit Major.

My group started first at 9:00am, we began walking through the school and to Newbridge fields. The first checkpoint was the dipping bridge. We carried on walking down several roads and lanes until we came across what felt like thousands of fields, we continued along these following the map. Then we arrived at the sand dunes, and this is where we first got lost. At this point my emotions got the better of me; I had a small meltdown and a cry, before we continued arguing about the route, eventually finding the car park where we had a break to recover.

From the car park, we headed for the second checkpoint by walking through the village and across some fields and over a bridge. This was a much shorter distance to the next checkpoint. We had a short break for some food and we were off again. As we started for the next section, we came across some hay bales, which we instinctively felt the need to climb to the top of. We had some pictures taken and then realised that we had wasted over half an hour and swiftly carried on as the next group was approaching closely behind. The boys’ group overtook us as we realised no one had enough effort to argue.

My group walked on for many miles, without much conflict but a few falls, stopping at various checkpoints, before approaching Southerndown. At this point we knew where we were and realised there was just one more hill to the campsite. We struggled up the last section before collapsing in the field we would be spending the night in. We arrived third and as if a day of walking with our bags wasn’t enough, we now had to put up our tents and cook with the trangia’s.

By the time everyone had eaten it was 6pm, and then we had the evening sitting in the cold to enjoy together. We passed the time huddled together in a large group sitting in the dark; our only sources of light were the few headlamps and the moon. We went to bed at ten but it turned out I had less than an hour of sleep, due to the lack of heat and discomfort. This was considering the fact we were camping along the coast, on a cold and windy night.

We woke up more miserable than ever, knowing that we were tired, grumpy and still had a full day of map reading and walking ahead of us. We knew that we were all more sensitive than the previous day, so most of the walk was done in silence to avoid confrontation. We hardly stopped for any breaks, so we arrived at the car park in about five and a half hours finishing third again, even though we left first. Actual tears of joy were cried by one of the group members as we approached the finish, greeted by the other groups and teachers. I swiftly sat down and immediately fell asleep for what I have heard was more than half an hour. During this time everyone held a vote as to who should write the above report: the result of which you are reading!

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the experience; (despite the tears, arguments and tiredness) I would definitely recommend DofE to anyone without a doubt. Everyone who did the expedition would say it was worth it to feel the sense of achievement at the end.

Article by: Maddie Henson and Mumen Khan – Year 11