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  • Writer's pictureDavid Norris

A full on weekend of DofE action!

A full on weekend of DofE action!

Gravesham Scouts and Explorers map reading and creating a route card

The weekend of May 3rd-5th we had a 3 DofE teams out undertaking their practice expeditions across two different disciplines!

 

In the Ashdown Forest we had a team of 5 Explorers/Scouts undertaking their practice Expedition on foot. The team consisted of Ewan Scott, Thomas Busbridge, Harry Jenkins, Lily Waring and Eva George and over the two days they covered around 28km.

 

The practice expedition was the next step on the way to achieving their bronze award, that has already had them learning new skills via the Gravesham District Scouts training programme since signing up in September last year. During their training, the team have had to gain a better understanding of navigation work, equipment that is suitable for expeditions and also how to look after and manage themselves independently. All whilst producing all the paper work needed for the actual expedition, such as route cards, map tracings, menu plans and an expedition aim/project to undertake as they walk.

 

Arriving at the basecamp on Friday night, the team settled in and met their assessor for the weekend. Going over the paperwork and making any adjustments to the routes suggested by the assessor.


Gravesham Scouts and Explorers route planning as part of their DofE planning and preperation

First thing Saturday morning the sun was shining and the team were up fed and camp broke ready to check in and hit the road for the day. Following the pre-departure checks (sounds like we are launching a plane!), making sure they had all they needed and were ready to go.

 

Over the two days the team enjoy good weather, for the majority of the time… right until the very end when it decided to downpour!

 

Between the team they shared the responsibilities between them, all taking turns to navigate, only getting ‘temporarily misplaced’ briefly once (or so they tell us!).  Overall, the team worked really hard, with only very minor errors in navigation, which is fantastic for a bunch of 13/14 year olds set loose in the wild! The only real ‘issue’ they encountered was when poor Lily’s boot literally fell apart in such spectacular fashion that even a ton of gaffa tape couldn’t save the day and she needed to borrow boots for the remainder of the weekend!


A broken boot after far to much walking thanks to a fun DofE weekend

Overall, the weekend was a huge success and the team did amazing! Setting them up to undertake their qualifying expedition later this year. Well done to them all!

 

Then we also had two teams of paddlers out covering both Silver and Gold practice expeditions! Pat Duncumb took the lead on the water based contingent and has given the below update on the how things went…

 

“Everything for the Gold Bell-Boat and Silver Canoe practice expeditions was all ready to go at the pre-expedition meeting on 23rd April, when we found out the day before departure that part of the River Medway was closed, necessitating a change of plans, which the teams coped with well . Friday evening we started the expeditions sorting kit into waterproof bags that would survive capsizing (which proved essential for the silver canoe team on Sunday when they capsized one craft at the bottom of the canoe shoot), loading the trailers and having the first night camping in rather wet conditions. At this point we knew the river was on an Amber Alert, so if we had too much rain during Friday evening it may change to Red, meaning we would have to cancel completely, Sun dances were completed by all in the hope of no more rain. Saturday morning, thankfully started bright and sunny and an early departure from Hopehill meant everything was good, until an RTA closed Wrotham Hill before the M20, meaning an hour's detour was necessary before the paddling could begin. Everyone had a good day's paddle, even though it was challenging paddling against a strong flow in what was termed as "paddling through pea soup" and the third challenge of the event came when the support team found no access to the campsite as they had changed their entry combination. This was sorted out and when the teams arrived at their campsite for the second night of camping it was already for them.

 


Gravesham Scouts and Explorer Group photo during their DofE training

The second day was again a lovely sunny day and with no delays the teams both set off on their routes, expecting a faster paddle as most of the day was with the flow of the river. They hadn't bargained on a headwind making it challenging and they welcomed the change of wind direction when they reached Maidstone and the final couple of miles to Allington Lock was speedy and a welcome end to the day. The silver team celebrated a successful practice expedition in challenging water conditions by attempting to capsize their supervisor "John" before leaving the river to reload the trailer and depart home for a well earnt rest.

Later the Gold team completed their second day as well. A discussion was had about the incoming heavy rain for the night and the following morning (and given the river was already on an amber alert) and it was decided they had demonstrated they had the right skills, kit and teamwork required to progress to the assessed expedition in August, so the Monday route was cancelled. The team headed back to Hopehill with the leaders and after helping to return all kit to its rightful place, headed home exhausted and happy. Team comments included "that paddling is a different type of expedition - much more teamwork is needed and it is definitely “more soggy!"


Gravesham Explorers training on the water for their Dofe Canoeing

 

Well done to both teams who paddled between 30 and 36km over the 2 days, an amazing feat in itself. A huge thanks goes to Ged and John for supervising the teams and assessing them for the relevant Scout Permits to complete their assessed expeditions successfully, as well as to Terry for transporting everyone and the required kit between start, finish and the campsites in between. After a short pause for the exam season (most of the team members now have GCSEs, BTECs and A-Level exams to contend with), planning and preparation will be completed for their assessed expeditions in August on various parts of the River Thames (and possibly the Oxford Canal).”


Check out more of the paddling expedition photos here.

 

The whole weekend. both on water and on land, was a fantastic success and couldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the volunteers supporting all 3 teams, thank you so much to them all and their hard work.

 

Explorers and Network Scouts… Are you interested in undertaking your DofE at Bronze, Silver or Gold level? If so, keep an eye out for our new plan from September (will be advertised beforehand on social media and via your leaders) which will include details on how to sign up and achieve these amazing awards!


David Norris

DofE Leader

A full on weekend of DofE action!

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