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D of E - The Final Journey
Posted On: 23/05/19
DofE – the journey is nearly over….
It was Aristotle who said “Give me a child until he is 7 and I will show you the man” - 3 weekends, then, is not a lot of time! However, the transformation in our groups in that short time is palpable! They arrived as a somewhat dysfunctional bundle of characters but not a cohesive group. But now…OH WOW!
As we approached this third weekend, there was a lot of weather watching: would the weather be kind? Wet weather is cruel as it saps the soul. Yet too hot can be dangerous. And so the balance of sunshine, light cloud and pleasant temperatures was a welcome compromise.
As the group neared Woburn, there was an air of quiet excitement: coiled springs ready for the off. They were pleased to see familiar faces from Outspark, our expedition leaders & assessors, and listened to the debrief before setting off on their final journey. The quality of navigation was strong this year and the groups wove their way across the countryside with confidence. When we caught up with them at the checkpoints the mood was positive and the group structure strong.
As the afternoon progressed, the groups began to arrive at the campsite and erect their tents; by 5pm all was ship-shape. The campsite was basic but the location was stunning and the groups enjoyed time together, admiring the views, chatting and relaxing. At sun set, and the arrival of the bats coming out to play, we shepherded them into their tents and settled down for the night. Getting 42 teenagers into bed by 10pm is a credit to the kids themselves - they knew what was ahead of them on the following day and sneaked into bed and settled well. As darkness fell, then, all was calm and the owls were able to hunt in peace.
I woke at 4am and could hear quiet voices. My dawn-lit ramble to the loo was a like a stolen moment of sheer pleasure. The mist was gathered around the tents, the birds were stirring and the sun was up - though yet to warm the earth. It was as if someone had pressed the day's pause button so I could lavish such a special moment.
By 7am the usual rustlings, clanging of Trangia pans and clamour to be the first group out were beginning. The sun, now fully risen, heralded a bright new day and the groups fought to be the next released into the wild. Tents were packed early, breakfast cooked and eaten, pots washed efficiently, the campsite checked and litter removed. All was left pristine with no trace of our presence.
As an extra challenge the groups were given a photographic competition with 6 categories to try for. This sparked the interest of all concerned including Mrs Henson & I. The main challenges were to find 'the image' which would sum up the Spirit of DofE and the best 'special nature' shot.
Again, the groups showed skilful map reading as they traversed across the Woburn estate and as the afternoon progressed, we were confident all had met the standard required to pass the expedition section.
So here the expedition section reaches its closing point and the groups have reached their goal. Without realising it, they have journeyed; they have learned to work as teams; they have bolstered on individuals who have struggled, ironed out differences, shared blister plasters and celebrated successes. By the time the final group had been cheered to the finish point, the flock had returned safely and everyone was ready to go home. The atmosphere was elated with happy chatter and hugs all round.
To be part of this journey is a true delight and joy. Yes, the weekends are long and take us away from our families but the progress we see is such that we will never tire of. We know that all of our students will carry with them something special that they have achieved. Whatever life throws at them, they can think about how they journeyed and succeeded, became stronger and enjoyed their time. Once the dust has settled and the blisters healed, when presentations have been made and all sections completed, their award will be finally be theirs. I hope to see my next crop of Silver DofE ready for the new challenges which lie waiting for them! The Peak District is calling...
Mrs N Shelmerdine