Having just survived a river of mud, a steep hill and a field of disgruntled cows, Group 5 were filling up on water at a checkpoint. The instructor, Mr Hamlett, had asked James to check his route following our brief rest. As one group set off down the dirt track, another headed back onto the footpath and continued along The Chiltern Way.
The Duke of Edinburgh Award was set up to give young people a programme for self-development. Split into four sections (Physical, Skills, Volunteering and Expedition), last weekend saw over 80 students taking part in the bronze award hike. Equipped with maps, compasses and trail mix, the boys navigated along a series of checkpoints until they arrived at base camp. Here they pitched their tents, cooked their food and turned in for an early night.
We spoke to two boys in Group 5 about their experience in DofE.
James: The Navigator
James had already developed some skills in orienteering, being part of the 11th Finchley Scout Troop. Having completed several night hikes before the trip, he was a natural choice for leader. In fact, one of the hardest parts for him was the beginning of the hike:
“We had to use the compass at the beginning to find out where we were. We found North on the compass and figured out which direction we had to head in. We identified certain landmarks on the map to take the right path.”
Much later, after seeing other groups head in a different direction, Arjun had asked him to check their location on the map. James is happy to show him and confirmed they are heading to the right place. When asked about what he’d change next time, James mentions precisely this point:
“I think we could probably work as a team a bit more and make sure everyone is checking the map to see if we agree. Armaan was helpful throughout the hike, because he was checking and saw where I made a few mistakes and helped me correct them. Especially the forest as there’s a lot of different paths and it’s difficult to know which you need to follow.”
As the boys head into camp for the evening, they learnt about the other roles that were necessary for a successful Duke of Edinburgh team.
Ammar: The Cook
Having arrived at camp, Ammar decided to start cooking the evening meal while Arun set up the tents. On the menu that night was pasta in tomato and basil sauce. Ammar had some experience cooking from his part time job:
“With my experience I decided to take a lead with the cooking. Every couple of minutes I’d keep it high, before taking it off to simmer. I cook a lot at work - I’m a waiter, but I occasionally get into the kitchen.”
Having cooked and eaten their evening meals, the boys find some downtime to relax, enjoy the good weather, and play in the grounds of the campsite. Here the social aspects of DofE became apparent.
“Once we got to camp, we started a small game of rugby. Most of my group didn’t know each other that much, so it was nice meeting new people.”
An Adventurous Education
Events like the Duke of Edinburgh help broaden and expand skills beyond what is taught in the curriculum. Aside from specific skills learnt, such as pitching a tent or packing a hiking rucksack, the boys learn a range of other skills that will be important to them in later life like teamwork, leadership and communications.
The boys had the chance to leave London and explore the countryside. They developed a lifelong love of nature and the great outdoors. Ammar commented on this, saying: “Where I live there’s a lot of buildings and congestion. But the countryside is so open, with lots of trees and wildlife. I felt like it was a whole new experience for me.”