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Highdown School
and Sixth Form Centre

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Duke of Edinburgh Expedition

Over the half term, Mr Stephenson and Mr Walker accompanied Gold DofE goers to Rhos Y Gwalia, in South Snowdonia, to complete their practice expedition. For three nights and four days, the group of Year 12’s would have to navigate the Welsh landscapes, the beautiful rivers and waterfalls, and – less luckily - the steep, long and strenuous hills. 

Upon arriving in Wales, we spent the first evening getting settled into comfy beds at Rhos Y Gwalia. Well rested and with bellies full, we ventured into the mountainous range of South Snowdonia, come the morning, joined by Rhos Y Gwalia’s very helpful assessors. After a day of developing our navigational skills and our overall cooperation as a team, we settled where two lakes lay on top of a mountain. 

With some steaming their socks (or in other words burning their socks) and others wrapping in upwards of 4 layers for warmth, the group started to get ready for bed. Trading warm beds with warm sleeping bags seemed all okay until the entire group awoke at 2.30am to find tents collapsing and winds at 50 mph crashing against its sides. Working as teams: the boys were able to keep their tent standing till the morning: the girls, however, awoke with laughter as they only held the tent down with their sleeping bodies rather the poles and pegs.

With a not-so-great night’s sleep, we ventured to a garden of a Rhos Y Gwalia leader. With functioning loos and running water, it was more than a delight to see by all of us DofE goers, and a great thanks to Adam, the Rhos Y Gwalia leader. After working on navigation, pacing and other spotting techniques in the latter half of the day, we all tucked into food – a welcome feast to see – and then finished the day off with planning routes for both the upcoming days.

The following day took us on a 16 km walk designed by, trainee, Liam’s trusty hand: although long, it took us through marvellous landscapes and beautiful landmarks. Us boys ate lunch watching the glowing waterfall under the sunlight. Despite myself nearly getting chased down by a very brave lamb, everyone arrived at the lake in the Sheeplands before 4pm. Dinner once again was an appetising sight and the evening was shared with laughter and a game of cards. Turning in early, all of us got a good night’s sleep before the final day woke us up.

Waking with enthusiasm, we had all packed before 7.30am and walked towards the van that would pick us up. With the end in sight, everything went pear-shaped. Completely oblivious to a left turn, our last journey was made an hour longer. Ending up in a random field, the Rhos Y Gwalia leaders successfully found us, corrected us, took our backpacks – and although with not all smiling faces – sent us on our last 4km. Splitting off into 2 groups, 1 running and 1 walking for 3km, the last 1km was shared by both groups with great ease and optimism. 

Having finished the practice expedition, we are all excited for the challenges and surreal landscapes we are going to come face-to-face with for the real thing in the early summer.