Two practice walks, many hours of planning, kit checked, food bought and packed, cooking honed to a level that they could live off, thirty six students on their practice expedition and five on their qualifying expedition stepped out of the campsite into the pretty North York Moors landscape with the Sun lifting their spirits at the start of their adventures.
The six practice groups would complete three days and cover about thirty miles and three nights of camping. The one qualifying group would complete one extra day and night and cover around forty miles.
Groups of four to six students pitted their skills and wits against a testing and challenging route, meandering from a campsite near the incomplete village of Ravenscar to the market town of Kirkbymoorside with camping along the route at Goathland, Newton-upon-Rawcliffe and Hutton-le-Hole.
There was a palpable excitement amongst the students. For many, this was their first time on a walking and camping adventure. Students can enter the Gold Award directly with no prior experience of Silver or Bronze.
As the days progressed, there was a noticeable progression in one of the groups, going from some level of disorganisation to a finely, well-honed team whose campcraft, navigational and organisational skills were superb. This is what part of the expedition is about. The team will carry those skills into next year when they plan their qualifying expedition and will become essential life skills.
Some time ago, I was privileged to be at Buckingham Palace where I met some of our former Duke of Edinburgh Wyke students. One of them said, “It changed my life.” What better testimony than this?
Five students were in the qualifying group. Calling themselves “Masher” an acronym of their initials, Masher smashe(r)d their Gold! And did so in exemplary fashion. The Gold Assessor was very impressed with the quality of the students participating.
Of the five completing, three were from the ‘20 and ‘21 cohorts and had been unable to complete because of world events. This was a great opportunity for them to complete this section of their award, having just completed their first or second year of university.
The first time that these five students met in person was on the day they set off, although communication had taken place over several weeks via various social media mechanisms in order to plan their expedition. One of the underlying principles of the award is friendship and a willingness to get on with people and these five were a credit to themselves.
It is amazing how people can so easily come together and work on a task to reach a common goal; something that universities and employers like to see. The award can be a discussion point in interviews and conversations.
One member of the group said to the assessor that he was sad about finishing because he had done Duke of Edinburgh award since he was fourteen, progressing through Bronze and Silver and now he had completed his Gold. However, two of the people who were helping with the expeditions were ex-Wyke students (both gold achievers) who had enjoyed the experience so much that one of them had subsequently become an official Assessor for the Duke of Edinburgh Award and the other was working towards it. Their journeys continue and their help is much appreciated. The Duke of Edinburgh experience is for life.
In October ‘21, fourteen students had achieved their Gold in their qualifying expedition, making for a grand total of nineteen people completing this year. Well done to them all!
Good weather was enjoyed throughout, except that on the fourth and final day, dark clouds were approaching from the Thirsk area, and the heavy clap of thunder rumbled over the land. The five qualifying students huddled in the wooden shed of an organic farm shop sheltering from the storm that passed overhead. Safety of the students is paramount.
The five walked into their end point with happy faces; a mixture of the exhilaration of having achieved their gold and relief that it was all over!
“Well done!” and “Congratulations!” echoed around the walls of the enclave. For some, their next Duke of Edinburgh activity is a visit to Buckingham Palace! And who knows? They might return in the future to help you achieve your Gold.