DofE: My First Taste of Adventure

So if you have been reading my previous posts, you will probably have noticed a lot of pictures of camping that I’ve taken myself. I’m not much of a photographer but I’m quite proud of those pictures! Anyway, I took them whilst I was completing my Gold Duke of Edinburgh award in July 2016, and they were taken on my phone.

For those of you who know what DofE is, you can skip the next section 🙂

What is DofE?

For those of you who aren’t from the UK and have never heard of DofE, it’s basically this charity that was set up by the Duke of Edinburgh (!) and it’s to inspire young people to do different things and gain new skills.

It’s made up of 3 progressive levels – Bronze, Silver, Gold – and to complete them you need to commit to 4 different activities:

  1. Physical. You can choose basically any sport, from shooting to football.
  2. Skills. This includes other activities like playing an instrument, cooking, designing a website etc.
  3. Volunteering. Pretty self-explanatory!
  4. Expedition. This is what most people mean when they say they ‘did DofE’. It involves a certain number of days walking and camping with a group of less than 7, and being self-sufficient.

For Gold, there’s a fifth requirement: to complete a 5-day residential course in something. I did a Headstart course at Sheffield University for engineering, but there are so many other options too!

The difference between Bronze, Silver, and Gold is that you have different timescales. For Gold, you can choose one of the physical, skills and volunteering to be 12 months while the other two are 6 months long.

The Gold expedition comprises of walking for at least 4 hours for 4 days and camping for 3 nights in ‘wild country’. However, we went up two days early for an acclimatisation day and left a day late so it ended up taking up a whole week!

Why I Did DofE

My school offered it in year 10 (I was 15) and it sounded really fun so I decided to sign up. Most people in my year did it, and I gotta say, the Bronze practice expedition was the most miserable DofE experience I’ve ever had. We went in the middle of March, and a British March is not the right month to be going outside!

It was raining practically the whole time, and when we arrived back at school to camp they decided to put on a film (which was nice) but the guys at the front picked the worst film I’ve ever seen. Later, we had to camp outside on the coldest night of the year so far. Nobody slept the entire night. Worse, we were right next to the boarding houses so you could see their lights and imagine the warmth inside!

I’m not the person to drop out though so I went through with the qualifying expedition for Bronze. Luckily this was in June so it was so much nicer! The temperature was perfect for walking, and it didn’t rain a single drop.

Since I was doing my volunteering, sport and music anyway, I figured it would be a waste if I didn’t do DofE on top. Bronze (qualifying) was really fun, so I decided to do Silver with my friends who also wanted to continue. Luckily, Silver passed without any real difficulties except for this one time when we got chased by a herd of bullocks in the middle of Devon…

Cows! Cows!

We had already come across a lot of cows, and after the initial curiosity, usually they would mind their own business and we would mind ours. When we walked into this huge field with about 30 cattle, we thought it would be the same. Boy, were we wrong!

field-cattle-schematic

So we’ve just entered a field of cattle…

When we entered the field, the cattle stopped their grazing and started staring intently at us. As soon as we started walking along the intended plan of action, the cattle suddenly stampeded down the field… Towards us! We stood stock-still, unsure of what to do (you can’t outrun cattle).

As suddenly as they started running, they stopped right in front of us, barring our way.

blocked-by-cattle

Blocked…

OK, so we tried going around them. But again, as soon as we started moving, they stormed around in front of us!

still-blocked

Then Helen had a plan!

Unsure of what to do, Helen came up with a great idea. They seemed to want to keep ahead of us, so if we split up, they wouldn’t know who to follow. We decided to try and go one by one towards the stile (the box) in the corner of the field.

confused-cattle

The cattle got confused

It worked, for a while! Helen at the front managed to get to the stile and out of the field before the cattle realised what we were trying to do. Then they stampeded right towards me! I couldn’t run for it because I’d leave the rest of my group behind, so we were left still in the field with Helen outside. What were we going to do?

Helen’s ingenuity didn’t fail us.

She dumped her heavy bag and ran up the outside of the field yelling ‘Cows! Cows!’ The cattle charged after her voice behind the hedge, giving us a clear gap to make a break for it!

cows-cows

Genius plan no. 2

We dashed towards the stile and we all managed to get across safe and sound before the cows came charging back to try and cut us off again.

Apart from this terrifying but funny incident, we had such a great time doing Silver – the weather was lovely and my group was so much fun to be with! One of my friends, who’s about my height (short) and quite inflexible, got stuck on a stile… None of us could help her off because it was so funny!

Onwards and Upwards

Doing Gold was the obvious next step up for me, but all my other friends weren’t so keen because it takes up a whole week and sixth form is tough enough without extra commitments like DofE. Also, Gold comprises of two gruelling 4-day walks – one for the practice and one for the qualifying. We walked about 70km (44miles) for each and climbed about 3000m (990ft).

Most of my friends thought I was crazy, but I wanted to do it. I don’t regret my choice. Camping wild at Grisedale Tarn has to be one of the most unforgettable things I’ve ever done – the weather was amazing and the location was absolutely stunning. It’s one of the few places in the world where you can see two different lakes at the same time.

camping-grisedale-tarn-lake

Grisedale Tarn, Lake District

Next time I visit the Lake District, I will be without my huge heavy backpack (they weighed 15kg (33lb)) so I want to go up Striding Edge – the most famous ridge in the Lakes and possibly England. The view from the top there will be absolutely stunning!

So have you guys ever been hiking? Have you heard of any incidents like the one we had of the cattle? Tell me about it below!

 

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15 thoughts on “DofE: My First Taste of Adventure

  1. Great post, I really enjoy the use of graphs and visuals in your posts, they really help the stories and explanations. I actually have stories dealing with cows as well. One story was when I tagged along with my best friend to help her wash some calves. * she was an animal science student at the Univ.* After helping her wash 2 calves I roamed around and avoided stepping into cow pies or getting in people’s way, as I waited for my friend to finish shoveling poop *I was studying art, so I was out of my elements and I tried to not draw too much attention*Yet while roaming I noticed this one girl literally being pulled by her calf to well wherever her calf fancied. She was much smaller than me, about 5’2” and around 100-110 lbs so she really was struggling, so I couldn’t help but ask if she needed help . So with a good grab of the calf’s halter and a stern tug I helped her guide the calf outside to wash.* I just mimicked what my friend did and remembered she said to show them who’s boss since a calf was about almost my shoulder height and I saw how a strong tug really didn’t faze them” I stayed with her till she finished washing it and helped her guide it back to its pen. With that done the girl asked me what class I was from since she had never seen me. Right at the moment, my friend came walking up to me in surprise, she had been looking for me everywhere, she was even more surprised to hear I helped one of her classmates. I wasn’t sure what was funnier that day, seeing that poor girl being led by her cow, or the girls reaction that an art student helped wash her cow for an afternoon.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent story. Camping in cold weather is doable if you have a good sleeping bag. They can be expensive though.
    As for cows, I tell our groups to find an alternative route, you can’t fail for that.
    By the way, I love the diagrams, they’re like military campaign maps!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for reading! Yes a good sleeping bag is essential for cold weather, but for me the main problem was that my body (which was inside my sleeping bag) was boiling but my face (which was exposed to the cold) was freezing so these extremes made it so difficult to sleep! Cows are quite unavoidable in the British countryside so it would be very harsh indeed if we were failed for choosing a different route to avoid them! Are you a DofE assessor? And thanks for the praise about the diagrams, they’re quite fun to make on Paint!

      Like

      • I’m a DofE coordinator which is preferable in my opinion. I get to lead the training and practice expeditions.
        As for cattle, the black and white Fresions (sp?) seem more likely to give trouble. Those big, fierce looking Highland Cattle are real softies in contrast.
        Will you going to continue hiking now you have finished Gold?

        Liked by 1 person

      • I see, so do you work with a school or a company?
        Yes the highland cattle do mostly mind their own business, and I think it’s spelt Freisian? Luckily that was the only time we bumped into them!
        I would love to return to the Lake District some time in the future and climb Striding Edge, also I’m planning on visiting South America to hopefully do an expedition there – it’s been my dream for a while! But atm I’m applying for uni so I won’t have much opportunity to do so…

        Liked by 1 person

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