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Duke of Edinburgh Expeditions in a time of COVID19

On the 30th of October 2020, three teams set out from Great Maplestead Village Hall, heading to Clare Castle Country Park for the first day of their Duke of Edinburgh Expeditions. What would it be like, during the current Covid pandemic to do DofE expeditions this at this time.

We had 15 Explorers from 3 different Suffolk units. 2 Assessors (myself (Andy Brown) and Ralph Hansby-Patterson) and 6 leaders (Karen Pettitt, Henry Plumb, Alan Cummins, Julie Penney, Laurie Kendrick and Claire Morey) over the weekend.

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5 Explorers formed a team to achieve their Bronze expedition. This was 3 from Stour Valley Explorers (Kedington), and 2 who came down from Endeavour ESU (Mildenhall) with their ESL Karen Pettitt. They had a 2-day expedition (second day Clare to Rede), and their aim was to investigate differences in the wooded areas they went through. Despite not really knowing each other at the beginning of the expedition, they had become very good friends by the end of it, working well together as a team. It shows great leadership skills and maturity to work with others that you do not know, problem solving things such as getting lost and recovering the route.

Despite the rain (an ingenious idea of using the emergency shelters to provide some cover for lunch), they had a successful conclusion to the Expedition. They enjoyed their hot meals and snacks, and are looking forward to completing their awards, or moving on to Silver.

4 Explorers from Quay Explorers (Sudbury) had unfortunately had their Silver Expedition cancelled in April, as lockdown had started just 1 week before. However, during my assessor training this year, I discovered the rule changes that had been introduced to enable expeditions to go ahead. For the Bronze expedition, this change only really meant no need to camp overnight, but for Silver, this also enabled it to be held closer to home. So, whilst the challenge level of the expedition in terms of terrain was reduced, and that they knew the area, we were able to accommodate the Expedition for them. Their second day was Clare to Rede, and third Rede to Lidgate. Their aim – to investigate the effect of Biological Weathering.

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Despite the rain (an ingenious idea of using the emergency shelters to provide some cover for lunch), they had a successful conclusion to the Expedition. They enjoyed their hot meals and snacks, and are looking forward to completing their awards, or moving on to Silver.

Four members from Quay Explorers (Sudbury) had unfortunately had their Silver Expedition cancelled in April, as lockdown had started just 1 week before. However, during my assessor training this year, I discovered the rule changes that had been introduced to enable expeditions to go ahead. For the Bronze expedition, this change only really meant no need to camp overnight, but for Silver, this also enabled it to be held closer to home. So, whilst the challenge level of the expedition in terms of terrain was reduced, and that they knew the area, we were able to accommodate the Expedition for them. Their second day was Clare to Rede, and third Rede to Lidgate. Their aim – to investigate the effect of Biological Weathering.

Covid also meant that they had to cook meals independently, which played out to this group, as they were able to choose all their own favourite DOE Rep6foods, which with a fussy eater in the group was appreciated by the rest.

The rain and a hurt ankle on Day 2 had them low at the end of it, but the final day was shorter in distance, and a chance to reflect on a good expedition, kept them smiling throughout, and at the end, looking forward to moving onto Gold, although probably looking at a different mode of travel than foot!

DOE Rep7The final group of 6 were all from Stour Valley Explorers (Kedington), and doing their Silver award (same location points). A group that have mostly known each other all the way through Scouting, and knew all the strengths and weaknesses of each othr. Again, this group had been disappointed with Lockdown, as they were just about to get started on route planning for the Peak district when it started. Again, the temporary relaxation of the rules has enabled them to complete both their practice in September along the Roman Road, and this weekend. Their aim – investigate the different architecture along the route.

With a walking stick to poke things or test the depth of puddles, this team made good progress, and even helped lost dogs find their owners (after it helped get them back on the right path). They were, however, very pleased not to have to camp on Day 2, having been absolutely drowned, and experienced the same thing on their Bronze expedition last year. Warm dry clothes from home, along with the hot showers and soft beds, certainly made them feel more alive on Day 3 than they thought they would otherwise have been. Another successful completion of the expedition and they are in mixed minds about Gold.

Over both the Silver teams, some have already signed up to Gold (one has even registered with an AAP for a Kayaking Expedition already), having received the Certificate of Achievement over the summer. The rest are looking forward to a little rest, but are checking off their remaining parts of Silver, and thinking about what to do next.

A big well done to all the 15 young persons who successfully completed their expeditions. You have all learnt a lot about yourselves, each other and how you can plan and organise activities through means other than face to face.

For anyone running DofE, do check out the Expedition flexibilities that are in place until 31st July 2021 here: https://www.dofe.org/dofewithadifference/expedition-flexibilities/

 

Whilst the experiences that the young persons will have are not as full as they would have otherwise have been, it will enable them to continue through the awards, and keep them learning those Skills for Life. We have facilitated 15 Explorers to achieve their Expedition section during a period that most were not expecting to manage until at least April next year, and everyone of them left smiling, knowing that even in the darkest hours of this pandemic, we can achieve good things and friendships can be formed and continue.

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And that was even true of the Assessor and Supervisor team. I do not think I have laughed so much over 72 hours (despite the news of another lock down). Being a team activity, Scout Leadering is simply the “best waste” of a long weekend you can do, and I haven’t stopped smiling since we finished.

So, this is my final message. A big thank you to the leaders who helped this weekend. You haven’t only helped 15 young people achieve a successful expedition outcome, which will help them in their future, but you made me an extremely happy person, and I know that we will be friends for many, many expeditions and years to come.

Andy Brown

Stour Valley Explorer Scout Leader and DofE Assessor