“Everyone was up bright and early on Saturday morning. Thirty Explorers and a number of Leaders had been nervously awaiting this day for months, mainly since we didn’t know whether it would be cancelled due to the pandemic. It was finally time for our Bronze DofE expedition – something that we had been preparing for, for months. The Leaders were quite stressed as they had worked incredibly hard in the past months to put the weekend together whilst keeping everything COVID safe, they also had to rearrange teams at the last minute due to a sudden outburst of self-isolations. Once we had all received negative results in our lateral flow tests, we put our barrels on the trailer and got on the minibus. After the hour long drive to Henley-on-Thames, we unloaded all the canoes and barrels from the trailer as quickly as possible so that we could get onto the water and start the expedition. Our training for the expedition this term was definitely interrupted and reduced by COVID, but due to the Leaders making sure everyone had had the necessary training needed to survive the expedition, all five teams were confident that they could complete it.
“As soon as I stepped through the gates of Scout Park, I could sense the excitement buzzing through every single Explorer and Leader that was there.”Dara
After a brief from our DofE assessor and a final check that we had everything we needed to stay safe on the water, my team set off on the first leg of our expedition. As we paddled downstream, alongside the route of the Henley Royal Regatta rowing race we caught sight of a Lord of the Rings themed party canoeing down the river. Due to the amount of paddling practice we had to prepare for the expedition, we all found it easy to steam ahead and overtake the party of fully-grown hobbits. Most of the people in my six-person team had never done this much canoeing in one stretch so after we had done nearly three hours of paddling, we were all starting to get quite tired, exhausted and most importantly, hungry. After a quick lunch stop, to make and eat some healthy and organic wraps we started our journey again with renewed vigour and determination to finish our qualifying expedition.
It was around 5pm when all the teams started arriving to Longridge campsite, we all set up our tents and each team started to prepare their dinners on their trangias. We were all really exhausted, yet we still had energy to play small games of football and cards within our teams. We then all settled down in our tents to try and get enough sleep to prepare for the long day of paddling we had ahead of us.
All five teams were up at the crack of dawn on Sunday to try and start paddling before it got too hot. After a quick, nutritious breakfast, we all started paddling through the early morning fog. The distance we had to travel on Sunday was nearly double the amount we had done the day before, so we all had to be very careful in conserving our energy whilst it was very hot and sunny. For an expedition at this time of year, we would usually have to be cautious that everyone in our team was drinking enough water, eating enough food throughout the day to get energy, and that everyone’s spirits were high. This last part became harder as the weekend went on as everyone was getting more tired and exhausted. I really enjoyed the picturesque route we took on Sunday as we were paddling through Windsor and we even went passed the scenic grounds of Windsor castle.
After eight exhausting hours of paddling, we finally arrived at our final destination. Whilst all the canoes and barrels were being loaded onto the trailers, each team had a talk with the DofE assessor to discuss what went well and what could have gone better during their expedition. Once each team had looked back over the expedition, the assessor revealed that each team had passed their qualifying Bronze DofE expedition. Once we got back to scout park, we unpacked the barrels from the trailer and everyone had to have another lateral flow test. The Leaders then promptly dismissed us so that we could all get home in time for the Euros final ….*sigh*.
At the beginning of the DofE training in April, many of the people in my team didn’t know each other very well. But the weekend of helping each other cook, paddle and stay energetic definitely helped us to bond and and get to know each other better. Even though the expedition was very tough and took a lot of hard work and stamina, we were all glad that we had completed it and we can’t wait to start preparing for our Silver DofE expeditions next year.”
– Dara -Explorer