This summer, 25 Explorers across six Duke of Edinburgh teams took to the River Severn for their practice and qualifying expeditions. Over the course of their week-long adventure, teams were able to overcome the challenges of self-sufficiency and build on their teamwork and leadership skills, whilst exploring the beauty of the Severn by canoe. Keep reading to find out how one of our Silver teams got on!
“We arrived at Scout Park about 7am. When we got there it was a mad rush to do your COVID test first, then get a barrel and hopefully manage to fit all your stuff into the barrel. When we had finished packing, we put all our barrels into the back of the minibus and away we went. After several long hours of watching movies on our phones and talking to people we finally arrived at our destination: a small campsite next to the River Severn. We then all got our barrels off the bus and took the canoes off the trailer. Once we had our canoes and kit ready, we moved them down to the water and watched as one group managed to capsize within 30 seconds of getting onto the water! After all the other groups had set off, our group got ourselves and our barrels into our canoes, and then got going ourselves. The paddling was quite hard as it was the first time paddling a long distance with kit for many of us. After 4-5 hours of paddling we made it to our campsite and had to take all our stuff out of our canoes and set up camp. We cooked filled pasta for our first meal which was surprisingly nice compared to some of the other food we ate. We then just chilled until we had to go to bed.” –Jackson
“We woke up at 7am sharp to try to get on the water by 8:30am. We had to pack away all our kit like roll mats and sleeping bags before we started taking down our tents and rolling them up. After we had finished packing up, we had our breakfast and took our canoes and kit down to the riverside, and then set off. Today was different as we had decided to raft together to make it easier to paddle as well as easier to talk since we were all next to each other. After paddling the 22km final day of the practice expedition, we stopped before Shrewsbury weir and all teams took out their boats and barrels and loaded them onto the minibuses. The groups then all went to the nearby Asda to buy food and supplies for the upcoming qualifying expedition: three dinners, two lunches, and two breakfasts. We then got driven to the next put in and had to carry all the boats and kit down a hill to the put in where we did a very small 2-minute paddle to the campsite for tonight: a big field of long grass, wet and swarming with midges. Overall, this campsite was not the best, but we set up our tents and trangias and cooked our tinned mac and cheese, and spaghetti bolognese. We then washed up and relaxed around the camp until we went to bed before the first day of the qualifying expedition.” –Jackson
“On day 3, we woke up at about 6:30am and aimed to get on the water at around 8. We packed our tents up, carried our boats down to the put-in, and set off for the 22km paddle. Overall, the paddle was pretty uneventful and most of the team were just chatting to each other while keeping quite a fast average speed, reaching the campsite at about 4pm. The instructions for the campsite location told us it was at a slipway on the left of the river, before the bridge, so we continued round a bend down to the bridge expecting to see a slipway. We reached the bridge and couldn’t see a slipway, so got out of our beached boats in the middle of the river. The crowds of people watching from the bridge and in the pub were definitely wondering what we were doing, out of our canoes in the middle of the river, looking a bit lost! We decided to continue upriver back round the bend and saw a small take-out behind a tree that we hadn’t seen the first time, so we stopped and took out the boats and barrels and carried them across a big park through a gym and rugby club to a little clearing at the side of the pitch where we could pitch our tents in the sun on the nicely mowed grass, while some children played rugby and the parents watched on the benches nearby. We all laid our clothes out in the sun to dry and relaxed for a while. At around 6pm we prepared our dinner, an aubergine curry, and ate it as a group on the benches, after all the other people had left. We gratefully took advantage of this campsite’s showers before we all went to bed” –Will
“We got back on the water at around 8am the next morning. This was after the somewhat strenuous portage across the campsite in the rugby pitch grounds and through a park, back onto the river Severn. Whilst paddling we chatted across the boats, and stopped for short breaks to eat and drink. Around thirty kilometres in we stopped for lunch beside a wheat field. The weather was very pleasant and we paddled without incident for all thirty-eight kilometres (the longest paddle of the trip). We went through two locks, the second of which marked our arrival at Holt Fleet campsite and our long day of paddling was finished. Taking the boats out of the water was very smooth because a strong pontoon and bridge lay adjacent to the road which led to the campsite entrance. We pitched our tents and unpacked our kit from the barrels. We then rested, talking to the other team about their equally tiring day’s paddle. The campsite was mostly filled with caravans and had good facilities, making washing up from our pasta pesto with broccoli meal much easier.” -Dylan
“After a much-needed nights rest, we set off from Holt Fleet at 10 after packing our kit back into the canoes. Grey clouds hung above us as we paddled our final twenty-seven kilometres. We were all much more tired but we still paddled at a fair rate. We stopped for lunch at a derelict pontoon after two thirds of the paddle and had our sandwiches. We then paddled the last ten kilometres at a strong speed knowing we had almost completed our enjoyable but exhausting expedition. At four we arrived at Upton marina where we performed an efficient takeout, we were greeted by the other Silver group and some Leaders . With our expedition complete, we were driven to a local campsite for one final night away from home. No longer under assessment, we were free to make good use of the local fish and chip shop before chatting round the campfire until it was time to head to bed.” –Dylan
“In the morning, we enjoyed a “buffet breakfast” (balanced precariously on top of three barrels as you can see below) of yoghurts, porridge pots and even a pineapple! After the biggest breakfast we’d had so far, we had a day to explore the local area as the Gold teams were still paddling away upstream. We spent the day walking around the local town of Bewdley with a trip to the fudge and ice cream shop very much in the itinerary! Soon enough, it was time to head back to camp and get packed away. Many barrel carrying trips later, we were on the minibus ready to reunite with the Golds. After helping them get their boats off the water, we were treated to a doughnut by our leader, John, and on our way back to London. Overall DofE 2021 was a massive success and we all had a blast!” -Freddy