The weather gurus were predicting dire conditions as we boarded the minibus late on Tuesday afternoon at the conclusion of the Upper Sixth rehearsal exams and they weren’t wrong! This was to be the group’s second attempt at their Qualifying Expedition, the first one having been cut short by COVID and it was looking as if they were not going to be in for an easy ride. Eventually, we were all loaded up and headed off along the M4, over the Severn Bridge and into Wales and the Brecon Beacons National Park.
A very wet and blustery first night was followed by an equally vile morning. Nonetheless, the participants put a brave face on things and headed off up the track to Fan y Big into the teeth of driving rain and strong winds. Fortunately, as the day progressed, the weather and the forecast steadily improved and by the time they made it into camp for the night things had eased off a little and were almost dry. (Though it still very much counted as a “wet pants” walk.)
Over the next few days the group coped amazingly with varied condition, continued to build on the navigation skills they had learned on the practice and became proficient at dealing with the wet and windy conditions. In terms of time keeping they were one of the best groups I have ever supervised in terms of hitting checkpoints as indicated on their route cards. Similarly, when they made the inevitable navigational slip they soon realised their error and relocated efficiently. Likewise, sensible deviations were made where paths had turned into running rivers and open moorland had become too boggy to cross sensibly.
However, the best thing to see was the genuine appreciation they had for the environment, the landscape, the amazing autumn colours and the views in the intervals when it stopped raining. They were particularly enthusiastic about the hills to the East of Llangors, linking the Beacons over to the Black Mountains. It was also reassuring to see how well they worked as a team, both on the hill and in camp.
As they made their way steadily down from Offa’s Dyke to Llanthony Priory on Saturday afternoon, I was able to reflect on how well they had done as a group, how much they had developed and how thoroughly they had embraced the ethos of the Award.
Huge congratulations to all the participants on such a successful completion of their Expedition sections of the Gold DofE. Many thanks to you all for your positive and friendly approach and determination when the going got tough. Particular thanks also to Miss Johnson who joined us as driver, but made the most of the opportunities and had fun getting out on the hill to see the group a several checkpoints.