The Qualifying expedition for the Gold Duke of Edingburgh is one of the toughest trips we do at Cranleigh; four days and three nights unaccompanied, out in the wilds, with an additional night at either end for travelling. This year seventeen candidates, making up three groups, set off to Rhaeadr, in Mid Wales with more than usual trepidation, brought on by the dire prognostications of the weather man. In the end the weather proved not to be too bad, though conditions underfoot were the wettest I have ever known them. The “Green Desert” of Wales – the Elenydd – was transformed into a giant Sphagnum sponge, with bogs overflowing and impromptu steams running everywhere. There was rain on most days, generally in the form of heavy showers, but fortunately this had little impact on visibility and navigation, except on the Wednesday morning when thunder rolled round the hills and thick mist masked the tops. This resulted in the literally quixotic image of ghostly turbine blades “womping” down out of the pearly grey clag as the groups traversed the wind farm at Cefen Croes.

As ever, things proved gruelling and one evening didn’t see the last foot-sore group off Pumlumon into camp until ten o’clock. However, nothing worth having ever comes easy and these three groups can look back at their experience with justifiable pride and self-satisfaction.

Thanks to PVP and HM for accompanying us to Wales and helping supervise the groups and to Mr Peter Foulkes for assessing the teams.