As usual the Silver Practice Expedition took place in the Surrey Hills to the North of Cranleigh and as usual the weather was forecast to be a tad on the chilly side. By midday six rather apprehensive groups had assembled outside the OEC and, after a brief chat with their supervisors, headed off on a variety of routes to their first campsite, Whipley Manor Farm. This proved to be a little challenging for some, and darkness had settled and the owls were well into their evening routines, before the last groups were all safely gathered in.
To avoid similar issues the following evening everyone made a prompt start the next day, probably a good thing as the temperature had dropped to well below freezing overnight and a few of the smaller walkers were feeling a bit chilly. Everyone had routes which were supposed to take them over Blackheath and up onto St Martha’s and indeed most managed to find their way there with a moderate degree of efficiency. However, there was the usual exception of those who seemed to forget what a compass was for and managed to take over two hours to cover eight hundred metres in the right direction. Those who made it to St Martha’s were rewarded with the most remarkably clear views south over the Weald.
An even cooler evening followed near Farley Green, but everyone made it in just as dusk was falling. A long day carrying full packs meant an easy time for the supervising staff, with everyone tucked up in their tents and settled down as soon as they had had a hot meal – not long after nine o’clock.
A clear starry night ensured the temperature fell even lower and stiff fly sheets required a vigorous shake in the morning to dislodge the frost. After a slightly sluggish start (Cranleighans appear to be a little reptilian and don’t get going until the conditions warm up) the groups made their way back to School over the top of Winterfold and Pitch Hill, to the anticipated joys of tent drying and trangia scrubbing.
As ever a huge amount was learnt about navigation and camp craft, but the best thing to see was the camaraderie the D of E engenders and the way the groups rallied to support each other, raise spirits when morale was low.
As ever a huge thank you to the staff (Mr Bryant, Miss Baily, Mrs Bukowska, Mr Pigeon, Miss Sturdee and Mr Burton-Gow), also to the owners of the various fields who let us impose upon their hospitality for the night.
All is now set for the summer where warmer weather and the New Forest beckon for the Assessed Expedition.
Head of Outdoor Education