Cold, tired, accomplished- just some of the ways to describe the journey to undertake my Duke of Edinburgh Award.
Starting back when I was just 14 I was encouraged by my parents to do my Bronze Duke of Edinburgh, I agreed seeing as it could be fun right? Well mostly right. Bronze was just a hint of what was to come in terms of distance to walk but I managed. Looking back I had way too much stuff- is it possible I took less on my Gold expedition! Despite needing to be out for a rather short time and not walk too far we managed to get spectacularly lost, once ending up by a bird sanctuary which turned out to be private land. Despite this disheartening start I wanted to keep going.
Moving on to Silver and attending the practice with the new Bronze group was like a year 8 on the first day of school- feeling so grown up because they’re no longer year 7 newbies but really you’re still under prepared for what you’ll face. The Silver expedition took place in the New Forest and I learnt that those ponies really want your food. Despite slightly longer hours and distances to travel we felt a lot more sure of ourselves with such a good start what could go wrong? Well our final day was pouring down with rain- quite literally soaking people to the skin despite being waterproofed from head to toe!
Finally reaching Gold felt like a momentous time and we hadn’t even started walking yet! Perhaps the most disconcerting part of Gold was when the 20p shovel given to us to create a toilet if required in the night broke on our practice walk… From then on it was all up hill- literally often. With our final walking day finally coming with rain and fog it was easy to feel disheartened but we kept each other going (as well as the excitement of sheep which cover Dartmoor). Reaching the end of my final D of E expedition ever was a strange feeling- I almost missed it already but also knew I’d happily walk the routes again for the amazing views, fresh air, feeling of freedom but maybe without the huge bag on my back! Throughout my expeditions I kept to the classic looks of walking boots, bad tan lines and a hunched back from my bag- staying stylish on the moors is so important.
Of course D of E isn’t all about walking (though it sometimes feels that way) there’s also a physical section, one for volunteering and another for learning a skill- which I had to do for increasing lengths of time with each level. When first deciding what to do for each it felt difficult but in the end I swam- achieving numerous Survive & Save medallions from the RLSS along the way, assisted in children’s swimming lessons weekly and on top of that worked on my photography technique at Bronze, cooked for Silver and learnt to drive for the Gold. Through these I got to do some things I really enjoyed and it all helped me earn my D of E Award!
One thing that sets Gold apart from the other levels is that it also required me to go on a residential where I knew nobody and had to help out for 5 days! At first this seemed impossible (but my co-coordinators often shared opportunities) and in the end I decided to attend the build week of a National Scout Event Gilwell24 -having attended previously myself I decided to join as staff for the weekend as well.
Having completed everything almost a year ago, I went to the Buckingham Palace Gardens last week to receive my award amongst another 3000 young people! There I heard from other achievers what they’d done and from Jamie Ramsay about his adventures, before HRH The Countess of Wessex spoke to us (and me personally, no big deal or anything). The only slight dampener on the day would be the sweat produced as I stood in a suit on one of the hottest days of the year so far!
Completing my Gold Duke of Edinburgh was hugely rewarding, I’ve done some great things, spent time with some amazing friends in the different stages or sections and met many more along the way! If you are even remotely considering doing Duke of Edinburgh I recommend it to the fullest because I have no regrets and almost wish I could do it all again even the long walks…almost.