Gold practice expedition - Three days of sheep, wind and endless hills
Thank you to Laura, Year 12, Rowling House, for her Gold DofE diary entry
"Five year 12s embarked on their treacherous Gold DofE journey at 7am on a Sunday morning in April, arriving at a pub near Abergavenny after a ride in the minibus. On day one we climbed the iconic Sugar Loaf, which the ascent we can all agree was not as sweet as it sounds, although the view from the top certainly was. Along that walk we had to go through a very muddy patch, which we managed to eventually cross with only one member of the group mistaking a puddle for a handy log and falling in... We also met some pigs at the end of the mud and were glad we didn’t climb over the fence to avoid it as they looked hungry!
"Tired after our first eight miles in the Black Mountains, we reached the campsite, set up and cooked dinner with a view of the river and some sheep. Since we had the campsite all to ourselves, we played catch and card until after dark, while the staff looked on. That night the temperature must have dropped below freezing as we were all cold, with Dan only getting 30 minutes of sleep! By morning the rain had dried. We packed our bags, threw them up on our aching shoulders, and began day two.
"Windier, cloudier, and longer than day one, Monday was bound to be the day things went wrong. The first few hours were fine, but it was lunchtime that things started to go downhill (or not as the case turned out to be). Lunch took a whole hour as two people fell asleep, whilst Luke’s hands went completely numb with cold. Then while walking along the ridge we managed to miss the footpath taking us down the hill to the next checkpoint. Thankfully, we found an alternative, though it did make our journey longer.
After walking through dark pine forest, we reached a clearing where Luke managed to trip on a mole hill and earn himself ‘Silly Bunny’ for day two. Unsure of exactly where the path was, the next uphill involved fighting branches of trees to get through until we reached the top of the last hill of the day. Luke’s bag was taken off him, and we reached our second campsite at Llanthony just before 6pm. A well-earned dinner followed by a visit to the ancient priory and card games rounded off Monday, and we fell asleep listening to the blustery wind and the stream.
"After being woken up by the campsite’s guinea fowl, we were out of the campsite by 9am and enjoyed our final walk in the Welsh hills without going wrong. We had lunch and then were able to remove any kit we didn’t need from our bags, before climbing the last hill, The Skirrid, and getting on the bus to go home.
"Overall, the expedition went very well and we definitely bonded as a group more. Before the qualifying expedition in July, we will do some practice walks together to prepare ourselves. But other than a bit more practice and hoping for warmer nights, there is nothing that needs to be changed for three months’ time."