Over the last few weeks several Duke of Edinburgh expeditions have taken place. To find out what happened on the Bronze, Silver and Gold training expeditions please read on.
Bronze training expedition
Due to a clash with a cricket fixture, we stayed on the school site throughout the morning while we learned how to set up and take down our tents, pack our bags and cook our food.
After the arrival of the cricketers and some lunch, we spent some time planning a walk around the area we would be in, and had practise at using route cards and maps, before hopping merrily on the bus and went to the campsite in Llangollen, where we had a quick briefing and pitched up our tents. Bearing in mind the walk we had planned and the time – by this stage it was about 5pm – we also set our cookers to eat dinner. I think its safe to say we all ate well!
The next 3-4 hours were spent trekking through forests, glued to our maps and compasses. This would be a good place to mention the invaluable 90 years’ worth of experience shared by Mr Othen, Mr Till, Mr Digby and Miss Ballespí, that, in their own words, gave us all the tools to be able to complete the expedition and teach us all of the tricks that will certainly be important for the real assessment in two weeks’ time.
When we got back it was pitch black, so it was hot cocoa and then bed for us! It was cold and drizzly, but at least the forecast of -2OC didn’t come true!
We woke up early and made hearty breakfasts, including bacon and eggs, pancakes, cereals, and one tent group even managed to have breakfast in bed! We were going to need the energy for our target of the day: Moel Fferna. On the mountain we were really able to put everything we had learned into practise. Especially towards the top walking was increasingly gruelling, as it was steep, and the terrain was uneven and bushy, making walking twice as hard. My walking group was definitely shattered when we all got to the top, but the view was nothing short of stunning from that height. Not that we could sit around for long, because sadly we were running slightly late so we needed to get back to camp so we could pack up to leave.
We arrived back at school at 6pm from what was a really good trip that we all learned a great deal from, and has definitely prepared us to complete the expedition section of our bronze Duke of Edinburgh award.
This was a lot of fun, and very different to the swimming pool. Canoeing on the canal was a lot more difficult than expected due to little current helping us but we all managed to stay in our boats and remain dry for the day.
On Monday we began our overnight expedition. We were dropped off just outside of Welshpool with our bags and canoes and we were ready to go. Our first task was getting in to the boats. All was going well until our third group all nearly ended in the water.
Once we got going we settled in quickly. We all found it easier with the help of the rivers current. It soon became clear to us that we had to be more aware in the river than in the canal of fallen trees and bushes with a few close shaves we managed to get round these obstacles and we made good progress. After a long day canoeing we were able to relax at camp arriving an hour and a half early. We were quick to get settled in and plan out timings for the following day. Despite a few rain and hail showers and a cold evening we all got through the night and woke up bright and early for the early start.
We took slightly longer to get going as we were tired but with the help of the water the day became easier. The river began to open up and we did not have to face as many obstacles and turns. We travelled faster on our second day again making up good time, finishing over an hour earlier we were able to quickly get the canoes out of the water and relax after our hard work.
We are all very grateful for the help of Martin and Miss Ballespi for their encouragement and help throughout our expeditions.
The third day had the group making its first river journey on a low level Severn from Pool Quay to Llandrillo through some twisting and, at times, tree over hung banks. The group practiced the principle of CLAP (communication, line of sight, avoidance, positioning) to negotiate the various hazards (including Swans and a short class 2 rapid) along the way, thus making sure that the three canoes could support each other if anyone of them found themselves in difficulty. They also had to practice navigation which meant having to get out of the boats and scramble up the banks so they could see at times.
The next stage of the training was to embark on a two day and one night journey carrying all their equipment in the boats. Sadly we had to curtail this during the initial preparations as very cold temperatures and snow made this unfeasible. The group hope to undertake this journey after June half term when the weather will hopefully be more agreeable.
We travelled to Moelfre on the east coast of the island where the intent was to travel around Point Linas to Bull Bay as a linear trip. We were making use of the tidal assistance the group had planned the evening before which should prove to be a great push to help our journey. The wind was over tide but was forecast to be around force 3-4 so would not produce a big sea but certainly enough to give a bouncy ride at times. We set out, and as the tide turned in our favour so the wind picked up to a force 5 generating a bigger sea than anticipated. We then turned and headed back to the beach that we had set off from having to paddle through some fairly significant waves with breaking crests at times which kept the groups minds focused. We eventually pulled in to our starting point after a couple of ‘catch your breath stops’ and landed through some small surf with varying success from the individuals. An interesting day, which saw some great boat handling from the team.
The group set off on an overnight expedition with the launch point being Porth Dafarch on Anglesey. A slight swell but otherwise calm seas and sunshine had the group thoroughly enjoy its day where it learnt more about the tidal streams surrounding the island through visiting Penrnyn Mawr. This is one of the most famous tidal races in the world amongst the sea kayaking community. After this the group turned its mind to navigation by carrying out a series of legs where they used the tidal stream to help them shape a course to various beaches. They were all successful in find these and at one point the group found themselves travelling at 10km an hour with the tidal assistance!
The group camped opposite RAF Valley in the shelter of the Cymran Strait in preparation for the change in wind strength which was forecast for the following day – force 7-8!! Our position meant that the wind would be at our backs in a sheltered narrow estuary. The evening was spent eating and drinking whilst enjoying the views out to Snowdonia, which included Snowdon itself standing tall above everything with the top 200m of the mountain still wearing its winter coat of snow – very alpine. The next day was very different!!
Massive wind, which was not coming from the forecasted direction, rain and atmospheric cloud along with a very lumpy entrance to the Cymran Strait meant that the team had to move its launch point 200 m to the other side of a small peninsula. This would make sure we had more shelter and an easier journey up to Four Mile Bridge – our finish point.
We set off and one of the team didn’t make it ending up the wrong side of the promontory we were trying to avoid. The rest of the team turned to join them and were then faced with a 400m portage with the loaded boats and equipment so they could rejoin the Straits and get back on track – this took some mental strength on the part of the team as this move is physically challenging in favourable conditions, let alone the wind and rain the team faced on this occasion. The team re-entered their boats and escaped the wind and hugged the shoreline for the final few kilometres up to the finishing beach.
A great training session as lessons were learned – a great depth of knowledge for the team who are all competent kayakers and who aim to circumnavigate Anglesey for their assessment expedition.