Congratulations to Ms Edwards and Ms Ernestine and to our 24 enthusiastic year 12 students for a fantastic Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award expedition to Wales last week. A compelling account of their experience can be read below:

As we arrived at the carpark – not inhabited by cars, but by sheep and trees – the students, although scared, were also excited to start their first 8-hour walk. The rain came down just as we stepped out of the coach, but no one complained; everyone was focused, maps in hand and rucksacks on their backs, off they went!

Day 1 was hard with poor visibility – safety was paramount for each student. As Miss Edwards and Miss Ernestine took up their positions for remote supervision, they could see the gold groups deep in the valleys as little orange and yellow dots. Group 3 arrived at camp first after an 8-hour trek. At camp the groups worked well as teams, cooking and setting up their tents.

Day 2 was very hot. The groups set off early after cooking breakfast and packing down their tents. This was a big day! After 5 hours, the groups started to arrive at the foot of the mountain Pen y Fan (886m high) ready to ascend. The groups walked up the mountain for two and a half hours. Blisters and exhaustion were slowing everyone down, but in the end it was well worth it – the view from the top was breathtaking! With 4 more hours to go, each group, one by one, started their descent, clambering down the boulders to make their way along the cliffs. The last 2 groups arrived at camp by 11.20pm and they still found the energy to smile and work together as they cooked their meals and set up their tents, whilst admiring the moon and the stars shining bright against a clear blue sky.

Day 3 was another beautiful day. By now the students who were afraid of the sheep had come to see them as companions. The transformation in these students was already visible.

The final day arrived and the students packed up their tents for the last time. As Miss Edwards and Miss Ernestine watched the groups prepare for the final journey, the bond, resilience, responsibility and confidence of the students were all evident. Team morale was unwavering and a simple idea such as a small water pistol kept group 1 very happy in the heat.

All groups arrived back at camp on time within 15 minutes of each other, having successfully navigated a total of 29 miles over 4 days, carrying over 30kg each for a total of 31 hours, reaching the highest point of 886 meters high. Congratulations to all Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award students and good luck with the qualifying expedition coming up in the Lake District.