This weekend Duke of Edinburgh students undertook their Bronze practice expedition. This was no ordinary walk, the type of walk that you might take with your family: a light jaunt in the woods. No, this was a gruelling challenge of mud, sweat and determination.

The hike
The hike
The hike
Gathering for lunch

It all started early on Saturday morning when 90 boys with rucksacks nearly as big as themselves turned up at a car park in the middle of the Oxfordshire countryside, ready to go on a hike. Teams were all sent off at different times, on different routes, which meant that following the team in front would not work. We had to navigate ourselves through routes we had personally planned - and for some teams putting the route on paper had been challenging enough!

Nevertheless, after hours of tough hiking across everything the land had to offer us, all of the teams reached the campsite before nightfall, and all in one piece (apart from blistered feet). Now, following the instructions that we had been given on the training day, we had to pitch our tents, and begin to cook dinner. For my group this wasn’t so successful, with tents nearly blowing away and a few cooking-related spillages, but that's what the practice is for!

Tents at dusk

After an early night, we were all up and ready at the crack of dawn. Breakfast for most consisted of porridge and pastries, but for a few it was a pouch-cooked full English. Then we discussed our aim for the final expedition and where our route would take us on that day. Finally we packed up our tents and bags and headed out.

The second day was much shorter than the first, but it included many big hills, which sapped a lot of our precious energy. After stopping for lunch halfway around, our group decided on a last sprint as a grand finale for the weekend. All groups made it back, some in better condition than others, and it was a thoroughly challenging and unique experience. We are all looking forward to our qualifying expedition in May.