During half term students from our Sixth Form completed the expedition section of the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award, they were accompanied by Mr Hill, Mrs Fountain and Mr Robinson. Due to current restrictions, they did their expeditions in the Wirral returning home in the evening of each of the four days. Read Mr Hill's wonderfully written article to find out how they got on.
By Mr Graham Hill
I'm glad we persevered with the Duke of Edinburgh expeditions in 2020. The conditions were inevitably unique due to the Corona Virus and many requirements had been helpfully suspended by the DofE powers that be. Overnight school trips were discouraged, at the very least, by the Department for Health and Wales closed its doors to all 'englynion.' As we could not travel far from home, we found ourselves obliged to arrange expeditions in our local area, particularly as we had only just enough hours of daylight to enable an eight hour programme of activity each day. For four days we met at 8am, drove out to the previous day's finishing point and continued the expedition, returning each evening to school after dusk.
The weather was wet and windy, but not quite as bad as we had anticipated and there were some lovely Autumnal dry spells. In some respects this was a unique experience, as our students saw their home region from an entirely new perspective and discovered places on their doorstep which they never knew existed or about which they had only a dim awareness. I hope that they will return to some of these and enjoy them in future years. We felt as if we were on a knife edge, at times, as any one or all of us might have had to go into self isolation at any moment, but all was well and we set off on 29th of October from the sea wall at Leasowe in driving rain.
Friends, colleagues and armchair travellers were amused to hear that we were exploring darkest Wallasey but in fact only a small part of the expeditions followed the Wirral Way. I regret not taking a photograph of the group on Thurstaston Common as the views over the Dee to the coast of North wales were luminous on that day. After Hadlow Road the route struck out across the rather muddy and noisy rural urban fringe around Cheshire Oaks - a land of motorways and horizons dominated by petrochemical works - until the pleasant village of Stoak, lurking beside the overgrown Shropshire Union canal was reached. Scenically, things improved from this point.
On we went to Delamere Forest and the Sandstone Trail with spectacular views over the Cheshire Plain at Kelsall. This was more like DofE as we know it, even if the terrain was more 'Bronze' than 'Gold.' Nevertheless, our students put in a good eight- hour day, on one occasion cooking their dinners by the light of the minibus headlights on a quiet verge. The last day was probably the best. The teams crossed the River Gowy and approached the impressive sandstone outlier of Beeston Castle before setting out across the Peckforton Hills to finish their expeditions at Bickerton.
Every expedition has to have an aim or project. One team, inspired by 'guerrilla Geographer' Daniel Raven Ellion's 'Slow Ways' charity, decided to evaluate their footpaths in terms of pleasantness, signage, conditions underfoot, maintenance and so forth. The other more aesthetic team, decided to write a piece of poetry on the theme of DofE expeditions in a time of COVID. I look forward to the expedition presentations which we can expect within the next couple of weeks.
I congratulate all participants on successfully passing the expedition section of the Award and I am especially grateful to my colleagues Lisa Fountain and Steve Robinson for giving up their own holiday time to keep this aspect of the co-curricular programme afloat during a challenging period.