On a rather damp and chilly weekend, students from all over the county took part in the practice expedition for their Duke of Edinburgh’s award. Longhill High School students are able to work towards their D of E award through their involvement in the Longhill Combined Cadet Force. Cadets Sophie and Sadie told us about their weekend:
“After school on Friday we left for Ashdown Forest and arrived at the site, where we set up our ‘bashas’; these are waterproof sheets that are suspended from trees to provide a shelter. We had a warm sleeping bag, which we put inside a ‘bivy bag’ (a waterproof bag) and were cosy in these, although it was a bit chilly when we got up in the morning!
“We all took our own food, which we had to cook ourselves on a hexi-burner, which is a small solid-fuel cooking stove. We ate well – we made ourselves pasta, rice, tuna pasta and even hot dogs. We were able to boil water for hot drinks too. We played some team games during the evening – manhunt and 44 stables – which was fun.
“There is nowhere to change, so you have to be quite clever to get dressed inside your sleeping bag!
“On Saturday morning we woke up early and after cooking our breakfast and sitting around a camp fire, which we made ourselves, we packed up all our equipment ready for the march ahead. We had to carry everything with us – food, clothes and equipment – so our packs were really heavy.
“We were split into three groups of seven people and set off at 20 minute intervals with our maps and compasses to trek the 10 miles of the expedition, passing numerous checkpoints along the way. We did get a bit lost at one point, but we were able to get back on track using the map and compass.
“When we arrived back at camp, we set up our ‘bashas’ again and got a camp fire going. There was no electricity, so we relied on the light from our torches and the camp fire to see what we were doing. We all made ourselves another evening meal and tried to dry off under our ‘bashas’. Nobody used their phones, as we were unable to charge them. It was really nice to just sit and talk to each other during the evening.
“On Sunday morning, we woke early again, cooked our breakfast and once again packed up all our equipment into our packs before setting off on the morning trek, which was 5 miles. We didn’t get lost this time and made it back to base in good time to be taken back to Longhill.”
The girls told us, “We recommend this to anyone – it’s really great. We’ve learnt so much since we joined and wish we’d joined earlier. We’ve learnt so many skills in the CCF – we knew nothing when we joined – now we know so much!
“For the D of E we have to complete the expedition, use a physical skill like horse riding or badminton, learn navigation and do some volunteering. You can complete bronze, silver and gold awards.
“It’s like being part of a big family, with Mr Pringle and Mr Tester making the whole experience so interesting and such fun; they’re a bit like a mum and dad to all of us!”