Article written by Halle Preston yr10

It’s Monday morning, and even having gone to bed an hour early, I’m still feeling particularly tired. But it isn’t just a normal Monday morning- it’s the day after the Duke of Edinburgh practice expedition; two days and twenty-two kilometres of walking in the scorching hot sun.

After arriving at school at half past seven (which was a struggle for me, I’ll admit), we set off in the minibus for a one hour drive. The atmosphere was lively despite our early start, and we all chatted amongst ourselves until we finally arrived at our destination. We sorted out our bags and collected our maps, and soon enough we headed off on our own into the wilderness of Skipton.

Carrying backpacks weighing up to twenty kilograms, the twelve Duke of Edinburgh candidates split into teams of six, taking different routes around the countryside. Although the first thing our group did was climb a very steep hill, our route fortunately evened out, and we took every opportunity to rest and refuel with sweets and chocolate along the way. Despite a close encounter with a herd of cows, almost getting lost twice and getting roasted by the midday sun, we finally reached camp at about three o’clock, feeling rather fulfilled having navigated our way there independently and evaded disaster. Taking off my walking boots and stepping into my flip-flops was a heavenly feeling, and soon we were pitching our tents and organising our gear for the night ahead, including many bags of sweets and cookies. I was quick to jump in the shower, although I still ended up muddy all over again- the rope swing in camp was too big a temptation to resist.

Having enjoyed a hearty meal of chilli con carne and rice (lukewarm perhaps, but I wasn’t complaining), we settled down to sleep, aching and fatigued. Well, not quite settled; throughout the night, I woke myself up several times shivering, and wished that I hadn’t taken the blessing of the warm sunshine for granted earlier in the day! We were woken at seven, and had two hours to get cleared up and going. Being unaccustomed to this sort of rushing, I only just managed to collect myself by the time my teammates were ready to go.

By now, my shoulders were quite tender, my skin burnt and muscles aching relentlessly, so I was dreading the trek ahead. However, the second day’s walk proved extremely pleasant! Although it was even hotter than the day before, we passed through the first two checkpoints early without even stopping, so even before it was time for lunch we’d accumulated quite a lead. We took the opportunity to rest in the shade by a stream, where I tried to distribute the remainder of my sugary snacks. As we walked on, we witnessed spectacular scenery from our breath-taking vantage point up high in the hills, and all of our efforts seemed a lot more fulfilling.

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The last stretch felt like the most toiling of all, knowing we’d soon be home and free to rest! When we reached the end, I almost fell asleep in the shade before we’d even got on the bus; I was eager to have a nap as soon as possible, and couldn’t even wait until I got home. And once we set off on the return journey, everyone else seemed to be drifting off around me too- I can’t blame them!

For the rest of the evening, I recounted the experience to my parents, caught up on all the messages and notifications I’d missed while my phone had been abandoned at home, and ate my heart out (as a reward, of course). Needless to say, it was amazing to finally be home! That aside, I think that even though it was incredibly hard, our trip was something that I’ll never forget. The thought of doing it all over again, though…now that’s something I’m trying not to think about just yet!