We began our journey with an early rise and an even earlier deadline to be in school by, but the entire bus was ready. All of us were prepared for rather horrific weather while climbing Mam Tor and immediately dressed ourselves in our waterproofs upon arrival at the beginning of our DofE training walk. My group of 7, the ‘orange group’, separated from the others to set off at 10am, making our way through masses of mud – amid the discovery of some of us not having waterproof walking boots – and miraculously making our way up the first hill of our walk without anyone falling back down! After reaching the top, we stopped for a break and were pleasantly surprised by the ridiculous rain coming to a halt – this luckily lasted for a total of two days. Upon climbing up some very steep uphills and undergoing many wishes of still being in bed, we reached the peak, and consequently our second checkpoint. Upon reaching checkpoint two all turmoil and regret was silenced – other than the regret of no one in the group bringing a camera – as the view from the top of the hill we were on was worth any aches we may have acquired on the uphill. The group all collectively sat down on an overhanging rock and enjoyed the sight – save Matty and Owen, the latter of which was trying to prevent Matty from climbing back down to collect the pot of gold from the end of the rainbow, which somehow was not a one-time occurrence!
For the rest of the day the moral of the group stayed high and didn’t particularly tend to waver, the occasional quarrel quickly died out and food stocks were high which was another factor in our happiness. Jokes were as frequent as the boys falling over and we saw the others, the ‘purple group’, at various points in the day but only stopped for minor chats as our groups were both going at good paces and neither wanted to lose that.
Our group arrived first at the campsite and the three individual tents, one for the three girls and two for the four boys, were set up quickly – when I say that three tents were set up quickly, I mean that the girls’ tent was set up fast, while the guys took their sweet time. By the time purples arrived the majority of the oranges were packing their rucksacks into their bivvy bags, in case it rained in the night so our bags would be dry, but all three groups managed to set up their trangia’s and have their meals; the meal for my groups first night was pasta bolognaise made by Matty, and his cooking was a delicacy when camping out and surviving on the odd Freddo and Fizzy Fish. In the night I personally didn’t get a huge amount of sleep, but the weather stayed pleasant so I’ll call it a win.
My internal alarm clock that wakes me up for school concluded that I was awakening at the ungodly hour of 4am ready for my second day, so lying in bed as silently as I could as to not wake up my tent-mates, I decided that the best and only real way that I could pass the time would be to listen in to the nature, in which I managed to hear a fox and an owl. The owl apparently excited Connor, a member of the purple group, enough to get out of bed at around 5:20, so I managed to get out of bed with the tent-mates I woke up, Marija and Rouah, and we spoke to the others who were awake until other people started getting up at around 6am. The groups all had varied breakfasts, from granola and powdered milk – what I had – to a rather peculiar breakfast of noodles, but we were all sustained plenty and after packing away our tents and our bags, both groups were ready to go.
Orange and purple separated immediately on this second day and so my group proceeded to follow down a main road for our first small section. On this road we ran into groups of scouts and got our first bit of comedy when they continuously asked us if they were going the wrong way, while their campsite was simply a 10-minute walk from ours and they were only following a main road – we were rather happy that Mr Cudworth had taught us some better navigation than that! When crossing over fields and field boundaries we ran into a group of cows that were covering the stile we needed to climb over, so I, not being particularly fearful of a farmland animal, began crossing through the cows and leading the remainder of my group through the herd, some of which are rather scared of said animals. Matty also happens to have a fear of chickens, unfortunately, when we got into a town, we had to walk through a group of chickens who had hopped their gate – again the chickens appeared more than once in our DofE experience.
Other than a rather large flood from the heavy rain the previous morning – which once again tested how waterproof some of our boots were – and Rouah and Tom accidentally touching an electrical fence, the rest of this second day also went without a hitch. This was also the day we saw the end to the second rainbow and had to once again convince Matty not to pursue a career as a treasure hunter. The final part of our route on this day was along Stanage Edge, which is beautiful enough on its own, however, Mr Cudworth wanted us to see Robin Hood’s Cave, a tourist attraction that wasn’t on either of the orange groups’ routes and so we were taken on a detour. The cave acted as a natural balcony and we could look out across where we had walked over the two days that had passed, we eat our dinner and then headed off to finish the remainder of our second day walk.
At the campsite, purple group had already beaten us there and we were quick – all of us this time – to set up our tents and trangia’s – we were all expecting heavy rain that night. After tea – my group all just brought pot noodles and quick pastas which definitely didn’t give the same sustenance as Matty’s meal the day before but they did their job – we all got everything ready for the third day; any meals for the morning before leaving, toiletries, waterproofs, anything that we thought that we’d need for that night and the following morning, and went to bed. The rain started a little later than expected but we were all comfortably in our tents so it didn’t affect us much, other than perhaps limiting sleep – I was so sleep deprived when I got home, honestly camping is not my strong point.
Waking up slightly later this morning, me and Rouah – we left Marija to sleep in – began getting ready for our last day of walking. Upon getting to our bivvy bags to pack our rucksacks, Rouah had noticed a hole in her bag, this hole went all the way through a side pocket in her rucksack and ripped up her last packet of crisps. We were both rightfully confused until we hear Connor complaining from his tent about how the rubbish bag, that was at the side of his tent, had holes in it. A rat had gotten into the campsite. Luckily for the rest of us, unfortunate for Rouah, the rat hadn’t targeted anything else in the night and we managed to finish our packing in peace, hoping that the rat hadn’t stuck around.
It was inevitable that our luck with the weather was not due to last and the majority of the third day was spent in either small showers or strong winds, occasionally both. The route however made up for it as the near entirety of our walk was spent walking along Stanage Edge. No matter how many times I looked out over the view, I never grew tired of it, it was stunning even in the rain and this ended up being another one of the many times I had regretted not taking my camera. Dinner was a lot less of a relaxing time on this day given the strong wind nearly blowing us off the cliff, so we decided to move on fast, most of us growing impossibly impatient to get back to the bus and drive back home. Luckily, our route was very short, lasting just over 5 hours and both groups were back at the bus fast, eager to take off our heavy bags and sit down for some much-needed relaxation.
On the bus journey home, all of us were surprisingly elated and loud. Not feeling the same excitement however due to my lack of sleep, I put in my earphones and watched at the rural countryside the 13 of us had spent the last three days in turned into the urban streets of Tottington. It’s not that hard to wish to be back out there. And you can imagine my surprise while unpacking my bag, when I find a rather colourful beetle and a large millipede, the critters are something I think that I could live without.
Although, I will never regret deciding to do Duke of Edinburgh, as it has proved to be an astounding experience, that has gained me friendships and skills that will never be forgotten. Thank you to all those who helped out or took part, especially our leader, Mr Cudworth. I will see you all again in our expedition in April.