Doing The Duke of Edinburgh Expedition
by Jon Howard, Shawbury
For my gold Duke of Edinburgh training expedition, we were walking from Llangollen to Lake Vyrnwy, in Wales. The weather previously in the week had been awful, with torrential rain in the week beforehand. However, it was Friday and the weather was looking OK. We as a group of 7 (5 boys, 2 girls), all 17 years of age, were dropped off at the foot of the Berwyn way, ready to conquer the trek ahead.
Day one was great, we were making really good time and no one had any rubs or aches. Morale was high too; we decided we'd sing a few songs as we went along, to help pass the time. There was a huge range, from Queen to the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme tune. The groups' favourites which passed a lot of time were Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen and Don't Want to Miss a Thing by Aerosmith. These songs came up a lot during the weekend.
The views at the top of the Berwyn way were amazing and I would definitely recommend it to anyone walking around that area. At the end of day one, we reached the campsite which was very nice. It was great to get a warm shower, free of charge too!
Day 2 of my gold Duke of Edinburgh training expedition started off with the sun shining and with a bit of warmth too. Again, we started off making very good time. To pass the time again, we sang the two above songs a fair few times and even '100 bottles on the wall.' At the start of this song, the majority of the group, everyone was singing but by the end, only two. I was very shocked when they actually sang it all the way down to 1 bottle!
We also had 2 brain challenges which took us ages to work out. One was to name the only team in the football league that had only straight lines in its name when spelt in capital letters. This meant any letters that had a curve in, such as C, U, O, P etc weren't allowed. This one took the whole expedition to work out! The other challenge was to name the 4 teams in the football league that begin and end with the same letter.
By the time it was lunch time, we had reached the top of another part of the Berwyn way, looking down on the main road towards Bala. Here we saw 14 Mazda cars one after another. We were all literally in shock and thought we were hallucinating!
Later on in the afternoon, we came across a mini hill where we watched many motorbikes going down on some kind of training. This was interesting to watch.
Shortly after, we arrived at our campsite which we decided to stay at as a compromise because we originally wanted to wild camp but couldn't find anywhere on route to do so. This site was just a farmer's field but we still had access to some water and a shower; which was good!
Day 3 was by far the worst! We were taking our tents down when it started to badly hail and with strong winds too! The hail was beginning to collect at the side of the tents and it was extremely difficult to pack away with the strong winds.
When we got going it started to pour with rain and didn't stop from this point onwards. It wasn't too bad until our path took us onto the top of an exposed hill. At this point the winds had increased rapidly and the rain had got 10x heavier.
Then to make things worse, we found our path had disappeared due to deforestation! We could see where Lake Vyrnwy was but we couldn't get there as there was no path, and there was a river we needed to cross. Instead, we had to climb up the steep embankments, through fields of heather to get to higher ground so we could look for a path.
The rain was so rapid every one of us was soaked the whole way through. The rain had gone through 5 layers. All of my gear was waterproof to a point but then after that they aren't, and we were a long way past this point. Also, the wind managed to push one of the people in the group over - it was that strong!
We couldn't find a path so we carried on walking until we eventually found one, where we all felt a sigh of relief. This path took us straight to Lake Vyrnwy where we finished our expedition.
Later when we got home, we found out that it had been the wettest day of the year and the wind speeds reached 100mph!
Even though the weather conditions were awful, I would definitely recommend doing the Duke of Edinburgh as it is extremely fun and you get to know a lot of people better than you may have done before.
If I was to give some tips for anyone about to do the Duke of Edinburgh expedition, I would say, make sure you take care of your boots and feet. I didn't realise that the sole inside my boot had dislodged and so I ended up with a large blister.
Also, try to minimise the weight load as much as you can because as the week goes on, you experience the weight more and more and it causes more of a strain. Therefore, taking dehydrated foods are ideal. Taking 2 one litre bottles of water that can be refilled is a good idea too.
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