A weekend of assessing DofE Bronze expeditions for Bromsgrove School. This is an annual gig for me as the Head of the CCF there is an ex-colleague and long term good friend.
Ordinarily we would be on exped in the moorland of the Peak District but the rule on the ratio of students to buses would have meant about 8 full size coaches which was beyond impractical. Instead the necessary number of routes (for about 100 students) were plotted and planned in loops of Worcestershire countryside lanes and tracks starting from the school. Better an adapted plan than a lost opportunity !!
A new part of the country for me to hang around in. Lanes, fields, farm tracks, lay-bys and small villages. Day one unfortunately was spent in an area bereft of any village shop, cafe, tea-stop, or such like. I’m always keen to put a few quid back in the local economy but there was nothing. Just fields and very big houses ! The little car camper set up of folding chairs + small table + brew kit box came to the rescue.
DofE is many things to many young people, and so it was with my 2 groups. From the super fit super efficient super enthused super navigators to the why am i even heres. It takes all sorts. There was some very good campcraft and navigation and there were some navigation ‘errors’ that fortuitously shaved decent stretches off the days walk ‘accidentally’.
With all the ‘observing from a distance’ there is always a lot of time to see new places, often at the micro level, a new village or a small valley, or perhaps a view (the Malverns were omnipresent). I try and use paper and digital maps, wikipedia, the horizon scanner facility on the OS maps app, and my own senses to learn about places and the people there. The Tardebigge flight of canal locks, Tardebigge church (no residents in the village but hundreds of gravestones), the deafening noise of standing in the middle of a footbridge over the M5, and the history of the Droitwich Transmitters kept me entertained.
And endless brews too.
All of the staff and assessors commented on how good it was to see young people out in the countryside and able to spread out and chillout again, at the 52 acre Blackwell Court (Birmingham Scouts owned) campsite.
All of my students passed their Bronze. Some doubtless will try and avoid backpacking again ever ever ever, and some will have caught the bug and hopefully navigate towards Silver and Gold.