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How and why we track groups on DofE expeditions

tracker screenshotOver the last few years the number of different tracking options for DofE has exploded. From the high tech Spot Gen 3's with satellite communication (so not relying on mobile phone signal), to small devices designed for hiding in your car, to free downloads that you can put on any smart phone. This is not going to be an article about what tracker to get (you can find that here) but more to document the discussions that we had within Lupine Adventure Co-op about the benefits and pitfalls of their use.


At Lupine we all started off, like most outdoor education professionals, very much against their use. We'd not needed them before, they were just new and expensive kit that would probably detract from the young people's feelings of independence and achievement. 


In 2016 we noticed a change in the way that people on DofE and outdoor education Facebook forums were referring to trackers. Some people were still very much against them but the tide was turning. A few years before negative comments on posts about their use would out number positive comments buy more than 10:1 and in just a couple of years positive comments were starting to outnumber the negative ones. It became apparent to us that with the reducing cost of the technology, and the increasing number of organisations using them, being able to track groups and giving groups the ability to ask for help in remote situations was becoming the norm. 


plbWe found ourselves in the interesting position that we were considering the purchase and use of trackers and / or personal locator beacons (PLB) even though we had not identified a need for them in our risk assessments. To put it another way we felt that while there is always an element of risk in remotely supervising groups in remote situations the risks are not so great (if done well) and the presence of a tracker or PLB does not reduce them considerably (and could even increase the likelihood of some incidents). However, society (parents, schools, youth groups) were beginning to expect that we would be offering this facility.

Our 2 big problems with trackers

1) When we are supervising a group they know that we are in the area but they generally really do not realise just how closely we are supervising them. By giving them a tracker it might totally destroy that feeling of independence. 


2) We are concerned that the ability to track a group could mean that we start to do a less than thorough job of supervising them. There is no doubt that having a tracker on a group can change the way that you supervise that group and we are concerned that that will have a negative effect on the quality of our supervision.

But on the other hand

1) If your group have a tracker then you can supervise much more efficiently. For instance, you may be planning to meet a group on a hill top or even just to view them at a specific point to ensure they go the right way (and if necessary stop them heading into the wrong valley). With the use of a tracker you can time your ascent of the hill better thus using your time more efficiently (4th rule of remote supervision: work smart not hard) and you will also not have the stress of worrying if they have already passed through (which I am sure you can relate to).


2) Finding a group that you have lost will take up a lot of time and fuel (possibly of quite a few members of staff). With a working tracker this can be reduced.


3) If a group are off route and injured then you will find them a lot quicker with a tracker thus saving you, them, their parents and mountain rescue a lot of time and worry.


4) With a tracker and help button you are in a much better position to insist they leave their phones at home.


5) There is the posibility of telling groups that they can go off route on adhoc exploration if they wish by sending an OK message when doing so to let us know where they are and that they know they are not following the plan but everything is fine (this is not something that we have worked out how we may incorporate but is a posibility).


So how will we deploy trackers to mitigate our issues and use the advantages?

We tested the use of Spot trackers in 2017 and on the back of that have purchased more for use in 2018. We therefore have a fledgling policy of how they will be deployed and how we might brief the staff and groups on their use.


gen3 product1) We intend to explain to the group that their primary use is as an emergency button to call for help from the emergency services or their supervisor should they need it (Spot devices have two help buttons use of either will send a text to their supervisor giving their location). We can tell them that yes it has a tracking function but that it not it's main purpose and it is not 100% reliable or useable 'in the field' (which is true but to be honest it is pretty good).


2) We ask our staff to produce supervision plans as if they don't have trackers as we don't think that is should make any difference to the actual plan. Our remote supervision policy covers the times when we want our staff to remain close to the group and having a tracker will make no difference to this. All it will do is mean that staff have a bit more information of when they have to be where they have to be.


In Summary

Trackers are great bits of kit that massively reduce stress for the supervisor and can provide a means for calling for help in areas without mobile phone signal. Ironically the tracking function is often more use in Bronze terrain as all the hedges, and buildings get in the way of spotting your group in contrast to the mountains when on a good day you can position yourself on a hill top and watch your group for a couple of hours from one spot. We don't focus on their use as trackers and genuinely do tend to not use them as such on a minute by minute or even hour by hour basis.

August 2018 update: After a year of using trackers extensively we still only have 4 trackers and usually have many more groups out than that so tend to deploy them where there is a medical reason that it may prove helpful, Open expeditions and groups working in particularly remote areas.


Want to borrow our trackers?

We use our 4 spot trackers pretty extensively from April to September. Outside of this time we are happy to lend them out. We particularly encourage their use by winter mountaineers heading off into the snowy wilds (they are all out on loan at the moment as I type in Februray). Between April and September we may be able to lend you one if we are not busy just get in touch to give them a go.


The Shepherd’s Life, by James Rebanks - Book Review

- While I've been working away from home this season, on outdoor jobs, I’ve usually had a book on the go. For tent-based reading matter I tend to choose titles that span the territory between education and enjoyment and given that I spend a good deal of my work and leisure time in the Lake District, this seemed a promising read. I was hopeful it’d inform my work, enabling me to give deeper responses to the questions that young people often ask me about, “What’re all these sheep doing here?”
Shepherds Life
This memoir recounts the life, to date, of James Rebanks whose family have farmed the Lake District fells and its environs for generations. It recounts a robust childhood, accompanying his grandfather on the farm, but also a good deal of bitterness at a secondary education that failed to recognise the richness of his ambitions to continue the “family business” in farming. As the book progresses Rebanks recounts some youthful grappling with identity, a determination to prove himself, both as “a bright lad” and within the community of hill farmers where commitment to hard work and honouring traditional values and practices is held high. Finally Rebanks describes how adaptability, underpinned by these values, has sustained his livelihood and identity, in what might seem “the hardest job in the world”, through the season’s changes.
The book is full of humility and mature reflection and gives valuable insight into the commitments that sustain the landscape and culture that many Lake District visitors enjoy. In particular it led me to re-evaluate the practice of re-wilding that ultimately means “de-stocking” the hills of the Herdwick sheep that are so emblematic of the landscape and the generational culture that has put them there. I’m now not so sure where the balance of cost and benefit lies.
In short, I think this is a great book for anyone with affection for and interest in the Lake District. It sheds an unromantic, though far from soulless, light on the practices that sustain it and it’ll help me to answer those questions with considerably more knowledge, objectivity and understanding. Although a regular visitor to the Lakes I realise I’ve far to go before I’m as hefted to the landscape as Rebank’s and his colleagues’ flocks.
You can buy this lovely book, here.

Mountain Rescue Call Out

After 10 years of providing DofE expeditions we had our first mountain rescue call out in July this year (2017). Obviously after such an event we conducted a review of the incident to see if any changes to our procedures or advice to staff should be made. We had 2 Mountain Leader (ML) qualified staff and 2 groups out on the expedition that ran into trouble and to their credit they performed well. Lupine always have a minimum of one suitably qualified member of staff per DofE group on practice expeditions and on all expeditions in remote areas. When things are going well it sometimes seems like an overkill (especially with the advent of affordable tracking) but the fact is that when things go wrong you need people on the ground. Additionally, while not the case with this incident, when things go wrong they tend to go wrong for a reason that may affect other groups (poor weather, poor training, poor kit, limited hours of day light etc.). So if things are going to go wrong with one group there is an increased risk of things going wrong with multiple groups at the same time. We generated a more detailed, procedure specific report for all our freelancers but I thought I would write something here as it may be of use to others.

What happened

the bellAs stated above we had 2 groups out (one group of boys and one groups of girls) and two instructors on a practice expedition in The Lake District. We had conducted a day of acclimatisation with the groups and the two groups were to start their practice expedition being remotely supervised as our staff assessed that they were sufficiently competent and thus were ready for remote supervision. The groups were starting from Coniston and due to go north over Furness Fells before dropping down into Tilberthwaite and taking a fairly low level route round to Great Langdale (via Little Langdale and Elterwater). The boys had a late start and the ML with that group checked them up the copper mines valley and onto the fell before heading back to his vehicle and going round to Tilberthwaite. From there his intention was to climb the hill and shadow them across the top and down the Tilberthwaite valley.


At about noon we received a call in the office from some accompanying school staff to let us know that one of the boys had sustained a lower leg injury (a sprain or strain rather than a break) and that they were still on the tops. As the girls group were already over the top and on a low level route by now, both members of staff worked together to try and find the boys. After an hour or so they had re-traced the complete route and had not found them. The group were obviously both injured and off route. The ML's then reported in to the office to update us on this turn of events. We took the decision at this point to notify mountain rescue even though it was still only 2 pm in early July. Calling Mountain Rescue can take a lot of time so getting all that information over early can help and they can then make the decision as to whether to wait a bit or to start a search. They took the decision to start assembling a team.


conitson rescueThe ML's who were already on the top decided on the next areas that they should search and started putting their plan into action. The boys at this point managed to send their location via WhatsApp to one of the teachers. The teachers then sent that link to us in the office and we converted it from latitude and longitude location into a UK grid reference and updated our staff and the mountain rescue team control. At this point our ML's were about 500m away and heading in their direction so found them in about 15 minutes. Our ML's then updated the mountain rescue team with a slightly more accurate grid reference and waited for help. Upon arrival the Mountain Rescue team decided that it was a stretcher off job so all the kit was left on the tops and the casualty was taken down to the base before going off to hospital for a check-up. 


In the meantime we in the office contacted other staff that we had out in the Lakes whose duties had finished for the day and asked them to help by locating the girls group and ensuring that they were OK. The other group were located, a well-being check was performed and they continued on their way to their campsite where they met with their supervisor and some school staff.


Learning points

As stated above our ML's did very well, our procedures were followed and were found to be robust.


1) Calling the office early. Office support can offer clear detached thinking that isn't so easy when out searching for a group yourself. We were also able to arrange extra support for the girl's group. As well as this we were able to be a point of contact for the accompanying teachers. Calling mountain rescue can feel like a bit step. Having the support of a director in the office instructing staff on the ground that that is what they should do probably reduced some of the stress in doing so.


2) Calling Mountain Rescue early. Mountain rescue teams can take time to assembly and deploy in non-life threatening situations. By calling them early they were able to assess the situation and decide whether they could deploy early. No one wants to be searching for a group in the dark and a call out just 3 hours later if the group were still not found could have resulted in this.


3) Our staff contact information. The first our staff heard that the group were lost was when we were called by the school staff. We have changed our procedures to ensure that groups know to call us first. We are also instructing our staff to write their number on the groups map as well as route card rather than our previous procedure which was on the route card and a credit card sized piece of card. We feel that the map is more readily available than a small piece of card.


4) Phone battery power. This incident resulted in a lot of mobile phone use. One leader phone died during the event. Modern smart phones do not hold a charge for a long time but they are also very useful to have for access to some of the apps. We now recommend that all staff carry a fully charged phone (like the Nokia 100) as an emergency phone to save their smart phone charge.


gen3 product5) Trackers. We have a number of trackers that we deploy on some (but not all expeditions). They are becoming cheaper all the time and we expect they will become a standard piece of kit in time. There are issues with giving groups trackers and so we don't routinely do so but if they had one it would have reduced the time taken to find them. At Lupine we have put lot of thought into tracking groups and how to do so without negatively impacting on the expedition experience and reducing safety (as mentioned above we would not reduce our staffing ratio just because we can track a group). Another blog post maybe.


6) Familiarisation with mobile phone apps. Do you have an app that can translate Latitude and Longitude into a grid reference on your phone? They are free to download. Did you know you can type Latitude and Longitude co-orinates into Google Maps and OS maps (and probably other mapping apps) and it will drop a pin at the location. Most groups will have smartphones on them. You could advise that participants download OS locate during their training to help them locate themselves in an emergency. We also advise that staff familiarise themselves with getting a location from a participant's smart phone in other ways.


whatsappa) Whatsapp. – quick , easy , simple, not much data needed, many participants have Whatsapp installed
Send a message to group asking them to carry out the following
i) Tap the paperclip (android) or + (on iPhone) where you normally type a message. ii) Tap ‘location’ iii) Tap ‘send current location.’

b) iPhones - no data needed, information is sent by text message
iPhones have a compass app built in that shows latitude and longitude.

c) Android - No data needed. Open the Google Maps app. Touch and hold where you are (shown by the blue dot) and it will give latitude and longitude co-ordinates in the search box at the top. This can then be copied and texted.

d) Website – medium amount of data needed
There are a number of websites such as with easy instructions on how to share your current location.

e) Sarloc for DofE. Sarloc is a system that many mountain rescue teams have used in the past. You as the leader need to register via this Facebook page. you then get a text message with a link that you can send the group. They then tap a link and if they have a tiny bit of data capacity on their phone and their GPS is on then it will send their Grid reference to a server that you can go to to see.


We have updated our guide to remote supervision and searches booklet to reflect some of these points.


We are of course indebted to the Coniston Mountain Rescue team and have made a donation to their funds, if you would like to donate to them as well you can do so here.


Peak Rock

Eight days of climbing in the Peak District.

Mark Valentine

During the summer I ran two, four day, ‘Introduction To Rock’ climbing courses for Lupine Outdoor Adventure, four days in July and four days in August. ‘Katy’, who was the client and organizer, would be bringing a group of young people and adults, from the South-East of England to the Peak District to sample outdoor climbing for the first time having previously climbed only at indoor walls.


stanage1I began each course with a brief introduction of myself and of my climbing experience (mainly how I done most things much less than efficiently and therefore was in a position to help them avoid making the same mistakes!), before asking the group members to introduce themselves and what they expected during their stay, before I moved on to tell them what I would try to cover over the following days. This was then followed by a safety briefing. I find making everyone ‘safety aware’ by explaining any potential dangers and setting a few clear and definite rules before approaching the climbing venue is most effective as people can be easily distracted when first arriving at the crag. When the “do we have to wear a helmet?” question arose I confirmed a definite “YES” and explained that I always wear a helmet when climbing outdoors mainly due to the possibility of others knocking something from the top of the crag on to me, which was understood and accepted by all.


Then onto the actual climbing!
It was fortunate during both courses that the groups and I could be flexible with our timings, in fact it was a blessing due to the ‘changeable’ Peak District summer weather we experienced. Both course started the first day mid morning to lunchtime due to wet overnight conditions, but we managed to climb until the evening so we had a full day. If flexibility allows I don’t feel it benefits anyone having a normal 9am to 5pm day if it means spending periods of time with both myself and the clients getting wet and cold or sheltering from the elements! I chose ‘Birchen Edge’ and ‘Yarncliffe Quarry’ respectively for each of the courses first day. This allowed us to make the best of their quick drying or sheltered properties and also meant the clients were introduced to the outdoor rock in venues that were fairly ‘friendly’ for a first day. ‘Yarncliffe’ also offers an easily set up abseil next to number of possible climbing lines, which we used, on both courses.


Over the following days on both courses we dodged the weather through either starting late or early and including an extended day followed by a shorter day, we managed to only get the waterproofs out once - result!


laybackEach course consisted of a first day of me watching everyone belay to check safe practice before I would allow them to belay unsupervised. We made a rule of doing a ‘buddy check’ before every climb to check harnesses were fitted correctly, karabiners were fastened and climbers knot was tied correctly. The group members were all well trained and showed excellent belay practice, younger more ‘slight’ individuals being tailed if belaying. After gaining an insight to general ability and group crag behavior (which was excellent) I could then explore ideas for suitable inclusive crag venues. Venues we visited were Birchen Edge, Yarncliffe Quarry, Lawrencefield and Stanage Popular during the July course, and Yarncliffe Quarry, Birchen Edge, Horseshoe Quarry and Burbage North during the August course.


Early in the courses it was apparent that a number of the climbers were attempting to ‘sprint’ up the routes as they may be able to do at an indoor wall facility, the artificial holds at in indoor wall mark the route of a climb and dictate the necessary placement so a large amount of decision making is taken away from the climber.
As the courses progressed I encouraged some of the climbers to slow their movement and also to make a conscious effort of including their eyes (for more than just a glance) in a ‘movement process’.


topOne ‘drill/exercise’ involved having the climber look for their next ‘hold’ then keep their eyes focused on it for a couple of seconds before making a hand/foot placement. This promotes the idea of making the best use of a selection of possible ‘holds’, making precise accurate placements whilst also resulting in controlled efficient climbing.
It was very satisfying to have the climbers listen to (what were to them) new and different climbing techniques, be willing to spend some of their trip practicing ‘drills’ and then (hopefully!) go away having added something to their climbing ‘toolbox’.


During the second course we visited Horseshoe Quarry which is a bolted sport climbing venue, making use of the bolted ‘top rings’ allowed me to set up ‘bottom ropes’ and get the group climbing quickly. We were also able set up a ‘ghost rope’ where the climbers would climb and practice clipping a ‘ghost’ lead rope whist being belayed with the safety of a top rope.


Whilst at ‘Burbage’ I was able to set up a top rope belay on a route which enabled me to belay each climber up the full climb before being able to ‘top out’ and walk off safely, this was the first time the majority had ‘topped out’ on a route and was well worth the effort of belaying a dozen climbers!


With varying ages from 8 years to adult there was a range of ability throughout both groups but everyone showed a great enthusiasm to climb and a willingness to listen to any advice that would help them improve.


Overall I was extremely impressed by both groups passion for their climbing, and also their impeccable behavior whilst at the crag.


 If you would like to book a climbing instructor for one or more days then take a look at our rock climbing pages for the sort of activities that we can provide.


Mark is one of our Regular Freelancers and is an International Mountain Leader (as well as a single pitch climbing instructor). You can follow his adventures via his instagram account

lean back

YMCA Charity Walk for ‘Children in Need’

Saturday 9th September 2017

group on track Autumn 2017 seems to have arrived in Snowdonia National Park as I lead a small charity group up to the Summit of Snowdon on a rather wet and windy day. The group of 4 young people (aged 15/16 years) and accompanying 2 adults who are all part of YMCA meet me at Llanberis Youth Hostel on a very blustery Friday evening as they have travelled all the way from Cardiff. There was little time for a chat on the evening of arrival as everyone shuffles off for some well needed sleep arriving after 10pm.


I am informed that the 4 young people are excited about their summit up Snowdon the next day as they are all young carers many who are not only busy with school /college studies but balancing this with caring for family with varying different medical needs/disabilities. Their lives for sure are busy and demanding but through the YMCA is good to know they can take part in a range of other activities different to their everyday lives. The 4 young people had the idea themselves planned to challenge themselves to climb Snowdon and raise money for Children in Need at the same time after having previously climbed Pen y Fan in the Beacons the year before and wanting something more challenging.


After a hearty breakfast at the Youth Hostel we head up to Pen-y-pass in their minibus and Julie one of the staff members on minibus duties waves us all bye for the next few hours. I give them all a short briefing about the length of the day, route plans and how the walk will differ from their previous experiences. The cloud cover with drizzle is low and the wind is moderate so I make sure they all are in full waterproofs and inform them how changeable the weather will be throughout the day. We set of in high spirits with a few pictures being taken and it is not long after we ascend the PYG track we are greeted by a magnificent full rainbow.



We continue to climb the PYG track and all are coping well but very quiet and I can tell they are unsure of what lies ahead. As we cross into the next valley the mist lifts for a little but is clear summer has gone in Snowdonia and autumnal weather is arrived but is certainly a wet /changeable day. At this point I also wonder how the Snowdonia ultra-runners who were running 58 miles around the mountains the same day are getting on in these wet / blustery conditions.


The group are in group spirits as we continue with few breaks giving the windy and wet condition I keep people moving with occasional breaks for food /water. One of the group pipes up that they are enjoying the walk which was pleasing to hear given the conditions. The mountain is fairly busy for a typical Saturday summit but everyone is looking rather wet. As we approach the summit the usual question of ‘how far yet’ are raised but I push them on and we arrive at the summit in good time although the last ridge from Bwlch Glas was pretty blustery. The usual group photo is taken along with a reminder who that they are raising money for Children in Need. We have a short lunch in the warmth of the summit café before descending via the Llanberis path.


hands summit


As we descend I can tell they are pleased to have made it and completed their challenge, they mention they were surprised by the rocky terrain and found some of this tricky but in general they were a determined bunch of young people on a mission. We descend fairly quick and chatter amongst the group emerges and they seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed their day out. There is also brief mention that they would like to do other mountains even Ben Nevis so despite the poor conditions their spirits hopefully I have gone someway to inspire some more young people to get out and enjoy the mountains.


A great effort and an enjoyable day out had by all, good to see lots of aims met on this summit. Well done all.


Claire Goodman-Jones (Mountain Leader)
10th September 2017


pudsey at top


If you would like Lupine Adventure Co-op to help your group rise to the challenge of Snowdon then take a look at our Snowdon pages.

Other challenges and sponsored event supervision is also available :-)

Edward VI Gold DofE Practice Expedition

walk 1


Laura has written this blog post about a recent gold DofE Training and practice expedition.


I have worked with Edward VI School from Birmingham for the past few years for Lupine Adventure. We train the all girl groups for two and a half days at Sconse Lane scout camp preparing them for a subsequent three day practice expedition through the Yorkshire Dales. The girls from the school are typically friendly, enthusiastic and intelligent and this time was no different. We had two groups at the camp working hard to prepare for their expeditions. Although the group I was working with weren’t very experienced, mostly direct entrants, what they lacked in experience they made up for with enthusiasm and a willingness to work hard.


We collected the girls from the train station at Shipley on Thursday lunch and ferried them to the scout camp.

Using the bunk house facilities for the next two and a half days we run through everything from navigation, using Ilkley Moor to practice, to packing, emergency procedures, looking at appropriate food to take and buying it from the local store for their expedition.

The group showed an interest in flora and fauna, appreciating their surroundings and made friends with a caterpillar that they named Samuel along the way.

route planning

The girls also plan their practice and assessed expedition routes at the scout camp, so there is a lot to fit in over the two days.


On Sunday morning they were ready to set off over Ilkley Moor, their destination camping at Addingham Moorside. After a cloudy start the day brightened up and I met the group at the summit point on Ilkley Moor, just about to have a well earned lunch break. They were performing well and growing in confidence with their navigation. After another meeting point 4km from camp the group were in high spirits looking forward to arriving early. The last section of the route proved more challenging than anticipated, a long and testing ending, when you think you have arrived but there is field boundary after field boundary to cross. The group were just a little behind their planned arrival and feeling tired and slightly disheartened by the last part of the route. After putting the tents up stoves were quickly fired up and it wasn’t long until the team were tucking into pasta and sauce followed by Jamaica cake for dessert, feeling better about the day ahead.


campsiteThe second day was beautiful and sunny with a slight, refreshing breeze, the group followed the river up through Bolton Abbey, enjoying the scenery and talking to some of the tourists who were asking them about their expedition. The second part of the day was more challenging, with a long, steady climb up onto Barden Fell and a fair distance round the moor before dropping down to Howarth Farm campsite.

The group were feeling relieved to be at camp and exhausted by the day, but after a quick collapse on the ground were soon back on their feet putting up their tents and cooking dinner.

A lovely evening with the sun lighting up the valley, allowing the farmers to work late, tractors busy in the fields, it wasn’t long until the group were tucked up in their tents ready for a 5am start. They wanted to get ahead of their route card to ensure they finished on time as they had a 4pm train to catch.


The team were ready to depart by 6:45am, motivation high to catch the train, but spirits a little low due to tiredness. They made good time on the first leg of the route walking along the river to Barden bridge, going at 4km an hour, before heading up to the Barden reservoirs.


After a slight detour the group made it to the top of Embsay moor where we had our final debrief for the expedition, the group noting their highlights, things they would do differently next time and reflecting on the past few days. It was mostly downhill then to the finish at Morrisons at Skipton to buy a well earned ice cream, before catching the train back to Birmingham.

A lovely group of girls who showed that despite lacking in experience by working together to keep morale high and persevering they could push themselves to complete the journey successfully and with good humour.


carpark  group shot


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Silver DofE practice expedition in the New Forest

walking in woodsLast week I went to The New Forest for the first time since I was about 5 years old. I wasn't alone but with 52 young people from a London school and 7 other Mountain Leaders. We were there to undertake a practice expedition for the Silver Duke of Edinburgh's award. While it was my first time working in the New Forest quite a few of the other ML's had worked there on a number of occasions so we had a fair bit of experience in the area. The plan was to set up tents and go over stove safety as soon as the participants arrived and then go for a navigational refresher walk.


We had decided that on this walk we would really focus on taking bearings and measuring distance as we identified these as the most important hard skills when navigating in the forest. My group lapped it up. I don't know if they were just a very good group or if there was something else involved. Maybe the forest environment with its lack of visible features (visual distractions) helps with the teaching of navigation, maybe it forces the learner to concentrate on what is close by which is much more useful than looking at things in the distance? This is something I am going to investigate further with groups in the future. After a few hours of navigation refresher we did a kit check, ate and then there was free time before bed.


rivercrossingThe next day we all set off on the practice expedition. My heart sank as all 8 groups seemed to be ready at pretty much the same time, I thought that we'd have groups following each other all day, however the number of different paths available meant that after the first 200m we were all on our own differing routes. The forest was great, with deer, ponies, squirrels, woodpeckers, baby foxes all seen by groups during the day. My group's route went past a reptile centre so I took the opportunity to take a look at some lizards (and a Goshawk nest cam!). I had been warned about lots of muddy paths and bog trotting in the New Forest but it had been dry for a few weeks so the mud that I was expecting didn't materialise. My group continued to perform well so by mid-morning I was hanging back and just letting them get on with it. By mid-afternoon I had decided to leave them completely and arranged to meet them further along their route by the end. 


wildcampWe had arranged with the forestry commission that we would have all 8 groups wild camping (on 4 different sites) so we filled up with water at a pub close to the end of our route and headed off to the campsite. It was wonderful. I absolutely loved the wild camp. It has been a couple of years since I wild camped with a DofE group and I have never done so outside of a mountain environment. It was so quiet, relaxed and serene. It made the experience so different to being on a commercial camp site. Obviously the participants weren't too impressed with the toilet arrangements but I would like to think they will look back fondly on it. We were treated to a cloudless night and a BIG red full moon.


The next day we got up and continued with the expedition with the group being remotely supervised the whole way. Yes, they got a bit lost on a few occasions but the navigation was hard. We have this group back in July in the White Peak and I expect they will find their assessment a doddle.


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