By: Blonde One

I hope you don’t think it’s too late after the event but I felt I needed to share the successes of the Gold DofE group that we took to the Isle of Man.

This group have played a special part in the Two Blondes lives. When I took on the role of DofE manager they were the first ones to sign up. They have been my first Bronze group, my first Silver group, my first Gold group and my first Young Leaders. They have also been the Ten Tors 35 mile team that I looked after, the 45 team and the 55 team. I have been on many, many adventures with them including Morocco last year (and Morocco next year) and many Dartmoor Search and Rescue scenario outings.

As a Gold Award group, this bunch of 5 youngsters were fantastic. Their challenge was a tough one and even the lovely man in charge of DofE (and also the weather incidentally) on the island commented that the route they had planned was “demanding”. They trekked for 4 days independently. They navigated successfully using a map and compass, over unfamiliar terrain, sometimes through fog. The rucksacks they carried contained everything they needed including food for 4 days and camping equipment. These bags weighed between a quarter and a third of their body weight. Camping was not at any lovely, flat, well serviced holiday park, but totally wild. The first campsite was beautiful and they stayed up late watching the sunset over the Irish Sea from their soft, springy field. The second site was in a plantation on a bed of prickly heather – they decided that heather does not make a good mattress. The third night was in a steeply sloping field that contained more than its fair share of rocks. No facilities were available at any of them. The team walked for a total of 97km in heat that had the rest of us running for shade and gulping cold drinks by the litre. The terrain was as varied as you could possibly imagine: from coast to moorland, from villages to mountains. Whilst doing all of this the team had to carry out an aim (as directed by The Duke!). The team decided that they would play 20 different sports as their aim, so they carried a cricket set, a Frisbee and numerous other bits of sporting equipment too. Not content to do things the easy way they decided to give themselves 2 extra aims. They used their time gathering information about the island and its history in preparation for a presentation back at base. Their third aim was to take photos of the DofE bear along the way. As you might remember this bear used to be called Shed Bear but the team renamed it after a friends’ daughter who is very poorly. They made an accompanying ‘Good Luck’ banner for her as she is having some treatment. The bear then turned film star as she posed in a variety of different locations. This whole trip was planned and organised by the team themselves: from deciding the location to raising approximately 95% of the costs, from choosing and booking the campsites to planning the shared menu.

Even though I witnessed this truly amazing feat I still find it incredible that 5 16/17 year olds could do such a thing! They did it all with huge smiles on their faces throughout. The Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award is really a fantastic achievement and the resulting invitation to St James’s Palace is entirely justified and deserved. I am in awe of these 5 and all Gold Award holders!