Silver Duke of Edinburgh 2019
Last weekend, the Silver Duke of Edinburgh group went on an assessed expedition to Mangrovery.
The first day of our expedition was long and hard and somewhat miserable. But this gave us the chance of improvement for the next few days…
The expedition started off bitterly. We struggled to navigate our way out of the town. The weather was decent though. Along the way, we chatted and sang, just like we were on a field trip. However, the pivoting point of the day arrived very early when we reached the first check point. “You are an hour behind your schedule!” That was the first and only thing that we were told.
After that, the harshness of the expedition kicked in. We rushed through the navigations, walking as fast as we could, attempting to catch up with the time. At one leg, we had even doubled our route going uphill. We were told off by the assessor due to poor skills of navigation and not treating this assessment seriously enough. All day long, we were under the fear of being failed from the expedition. Unlike the previous expeditions, we are all so exhausted that we barely talked to each other…
Unfortunately, no matter how hard we tried, we still didn’t make it to the camp site before the night got dark. To be honest, night walking was the most provoking part of the day. Our torch was the only light source, and everything seemed quiet. The navigation was made more challenging – this was an experience that we had never had before. Ultimately, the minibus back to the campsite picked us up on route. We quickly set up our tents and had a simple dinner. The first day passed in chaos. It was surprising that we weren’t failed on the first day and marveled at the kindness of our assessor. Assessor, if you are reading this, we thank you.
When I told my teammate that I was going to write about the second day, I could see the disappointment in her eyes. The second day was by far the best and most consistent day. We expected it to be the hardest; we had the longest distance to walk and were under extreme pressure to perform.
On the first day we demonstrated horrible teamwork skills and what can only be described as beginners’ navigation skills, but we were unbelievably determined to gain our silver award.
The day started off well. Despite the discouragements of the previous day, we set off in good spirits. The weather was amazing, quite warm and sunny and I suppose that was our main source of motivation. These happy feelings were soon replaced by annoyance when we reached our first obstacle. An obscured path by overgrown bushes and tufts of grass greeted us, after we had climbed the abrupt hill. I must admit that the plants were quite interesting and, now that I think about it, I have never seen such a combination before. There were different zones of different types of plants, each giving us problems. I personally hated an area in which ‘spiky bushes’ dominated the path. They almost tore through my trousers and the inevitable pain didn’t really motivate me, either. The (very useful) advice that I was given by Jennifer was: “Just suffer for a while”. However, the torture wasn’t over, and a vast plane of troublesome bushes followed. If I would describe the struggle that we went through in that area, this text would be much longer, and I think I’ll spare you the details. In a nutshell, it was one of the most frustrating activities on the whole expedition.
When we finally completed this trial, we turned to the one solution we had for everything in this trip. Cookies. This soon re-lifted our spirits and we went further. We were faced with our next difficulty when we reached the fields. The farmers had taken out some of the public footpath gates and replaced them with barbed wire. Trying to cross a stream, a team member took a rather relaxing mud bath (I heard it’s good for your skin, too). The highlight of the day was when we had just arrived at the end of mass in a small, local church. A kind lady came out of the church and gave us biscuits and told us about the history of the hill we had previously climbed (yes, the one with the spiky bushes). Although it seemed like a normal hill, it had been a volcano a long time ago. No forts had been built on it due to its importance and how sacred it was. At the church, we met many nice people and we had some lovely conversations. This was so important to us because, although small, these encounters encouraged us to keep going.
The end of the day was the hardest. We were tired and it looked as though we would never get to camp on time. However, we arrived while there was still light and an hour earlier than the boys (a great improvement from Saturday). We had improved immensely from the first day and showed our true navigation skills, as well as picking up our pace.
The third day of our expedition was very good. We got up at 6.10 am and cooked breakfast in the dark and were able to leave the campsite at 8.00. We knew from the start that this day was going to be the most challenging as we were going to encounter many hills. But our navigation was immaculate, (except for one hiccup) and we were going as fast as we could. We speeded through the checkpoints until at 3.35, finally, we arrived at the end. However, we had to wait another 2.5 hours for the boys’ group. By then, we were getting cold and running out of emergency rations to eat. We had improved so much from the first day and were now navigating and travelling at the skill and pace of a good silver group.
To conclude, although it was tough, this was the best expedition so far and we have learnt so much in terms of navigation, speed, motivation and teamwork.
Ecaterina, Maggie, Anna and Jennifer – F5
Form 5 Canoe Trip
On Saturday morning, 21st September 2019, all the Form 5 students travelled offsite to experience canoeing on the River Severn, heading towards Shrewsbury. Most of the students stayed in their tutor groups, while a few groups were divided into different segments. Although we knew that the trip could be tiring because of the long distance we had to cover, it was very enjoyable canoeing together, as well as seeing the beautiful views on the river, and the fun experiences shared with the tutors. As soon we started canoeing, our doubts disappeared, we had even more fun with our friends, enjoyed the sunshine and talked to one another. Around halfway through, my partners, Ryan and Barney and myself capsized because we hit a tree! However, we enjoyed the trip a lot and had lots of fun.
Leo – F5
The sky was painted blue and the sun radiated onto the river. It was a fantastic day for canoeing. After a short briefing with the instructors, we headed off on our 19km journey canoeing down the River Severn from Montford Bridge to Shrewsbury. Chloe-Nicole, Pennt, and I shared a three-person canoe for the journey.
As we had little experience of canoeing, we had a very bumpy start. We zigzagged across the river and tried hard to paddle towards the instructor’s canoe, but we always seemed to head the opposite direction. We also crashed into a few extended branches, but luckily without capsizing. Eventually, we started to get the hang of it and coordinated our paddling. Not only were we able to catch up with the group, we also overtook them. Sometimes, we even went too fast and the instructors had to tell us to hold on.
During the journey, we acquainted ourselves with about 12 ducks and 32 swans, including a black swan, which are rarely seen. One of our friends’ canoe also capsized right next to us! Seeing them soaking wet, I decided not to capsize my canoe intentionally. My favourite part of the journey was challenging the other group (Hugo, Wiktoria and Austin) to several races. Even though Chloe-Nicole, Pennt and I paddled as hard as we could, the races still ended with a humiliating defeat.
At last we arrived in Shrewsbury, not extremely exhausted, but a bit tired after more than five hours of canoeing. Overall, we had a refreshing day out on the River Severn and created some great memories. Thank you to all the staff involved.
Jennifer – F5
Form 3 visit Bala
Last week, Form 3 went to Bala in North Wales from Monday to Friday. We left promptly after taking the annual whole school photo, so we could arrive there at 8pm, which was a suitable time… We arrived on schedule and set up. Whilst we weren’t camping, it wasn’t an all-inclusive experience either, and we had lots of roles and responsibilities. We got split into groups and retired to our dorms for the night.
The next day, we woke up for 7am and had breakfast before being briefed for our activities. That day, I had kayaking and paddleboarding in Bala Lake. The day was not too cold and relatively clear. Kayaking was good, and not too wet… The same can’t be said for paddleboarding, though. Whilst I (and all, bar one) fell in, it was great fun! You can actually see a photo of me falling in on the official Concord Twitter ha-ha. The next day, I had climbing and abseiling. It was hard work, but amazing. And the views were to die for! The Welsh landscape is beautiful, especially since we were in a National Park. Abseiling was so fun, and really was an adrenaline rush. It did rain, but we didn’t let that rain on our parade. That night, we had a competition to see which group could make something that would keep an egg intact when dropped. Our contraption had a parachute and cut-up paper bits for cushioning. We thought we were so original doing this (spoiler – we weren’t). But, the egg didn’t shatter, and that’s a win in our book.
The next day was our ‘choice day’, which meant we got to choose what activity we wanted to do. I chose to sail instead of canyoning, caving and mountain biking. The others sounded fun, but I love activities on the water. Sailing was fantastic, and the day was pretty perfect. The wind was good, and the lake was like a mirror. I wish I had my phone to take some photos. The wind subsided near the end, so I needed a tow to shore, but other than that, perfect. Later, we had a (surprisingly serious) LEGO competition in which we had to recreate a masterpiece. My group made a giant tower. We didn’t win, surprisingly enough!
Onto the final day. The entirety of Form 3 went to the lake (after packing, of course) and enjoyed various watersports. My group went canoeing. We got to go around the lake and saw the other groups too. I don’t think anyone capsized their canoe, but we did watch the other groups fall in, in their activities. We then did final checks, ate lunch and left.
Although we experienced no signal, cold weather and damp wetsuits over the course of the trip, these ‘lows’ could often change in an instant, and weren’t dealbreakers. This trip surpassed my expectations massively, and I had high hopes anyway! I know next year’s Form 3 students will love it, and thanks to everyone at the Rhos y Gwaliau centre and thanks to all the staff too.
Nathaniel – F3
Hollowford is the place where we (Form 4 students) all recently stayed for 3 days, located in the Peak District – a national park.
As for the activities, I liked rafting because it was very good for team building and getting to know others. At first, I didn’t know some of the students very well, but through building our own raft and racing with the other teams, I got to know them more. Caving, weaseling and rock climbing were all very challenging and exhilarating experiences too. I got to overcome my fear of darkness and claustrophobia! For example, during our caving session, we got to experience pure darkness. We turned off our lights and opened our eyes and there wasn’t even a difference with our eyes open or closed! It was really cool.
I enjoyed several other new experiences too. Abseiling was fun and allowed me to encourage my peers and help other people. It was a challenge that also helped students deal with the fear of heights, and it was beautiful going down the bridge. Hiking made me realise that I am actually stronger and fitter than I thought. At first, I didn’t think that I would be able to walk up the mountain for very long… But, I can do it – and did, and surprisingly, I enjoyed it very much. The scenery up there was just stunning!
Throughout the trip, we got to hang out with our friends and make new friends whist trying new activities. We had lots of fun together. After our activities, we always had time to relax and spend time talking and laughing too. The overall experience was thrilling, amazing and certainly memorable. We learnt new skills that I don’t think we would have had a chance to do so without Hollowford.
Praew – F4
Hollowford has been one of the most captivating and challenging weekends I’ve experienced in my life. From weaseling between rocks to creating your own raft with your team, the campsite allowed me to experience the largest range of outdoor activities that I could imagine.
The instructors were all extremely welcoming at our arrival on the campsite and made settling in incredibly easy, with thorough explanations of where to go at all times and where things were. The rooms were also incredibly clean making a comfortable experiencing of living there. To make things even easier for us, equipment could be lent from the outdoor centre so we did not potentially ruin our own clothes.
Personally, one of my favourite activities was rock climbing. Although it was quite painful and rough on my fingers, I enjoyed it the vast majority of the time – particularly as I experienced something that a normal climbing centre did not have… We were given the opportunity to climb on natural rock formations instead of man-made ones. This gave me a sense of achievement and admiration on the power of mother nature.
Overall, the trip was a blast, and if I had the choice I would definitely go again.
Chester – F4
Our Duke of Edinburgh Practice Expedition
From Saturday 16th June to Sunday 17th June, Form 3 had their Duke of Edinburgh practice expedition. We had been preparing for almost half of the year and had planned our route cards as well as our meal menus and clothing. My group consisted of seven people, and I think we all had different skills that would help us for the expedition.
We set off on Saturday morning – first with the minibus, to get to our starting point. The weather was a little rainy and damp, but it wasn’t cold, proving we put on our coats. At the beginning of our route, I have to admit, we did get a little lost. However, with the help of the teacher accompanying us, we were soon back on track and got the hang of it. Making my way up the hills, I soon noticed how heavy the bag was and the effort one must put into moving only a few centimeters on the map (it’s a lot longer in reality!). The views were very beautiful though and we saw many types of plants and insects. I was impressed at how wonderfully my group cooperated and at how enthusiastic we were.
At lunch, I had a packed lunch, like everybody else. We had travelled about half way through our journey for the day, when our road started to get very tough; there was almost nothing but an uphill trek for quite a while. Nonetheless, we encouraged each other and worked as a team (working out where we were, and not getting lost). We reached the conclusion that, “Slow and steady wins the race” and stuck to it for the rest of our walk. Understandably from our ethos, we reached the campsite last. On the other hand, I think that it was worth it… We saw beautiful views of the Lawley and pushed ourselves.
When we got to the campsite, we set up our tents, unpacked food and cooked dinner: soup, followed by rice, vegetables, tomatoes and spam. Next, we packed up and changed into our pyjamas. Of course, we brought many snacks and ate them whilst telling horror stories. I think this was a fun activity for us all, since it was like a sleepover within nature. We slept very well and were quite comfortable. The only thing that bothered us during the night was a sheep, which, bumped into our tent several times!
The next morning we made breakfast: eggy bread, scrambled eggs, fried eggs (since we all value our breakfast, we brought eggs all the way from school), and pancakes and Nutella. Starting our second day journey, the weather was the same as the previous day. This time though, our journey was much more relaxed and flat, since the ground could not possibly go any higher (we were on top of the Lawley). We were surrounded by very rich fauna: wild ponies, sheep, and many different types of birds. Unfortunately, as we started to go downhill, I started to feel a sharp pain above my ankle, along the bone. As I couldn’t go any further, the rest of my team members were very kind and, in typical Concord fashion, even offered to carry my bag. However, I thought that it was better to call the teachers, and carrying two bags was too much for the back of a growing person. Help arrived within 10 minutes, and the others then continued. The teachers were exceptionally helpful and I put an ice pack on my ankle too… I have come to the conclusion that it was probably because I am going through a growing phase as well as playing a sport that uses my right leg significantly more than my left (fencing). From what I hear from the rest of my team, they had a really fun time and had a great rest of the journey.
I look forward to taking part in our official Duke of Edinburgh expedition next year.
Ecaterina – F3
Form 3 Bala Trip
On this trip, I shared a dorm with 11 other people. This wasn’t the first time I’ve shared a dormitory, however it was a first for me sharing a dorm with people that aren’t all very close to me. It was a new experience and we learnt more about each other.
Our group did water activities on the first day. We started with kayaking and we tried to change kayaks whilst on the water. Although it was very challenging, everyone tried hard and had fun.
After that, we did paddle boarding. It isn’t actually as hard as what I had expected, but it is certainly amusing. We had two groups competing against each other – we pushed each other and even pushed the instructors into the water too.
The last activity of the day was gorge walking. The rocks were very slippery! Fortunately however, we got to choose our own route and there were lots of great views.
Over the course of the visit, we had different duties and responsibilities. Every day, we would make and pack sandwiches for lunch. Moreover, we tested our time management skills – as we had to be on time for all activities and be organised and prepared with equipment. We had ‘duty teams’ too, for instance certain teams had to help clear up at designated times.
In our team, everyone was actively involved with the activities and other responsibilities. Each member was willing to help, challenge themselves and respected one another. It was good working with different individuals for different challenges.
I liked the mining activity most during our time away. As our group was very encouraging, we cheered each other on and helped spot where to go together. Excitingly, we told ghost stories in the old mines and turned our headlights off. There was a lot of climbing to do, and also a part where we needed to take the canoe. At this point, Kachi’s action amazed everyone; he volunteered to push the canoe so everyone else in the group could move forward.
The last part of the mining expedition was memorable too. We went through deep, freezing water trying to find our way out… We doubted our route and navigation skills many times – especially when the water kept getting higher and higher. The water even reached my neck at its highest point. However, we eventually found our way out. The moment of reaching the exit was a very joyful one, and the warm sun shining on us made us feel both delighted and refreshed!
Perhaps the part of the trip that I had most difficulty with was dealing with spiders. I am really afraid of spiders and there were a lot of them in the mines. Despite that, mining was still the best activity I took part in at Bala.
Maggie – F3
Form 4 Trip to Hollowford
F4s who were at Concord in F3 will have remembered the trip to Bala, but the new F4s might have been nervous of what was in store for this outdoor education trip. Like the Bala trip, it was more of the same; the activities, the laughs, the smiles….
On Friday 27th April, around 90 students and staff set off to Hollowford Centre for a fun-filled weekend. Once we arrived we were thrown into the deep end straightaway, with different groups doing different activities, meaning everyone was busy from the off. My group did abseiling first and although it looked quite daunting, we soon realised that the worst part of it wasn’t actually climbing down, but thinking about climbing down!
We arrived back already slightly tired from our first challenge, but we were treated well with a tasty warm meal which filled us up. The groups finished off with one last activity for the day (for my group it was rowing) and then arrived back with some free time to spare. On the first night many students were really tired and slept right after the 10:30pm room check, but it was just the start of a very eventful weekend.
On Saturday, again, the groups participated in different activities – 3 to be precise. At the start, the thought of all these challenging activities dawned, but once we got into the activities they went by quickly and it was all much enjoyed. Even hill walking was quite fun and the scenery caught the eye. With more free time on our hands, quite competitive games of ping-pong took place during the lunch and supper breaks. On Saturday evening, students were told to prepare their luggage and tidy their rooms as tomorrow would be their last day; however we still had two more activities to go.
On Sunday, students were taken out by their instructors for their last activities, with my group taking part in caving and raft building (with the added bonus of zip lining). These activities were probably the most fun activities we took part in, and it’s fair to say that the Hollowford trip finished on a high.
Finally, students packed and cleared out their rooms, tidied their beds and changed into dry clothes before setting off back to Concord. Thanks were said to our teachers, and goodbyes to the amazing and welcoming staff and instructors at Hollowford, who treated us as family.
The trip was a chance for some to overcome many of their fears and for others to try things they hadn’t done before… I think I speak for most when I say that this trip was thoroughly enjoyed.
Toluwafe Eyifewa (tf) – F4