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Toward to end of the summer holidays, 20 King’s College pupils took part in their Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award Expedition on Dartmoor.

Here are two accounts of their experience:

Looking out from the safety and comfort of the minibus as we drove up to our first campsite, Dartmoor didn’t seem too bad. Where were all the endless bogs everyone moaned about? The heavy, grey rainclouds, the thigh-burning hills? All we could see were picturesque fields and clear streams in the afternoon sunshine. I know now that I was sorely mistaken. Dartmoor is that bad. I’m not overreacting: Mr Mason himself said that these were the worst conditions they’ve had in years. The bogs were so – for want of better word – boggy that my feet only dried again when I arrived home; the rainclouds were not only grey and heavy but let loose relentless rain on the first day and night of the expedition; the hills full of false-summits and tedious downhill terrain. But, hey, it’s not DofE without it!

Despite the terrible weather, all teams set off from Princetown with high spirits fuelled by nervous adrenaline and instant porridge, having met the assessors John and Andy the night before. All teams arrived at the finish in higher spirits, but this time running on determination and the ‘last-day-feeling’ we’d been waiting for all week.

I have to admit at the time that I thought it was up there with one of the things I’d never ever like to think about doing again in my life but, looking back, I realise we all learnt important things that we will certainly all remember; the most vital being teamwork. Every time we got lost or had a low moment or needed pulling out of the wretched bogs, we all pulled together and lessened the blow for each other. This made completing the four days even better, knowing it was 100% a team effort. I know I definitely couldn’t have/wouldn’t want to do it without my fellow Team 1 members. And my crunchy peanut butter, of course.

Emma Smith

Our octet enjoyed plenty of memorable moments completing our expedition on Dartmoor. It rained torrentially the night before we started while camped on the moor. Mr Mason said this was some of the wettest weather he has seen on DofE. The ground for the next four days was boggy and wet, but it did not bother us and we had a good laugh throughout. Henry Cole fell waist deep into a bog; we laughed, he didn’t. James Crocker went to assist him but to the rest of us it looked like he was trying to push him in further.

The scariest moment was crossing what looked like a field of bulls (they had big horns) in a line blocking our route. They encircled us, so we scrambled over a wall pretty sharpish to escape them.

We camped by a river and were eaten alive by mosquitos, but still, our spirits remained high. On the second day we had to cross a wide river that was high after the heavy rainfall. The water was waist deep and rather than soaking our clothes we stripped off, putting our packs on and wading across without modesty.

On the third day, which was mainly sunny, we climbed what seemed like horrendously high hills, crossed deep and wide valleys, were drenched by a sudden downpour, nearly fell into more bogs and broke the pole of our tent at the campsite, though this was quickly fixed with zinc tape meant for first aid.

On the fourth day we got up at the crack of dawn so that we would have the chance to finish early. James Crocker was chased up the road by some cows en route to the finish, where we were the first team back. A good time was had by all.

Hamish Urquhart

Photographer: V Crandley