Discovering rivers and woodland in the New Forest
The New Forest, famous for its ancient heathland and wild ponies, is full of woodlands and wildlife, making it a perfect place for walking.
Lucy Atkins of Two Blondes Walking is the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Manager at Trinity School, Teignmouth and explains why doing your DofE is a great idea.
That’s a very easy question to answer: it’s fun, it’s easy, it looks great on your CV!
From year 9 (age 13/14) you are eligible to begin your Bronze Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, aged 15+ and you can do Silver, 16+ and you can do your Gold. You have up to the age of 24 to complete it so there really is no excuse. Handily it fits in with all the other activities that you’re probably already doing. The three sections can be done with friends or alone and can be something amazingly new and adventurous or something familiar and rather more sedate. The choice is yours.
Gaining your Bronze Award takes a minimum of 6 months, the Silver Award takes 12 months and Gold takes 18 months.
Don’t be afraid of these lengths though; your activity should be approximately one hour per week so if you are already playing a sport for your local team for instance, then you don’t need to do anything different.
This section ensures that you are doing something that makes you sweat for the required time. It can be an exciting new sport such as parachuting or street luge! Or it can be as simple, and cheap, as walking the neighbour’s dog every Sunday morning.
The best physical I have come across is parkour.
“Going swimming for my physical section has helped me keep active every weekend.” - Edward
The skill section can also be done in a very simple way. The activities range from DJ-ing or music analysis, to taxidermy or dog training (not to be merged!). Popular options for the skill section are learning to play a musical instrument or writing. Creating a portfolio of film and book reviews was one year 9's solution to not having enough money to join an organised activity.
“I took up singing for my skill section. I had never had any singing lessons before but I know that I will continue to sing all my life.” - Chloe
This is the section that I find gives the biggest rewards and sparks the most conversation, but seems to be the hardest to organise, especially at Bronze level.
Being 13 or 14 places certain restrictions on the type of voluntary work that can be done but don’t be put off; there are plenty of excellent opportunities. The most popular volunteering placement, by far, is working in a charity shop.
This is a great option as it gives you the skills needed to be able to successfully apply for a paid Saturday job at a later date. Other options for volunteering are helping old people, perhaps by reading to them, helping with a local Scout group, or coastal or countryside conservation.
I have seen many great examples of voluntary work. Perhaps the most successful was two friends who together joined a community project which was to create and maintain a community garden, complete with sensory section for those with no sight. After the 6 month time frame was up they decided to continue helping with the project.
“Helping out at the vets has helped me to realise what I want to do in the future.” - Zoe
Every DofE Award needs an expedition section too. This is a two-day trip at Bronze, three at Silver and four at Gold.
The journey that is embarked on is designed to be challenging for all and has many variations to help get the balance right between too hard and too easy. Don’t be put off by this section if you don’t even own a pair of walking boots; expeditions can be done on water, on horseback, on a bicycle or in a wheelchair. This section allows you and your team to see new parts of the countryside and experience being self-sufficient.
“I did my Gold expedition on the amazing Isle of Man. It was brilliant to be on top of a mountain but also be so close to the sea.” - Josh
If you are doing your Gold DofE you also have to complete a residential. This is a trip away from home that will cover 5 days and 4 nights. Again, it doesn’t have to cost the earth and can fit in with the things that you enjoy doing already or be something completely new.
The different categories are:
Your residential could be to attend a summer camp as a leader, or go on a cookery course.
“It was a really hard week but I really enjoyed it and feel so proud of myself for completing it.” - Alice
All the information you need, including how to get in touch with your local group, is on the DofE website.
Doing your DofE will open up new possibilities, allow you to explore and push your boundaries, and create memories that will last a lifetime. What are you waiting for?
Lucy Atkins (Blonde One) is one half of Two Blondes Walking, and is a qualified Walking Group Leader. You can often find Lucy leading Ten Tors Challenges or inspiring Duke of Edinburgh groups. When she's not exploring, Lucy is a teacher at a local school in Dartmoor.