Silver DofE Practice Expedition, New Forest

By Julia Bevan, Teacher of English

The Silver Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) Practice Expedition, held over three days in the New Forest last weekend, was the perfect place for Block 4 participants to learn how to navigate properly, some for the first time. The challenges of the forest – paths are not clearly sign posted and blend into other paths or trail off unto thick undergrowth or fenced enclosures – meant that groups quickly learnt the importance of the compass and trying to keep to a bearing.

On day one, each group walked with a member of staff, who expounded navigation knowledge and important aspects of the country code that cannot be gleaned in the classroom. Group 5 walked with Harrison and felt inspired to write a song about their day: he has a shout out in the song. The tail end of Storm Hannah meant that strong winds made putting up tents extremely challenging on Friday night; groups learnt quickly the value in pegging down the tent before putting in the poles. This stops the tent turning into an aerodynamic kite that might fly away! Group 2 piled into tents after dark, to play cards, keep warm and wonder who might blow away. Thankfully, no one did.

It was a noisy night, but many were worn out and slept regardless. On day two, the weather was kinder. Light showers meant that people got to try out their waterproofs and were glad that rucksacks had outer covers or that they had wrapped their clothes inside dry bags. Navigation remained challenging, and the GPS trackers carried by each group, revealed that many were not on their planned route, and some groups were walking with another group. Like winged-Hermes, staff whizzed through the forest on their bikes to find groups, separate them, reroute them and occasionally lift morale with squares of chocolate. By the afternoon, all groups were walking their correct routes; Group 3 arrived into camp ahead of time and Group 1 must be commended for not sort-cutting at all. On Saturday night in camp there was a very relaxed mood with evening sunshine to enjoy and more than half of the expedition completed.

On Day 3, all groups were out by 9am and although tired and aching, spirits were high. Indeed, everyone completed the expedition and went home with blisters, but nothing more serious. Group 4 enjoyed a rest break at the Reptile Centre, and managed to resist the temptation to visit Acre Down farm shop. It must be noted that food was at a shortage. Some participants had not packed proper lunches, and relied heavily on snack-bars and kindly teachers with spare toast or carrots in their bags, and some did not have enough food to fill them up in the evenings after seven or more hours walking. It is expected that mistakes will be made on the practice, so that they won’t occur on the qualifying expedition to the South Downs in September.

A big thank you to Paul for organising such a successful event, and to Fiona, Rob, Harrison and Allen for giving up time to share their knowledge and experience with Block 4.

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Commission for Block 4 student

A Block 4 student whose original script was selected to be performed at an event in London has been commissioned to develop it into a full-length piece for theatre in the capital’s West End.

Freya Hannan-Mills’ script, Swallow – which documents a daughter’s last days in a hospice with her mother – was one of four pieces of writing chosen by casting company Spotlight to be produced for an event hosted at their studios in the heart of the West End on 7 October.

The piece, which was brought to life for Spotlight’s event by director Phoebe Rhodes and actress Kate Kelly Flood, was well received by the industry panel in attendance, with casting director Daniel Edwards tweeting: “Left speechless by [Freya’s] exceptional piece … This young actress/writer is one to watch people!”

Following the success of the performance, Freya received the news that she was to be commissioned to develop Swallow into a full-length piece for performance at the Tristan Bates Theatre in London’s West End in January 2019.

The script will also be featured in a ‘Best of 2018’ showcase in London in December 2018.

Freya’s latest success comes just a week after she received the Robert Hutchison Young Poets Competition for her poem, Overheard at Zara – Liverpool One, at a special prize-giving event at the University of Winchester.

Earlier this year she was crowned the winner of  Wicked Young Writer Awards’ 11-14 Years Category for her short story, Mushy Peas and Battered Bits.