OBE Gold Expedition

This was going to be a very different expedition from last year’s Year 8. We replaced mountains with the flat rural landscape of Suffolk, but added in the concept of self-sufficiency, survival and bush craft. The aim to get all 24 Year 8’s living in the ’wilderness’ as efficiently as possible, using the skills that they have learnt throughout the last three years.

The first phase is always the more challenging. The sudden realisation that actually it is all about them working through problems and as a team, can have a profound impact. We arrived at our
location around lunch time, and once all the safety briefs had been done, it was down to them to get themselves sorted. First challenge, build a water proof shelter, dig fire pits and prepare for their
first night under the woodland canopy. There was little or no staff involvement throughout the entire challenge, so it was up to them to make sure they completed all their tasks.

Six hours later the children had finished enough of their shelter to keep them dry, but the fire challenge was proving difficult. Just before dark they managed to get the fire going, which meant hot water, food and warmth. Phew! I would like to say that they all slept well the first night, but by all accounts it was a slightly restless night’s sleep but credit to the children, they identified issues
with their shelters and made sure they rectified them in the morning.

Day 2 was a day of building and various other projects. By the time the sun set they had had to build a ‘bush kitchen’, fire pit/social area, smoker/cook house, and wood store, as well as tend to  their personal admin, eat and collect water. The group cracked on, and it was hugely pleasing to see what they achieved as a group. They worked tirelessly all day to complete the tasks, and by late afternoon, the fire area was completed, with seating, the smoker was built, with fish and beef jerky smoking on it, the bush kitchen was built and all shelters completed. The children prepared a beef stew, with root vegetables and stock, which bubbled away all afternoon on a low fire. That evening they ate like kings and queens.

The second night seemed to be more comfortable, and attention was turned to navigation and energy levels for the walk back. This was always going to be challenging, tiredness and aching muscles were going to be the main issues, but they rallied and completed the walk in just over three hours.

They were a challenging few days. Taking the children outside their comfort zone, and asking them to be completely self sufficient was a big ask, but I am pleased to say they came through it all.
Many congratulations to them all, I hope that they take this experience away with them, and realise that actually they are far more capable then they think they are. Well done, to all.

Nick Drake


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