A Duke of Edinburgh’s Award group from 1220 (March) Squadron recently completed their Gold Expedition in the Lake District.  The expedition involved journeying on foot for four days covering a distance of over 50 miles and carrying all of the equipment they required for the journey.

The team of five started near Shap on the M6 in Cumbria and spent the first part of day one walking along the edge of Haweswater Reservoir.  While walking in this area they kept their eyes peeled for sight of the Gold Eagle that is reported to nest there.  After leaving the lake they turned uphill to climb Kidsty Pike before descending to Angle Tarn where they spent the night.  For some this was the first time they had camped wild and they found it to be a liberating experience.

Having had a beautiful evening by the lake they woke up on day two to persistent rain.  Fortunately their route for day two was low level; having descended from their wild campsite they followed the edge of Ullswater to their campsite beneath Little Mell Fell.  Spirits were low as the weather had sapped all their enthusiasm.  Fortunately the campsite they had chosen had a shelter they could use to cook under and get a short respite from the rain before spending their second night under canvas.

Day three was a better day, brighter weather and good teamwork helped them complete the route over the old coach road into St John’s in the Vale.  On this day the team found a stray dog that appeared to have lost its owner.  They were worried that the owner may be in trouble but the dog turned out to be a hound that had become separated from the pack the previous weekend and would eventually find its own way home.  Apparently it’s a regular occurrence.

On their last night the team enjoyed eating as much of their food as possible so they would have less to carry on the last day.  Having heard a weather report for the following day they planned to get an early night and start as soon as possible the next day to try and beat the poor weather due the following afternoon. They also elected to take their alternative route rather than tackle the summit of Hellvelyn.

The final day took them underneath Hellvelyn along Thirlmere and the up to Grisedale Tarn.  From here they descended to Ruthwaite Lodge, a climbers hut owned by Outwood Bound where they met their assessor.  On the way down the poor weather came in and they found themselves in the middle of a thunderstorm and heavy rain.  Reaching the lodge was very welcome as they were soaked through.  They spend fifteen minutes having a bite to eat and chatting with their assessor before completing the final two hour descent to the finish in Patterdale.

The team comprised of three staff members Pilot Officers Charlotte Bone (2524 Squadron), Max Avard (2461 Squadron) and Sergeant Megan Saunders (1220 Squadron) with two cadets from 1220 Squadron, Sergeant Katie Dickson (17) and Corporal Alex MacRae(16).  For Charlotte, Megan and Katie it is the final section of the award they needed to complete and once their final admin has been completed they should be invited to St James’ Palace to be presented with their Gold certificate.

Sergeant Megan Saunders said “I’m really proud of my achievement, I also feel more confident in training cadets for their Bronze award as I feel that I can draw on my own experience and empathise with them.  Our expedition had some really miserable points, particularly day 2 but on the last day the rain didn’t matter anymore because we knew we were sleeping in a dry Youth Hostel that night.  That and the thought of eating fresh fruit spurred us all on to finish.”