On Saturday 11 th August 2012, five cadets from 2028 Squadron travelled to 163 Squadron HQ to join the Wing transport to Llanbedr Training Centre. The week long camp in North West Wales, run by Wing Staff is designed to get cadets through either their Silver or Gold practice or actual Duke of Edinburgh Award expeditions.
We left 163 HQ at 9:30am and travelled to 492 Squadron and then 495 Squadron, to collect the other Cadets. We then began the journey to Llanbedr, arriving at 3pm. The weather was pretty average as the cadets were taken inside to be briefed on the week ahead and settle into their dorms for the first night.
After being briefed by Squadron Leader Isles, the cadets were then split into their walking groups, given their routes for their expeditions and set to the task of marking checkpoints. The five cadets from 2028 Squadron were all placed into one group with one other female cadet from Bristol and Gloucester Wing, as they were all completing their Gold practice expedition. Completing the checkpoint cards on the first evening, gave the cadets the chance to bond with their groups and make new friends, it also made them realise how far they actually had to walk! Between completing the cards, each group was taken by a member of staff for a kit check, this enabled each cadet to lose a lot of unnecessary kit and make their packs considerably lighter!
On the Sunday, we were taken into the hills with the staff, split into groups and given the chance to get to know the area and terrain and ensure our map reading skills were up to scratch. I found this morning incredibly useful, as it enabled us as a group to get to know each other's strengths and weaknesses before actually starting our expedition. Taken back to the centre for lunch, we had Sunday afternoon to complete the checkpoint cards and ensure kit was fully prepared for drop off at the campsites that evening. Each group was also given their aim of the expedition; this was to be completed during the expedition and was to be presented to all of the other cadets and staff at the end of the week. Our group's expedition was ‘ to compare the quality of each campsite'. After dinner on Sunday evening, each group was taken to their first campsite to begin their expeditions. Our group was taken to Cedris Farm, a nice, picturesque campsite with good facilities, but unfortunately we only got to sleep there!
On the Monday morning, leaving the campsite in good time, we were all feeling bright and fresh until we hit the 380m climb of a hill we had to do as the first part of our route. After the first climb, the hills weren't too bad and the day went very well, completing around 15km. Our group finished in good time, arriving at Bwlchgwyn Farm, our second campsite. Here, we had a nice pitch and the view was breath taking.
On the second day of the expedition, we had the huge bridge at Barmouth to cross (about 3km) at the start of the route, normally a toll bridge, we hit lucky that day as it was the staff's day off! Day two of our expedition was the warmest day, however, we still managed to complete the 17km route in good time, thanks to Sgt Caves ' excellent navigation skills. We stayed at Parc ISAF on the third evening with one other gold group and two silvers; we had a nice evening socialising as the warm weather in the day was maintained during the evening.
However, Wednesday morning was a different story; we woke to very strong winds, a completely different picture to the previous day. Staying at the campsites with the other gold group was useful as they were travelling the opposite way on the route to us, so we were able to share tips and advice. Day three was incredibly windy in the morning making it hard to navigate (and stand up!) but we still walked at a good pace. At around 11am the rain started and this rain didn't finish until about 5pm, the bad weather brought moral down a little bit but we still kept walking. Wednesday's route was around 17km too and despite the hideous weather we still made it to Ffridd farm, our final campsite at 5pm. Ffridd farm was by far the most ‘basic' campsite of them all, with just one toilet and a rocky pitch, however, the views were spectacular and as a group we had a good evening.
Waking up on our final day, the moral was high in the group, despite the long 20km route ahead of us. It was misty in the morning, but the weather soon brightened up, we walked the first third of the route at a good pace. But we then hit a boggy patch and we were down to 1.5km an hour, this was hard and the moral lowered but it felt good when we finished that part. The moral was soon up after we completed a 3km stretch of the route in 30 minutes! Finishing the route on the Thursday afternoon and getting into the mini bus felt incredibly good! After a long expedition, with mixed weather and highs and lows we all finished in a good mood, full of energy to sing in the mini bus! The staff took us to the shop on the way back to the centre, where we all stocked up on chocolate, ice cream and fizzy drinks! After arriving back at Llanbedr we were given the afternoon to shower and chill, consisting of watching films and playing jenga and cards!
Friday was allocated for cleaning of kit and completion of our presentations to be shown that evening. It was tradition to try and make your group's presentation the most entertaining, however, already knowing that another gold group were the camp comedians, we decided to do our presentation in the format of the television programme ‘May the best house win'. With Sgt Caves as the presenter and Cpl Dyer, Cpl Rackham, Cadet Howard and CWO Howard each with a campsite to big up and impress to the audience and myself as the assistant, we used this format to compare the different campsites and get across what we had found out to the audience. Our presentation was successful and it got the audience involved. When all the presentations had been shown, we were given the evening to rest and to pack ready for departure the next morning. On the Saturday morning every cadet was roped in to help clean the building so that we could all get home as soon as possible! We left Llanbedr at 9:30am with five 2028 cadets having passed their Gold Practice expeditions and having had a very good week!
I found the Gold D of E incredibly good fun but hard work. I think our group worked very well together, as we included someone we had never met before, but we were all good friends by the end of the week. We had a laugh together, and functioned very well together as a team. With Sgt Caves leading the group as the best navigator (we did all know where we were going and we helped him!), Cpl Rackham, Cadet Howard and Cpl Dyer keeping the group smiling with their jokey bickering and the girls sticking together sorting them all out and looking after them all! I can't wait to do my Gold Actual and hopefully I will have a group as good as I did for my practice.