Last week I was asked to visit Ysgol Greenhill School to talk at their Lower School Awards Evening. The purpose of my visit was to speak about my experience with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award throughout my time at Greenhill and how it has helped me in further education and employment. The talk went really well and they have asked me to return to speak at some assemblies in the near future. It was great looking back through some old photos from my expeditions and I wanted to feature it in a blog post.
I began my Duke of Edinburgh’s Award journey when I was fourteen years old and in year ten at Greenhill School. I remember going to a talk about it and there must have been close to a hundred people in the room. There were only forty spaces available so I had my permission slip and money straight back before school the next day to make sure I had a spot!
For those of you who have not heard about the award before it involves many different elements. The main sections are volunteering, skill development and physical recreation (each completed on a weekly basis) alongside a residential trip and training, first aid and route planning for practice and qualifier expeditions.
It took a lot of motivation in order to complete each element of the award on a weekly basis and to keep a log of everything I had done. For my skill development I chose playing clarinet for this in my first year before switching to conservation work with the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Association for my silver and gold awards. I did swimming once a week where I would complete a mile (which was 64 length of my local pool). I also volunteered every Thursday at my local Cub-Scout Meetings for 2-3 hours. The volunteering is something I had been doing for a year before beginning my Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.
My expeditions were definitely memorable as well and very physically and mentally exerting. They increased by a night and day for each award progression so by the time we got to our Gold Award we were completing four day three night expeditions. We had a really good team running the award in Pembrokeshire (they were also very strict) and we got to travel to many parts of Wales and even up to the Scottish Outer-Hebrides! We began with fairly local expeditions before making our way to north of the county and mid-Wales where we were totally unfamiliar with the area. Our Gold Qualifier expedition was by far the hardest as it was in North-West Scotland on the Isle of Harris and it rained constantly in July. Teamwork was absolutely vital at this point as we had to keep our group morale up!
Something else I was fortunate to do was a residential at Thornbridge Outdoors in the Peak District. This was a requirement for our Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award where we had to go away for a week by ourselves. I chose the activity centre for mine and it was great to meet others who were doing their DofE from across the UK.
After completing everything I received my Gold DofE Award at St James’s Palace in London from HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh. This was actually Prince Philip’s 500th Award Ceremony as well which made it even more special! It was very nice to get to see inside St James’s Palace as it is the official palace of the sovereign which means you only get to visit by invite. There are no tours or tourists allowed inside so I was very privileged!
After receiving my own award I went back to volunteer at St James’s Palace for other Gold Award Ceremonies years afterwards. I was a VIP Host, showing our most honoured guests around St James Palace. I had learnt a lot about the history of the building and each room to tell the guests throughout each tour. Something that I had the opportunity to do there as well was speak in front of the VIP guests (in front of King Henry VIII’s fireplace!) I had very little time to prepare for this talk as somebody else had called to say they couldn’t attend only about ten minutes beforehand! I feel very fortunate to have been asked to speak and it’s something I may not have the chance to do again!
I also completed my Diamond Challenge in 2016 to raise money for the charity in their sixtieth year! I chose to do a hike up Snowdon and a 15,000ft Skydive to raise money. They were two things I have never had the chance to do before and I have always wanted to so I challenged myself to complete both that year.
It was great to be involved with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and I am so grateful for the experience and skills I have developed throughout. If you’d like to get involved with DofE or complete it yourself please visit their website by clicking here.
Have you been involved with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading and have a lovely day! 🏃🏻♂️