Aoife (U6MCB) reminisces on the Gold Canoeing Expedition on the River Thames this summer:
On the Friday 22 July, a group of the Upper Sixth and I embarked upon our Gold Duke of Edinburgh canoeing Expedition. While we were all nervous for what the following four days would bring, excitement was also in the air – the sun was out, and the River Thames looked calm. We started our Expedition north of Oxford, with a finishing point of Marlow as our end goal for the trip.
The first day on the river was certainly the most challenging. We did not arrive at our campsite until late in the evening, and it took strong teamwork and perseverance to keep going, even after the weather turned on us. However, the first day motivated us to do better on the next day. We set off from camp early in the morning and travelled with speed down the Thames. We arrived ahead of time for lunch and made it to the night’s campsite much earlier than the day before. The third day again brought success, with all of us powering by the end, coming closer and closer. On our fourth and final day of the Expedition, we all agreed to wake up even earlier, at a painful 5.00 am, so that we could set off and arrive home as quickly as possible. We made quick progress down the river, eventually reaching our end goal in the afternoon. While the last day did bring some extra challenges, the group worked together to adapt, and when we did reach the end it was an extremely satisfying conclusion.
Some favourite parts of our Expedition included travelling through the centre of Oxford and admiring all of the beautiful architecture – especially on the bridges, which we created a ranking system of. We also enjoyed (mostly) good weather the whole trip and travelling along the river in the sun brought beautiful sights of nature, scenery, and lots of other boats.
The aim of our Expedition was to conduct a survey into the health of the River Thames and its surrounding environment, which allowed us to focus on all of the nature which was around, and document it for our later presentation. We saw a multitude of common and endangered insects (particularly species of dragonfly) and encountered many cows along our journey, who seemed very curious of the odd red canoes travelling by them. However, there was also an alarming amount of litter in the river, especially in the cities and towns that we travelled through, which was a sad sight, in such a beautiful location.
With the Expedition now complete, many of us went on to complete our residentials in the summer, which fulfilled the last part of our Gold Award. Having personally now completed all of the necessary sections, I would encourage anyone thinking of doing Bronze, Silver or Gold DofE to give it a try – it has been an amazing and character-building experience for me, which has resulted in a multitude of new friendships being formed.