On Saturday 8th July, teams from across the District gathered at pre-arranged drop off points for the Expedition Challenge weekend. There was a little hasty replanning as the Forestry Commission had elected to close one of the car parks we had specified – not to worry, a few quick WhatsApp messages and everyone got to their (somewhat damp) start point.
The Scouts were issued maps and blank route cards for the first stage of the challenge – route planning. The template helpfully takes the scouts through the five days of navigation – destination, direction, distance, description and duration and when done completely [should] give the scouts all they need to get from one place to another without getting lost – or at least that’s the idea.
All planned out and a quick kit check later, the groups set off into the wilds of the New Forest en-route to Braggers Wood. Teams with more experienced patrol leaders were sent off alone while the less experienced teams were shadowed so that any nav issues could be nipped in the bud. Experience proved not quite to be everything though as one of the unaccompanied teams managed to mistake a 120 degree turn in the woods for a 90 degree turn in open heathland. One more lesson notched up.
After a day in the sun, and ever shortening legs between checkpoints, the Scouts all made it to Braggers Wood in one piece, where it was time for the camping stage of the challenge. Scouts put their tents up in the rain and set to prepping their dinner using camp stoves and open fire before turning in for the night.
Come Sunday morning, the rain had fortunately stopped. Breakfast was cooked, tents taken down and the teams set off for day two of the challenge. Some of the younger legs were a bit tired after day one and so were given a slightly shorter day 2 while the others took on a full day.
Navigation lessons continued as various novel routes were taken between checkpoints but by the end some of the lessons were starting to sink in – read yourself the story from the map before you set off and you’ll be able to tick waymarks off as you go. The Sandleheath and Lyndhurst team was particularly pleased that their route ended with a mile long climb but they kept their smiles on regardless (mainly because I had confiscated sad faces at the start of the day), with morale helped by the addition of Gerald the slow worm who joined the group for a few minutes.
Over the two days the scouts covered about 25-30km (depending upon geographical embarrassments) ending in the sunshine – exhausted but proud of what they had achieved individually and as teams.
Congratulations everyone who completed the challenge, and thanks as ever to the adult leaders, Simon, Barry, Joe, Robin, Neil, Dave, Manuela, Flic and Simon, who supported the challenge and made it possible.
Text by Simon Morgan, Assistant Scout Leader at 1st Sandleheath Sea Scouts.