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Duke Of Edinburgh practice hike

London Marylebone (08:30 hrs)

A promising looking day lay ahead, the Ford-cast predicted clear skies and cool temperatures, perfect for the hike we were all about to embark upon. Corralling the year 10 collective was surprisingly easy (perhaps a sign of their eagerness), and it was not long before we set off for Princes Risborough a small village near Aylesbury, where we would begin our hike.

With minimal impact upon the general public, with our hefty packs full of what seemed to consist mainly of tent poles and spaghetti sauce, we boarded the train. Mr. Pinel distributed the maps and compasses everyone would have to use to find our way to the campsite. The two groups were instructed they had the whole day to make it to the campsite, so there was no need to rush or make any rash navigational decisions…this was immediately disregarded but more on that later.

Princes Risborough Station (10:15 hrs more or less)

A few snacks down and backpacks adjusted several times we all began our journey across The Chilterns, a series of rolling chalk hills and footpaths made for some fantastic scenery and a nice break from the consistent buzz of London life (in my opinion anyway). Once everyone had calmed down about the lack of phone reception and the potential loss of snapchat streaks (It’s an app Mr. Pinel) the pupils settled into the walk, and began to demonstrate their map reading skills, which were surprisingly good when prompted a little.

Mr. Pinel and Ms. Brelstaff took a brief detour over a field that perhaps was not intended for public use and bumped into Mr. Ford and me on an unexpected patch of road. This led the boys in our group to an extremely exaggerated sense of confidence, that then led to a picturesque 4 km reroute because ‘we definitely are going the right way sir’, this did however lead to our group considering the map a lot more to avoid any extra work later on in the day.

Still this did not hold back an intense sense of déjà vu as we walked past a house Mr. Ford and I noticed we had seen before and after another prompt that perhaps they should take their bearings we eventually found our way back to the trail.

The afternoon had some steep ascents on the agenda and after a long day of hiking, the campsite was the only thing on the pupil’s minds, as we slowly approached the site everyone’s backpacks became significantly heavier, despite the almost constant snacking from the boys it was clear if we didn’t arrive soon we could have a revolt on our hands. Mr. Ford and I were not looking to have a William Golding-esque situation to deal with.

Bella Vista Camping (17:29 hrs)

With a couple of mapping errors under our belt we finally arrived at the campsite, much to the elation of the other group who had arrived and set up their tents already (Rumour has it our group had proclaimed they would arrive with ease hours before them for a few weeks) after a sit down in the field with our

friendly Alpaca friends, we finally all set up our tents and began to cook dinner.

A great deal of food had been brought along for the trip, a special mention goes out to Yacob who had brought along four packs of meatballs and to Andre’s seemingly endless supply of pain au chocolates. I now realised why each bag had weighed almost the same as the pupil’s carrying them.

The morning after (07:00 hrs)

Sharing a tent with self-proclaimed heavy sleeper Mr. Ford and habitual fidget Mr. Pinel was a great joy and I awoke feeling rested, prepared for another day of hiking, I had promised to walk with the other group today and was

excited for the opportunity to talk with some new pupils. I’m still new and pretty terrible with names so this was great practice.

Breakfast ranged from a full fried breakfast cooked on our camping stoves, to an entire selection pack of cereals. It was clear everyone knew they needed the energy to make it back to the station today. The groups had switched their routes back so would be walking an unknown path on this day. Yesterday’s map reading hiccups had been remembered and clearly the desire to blaze a trail into the unknown had been diminished somewhat.

Once we had all packed our tents and belongings into our packs, taken our bearings and wished Bella Vista good bye, we set off. The morning was slightly more overcast that the day prior, but the current Ford-cast for the day was no rain and a slight breeze, and the Ford-cast had yet to be incorrect.

The Chilterns (11:23 hrs)

The initial part of today’s hike took up through some steep climbs to begin with, a lot of ups and downs geographical, physically and emotionally, this really did instil a great team spirit, offers to share extra weight and waits to regroup were aplenty. The map reading this afternoon was second to none and we swept through the Buckinghamshire countryside with ease.

Having made great progress before lunch we stopped for lunch nearby a quarry. We all made a final push to eat all the biscuits and chocolate bars, in an effort to lighten our loads for the final push. Our group had more or less a straight shot back to the station herein, we moved along in a mishmash of single file and small groups, some scenes reminded me of Peter O’Toole stranded in the desert. I snapped out of this day dream and returned to making sure no one got left behind.

Princes Risborough (15:43 hrs)

Our merry band of girls and guys appeared from the wilderness not long after Mr. Ford and his cohort, we had all arrived an hour before our predicted time of arrival, each of the pupils gratefully fell into their train seats and chit chat and shenanigans were at a bare minimum (surely not tired?). I was extremely happy we had all made it and successfully concurred the wildlands of Buckinghamshire. The experience has hopefully prepared all the pupils for their assessed hike later on this year and taught all of them some tips and tricks for the next time they head out.

I look forward to hopefully being part of the next trip, and as we headed back for London with thoughts of a takeaway and a solid night’s sleep, I had the briefest moment to miss the idea of carrying around the weight of a small person on my back.

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