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Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Success in the New Forest

By Mrs Sanders, Duke of Edinburgh lead at the school

Five Silver DofE groups successfully completed their Silver expedition over the half term break. After a training and revision day, pre expedition kit check, bog rescue, wild pony, pig and tick briefing the teams had dinner and relaxed at Foxlease House. Happy 60th birthday to our DofE Assessor Nick Walker!

Foxlease is a 400 year old Manor House bought by Sir Philip Jennings-Clark in A.D.1500. In1912 the house was purchased by Mrs Anne Saunderson. A militant feminist and committed supporter of the suffragette movement, Mrs Saunderson was a lady of strong social conscience. She became interested in the educational philosophy of Maria Montessori, and soon after purchase of the estate, employed a teacher trained in the Montessori Method of education, and opened a kindergarten at Foxlease, attended by 15 local children.

Following the end of the First World War, during which many military personnel enjoyed Foxlease hospitality, Mrs Saunderson heard Lady Baden-Powell talk about the newly formed Girl Guide Association. Mrs Saunderson gifted Foxlease to the Girl Guides in 1922 on the occasion of the Royal Marriage of Princess Mary. Three rooms were added in 1775 and are decorated in magnificent Regency style. When the house became a Girl Guide Training Centre, they were named Scotland, Hampshire, and London. Scotland was the most ornately decorated finished in gold leaf, with a large crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling. Obviously not our normal DofE accommodation!

The teams set off on a crisp, clear day in the aftermath of the storms on the previous day.

The groups have to plan and complete a route, collecting evidence for their purpose work along the way. They have to be out of camp for 7 hours and have to work as a team throughout the expedition.

Methodical studies of toadstools and mushrooms, horse tail cutting patterns, commoners/verders rights, local land use, tourism in the forest and wildlife in the forest ensued with Mrs Sanders buying a book on local fungi to help the studies.

A wet and miserable start to day 2 tested the waterproofness of the kit! Wet tents, wet breakfast and wet day ahead didn’t seem to bother the teams as they strode out of camp. They had taken off their flip flops and scrapped the sliders by this stage.

A challenging day for most groups with bog problems, flooded underpasses, ponies sheltering in underpasses, the need to reroute and change timings and coordinates at very short notice and the necessity to eat their whole body weight in sweets whilst taking a direct bearing across a huge forest tested the group’s resilience and they rose to the challenge arriving at camp in good, but damp, spirits.

A Halloween, team orange challenge on which team could keep the balloon intact the longest lifted spirits, as did the underfloor heating in the shower block at the campsite!

The girls set off on a clear morning for their last day. Their sights set on, option A - the luxury coach departing at 5.30 prompt or option B - take the cold minibus as you are late.

They had a great day, spirits and navigational competency were high.

The staff encountered some significant navigational issues however…

The groups all completed the expedition in the rain, were debriefed by their assessors and told that they had successfully completed their assessment. They were thankful to change into their emergency clothes and eat their emergency rations, all achieved option A and a trip home via the services, as obviously they hadn’t eaten enough junk food during the three days! The balloons survived and are still being nurtured in homes as we speak. I still have a Halloween balloon nurtured by Charlie Brown last year inflated on my desk #balloonchallenge.

Congratulations on completing a tough assessment expedition and thanks so much to the staff and assessors who made this possible.