Buckingham Palace News

DofE Gold-Award 2018

This is Alice, Robyn, Charu, and Roz, who are the first of our students who have completed their DofE gold award with school. There were also a number of our students who had completed their gold award with other centres.

They were given their certificates by Squash Falconer, the mountaineer and adventurer who was the first female to climb Mont Blanc and then paraglide down from the summit. She has also climbed mount Everest. She gave a really interesting talk about her adventures and her own DofE experiences. As a group we met Princess Eugenie and we also saw Prince William the Duke of Cambridge.

Well done!

IMPORTANT INFO Bronze exped 12-13th May

This letter has been emailed also, it is from Kevin at Venture Out.


Your child is due to attend their Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Training Expedition on 12th & 13th May. I’m contacting you to confirm the arrangements. If they can no longer attend, please contact the school ASAP

Meeting point (revised)

Roman Lakes Leisure Park

Lakes Rd, Marple, Marple Bridge, Stockport SK6 7HB Google map

Sat morning drop off: 9:00am prompt.

Sunday afternoon pick up: 4:30pm

Please note that when following directions to this site, come in on Lakes Road, and avoid an alternative route shown on Google (LowLea Road) that is actually not passible in cars. Also note that Lakes Road is gravel and potholes – you are going in the right direction. Please also remember that Google Maps may not work in the countryside due to poor network connection. Download the map area to your device before setting off.

Campsite for weekend: (Not where to meet us! Just in case you need to drop something off or come pick up) Linnet Clough Scout Camp

Gibb Ln, Mellor, Stockport SK6 5NB

The groups will have a trainer assigned to them who will be with them at all times from breakfast to evening. Training them in camping, cooking, navigation, walking and emergency scenarios, in preparation for their assessed expedition.

I will be coordinating the event and will remain in the area all the time to support the staff. I’ll be on-duty overnight on the campsite and should be your ‘First contact’ if you need to get in touch with your child. I’d remind you that there is often patchy signal in the area that we will be working, and so, if you leave a message and it is not returned immediately, this should not alarm you. You can leave a message and I’ll return it when I pick it up. You should also not be asking your young people to be ringing you to keep them updated, part of the Expedition ethos is for them to be ‘offline’ and engage with the team and experience. Assume ‘No news is good news’ and they will tell you all about it when they get back.

Be aware that the first thing the Trainer does is check the young person’s kit, and if there are critical defiencies we will need to ring you to have you bring something better. Please see notes below.

Thanks for your understanding and support.

Kevin Beattie

Programme Manager

Additional notes about critical kit

At least a month before coming on the Training expedition we provide a Training day in school, during which the participants attend a 2 hour session on Equipment choice and Food planning. Some companies don’t provide this day or do it as part of the Training expedition. It has been our policy to include this session weeks before, in the hope that it helps participants and parent not waste money and time by buying inappropriate kit that they then need to replace. And this is successful for the vast majority, however on every expedition, there are always a few individuals who come with inadequate critical items that then cause me to have to ring parents to explain that they will need to go buy something and bring it out to the campsite. Three are a lot of things on the official kit list, and so DofE also produce a helpful guide for parents. The list of Group kit that I provide is in the Parent Booklet for Venture Out Expeditions that the school sends you. There are only a few safety critical items and I think it is worth listing them here, so you know what I phone parents about:

Walking boots – not shoes. Boots have an ankle cuff that come up over the ankle and when tied firmly supports the ankle. Your child will be carrying a heavy rucksack and walking over bumpy loose ground for hours. Imagine them stepping down a step and going over on their ankle – the cuff will mean that this should be just a sprained ankle, and not a broken ankle. Participants walk through puddles, mud, and long wet grass that would have their feet wet in minutes if they are in shoes. Some kids tell me that it is a boot because it was in the boot section or was labelled a boot, or the person in the shop said it would be suitable. On the school session they are shown a £27 fabric boot that is waterproof, and adequate for bronze. Do not buy leather as it is expensive, heavy, stiff and can cause blisters. https://www.decathlon.co.uk/nh300midwpwomens-boots-blue-id_8493370.html

60-70 litre rucksack. Anything smaller is too small and you will probably have to buy another one. It may look big enough to you in the shop. But a 3 season sleeping bag will take up nearly half the volume. They are not allowed to have sleeping bags on the outside of their bag – they will get wet. They may even fit all their stuff in the bag at home but when they get to the expedition they then must also fit inside some of the group kit: tent, cooking pots, fuel cannister. If you buy a bag that is ‘too big’ we don’t have to fill it. But if you buy a bag that is too small, we can’t make it bigger. And we only allow the sleeping mat to be on the outside of the bag (swinging things get, lost and unbalance them when walking)

You want a longer rucksack, with good hip pads and straps – most people don’t realise that these are tightened first to transfer the weight of the bag onto the hips, and so avoid all the weight going into the shoulders and spine.

Decathlon in Stockport sell good, light ones that have a 10 year warranty. https://www.decathlon.co.uk/forclaz-60l-hiking-rucksack-blue-id_8300843.html

Waterproof coat: every year we have someone come with a jacket that has a Fancy brand name on it but no hood. To be waterproof a coat must have a hood and the seams but have tape over them on the inside. Better ones are breathable and are long enough to cover the bum (rain runs off rather than soaks up into under layers) https://www.decathlon.co.uk/nh100-womens-jacket-khaki-id_8383168.html

Over-trousers (waterproof): on the school day we do a demo to show the participants the difference between a waterproof over trouser and water-resistant outdoor trouser. We do this because every expedition a child arrives with only the trousers they have on and say ‘But the person in the shop said these were waterproof too’. What they need to bring is a pair of over-trousers that go over the top of the leggings or trousers they are already wearing. These will be made of a waterproof (plastic-feel) material with taped seams. Hopefully with zips ankle to knee to allow them to be put on without taking off boots, when it rains. I have many expensive mountaineering and trekking trousers that all are sold as ‘waterproof’ but I know that only my over-trousers truly are. These can be as cheap as £9 and they also act as a windproof layer, a warmer layer on windy days, a barrier to mud that can be taken off before getting into a clean tent. Please be wary of the shop assistant’s advice, very few of them have adequate experience and it is not their decision about what is acceptable on our Expeditions. https://www.decathlon.co.uk/raincut-w-overtrousers-blk-id_8408195.html

Sleeping bag: Needs to be 3 season bags (comfortable down to 5 degrees) As even on a warm day the temperatures at night fall to around the temperature in a fridge 4-6 degrees). If the temperatures are warmer on the night, she can unzip the bag to cool down. But a thin bag can’t be made warmer. Please note that women have warmer core temperatures whilst sleeping than men, and smaller people and people with low body fata loose heat more quickly than larger adults. Women’s sleeping bags are sold that are shorter and thicker.

All sleeping bags should have a compression bag – a bag with straps on the outside that allow the compression of the sleeping bag to make it smaller to pack in the rucksack. https://www.decathlon.co.uk/nitestar-300-w-sleeping-bag-17-id_8392330.html

Wrist watch – not just a clock on their phone. They need a wrist watch to help them time their walking and is an essential part of navigating and not getting lost. We provide the maps and compass

As you can see, the critical items are the ones that if they were absent or inadequate, we would be putting the participant at considerable extra risk whilst walking and sleeping outdoors for 2 days. This is unacceptable as it is completely avoidable. For all the other things we, expect young people to come along, make mistakes, reflect on their experience, learn from it and come back better prepared for their Qualifying Expedition. We have found that young people often don’t want to ask their parents to buy new/replacement stuff for them as they want to impress them with their independence and prove that they can do this. (and that they didn’t get their first choice of kit wrong). Please address this with them when they get home.

I’ve added links above to Decathlon, a superstore beside the motorway in Stockport, many of you will be familiar with it. Also near there is another superstore, Go Outdoors that gives 20% discount with the DofE card your teen has. You have to become a member there (£10) and they have Outdoor brands, but I think Decathlon offers similar value and quality even without the discount. I would advise you compare.

Mobile phones

* The Duke of Edinburgh Organisation recommend that we do not allow participants to have mobile phones whilst on expedition (day or night). The reasons for this:

* The participants are encouraged to ‘un-plug’ from the outside world and focus on becoming part of their team by socialising and supporting each other.

* Mobile phones don’t stand up well to rain, mud, being crushed in pockets. They run out of charge and there are no charging facilities on campsites.

* There is patchy coverage in the countryside, and batteries die and so if you are waiting on a phone call from your young person and don’t receive it or you are trying to ring them to check on them, and they don’t call back – you get anxious for no reason.

* For these reasons, we have always run and supervised expeditions in such a way that mobile reception is not required for supervision or safety:

* The group are given an emergency phone with the supervisors’ numbers and have been taught what to do as a group in an emergency. We assume that they won’t be able to use it and so our supervisors trail the groups and meet up with them every hour to check in on them.

* Sometimes it is necessary for me to contact home if a young person takes ill or has forgotten equipment. I have all the emergency contact details that you provided the school with and can contact parents if I need to. You can contact me directly on the number above – please only do this if it is an emergency, and remember, I too will have patchy reception and so may not get straight back to you.

* If they need to take photos, then they should come with a camera, or maybe their phone but with the SIM card removed

IMPORTANT: Bronze 12-13th May

Here is a letter from Kevin at Venture out


We’ve revised the drop off and pick up point for next weekend.  Apologies for another change but the new location is more suitable for our purposes when meeting groups and for parents picking up.  There were a few near-misses last weekend when some parents, on seeing their child, just braked mid traffic and parked up onto a pavement.  The new point is in a car park with a visitor centre, tea room, duck ponds and local walks.  We encourage you to go and buy an ice cream or coffee whilst you wait, to support the venue that is run by volunteers.  Please car share.  Please see the attached letter for address and map.(this is on the next post)

Kit list

The updated letter attached also has notes about critical kit items that we check.  It is normal for a few kids on each expedition to need to phone home and get a better pair of boots, waterproof trousers or rucksack brought out to the campsite.  However, last weekend, the cohort that came seemed to have a higher number incidents of this.  I know that sometimes a false idea can be circulated and so I have added a note about what we deem critical items that I advise you check with your child to ensure it is not you that is getting a phone call next Sat lunchtime.


On the School training day the group are shown examples of food to choose to bring for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  They are strongly advised to go away and try a few ideas before they come – this is to avoid, the case of an individual or group arriving with packets of food they haven’t tried, then not being able to eat it and throwing it out and going hungry.  Hungry teens don’t sleep well or walk safely the next day.  This happened more often last week and so please make sure your child has tried their meal out before they come.

Please also note that girls often don’t bring enough food – they either don’t like to ‘pig-out’ in front of others, or more commonly, they don’t believe us when we tell them that they will need to eat 50% more food on an expedition day to allow for the exercise.  We do not allow Pot Noodle for a main meal – there is too much air in the package and very little noodles.  Packets of noodles or microwave rice, with pouches of sauce are what they were shown.

Vest tops / shorts

As it is a warm weekend this weekend, it reminds me that we sometimes have participants show up in vest tops crop tops etc and shorts.  These are not allowed, they are told this but it still happens.  This is not suitable protection from sun, nettles and insect bites, ticks.  Rucksack straps are very quick to tear through exposed skin on shoulders.  T shirts are fine.  They are outside from 9am to 10am on day one and 7am until 4pm on day 2 – suncream isn’t enough.

Hope that helps avoid any problems next Sat.


Kevin Beattie

Education Programmes Manager

Venture Out

07980 306869