After moving from living in a major city when I was five, for most of my life I can remember living in the countryside and now can’t imagine living anywhere else, from spending weekends and afterschool outside (not having a television since until I was seven) to being unable to go anywhere during the winter because of the small roads being covered in snow and black ice! Even in the few years I can remember living in a city a distinct memory was being taken to forest school, playing all day in Sherwood Forest.
Having dyslexia, I have never been one for sitting and reading a thick book, instead I have always wanted to be doing something active. Quite often this meant trying to persuade my brother to join me outside instead of reading inside. Rarely would he stay out for long and then I had to repay the favour by playing chess!
Being the youngest out of all my cousins, I remember them doing Duke of Edinburgh and imagining one day doing the same, what I didn’t realise was how long I would have to wait to fulfill this. All through secondary school I was continuously asking if they were going to be doing Duke of Edinburgh, but it never materialised. This did not stop me however from doing the things I loved, I completed dinghy sailing courses with my brother, being the only girl on the course, I then went to Mount Batten water sports center for a week with school and did paddle boarding, dinghy sailing, canoeing and power boating.
Alongside this I learned to sail on a 50 foot yacht, my parents both being experienced sailors having sailed around the world, I loved being on the sea although I was sea sick on all of our channel crossings!
Becoming a sports ambassador was another thing I did through secondary school and I had had the opportunity to help at many events and complete coaching courses. PE was always a subject I enjoyed partly because I didn’t have to sit in a classroom for hours, but with it also came a host of opportunities: I completed a coast to coast ride with the cycling coach and other students and I was the only one who cycled it all! GSCE PE also had its bonuses, I went to Dalby forest for a weekend to film evidence for mountain biking and there was a specially made mountain bike course at school which we were able to use.
When I discovered there were kayaking sessions in a local leisure center I was thrilled! After a few sessions I was hooked and I even managed to entice my brother to join in! however it was soon only the two of us attending and I dreaded the thought of them not going on so I created an advertising poster and the sessions where soon bustling with action.
Swimming has always been a love of mine, and as the story goes my mum had trouble keeping out of the pool while my brother was having his lesson, in the end I started swimming lessons when I was nearly 3 after the instructor was tricked into thinking I was the correct age! I still swim to this day (3 hours and sometimes over 6 km a week) and any pool or sea is enough to tempt me!
Doing scuba diving is another amazing experience I have had and I have now completed my Advanced open water diver and 3 specialty courses. I am hoping to progress this further by completing my Dive Master course and Rescue diver.
I had been disappointed that my previous school had not done D of E but when I started at sixth form and discovered that they were going to do D of E for the first year I was delighted! I am very lucky to have supportive parents who didn’t hesitate to let me do D of E and I had soon signed my life away to doing silver D of E! One of the things I found daunting about the experience was that I knew no-one at college and although I made friends, I only knew one person in the group. We did however become a closely-knit team and had amazing fun in the process. When we had the route planning and training with Emma and Andy, it was a snowy and blustery March day and we put a tent up and all huddled in it, which is a memory that will stick with me for a long time to come. Although we had awful weather for that day, we were extremely lucky with the weather we had for the practice and qualifying expeditions.
The practice was full of learning and fun, although it was exhausting and we all worked our way though a supply of Compeed plasters!
This was a common theme of the photos of both the practice and the qualifier that I captured as photographer, occurring at most stops!
During the practice we came across many challenges, navigational, physical and amusing, one challenge on the amusing scale was trying to figure out how to get through or round the footpath that lead through an enclosure of bulls!
We completed our qualifier on one of the hottest times that we had this year, this posed an extra challenge of keeping hydrated and keeping morale up. The feeling of achievement that I felt when I took my rucksack off for the final time was immense!
A lot of people may believe, me being one of them, that doing DofE is about doing it all on your own and not having any help or support, but what I discovered was that this was far from the case and that we were constantly supported and were met on occasions when we were least expecting it. When we were on our qualifier we were met on multiple occasions each day to be given water and to see a friendly face waiting for you, also the relief the you were actually going the right way and you weren’t kidding yourself!
I am now going on to do Gold DofE which will be both challenging and rewarding and is a very exciting prospect. Only 2 of us from the group 7 are going onto do Gold, which possibly highlights the significance of the challenge but it is one I am looking forward to face.
Doing DofE has revealed a career path to me, one that I am going to take. Looking at a degree course in Outdoor Leadership and Management has been the only course that I’ve thought “yeah, I could do this, wow, I know what I want to do!” If I had not done DofE I would still be facing the daunting prospect of finding a course, job or career to do like most of my peers are at the moment, I feel very lucky having found something that so closely matches what I love doing.