To help the squadron be more self-sufficient in running Duke of Edinburgh’s Award expeditions and enable us to do more adventure training activities, two of the staff are working towards becoming certified as Lowland Leaders. As part of the qualification, prospective leaders are required to complete an approved training weekend. Therefore, we spent last weekend at RAF Halton with staff from across Central and East Region honing our navigation skills and learning how to lead a group effectively in lowland terrain.
The course started on Friday evening with introductions and going through the scope of the award. Most importantly we learnt that the award is misnamed. The restriction on where it can be used are related to accessibility and not height of the land. In fact, once qualified we can take groups all over the UK from the South West Costal Path to the Great Glen Way.
Saturday started in the classroom with guidance on how to teach navigation and a briefing on how to interpret the weather forecasts. Having established it was going to be a wet and windy afternoon, we dressed appropriately and headed out on a walk into Wendover Woods and then along the Grand Union Canal. Navigating through the trees proved tricky, emphasising that the terrain the award covers is not always benign. As we made our way through the woods we tested various navigation techniques, practiced estimating distances and heights. We were encouraged to provide information about the flora and fauna and any historical facts about the local area that would provide interest to the group. We also stopped to have a go at using a group emergency shelter and find out just how cosy they can be.
In the evening we reviewed some of the hazards we might come across in planning routes for DofE Award training expeditions and how to minimise the risks they pose. We then started planning a route suitable for a group of cadets training for their Bronze Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.
Sunday morning, we shared our ideas for a training walk, covered emergency procedures and received instruction on the use of specialist safety equipment. We then prepared for a very cold and windy walk along the Ridgeway; the oldest Long-Distance Path in the UK. We took it in turns to lead sections of the walk which took us past the Prime Minister’s residence, Chequers. The course wrapped up with a debrief and personal guidance on preparing the Action Plan to reach the required standard for the assessment practical which involves 2 days of hiking with simulated emergencies to resolve.