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West London Guides wild camp in Sweden for Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award

West London Guides wild camp in Sweden for Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award

A grant from the Jack Petchey Foundation’s Leader Award Grant Fund contributed towards the cost of flights to Sweden to enable those from the Girlguiding Greater London West area to participate, regardless of means, in an expedition by Open Canoe along lakes and rivers with wild camping on islands.

This was a once in a lifetime experience, and all the girls stated that they had learnt a great deal from it.

The Guides were split into two groups, one of six and one of four. They both paddled from near Tyfors to the North side of Sundsjon Lake over four and a half days. They made their way South through Älvsjöhyttan and into Vintersjön Lake, where they had to make sure that they did not miss the exit of the incoming river. They paddled up this river into another lake, then North West through the town of Lesjofors (a two kilometre portage) into various other lakes, finishing North in Sundsjon.

This was an arduous journey of approximately 110 kilometres through large lakes and small streams testing navigation, portaging, boatmanship and decision-making abilities. There was also the challenge of wild camping each night. The group came well prepared for this and cooked substantial meals using camp fires. They were well-organised and tidy around camp. The Guides put into action lessons learned from their practice expedition on the Trent.

The group of six reported that the best parts were being given the freedom to paddle unaccompanied and to make decisions such as where to camp each night, to swim and cook on camp fires, having fun together and filming their blog.

Challenges were the bugs, navigation, sleeping on uneven ground, running out of chocolate spread, paddling two kilometres upstream to connect between lakes, wild toileting, some of the long portages, trying to find a suitable camp at the end of a long day and the bad weather on the second night. They showed excellent teamwork and planning. Although they all worked together to get jobs done, they each had specific roles.

Through the four and a half days of wilderness paddling and survival they said: “You have to be able to ‘make do’ with what you have.”

“We were close friends before we started so we knew how to work together; We will now appreciate flushing toilets, hot water from a tap, a take-away curry, fresh fruit and vegetables and fridges so much more and have a feast planned for back at base-camp.”

The group of four stated that the best parts were the sunsets, having fun together, swimming once they had found a campsite, getting to know each other better, Guilia’s cooking, having interesting meals, eating different foods that they did not usually have such as chickpeas and lentils and the first night where they found a campsite with a toilet!

The challenges they reported were the same as the group of six. They also showed excellent teamwork and planning, although they all worked together to get jobs done they each had specific roles too. They said: “We now have greater appreciation of the little things having been so remote.”

“We really enjoyed nature, the views and watching the sunrise. I found it hard to concentrate on the paddling – but doing the same thing for so much of the day taught me to be more patient with myself.”

Their aim was to compare the wildlife between the practice expedition on the Trent and the final on this much more complicated and remote river system and this will be covered in their presentation in September.

Samantha Axbey Guide and Ranger Leader said: “These 10 girls successfully completed the qualifying expedition for the Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award. The extra funding meant that the girls could undertake this expedition in a more remote and challenging environment than would otherwise have been possible. They experienced a truly wild and unspoilt landscape, thus gaining more appreciation of the natural environment. They had some tricky navigation between rivers and lakes, including several portages. These challenged them physically and also meant that they had to work really effectively as a team. The girls had organised several fundraising events themselves as well in the months leading up to the trip, which meant that they really felt involved, and the trip was keenly anticipated. Their feedback to the younger girls in September will inspire other girls to want to take part in the D of E award, thus stretching and challenging future generations of guides to develop their resilience further.”

Are you interested in a Leader Award Grant? For more information and to see whether your youth organisation is eligible, take a look here.

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