Duke of Edinburgh Practice Expedition – 7 to 8 May 2011


This weekend, my Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award group canoed down a stretch of the Thames, on our practice expedition. In this blog post, I explain what we got up to.

ROW YOUR BOAT_Huw Whitworth, Matilda Rose, and Andrew Burdett paddle down the Thames.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Our trip began on Saturday morning, loading our kit into dry-bags and then those in turn into the canoes. The minibus towed the boats to Hurley (where we collected another canoe) and then to Wargrave where we began our expedition.

LOAD IT UP_The kit is put onto the trailer.

After roughly an hour and a half on the water, we stopped by the riverside at Hurley and had our packed lunches. With the fuel our boats needed in our bellies, we were soon paddling again.

HENLEY... ON THAMES_Just after lunch.

At 5:00pm, we canoed into Hurley where we pulled the boats out of the water and put them away in the RBWM Outdoor Education Project (OEP) sheds. Then, we walked with our bags to the campsite. Unusually for a DofE group, our base camp wasn’t on the island, but the Hurley Riverside Park. This meant a fair trek (led by our adult leaders) to the bridge across the stream surrounding the site, only to find the bridge no longer existed. One leader (Helen) went one way, the other (Nick) went the other, but neither found a crossing. In the end, Nick simply stood in the middle of the boggy stream, and carried our bags across. The rest of us (now relieved of our heavy bags) were able to walk the other way, a  much longer route.

PTCHTENT_Co-DofE-ers getting ready for the evening ahead.

That evening, we pitched our tents, cooked our dinners on the Trangias, and headed off to bed – enabling me especially to get a decent night’s sleep ahead of Sunday’s paddling.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Sunday morning saw us enjoying some of the sausages Jake had pre-cooked (the ‘no-meat’ rule mentioned in Friday’s film applied only to raw meat) and then sealing our gear back into the dry-bags. Leaving the campsite revealed that Helen had missed the bridge the night before by a mere few metres. Despite our newfound knowledge of the shortcut, we were still an hour late to get going on the water.

GET IN_Jake and the other canoers in his boat set off from Hurley.


We passed under Marlow Bridge, into areas I knew well from time spent at Longridge. I was shocked by the number of Borlase rowers – I knew there was an active rowing movement at the Marlow grammar school, but had underestimated its scale. Sharing the river, a group of kayakers were flying down the Thames in perfect synchronisation. By chance, Nick knew one of them and called his name. “Stevie B,” he yelled. It was Steve Backshall, friend of Nick’s and presenter of CBBC show Deadly 60. Children dragon-boating with Longridge looked on in jealousy as he paddled over to speak to us, ignoring their cries of “Steve”!


Following our brief brush with fame, we left Marlow through its lock and continued. Passing under Cookham road bridge I became immediately familiar with the area, thanks to a boat party we held for my sister and mother in 2009.

COOKHAM BRIDGE_We canoed under Cookham road bridge.


I could even see Cliveden behind us, signalling the beginning of the end of our journey. Boulter’s Lock was just around the corner!

PEEKING THROUGH THE TREES_Cliveden House, covered by greenery.

At Maidenhead Bridge, we held onto each others’ boats, creating one big ‘raft’ allowing us to finish at Guards Club Parade together, at the end of a great weekend.

NEARLY THERE_All as one.

Andrew Burdett

Andrew Burdett is a twenty-something from Maidenhead in Berkshire, working for ITV News.