On Friday 14 th August 2009 12 cadets and 3 staff from 121 Nuneaton SQN ATC boarded the minibus heading for Elan Valley, Wales to take part in their bronze and silver Duke of Edinburgh Award both practices and actual.
After around an hour of travelling we stopped at the roadside Café where we met up with our counterparts 198 SQN Hinckley who were going to be joining us for the weekend again 12 cadets and 1 staff.
Following a brief introduction, food and coffee we all re boarded our respective minibuses and continued on our way to Wales .
Just outside Rhydaer the Silver Duke of Edinburgh group kitted up and set out on their way to camp on the first stretch of their 3 days on foot whilst the bronze groups continued to camp in the bus.
At around 12.30 we arrived at the final destination Elan Valley Camp site. After myself and other staff members had turned all the amenities on we gathered all the remaining cadets and gave them a quick safety brief and brief incite to the structure of the weekend and a timetable of the way the days will be structured.
Once the Silver groups had arrived at camp and set up their tents and sorted their kit the staff issued them with the ration packs that they would cook themselves as part of the experience in the outdoors.
During that evening the cadets were given some free time to explore the surroundings that they would call home for the next 4 days whilst the staff ate their evening meal and got to know Sgt Mockett of 198 SQN. Later that evening the cadets completed their route cards and checked the maps and equipment they would need for the following day.
Saturday morning and the weather was good all the cadets are up around 6.30 and cooking their breakfast ready for their day ahead of challenging walking. At 9am the cadets depart camp in the respective groups and on their routes given to them the evening before.
Flt Lt Crewe, Fg Off Easterlow and Sgts Mockett and Myself completed our various tasks up until around 12pm and then we all took the minibus into Rhydaer for a look around the local village before heading back towards the camp to meet up with the silver groups who by now were at the halfway stage and they were looking very tired to say the least. After a quick cup of tea we headed off to the other routes halfway point to meet the bronze group. However upon arrival there was no sign of either groups so we must have missed them. Sgt Mockett and myself decided that we would kit up ourselves and take a walk along their route to see if we could locate anyone, after a couple of hours we had not heard or seen any of them so we decided to walk back to base camp along a route that me and sgt Mockett planned off our maps the going was tough and we pushed it at 6 km per hour and when we arrived at camp it was then that we realised that in 3.5 hours we had covered around 21 km and we were both quite exhausted and in need of coffee and food.
That evening once everyone had eaten and recharged the batteries the cadets planned their routes and completed route cards for day 3 and were given some free time to do with what they wished but most of them were that tired they slumped around camp in various positions fighting the overwhelming surge of mosquito's so the cadets built a fire to keep them away from the camp site which seemed to work.
Sunday morning came round and the weather was not so good it was the fine misty drizzle that soaks you in seconds so the cadets were wrapped up in their waterproof clothing and headwear to keep them dry but shortly after they left camp the sun managed to break through the clouds and it warmed up so after the staff had completed the mornings duties and secured camp we headed off into the minibuses and headed to the halfway points. Myself and sgt Mockett headed to meet the bronze group at the Caban Coch dam which was very impressive and we had around an hour to spare so we had a walk around and took some photos of the dam and the scenery.
At around 12.30 we saw a group of people in the distance so we waited to see if they were one of the groups of cadets. It turned out it was one of our groups and they stopped to join us for a brew and so they could take off their waterproofs and have their lunch.
At 1.30pm myself and sgt Mockett left the bronze group and jumped on the minibus and headed to see if we could locate the silver groups who by now would be on their final stretch once we rendezvoused with them we headed for some tea at base camp.
Around an hour after we met the silver group they sauntered into base camp looking very tired and in need of some hard earned rest and by around 4 all of the groups had returned and we settled into have dinner the cadets were then given free time until lights out at 10.15
Monday morning and the cadets and staff were all quite tired from the weekend so had I lie in until 8am and once they had woken they cooked their breakfast and set to cleaning the camp before departure.
Flt Lt Crewe, Fg Off Easterlow and Sgt's Mockett and Myself set to our tasks of shutting the camp power supply and water supply off and took the camp photo of the 4 walking groups and took the cadets to the visitor centre for a look round the local heritage of the area and have a look in the gift shop before heading home at 12pm
This was my first time returning to Elan valley since I was a cadet 4 years ago and I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to be there and given the chance again I will definitely be returning