Sarah wades through Peak District floods to Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold Award

The Duke of Edinburgh's Gold Award badge to be worn in Scout uniform.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold Award badge to be worn in Scout uniform.

Bromham Beaver Scout Leader Sarah Heard’s four-day expedition for her Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award with three companions was meant to be a test of teamwork and map-reading skills. Instead the sixty-mile hike on the Peak District reservoir route turned out to be a trial of stamina and sheer guts during the wettest summer on record. At times, she and her team were wading knee deep along flooded pathways and coping with saturated hillsides.

‘I reckon even Bear Grylls would have struggled,’ said Sarah.

Sarah told her story to the Bedfordshire Scouts Media team,

Day One

‘The 100 km (60 mile) route took in around ten reservoirs from Kinder and Torside right through to the Ladybower and Dale Dike. On Day One we had good weather all morning until halfway through the afternoon. At lunchtime we had been warned by the mountain guide that thunderstorms were expected. We set off hoping that the forecast was incorrect.

‘How wrong we were! We climbed right up the 2,000-foot Bleaklow Head, the highest point in the area, as the fork lightning struck. With no lower ground we could get to we had to lie down on the ground for our safety. It was very scary with lightning probably no more than two miles away.

‘As the lightning eased up we set off again and had the challenge of crossing a fast flowing river. We did this safely by working as a team, helping each other across. We then headed down towards Torside Reservoir where we crossed the dam. Once over the dam we had to make a slight detour after taking the wrong path. Eventually we got back on track. Due to the heavy rainfall we ended up wading through water up to our knees to get to the campsite at Crowden.’

Days Two to Four

‘We had to change to our foul weather route it was that bad. But, it was one of the most thrilling experiences I have ever had. By Day Four we had trekked for sixty miles through breath-taking scenery and on the way we had coped with lightning, winds, rain, rain, and more rain, injuries, and sore feet. What an achievement!’

Supported by her friends from the Onesters Scout Group in Bedford, the 23-year-old fashion manager had trained for the expedition along numerous hillside walks. She knew the hazards of the cold and wet and the importance of wholesome food as well as map-reading skills and first aid. But she admits,

‘The British weather in August 2012 pushed us right to the limit. We did manage to laugh at times as we fell over yet again into a muddy hole.’ She added with a grin, ‘We’d read the book, but this was for real!’

When Sarah is not out facing the elements, she looks after a rowdy colony of Beaver Scouts from Bromham. So it was very appropriate that Bedford District Commissioner, Graeme Watt, presented her with this top award in front of all twenty eager Beavers. They were very proud of their now clean and dry heroine and yelled their approval afterwards.

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Of course, the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award is not just about the expedition. It involves much more than that. Like all participants, Sarah had to complete four other challenges. She did so over a five-year period.

For her physical challenge she learned to swim and was even trained to do water aerobics. Her skills challenge involved learning to drive shortly after her eighteenth birthday. For her service challenge she trained as a volunteer leader and has supported the Bromham Beaver Scouts for five years. Finally, her residential challenge gave her the opportunity to join service crews at various camp sites where she tackled all manner of debirs and undergrowth as well as clearing hedges and ditches. It’s all far removed from her day job as a buyer for an outdoor retailer at their head office in Northampton. They don’t yet know they have a daredevil adventurer in their midst!

Early next year Sarah is expecting an invitation to St James’s Palace to receiver her Award certificate from HRH The Duke of Edinburgh himself! Also in 2013 she will face her next challenge to complete her Queen’s Scout Award. This time she is hoping to do it without too much water.

Originally published on Bedford District Scouts and based on an article by Peter Sutherst, Bedfordshire Scouts Media Development Manager.

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