Duke of Edinburgh Gold Practice Hike (Newcastle)
Having completed our Duke of Edinburgh Silver Award in 2019, everyone was incredibly excited to advance to the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award and complete our first Practice Hike on 13th October 2021. With our rucksacks packed, equipment ready and spirits high we arrived at Newcastle exploring the town before pitching our tents at the campsite. That night, to refresh ourselves on mapwork and using compasses, we had a night walk, easing us into the tough hike we had ahead of us.
On Day 2, after waking up to a beautiful sunlit view and making ourselves breakfast, fueling us for the hike ahead we set off. With the wind blowing in our face, our coats, hats, and gloves on and our compasses and maps firmly in our hands, the group battled up various mountains, the last of which, the Ott, proving particularly challenging.
However, having overcome these mountains with our tenacity, enthusiasm and navigation, everyone was happy to reach camp again with the day finished. After taking our boots off and gathering by the fire, knowing we had another tough day around the corner we had supper and took a well-earned rest.
Day 3 was my favorite as we experienced great views from Hare’s Gap with the sun shining across giving us clear views of the valleys. It was an amazing feeling for the group as we conquered the steep Slieve Commedagh and Slieve Donard (the highest mountain in the Mournes at 850 meters) taking a satisfying and well-earned rest at the summit. After making it back to camp there was celebration as we knew we had faced the toughest the Mournes had to offer and came out fighting on the other side.
Having the toughest days behind us, our last day felt like a victory lap as we completed our final walk through a forest listening to music, telling jokes, and reflecting on the great week we had experienced. Overall, the Practice Hike was an amazing experience and it felt exhilarating getting up those mountains again and going through that DoE experience we all know and love.