DofE Diamond Challenge – Residential DONE! 5 days of new experiences… 

My DofE Diamond Challenge has been a long slow burner…as HRH himself says, a DofE award is a ‘do-it-yourself tool kit for life’. And this year’s life has been different to any other in my adulthood, in large part due to deciding to do this year long replay of my own Gold Award, first completed 25 years ago. This week I’ll round up my year of Diamond Challenge with a blog post for each section of the award that I’ve re-completed.

  • Wed – Skill
  • Thursday – Volunteering and Physical
  • Today – Residential (this one!) and Expedition

The Gold Residential. Five days, four nights, away from home, new experiences. I know the flow chart off by heart. And after a very busy expedition year with my own DofEers, my heart told me that my family would not be happy if I went jollying off for another five days AND nights…so my plan for this section was to dilute the residential into a family friendly set of resi-day-ntials. Five exciting activities, all very different, and all to be done this autumn…

Day 1. Sept 10th – BDMLR Marine Medic Training, Living Coasts, Devon.

I did not even know that this was a ‘thing’ until April this year, after a talk on seals by Sue Sayer, of Cornwall Seals. I booked onto this day and did not know what to expect. It was fun, interesting and practical, with short lectures in the morning, and outdoor (in the water) exercises in the afternoon, with the experienced trainers leading us through various techniques to be used with ill or stranded marine mammals. Since the course I am now on the volunteer medic database, so occasionally receive texts about strandings that need attending to, and in November there was a dolphin that required monitoring, handily on my day off and before the school run!

Water filled model of Common Dolphin – learning techniques for keeping cool/hydrated and not damaging skin, whilst checking for signs of ill health and lifting to refloat. Learning to re-orientate and turn a life-sized (and weight!) pilot whale, using inflatable boom and sling. Towel used to secure medic from teeth of seal pup (model!). We learnt the technique to keep our fingers safe whilst checking teeth/gums etc. for signs of health. Dolphin that we monitored in Torbay Harbour in late November, having qualified as a BDMLR Marine Medic. It was not seen again after dark that day, and was not reported as stranded elsewhere. Hopefully a happy ending…


Day 2. Sept 25th – Seashore Foraging, East Prawle, Devon.

Not much to report, and hardly any pictures. But it definitely did happen! I had a book about eating seaweed, and some friends wanted to go and find some, so we spent a lovely day on a windy shore, and found a more diverse selection of creatures than I have ever seen there – we chose not to eat most of them, and so crispy seaweed it was for tea!

In which I and a few intrepid wannabe foragers went on a bimble to here…and met a real forager on the beach. 
And I went home with a large handful of this – which was utterly yummy when quickly fried – crispy seaweed! 


Day 3. October 4th – Mountain Training Association, Transformational Leadership Workshop, Mill on the Brue, Somerset.

This was an MTA CPD day, which looked interesting, for my role as DofE Leader at school, and also as I am taking 25 students and 3 other staff on a 3.5 week expedition to Peru next year. Dr Samantha McElligot led us through reflection on our own leadership style, case studies, and practical tools for thinking about and applying the theoretical model to teams of our own. I came away from this day really fired up about putting things into our Peru training, and for the staff involved with DofE at school. Highly recommended!


4. October 8th – WAEXPO (Womens’ Adventure EXPO), @Bristol, Bristol. 

I went to the first WAEXPO in 2015, on a whim, and it was a really great day. So when this year’s popped up on Twitter, I had it in my diary and booked up. It was bigger and brighter for 2016, and to top it off Anna McNuff was MCing (I think this stands for Motivational Chat?!)

What a day – Sarah Outen‘ s talk, Jo Bradshaw‘s workshop and of course Anna were my highlights. As well as finally meeting Bel Dixon in one of those Facebook messenger “what do you look like?” moments, whilst standing metres apart! The room was buzzing with women of all ages, and a few guys. The photo below has context – asked to capture our ‘best EXPO moment’ and tweet it, I woman-handled Anna into the loos in a recreation of our first meeting the year before -and won! (It must be said that we had had a few chats on Twitter before meeting in 2015!).

Once again I was left to travel home with a slight sense of ‘did that just really happen?’.  A totally fab day, and I will absolutely be there next year too.

5. November 26th – Plankton and Printmaking, art/science workshop at The Marine Biological Association, Plymouth. 

And finally…plankton and art. Surely a winning combination for a biology loving craftster such as myself. And it was. As a busy busy mum, wife, teacher, DofE leader and everything else, to be gifted the day to go and do this was utterly wonderful. A small group of us learnt how to draw observationally, rather than with expectation. We spent time looking at plankton from all over the world down very large microscopes in a very smart lab. Debby Mason, printmaker and our artistic teacher for the day, showed us how to make simple line drawings of our chosen plankton, then turn them into simple lino-style prints in the afternoon. Wonderful stuff, which has led me to draw more in the last month than I have in the past twenty years.

We began the day by doing some observational drawing, which I’ve done more of since the workshop. Very relaxing! We used proper BIG microscopes (bigger than I’m used to at school). A selection of plankton was transformed into images by the group.My barnacle larva print!


One thought on “DofE Diamond Challenge – Residential DONE! 5 days of new experiences… 

  1. Pingback: DofE Diamond Challenge – Expedition DONE! 4 days on hot Dartmoor – with COWS…  | Ju In Devon

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