10 faffs of outdoor swimming (not the only 10!) 


  • verb:to spend time in ineffectual activity (‘they faffed about’)
  • noun: a lot of ineffectual activity (‘some faff occurred’). 

My blog post in 2013 described faff in the context of DofE expeditions. But faff is eminently transferable, and over the last 18 months that I have been outdoor swimming there have been many faffs. We swimmers embrace the faff – it usually adds to the experience! Faffs usually fall into one of the 10 faffotypes outlined here…

NB those marked with a star were from a list published by Cambridge University Hill Walking Club, author Rob McQueen – thank you for the stimulus…

1. Transport Faff
 – this can begins some days before a swim further afield. Who will drive? How many seats do they have? What about space for bags? Much discussion via online messages, but no-one will ever be entirely sure what’s happening until the day. 

2. Initial faff* – on arrival at parking spot there will be inevitable minutes spent on hugging fellow swimmers, repacking of bags and waiting for latecomers. Also includes the positioning of bags on beach/wall/riverbank and deciding exactly where to enter the water. 

3. Time-related faffs 

  • Über faff* – prolonged faff for all manner of adjustments, food, tea, sleep etc..may lead to further clothing faff – see 5.
  • Micro faff*- small but often essential faff performed without disrupting the progress of anyone else e.g unpacking/repacking bag so that clothing is in reverse order for changing.
  • Turbo faff*- performed so quickly that even you don’t stop eg. hat on/off whilst walking.

4. Cluster faff* – everyone faffs simultaneously, although over different things. Likely to have a positive feedback loop – faff = more faff = even more faff…

Cluster faff in full flow

5. Clothing faff – any length from turbo to uber, involving any clothing. Usually altering layers having walked too fast (layers off), or having had to pause due to some überfaff (layers on – see above). Clothing faff can also occur at home (what to wear for the inclement weather but allowing for stripping off?), and by the car (what to leave, what to take?). Includes Wetsuit faff – of course this is optional. It is debatable whether the benefits of neoprene once in the water are offset by the a) dry faff when putting it all on and b) the far worse wet/sandy/sticky faff when trying to remove it all with numb hands. 

6. Nav faff – some swimmers love OS maps, others not so much, preferring to work on memory – “I think it’s by this tree that we turn”. Either works, and both have their merits, to be discussed at a later date. 

7. Prandial Faff* – When any type of faff takes sufficiently long that the people waiting decide to eat some food – causing further delay.

8. Photo faff* – time taken to set up a specific picture (usually with social media in mind), retake picture with multiple poses, and alter camera settings in between (“hang on by that seal, I’m just changing it to Pano”).

9. Aquafaff – the water itself rarely causes faff, yet any number of faffs can come from its depths;

  • Seaweed faff – caught round legs, tangled in toes and fingers, masquerading as…
  • Jellyfish faff – even the thought of them can promote an epic faff – moving along the beach, checking from a high vantage point, huge swim diversions around floating plastic bags etc. Actual contact may require medical faff, which is not covered in this post. 
  • Dead seagull faff – ’nuff said. 
  • Seal faff – is that a seal or not? Shall I get in or not? Perhaps I’ll just look on in awe of its swimming ability/teeth for a while…

No faffing about with this pinniped!

    10. Post-swim faff – comes in two parts; 

    1. Changing faff – naked parts are thrown (literally) to the wind in the name of reducing the length of time exposed on a chilly seafront or riverbank. The faff factor is augmented by damp socks, too-small towels, lost pants and numb extremities.
    2. Pre-home faff – once changed/warmed this faff is relished, in the name of extending the enjoyment of good company, fresh air and the afterglow. There are many methods of stretching this period of time, often centred around food, drink and, if conditions allow “maybe just popping down to swim spot X to have a look” on the way home.

    In which case, repeat as above… 


    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!

    DofE Diamond Challenge – Physical DONE! 12 months of Swim swim swimming… 

    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
    • Today – Volunteering and Physical (this one!)
    • Friday – Residential and Expedition 

    Physical – a year of swimming – 12 photos chosen from hundreds…one photo per month in chronological order. I have also spent some time in chlorinated pools (eeeurgh) bettering my stroke (ie. learning how to front crawl gracefully), with the wonderful Kari, who has completed her own Diamond Challenge this year. Watch a little film about her here.

    • Yes it is cold
    • Yes I do it all year
    • No I do not wear a wetsuit. Well, I did once, for the mile swim in Torbay, but it wasn’t a pleasant experience.

    There have been long walks with multiple swims, swims by waterfalls, swims in the dark, swims with the moon, swims in silly hats, swims to wash off the day, swims to sort out thoughts, swims to explore caves, and swims where it is more about the cake, just a little bit.

    In reality the swimming year cannot be scaled down. It has had the biggest impact on my life of anything since getting married and having children. It’s not just physical fitness so much as all round good feeling, and that is from a combination of the cold water, the salt (or the peat!), the fresh air, the friends and the being outdoors.

    More swimming! Thankyou to anyone who has been a swim buddy this year.  


    DofE Diamond Challenge – Expedition DONE! 4 days on hot Dartmoor – with COWS… 

    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. 

    Expedition – practice and preparation
    I nominally went through the expedition training framework three times between January and April, so completing my ‘training’! In addition, my DofE colleague at school signed off my practice as ‘complete’ after a total of 12 nights camping, with much walking and other skills shown over the course of our DofE expedition delivery in 2016.

    So all I needed was a plan, some kit and a team.

    The plan – after some dithering in the early summer, I picked a date, and sketched out a plan on the fab Viewranger app. Approximately 65km, to be covered on foot over 4 days and 3 nights. I booked my campsites, and published my route plan to friends – hoping for a rolling ‘team’ who might join me for a few hours, or overnight. The plan came together, and the forecast was GOOD! Kit was packed, food was scaled down to less than I remember eating 25 years ago, and I was ready for the off…

    Day 1 – The team assembled at Dartmeet for an early breakfast start. I had applied for special measures variation to my 20 conditions, and so due to the impending terrain travelled with just swim stuff, food and emergency kit for the first 6km of the day. We had long planned this ‘swimble’ from Dartmeet to Newbridge, and the river was in good state – there was water, but not too much, and there was a path, but not too slidey.

    After 6.7km of narrow, sometimes precipitous paths, 5 swims including an ‘extreme bidet’ and some waterfall action we emerged happy at Newbridge. You can see/read a bit more on the Ape blog here.

    Here I shouldered my full pack and began the uphill trudge to camp 1. This was my first stretch alone, and after the buzz of the day with the Apes, Barney, Ron, Jackie, Mark and Allan it was odd to be chuffing up through the woods, hearing the slightest rustle (deer?) and every woohoo of an owl as the dusk approached. Camp was familiar, having used the small field many times with my own groups –  and I had a camp-mate as Mark had decided to stay out and sleep in his van.


    Day 2 – The morning’s team was just me, as Mark had to get back to work for a bit. I left camp on time at 0730, and made my way towards Widecombe, where I had a loose arrangement to meet Ron (who I’d met the first time yesterday on the swimble). After a short rest under the large tree on the green he arrived and was ready to go. The top of Hameldown was shrouded in mist so we opted for a valley route towards Natsworthy. As we went up on to the ridge towards Grimspound the mist cleared, and Ron was rewarded with purple and yellow heather as far as the eye could see – and the air was thick with the smell of honey. Ron decided to head back over the top, and so I went on to the Two Moors Way towards the Warren House, with sunshine warming my head. I saw no-one and nothing, until the drop down towards the main road,at which point I realised that I was under surveillance from behind a thick ginger fringe. Walking purposefully but not in a panicky way (really!) the Warren house and then Runnage appeared over various horizons. This was a day of noticing the small things, and having photographed a micro-granite landscape, a fab lichen and a lovely beetle, I was very pleased to find myself a whole (dead) adder! Hastily texting a friend who I knew was collecting skins for a project, I got a sandwich bag (can never be short of one) out and then texted her again, as it was well beyond smelly…

    Fun and games in a quiet Runnage camp – a beautiful warm evening, with beautifully low midge count. Jackie and Mark had come to camp on this evening, and as they ate their fresh and hearty food, and I tucked into Ainsley Harriot risotto, they suggested a post-prandial walk along the edge of the forest. We ended up popping in to the trees for an atmospheric wander as the sun went down, complete with close up buzzard encounter including a dive bomb moment!


    Day 3 – a day that started with blue skies, and just got hotter, and hotter…I walked into Postbridge alone, well, until I got chatting to a mum with an off road buggy – we talked about running, the moor, farming, allsorts. After a welcome loo stop and a look for a tree that I planted as a Bronze back in 1988 (found it!), Mark and I strode out up the wide track through Bellever Forest. The dry dust gave a feeling of walking abroad, in Spain perhaps – not often a feeling had on Dartmoor. Bellever Tor rewarded us with 360 degree views, and a small breeze, on which a hundred black flies were playing around the well-kept trig point. Mark diverted back along the Dart and I was alone again, heading for Dunnabridge Pound.

    At this point there may have been a small cow-related diversion, involving some scrambling through gorse, and swearing. But there are no pictures, so it probably didn’t happen.

    HRH DofE Bear was stripped right off, and as we got to Huccaby Bridge we found a small pool away from the million grockles squeezed in at the bridge,  and wallowed for half an hour. What a relief! After lunch the next hill seemed almost do-able (by this time it was approaching 28c and there was little shade) but I still found myself stopping under every little tree for a few minutes, to cool down before the next leg. Holne Moor was looking absolutely perfect, and the view down into the Dart gorge showed the route from Day 1 amongst the trees. After another hour of hot hot trekking I dropped down into Michelcombe, to camp in the shade off the edge of the moor. The campsite was haphazard but friendly, and shortly after I’d pitched my friend Leon arrived, to stay the night and walk the last day across the south moor with me. Leon has just completed his own Diamond Challenge, running 1000 miles this year – epic! 

    Day 4 – we made an early start, leaving camp at 7am to get ahead of the heat – and a longish day planned, over the south moor to the finish. We saw no-one and I mean no-one, for the first 5 hours. After a long pull up from Scorriton, the open moor looked stunning, and some ponies posed for Instagram before we descended into the deeper south moor. A large caterpillar blocked our way, mumbling something about ‘none shall pass’, but we laughed in the face of danger and stepped over it. The clapper bridge stood firm over the upper reaches of the Avon, and we stopped for snacks and contemplation – how long the bridge had been there before our time, and how long it would be there after we had departed this earth. 

    Up onto the plain of the south moor, just south of Redlake, a mountain biker broke the unpeopled peace, but soon disappeared. The horizon stretched into Cornwall, and as we moved south on the Puffing Billy track Plymouth Sound and the South Hams came into view. 

    It was around here that my feet really started to complain. The heat of the past three days combined with the hard track meant that the pads on my soles were compacted and sore. A brief paddle at Left Lake relieved it temporarily, and then onwards. The end was in sight, and only cows could spoil it – and they did. A great big herd of polo cows (Banded Galloways) right across the track pushed my bovine tolerance over the edge, and we dropped down to Harford Gate to the Lane into Ivybridge. My route finished in Leon’s back garden, with a bucket of cold water for the feet, and some fizzy wine for the head! 

    My Gold Expedition in 1991 was in the French Pyrenees. These four days on Dartmoor were as hot (in places), and as tiring as I remember, but every bit as satisfying for the achievement of the journey. My aim was to photograph the little things, which I did, as you can see in amongst the bigger scenes in the photo blocks. 

    Huge Thankyou to all involved – Carl, Kate, Jackie, Barney, Mark, Allan and Ron on Day 1. Jackie and Mark on Day 2/3. And Leon on Day 3/4, without whom I would probably still be wibbling about cows and stuck out on the moor. 

    DofE Diamond Challenge – Volunteering DONE! 12 months (more!) of DofE Leadership… 

    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
    • Today – Volunteering (this one!) and Physical
    • Friday – Residential and Expedition

    This post has the potential to come across as moany. It is not at all – if I can help it there is not going to be a time when I do not voluntarily give a large part of my life to doing this. It is however a long list of big jobs that are looming for 2017 as well…and hopefully many more years to come. I hope that if there are any readers out there who are in a position where they are to support someone doing what I do, on any scale at all, that this list might help them to understand why the leaders of DofE are so so important to the young people who can do their award as a result of the leaders’ motivation. It is not really possible to document everything in the role, but I do know that anyone who actually does it will be able to spot the many holes in my list…

    List of DofE activities undertaken as a Leader/Assessor in 2016…below are events on my calendar from the year, and so of course in between these is all the ‘normal’ weekly admin – visits to Bronze groups, chasing route cards, meeting Golds, booking campsites, completing green forms, Evolve forms and risk assessments, and ensuring that eDofE is kept up to date. As well as answering many ‘out of hours’ emails from participants, about their sections, eDofE, their assessor reports.

    • January – Gold training – 48 hours in a bunkhouse with 34 Golds, covering the training syllabus for expeditions.
    • Feb – Silver training and preparation – 2 days, 30 Silvers, one day out on the moor and one in school, training, route planning and preparation.
    • March – Bronze training day and prep – 100 Bronzes in 16 teams. Also Gold practice expedition – 3 days and nights under canvas on a cold wet moor.
    • April – Admin month – much chasing of route cards for completion, other sections to be signed off for Bronzes
    • May – Bronze practice weekends – 2 x 2 days out in South Devon, checkpointing Bronzes, with all the usual shenanigans of the first time out… plus a very special Buckingham Palace Gold Award Presentation!
    • June – Bronze Assessed weekends – 2 x 2 days out on the edge of Dartmoor, 50+ Bronzes each time, with 10 staff and vehicles to sort as well. To top off June, Silver practice for three days at the end!
    • July – Gold expedition week – 7 days away in Wales, one of the most stunning weeks we have ever had – mixed weather, 5 great teams and superb staff!
    • August – some time off...that average of an hour a week, remember?!
    • Sept – Silver expedition preparation, bronze completion chasing, and a 3 day PHSG assessment (two Silver teams from another school).
    • Oct – Silver assessed – 3 days, 5 teams, AAP staff and me on Dartmoor. A good one!
    • Nov – new Golds and Silvers enrol, Bronze finishers mounting up, Torbay Leaders meeting organised, SW Managers’ meet, Palace GAP to surprise some Golds that I have not seen for a year!
    • Dec – Silver finishers being chased, new Golds underway, planning a Torbay presentation evening…

    Here are some photos of the best expedition bits…



    DofE Diamond Challenge – Skill DONE! 12 months of crochet and making… 

    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
    • Friday – Residential and Expedition 

    Between now and Saturday I’ll do a minimum of one hour of crochet. My last hour towards the SKILL section. 12 months of crochet mainly, with a few felting attempts thrown in. I taught myself from YouTube videos a couple of years ago, and progressed from granny squares and circles, to hats and scarves but no further. So this year I’ve tried to develop stitch knowledge, pattern use and (the ultimate goal of any crafter!) actually finishing one of the many WIPs (work-in-progress) that inhabit tabletops and baskets in most rooms of our house. I have easily spent an hour a week, often more – especially if I include looking at the online inspiration-fest that is Pinterest.

    Reflection – Crochet is the perfect activity for a few minutes or a few hours of getting away from it all. I love the creativity that I can have with it (never managed to get anywhere near this with that awful thing called knitting!), and the easily coverable blemishes. I can take it on holiday, on DofE expeditions (much mickey taking there), on the school run, and do it in bed! The felting is a great process, a bit like pottery in that I am not sure what it’ll actually look like until it is felted and dried. It takes longer and more kitchen table time, but is worth the effort in the end.

    I shall be continuing crochet (even on DofE expeds!) and doing more felting. I am hoping to try some weaving this coming year as well. My main aim is to finish some more things…

    Thankyou to anyone who has inspired me with patterns, projects and enthusiasm for what I have (sometimes) produced! 

    Here are some examples of things I have made (or at least started…)

    1. Basket bag – made from Nutscene garden twine and recycled leather handles. Pattern from my head after looking at many pictures – hooking that twine really toughened up my fingers! Used all the time.2. Ripple blanket (Attic 24 pattern) – long rows, my favourite colours – WIP3. Wavy cushion – pattern combined from various on the internet – WIP4. Moomin – pattern from a magazine. Got SO fed up with white yarn looking grubby and having to wash my hands every half an hour. Will come back to it. No pic – too white!

    5. Lacy scarf – started a year ago. Got too long in the middle, so frogged it all back two weeks ago, and looking for another pattern. 6. Fingerless mitts – made from Lily Warne Dartmoor yarn in Bellever Blue, Bovey Blue and Dartmoor Green. A finished item, in use after chilly swims! 7. Some granny squares for a blanket made by lots of people for a friend who was ill…8. A couple of hats from chunky yarn9. And most recently a quick Yoda hat for a brand new nephew! 

    10. Other – all felting projects

    Felted bowls – wanted to do this for ages so just went for it. Will definitely be making more of these, I love them!

    Felted cushion cover – copied/inspired by an online image – yet to become a cushion…Felt pod – not sure of purpose but one day I will make more and they will be joined into a thingy…

    Loved my year of crochet, and not stopping now!  


    #DofE Diamond Challenge Weeks 12-16 – What’s your challenge?

    Another month has flown by…and two things have become clear (not only the water).

    1. Short impressive feats of endurance (classic ‘challenges’) seem very newsworthy.
    2. Long-lived (one year) challenges involving stuff that people do day to day seem less newsworthy (hence perhaps my blogging slipping from weekly to roughly monthly).

    Is there any less challenge in long, ‘chipping away at it’ type challenges? Who is the challenge for? Does any of it matter?

    When the #DiamondChallenge was first advertised and I decided on what I would do, it was with excitement and anticipation. I had no desire to bungee jump, run a marathon, or make a fool of myself on a stage, and needed something that would fit in with a very busy life. I wanted to support DofE yes, but at the time it was more of a chance to re-live a bit (and very influential and fun bit) of my youth, by working through a whole Gold DofE programme, or as near to as I could given my adult circumstances (mum of two smallish folk, ageing parents to help out, teaching in school, running a big DofE centre – no glam excuses here, just normal life as I appear to have crafted it, or it me, over the last twenty years).

    I chose activities for my Physical, Skill and Volunteering that I was already doing, or wanted to develop – I often advise my DofE participants to do this in one or two sections if they can in order to reduce the need for busying their lives any more than our education system already does, and to allow them to organise the credit they will gain for maintaining current interests as part of their normal, positive lives. The essence (guiding principles) of DofE ie. ‘non-competitive’, ‘achievable by all’ and ‘achievement focused’ amongst others, are the reason why the DofE was the thing that I latched onto at 14, having been a serial last-pick at netball, weedy, non-sportyish, nerdy girl for all of my school life.

    Many of the DofE Diamond Challenges are one off events – the launch consisted of some celebrities on a mobile climbing wall in Convent Garden, and there are many people running half marathons, 10/5kms, triathlons, Iron Mans and similar. My super friend /swimming guru Kari Furre will be swimming the length of Lake Windermere in July. I am very proud to say that a chat (over a Halloween glass of wine and dark October sea swim) led to her coming back to DofE having been awarded her Gold in 1969, and I honestly hope that I am still involved with DofE that many years after my Gold (er, 1991…that means I’m aiming for some sort of endurance swim in about 2038 then). Looking forward to living it up with her at the Buckingham Palace Gold Presentation next month!

    On the non-physical side some are learning to play an instrument (a certain CEO among them!), perform open-mike stand-up comedy (you know who you are!), cooking weekly, or hosting big events. Some of these examples, although not seemingly as dare-devilish, or adrenaline seeking, would have me and many others quaking in their boots, or struggling with the regular effort needed.

    Whether the challenge is a short run, a long walk, an excruciating public performance (on a personal level, hopefully not for the audience), or results in a nice cake, ultimately the challenge will benefit young people doing their DofE – funds raised will stay in the region in which they are raised, and go toward provision of the award for disadvantaged young people.  But in addition to that, the challenge will have given focus to the person completing it. DofE is ‘a do-it-yourself toolkit for growing up‘, in the words of HRH. To me the DofE #DiamondChallenge is an essential tool in achieving a little bit of personal balance, with purpose in life, whether it be for a day, an hour or the whole year – all the challenges are different, but have been chosen because they mean something to the participant.

    I will not receive my Diamond pin until after the end of 2016 – when my #DofEChallenge is completed after a year of chipping away at the hour a week of physical activity (happily, I am managing a lot more than this), alongside an hour of Skill (much hooky action in my crochet bag), and the endless cycle of volunteering that is being a DofE Leader (just finished tonight’s adminathon). It is likely that my challenge will receive the most attention from friends and family when I get on to the expedition, and spend 4 days mooching with purpose on Dartmoor, hopefully with a team of friends of similar ilk to enjoy the experience.  I suppose for many a long walk, with camping, heavy rucksack and no showers seems like a ‘proper’ challenge, whereas crocheting some hats and jumping into the sea every week to swim might appear dull, monotonous or just an excuse for fun.

    What’s your challenge?!


    Clear water and blue sky above this sea swim

    #DofE Diamond Challenge Weeks 7-11 aka “time flies when you’re having fun”…

    Diamond Challenge progress

    Skill – much crocheting, not enough felting…Physical – much swimming, mostly pool, some sea(ls)… Volunteering – an adminmountain, not enough time with participants! 

    February has submitted to March – spring flowers, earlier sunrises and finally teatime swims WITH DAYLIGHT!! The small matter of the lowest sea temperatures so far is almost bearable (still no wetsuit!) – Torbay wave buoy showing 8.5c-10c the last few weeks.

    The outdoor swimming community really has been a life pivot for me over the last 10 months – I have found my tribe, on the shore and in the waves. It has become obvious that it is about so much more than swimming, with various events on the horizon (will be adding short film making and event planning to my skill in a month or so), and sharing of books, knowledge and skills all in amongst the necessarily shorter swims. A mass blanket making is this week’s focus for many local swimmers – 6 inch squares of knit, sewn and crocheted loveliness are wending their way to be assembled into a single wrapping of support and love for a key member of the Devon swimming community. Lynne usually blogs about swimming, but her posts from her past few weeks are on a new site www.outofmybrains.org – do read from the start.

    Here are my offerings…

    So there’s my skill, all in hand. Volunteering is very concentrated in the next week – we have 6 Gold teams out on a Practice Expedition for 3 days and nights, so there’s 72 hours away from my own little boys, plus all the kit checking, paperwork sorting and other prep in the next few days. Looking forward to a good stint on Dartmoor, and keeping everything crossed that the jet stream stays where it is, giving us stable weather!

    Physically I’ve been off running for 4 weeks with a dodgy back, but not swimming. There have been numerous icy dips, some in beautiful sunshine, some with seals.


    Wakey uppy waves


    Sunny swim


    Seal suspected!


    Suspicion confirmed!


    It’s a big one!


    That’s me inspecting the pebbles – ice cream head guarantee!

    However it is my pool sessions that have really come on. 4 weeks of intensive drills, lessons and videos and I can really feel a difference. Kari has a way of teaching that I have been able to connect with. This is not for speed or competition, but mindful, peaceful stroke that could go on for hours. Eventually. Given that a month ago I couldn’t do a length without flailing about, being out of breath and swallowing lots of water I’m very pleased!

    We’ve even tried synchronised ‘pod’ swimming – I’ll be excited to get to the summer and do this in the warmer sea – maybe not as refined as these guys though…

    Still looking for a Residential – any ideas welcome!

    #DofE Diamond Challenge Weeks 5-6 – the law of averages…

    The DofE guidelines for timescales suggest that each activity in the Volunteering, Physical and Skill sections should be carried out for an average of about an hour a week. 

    In the last fortnight I have experienced the need for this flexibility in the DofE Award (one of the reasons why it fits well into young people’s lives). I’ve managed to run/swim, crochet, and be a DofE Leader for at least an hour a week each since the start of January when my Diamond Challenge – a year of Gold – began. But this last two weeks, scuppering of regular activities has come in several forms..

    1 child (my own!) with chicken pox, meaning much organising of grandparents to stay over and cover mopping of brow/applying of calamine in order for me to not miss any work time. As they say, teaching is the only profession in which it is easier to go to work than miss a day;

    1 Parents’ Evening  (therefore in school on my normal day off) meaning requisite amounts of time marking, perusing work and assembling thoughts about functional yet tactful verbal reportage. Assuming it is considered impolite and unprofessional to crochet one’s way through an evening of discussing my students’ future plans/current work ethos, the hook stayed at home. 

    1 INSET morning (so in a different school on my normal day off), meaning no swimtime. See above re:crochet in meetings;

    1 lergy (mine, lingering for 6 days now) with “symptoms below the neck” meaning no running or swimming. Or anything else involving normal levels of breathing;

    So things are ticking over on averages by virtue of a Gold training outing last weekend – our direct Golds and a few who needs a bit more input enjoyed a good day on Dartmoor in between various storm systems – we almost stayed dry, and even saw blue sky!  Skills signed off, fitness discussed and teamwork consolidated. 


    I attended my first hash last Monday, in which I ran nearly 7km. In the dark, on often slidey mud. With about 60 very sociable, non-competitive folk with nicknames like ‘Plastered’, ‘Scamper’, ‘Windbag’ and ‘Fix-it’, following a trail of flour and calling various things on discovery of the right or wrong directions. Great fun, and I will definitely be hashing again when my lungs are back to healthy capacity. No pictures due to the conditions. But the reward was nice…   

    A lovely post-work sea swim on Tuesday topped up the cold water acclimatisation that I’ve kept up all winter (still no wetsuit!).   

    So I’ve done my best, whilst lergys and worky have wreaked their havoc.

    There’s no stopping the hooky fingers though…  

    Week 7 is half term…let’s see how much challenge we can pack in, to iron out those averages!

    #DofE Diamond Challenge Week 4 – Double Dip and the pox!

    Week 4 was frankly the antithesis of Week 3 – the work-life balance firmly tipped in the opposite direction (towards work – yuk), and add to that a case of chickenpox in eldest son.

    So what have I achieved towards the #DofEChallenge in amongst the normalness of life?

    Physical – ran twice, upping the length of time running to 2 minutes 30s, with shorter walks. Both runs done in horrendous conditions – but there is no such thing a bad weather, just the wrong clothing etc.etc. Tuesday’s outing in storm force conditions nearly logged as vertical swimming…talking of which…

    Thursday was the only day that I can honestly say I managed much in the way of light entertainment…two sea swims! So now added to the list of things to tick off all year, is at least one Double Dip per month…

    Morning sunshine and afternoon challenge – cold, wavy, windy murk!

    Volunteering – Saturday and much of the lead up to it fell under this umbrella this week. 4 staff and 8 Young Leaders provided Bronze Expedition Training for 108 Y10 students, and after a lot of planning and a little panic (went to school to sort stuff out, then had to go and pick up a pox-ridden 7yo from primary school, so prep time cut short) – all went alright in the end! Couldn’t have done it without the adult volunteers and the Silver/Gold Young Leaders who are logging hours towards the Volunteering section of their awards.

    More work to be done on the skill…this week, with the chicken pox blisters crusting nicely I’m hoping to spend some of Thursday felting, and preparing a crochet project to take on a half term jaunt up north…just waiting for Son#2 to start itching now!