‘The DofE Expedition’: A Horror Story Like No Other

Impact looks into the very worst stories to come out of the Duke of Edinburgh award schemes; we apologise if this brings back bad memories!

Every year, groups of secondary school kids are lured into the great outdoors, wearing rucksacks twice their own body weight, eating cereal bars by the dozen with dodgy map directions glued to their hands – and why? For a certificate and a, dare I say it, rather crummy badge. For every kid that had a fabulous time on their Duke of Edinburgh expeditions, there are masses that HATED every second of it. Here are just a handful of DofE horror stories, as told in chilling reflections by Impact writers that lived to tell the tale.

“Year-10-me thought I was going to get rabies and die”




“To say that my Bronze Duke of Edinburgh experience was not the best is putting it lightly. On our first day, myself and the rest of my group started with plenty of snacks, which were quickly consumed. We had high energy, which lasted about half an hour, and high expectations, which were demolished pretty much immediately. The first problem we encountered came in the form of a field full of angry sheep. One of the members of my group decided to run at this rather friendly-looking herd of sheep, who then turned nasty and started chasing us through the field until we escaped by hopping over a fence. Not a great start. When we eventually arrived at our campsite that evening, which was an extension of a small farm, we started playing with their dog outside. The dog bit me on the hand in what I consider a completely unprovoked attack. Year-10-me thought I was going to get rabies and die.

The third and final disaster of the trip happened on the second day. My group got horrifically lost and held up the whole class, meaning our coach trip home was delayed by about two hours, all thanks to us. The rest of the class were not impressed. After that catastrophic effort, it’s safe to say that I didn’t continue to do my Silver or Gold award. To make matters worse, I didn’t even get to complete the Bronze award because I didn’t do the presentation at the end. Note to self – DofE is never a good idea.”

Sophie Hunt

“The horrors of DofE seem to get increasingly more life-threatening as I look back on them. Being charged at by 30 cows was one of those moments: having to sprint across a field and get fifteen of us through one gate before the cows reached us and trampled us to death. But this seemed only a minor hassle when faced with a midge-infested campsite where all of the DofE instructors whipped out their masks and we were left to not only be eaten alive but to inhale and ingest about 20 at a time. Delicious.

Then came the weather. A combination of heat, rain, snow and hail in the space of 5 hours left us with red marks on our faces either from sun burn or whiplash – a great look either way. But real discomfort was wading through a river, getting everything soaked, reaching the other side and realising we had gone the wrong way so had to turn back and re-cross the river, this time without our shoes and socks on. Many shrieks of agony and hundreds of cuts on our feet later, we made it back and had to put our soggy shoes and socks back on, hoping our feet wouldn’t become infected on the long walk home.

The peak (no pun intended) was definitely on Gold when wild camping. Overcoming the hurdle of doing your business out in the open is a triumph in itself but doing your business out in the open, surrounded by sheep and seeing two hikers coming down the mountainside towards you and just having to wait it out was definitely a hurdle like no other and definitely something I never want to relive.”

Katie Moncur

“It’s almost tradition for everyone to experience some kind of horror story on DofE but having completed the expedition (undoubtedly the hardest part of the award) without gaining the actual qualification is perhaps the most horrendous part of my tale. It might seem like I’m exaggerating but after you hear about the literal ups and downs I faced on my expedition you’ll start to realise how truly PEAK it was.

“Picture a 5ft 2 girl, lugging a bag whose contents seemed as rocky as the life-threatening narrow paths she walked on”





The biggest struggle I had to face was a combination of the two worst feelings surrounding an average uni night out: 1. desperately needing to go to the toilet in the Crisis queue because you made the rookie error of ‘breaking the seal’ at pre-drinks and 2.  Waking up to a mouth as dry as a desert after having had one too many jagerbombs at the club. I was trapped! Without water I’d have that hangover symptom of being endlessly thirsty, but then if I drank too much I’d need to use open nature as my personal toilet. If you can picture a 5ft 2 girl, lugging a bag, the contents of which seemed as rocky as the life-threateningly narrow paths that she walked on, then you can almost feel my pain. Now add the weight of a full water bottle, that for some reason you have convinced yourself you can’t drink, to that bag and you’ve experienced my very own DofE horror story.”

Natasha Fernandes

“As someone who generally quite enjoys walking, DofE was quite honestly the worst experience of my pampered life (hence why I only did Bronze). It’s more than just a physical challenge, it’s a mental one, and not one I wanted to ever repeat.

The practice expedition was definitely the worst out of the two. Completely unprepared for what we were in for, my group and I set off into the Wiltshire countryside, trying, unsuccessfully, to map-read and keep it together at the same time. We got lost a horrendous amount of times, resulting in our teacher collecting us in his car and driving us some of the way to avoid the eventuality of us rocking up at the campsite at midnight.

When we eventually made it to the campsite, freezing cold, wet and exhausted, winds had got up to 40mph. Coupled with the fact we were camping next to a church, whose clock chimed every hour, it’s safe to say we got next-to-no-sleep. I’ve never felt as much resentment watching one our teachers retreat into her campervan she’d smugly rocked up in as I did then.

The next day ended up being cut short due to the weather (thank god) but by this point my group and I were at breaking point. We’d fought a lot the previous day over map-reading, getting lost, and slow walking, but with added exhaustion, it resulted in tears for more than one of us. The real expedition was marginally better, since we were now used to walking with each other and had improved our map reading skills, however I (ironically) managed to get horribly sunburnt and with one member of my team spraining her ankle, we were left to carry her stuff home, adding to the general sense of misery.

To conclude, never do DofE if you can help it; it’s pure hell.”

Emily Harbottle


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Featured image courtesy of ‘Barney Moss’ via Flickr. Image licence found here.



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