An A-neigh-zing Duke of Edinburgh Award Experience

24 Aug 2018

Ely cadet Sergeant Joe Harris has completed his Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award expedition on horseback in the Lake District.

Sergeant Harris has already achieved his Bronze and Silver Duke of Edinburgh Awards with 1094 (City of Ely) Squadron with fellow cadets on foot, but as the Gold Award requires a journey of self-development Joe stepped outside of the Air Training Corps for a more challenging, but rewarding, expedition.

Planning for the Gold Award is no spur of the moment decision as it includes a residential element, so Joe was required to complete a trial horseback expedition in similar countryside locations as typical preparation for the five-day trip.

Describing his DofE experience, Joe said: “That was one amazing week away! I passed my Gold Duke of Edinburgh Expedition! 

“I have been travelling by horseback and camping through the wild country around the Windermere and Coniston lakes area in the Lake District National Park over the past five days. 

“I’ve been studying formal qualifications in equine care at college and of course having regular horse riding lessons but it was the skills I learned as an air cadet that really helped not just me getting though this expedition but also the rest of my group who were all from school DofE groups from around the UK.

“Typically, my days consisted of getting up about 06:00 to start riding approximately 25km a day, in all weathers and terrain including mountains and heavy thunder storms.

“You have a lot more things to think about on a horseback expedition. Not only do you have to navigate, map read and take compass bearings in all weathers but, of course, you have to remain stable and control the horse whilst at the same time ensure their footing is sound as one wrong move on a mountainside track could be extremely serious.”

“As well as camping over four nights and feeding ourselves we also had to feed and water and take care of our horses.  

“I cannot thank my horse Jigsaw enough. I made some amazing new friends for life and I had the experience of a lifetime spending time with such great people and such majestic animals in some of the most beautiful countryside our nation has to offer.”

Cadets that complete their Gold Award you are invited by Buckingham Palace with their parents to receive their Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award in person, so Joe will be keeping a keen eye on the post and looking out for his letter from the Palace. 

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme has been running for more than 62 years in the UK and has allows thousands of young people aged 14-25 achieve Bronze, Silver or Gold awards annually. Each award has four sections but the Gold award has five, including:

  • Physical achievement
  • Voluntary community work
  • Skills and interests
  • Expeditions 
  • Residential projects 

You can find out more about completing your DofE Award with the RAF Air Cadets here:



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