Derbyshire cadets take part in adventurous expedition in France

4 October 2018

Army Cadets from across Derbyshire travelled to the South of France last month, where they completed an adventurous expedition by canoeing along the river Ardeche.

16 cadets went on the expedition spending 4 days and 3 nights travelling along the river Ardeche from Aubenas to St Martin. They found themselves navigating the difficult rapids and weirs along the way, all whilst carrying their equipment with them.

The cadets were all members of Derbyshire Army Cadet Force (ACF) and used the challenging expedition as part of their Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award.

Cadet Colour Sergeant Oliver McKinley explained: “The expedition put us into an area that we were unfamiliar with and presented us with different challenges and considerations - something that is very much in the spirit of the Duke of Edinburgh Award. To achieve something so valuable in a place as beautiful as the Ardeche gorge was unbelievable and definitely enriched the expedition. It was one of the greatest experiences I have had during my time with Derbyshire ACF.”

In order to navigate the difficult river the expedition participants needed to develop their team working skills.

“Progress can only be made in the canoe if you are working together," added Cadet McKinley. "If a person stopped paddling to drink some water or apply sunscreen, the canoe would either lose all momentum or drift into a bank. It was crucial that we kept co-operating with each other throughout the expedition.”

Preparing for the expedition also created new challenges for the team. They needed to consider ways to reduce the risk of heatstroke, understand how to tackle large rapids and overcome the cultural differences.

Cadet Regimental Sergeant Major Charli-Jo Harrison-Smith, said: “During the course of our expedition there were many opportunities to perfect our communication skills both as a team and individually. Because we were in France we also had to deal with the complications that arose from speaking a different language. It was most noticeable during meal times and our pre-expedition shopping trip. But as a collective group we gathered together our knowledge of French from over the years and just about managed to communicate with the locals.”

As part of the Duke of Edinburgh Award the cadets must create a presentation about their expedition, and they plan to use this to examine the environmental impact of tourism and trips, like their own, upon the river Ardeche.

The expedition was partially funded by the Ulysses Trust which provides funding assistance to challenging expeditions and adventurous activities that involve members of the Reserve Forces or Cadet Forces.