The Dorset 2022 Write Up
The last time we visited Dorset back in 2021 we floated back to Cambridgeshire in monsoon like conditions. This year the weather again played a significant role, this time though it was cloudless skies and the temperature that was set to challenge us.
This weekend was the start of the 2022 heatwave and drought. On return to Cambridgeshire the temperatures had increased to a crazy 40 degrees. Fortunately for us we found ourselves in the coolest part of the country with temperatures each day around 23/24 degrees – hot enough for us to take precautions but manageable for the walk to go ahead!
This year we were raising money for a very specific project, our most ambitious yet. For 2022 we decided to try and raise £65,000 for our lakeside retreat. With 285 participants it is expected that we will raise a little more than the record £50,000 mark. With spiralling costs though we will have to spend more on the costs.
We again camped at Burnbake. Each year we invest in our infrastructure. This year we debuted the new marquee and the ‘silent’ generator. The support team which had grown in number worked their socks off to ensure everything ran smoothly. Every year they are the glue that holds the event together and I cannot thank them enough for everything that they do!
Participation levels were at a record level, 285 being our biggest ever! There were 5 schools involved Ely (who sold all their spaces in 120 seconds), Ken Stimpson, LECA, Prince William and Ormiston. There was also a large number of adults and ex-students attending with an increasing number of Peterborough students now classified as ‘ex-students’. Team Read, a family from Wistow deserve a special mention, all 6 members of the family completing the walk, including Sophie (year 5), and managing to raise over £2000!
The event as always began with Thursday afternoon arrivals. Blue skies and excitement were the order of the day. Camping and preparation are always a test and the first night brought cold tents and limited sleep for the majority.
Friday, the first day of walking. The early meeting with clear instructions/directions obviously meant that the day began with roads closed and drivers getting lost! Once we had all arrived the walk began, this year the Weymouth stretch was led by the Whales’ – Damien, Keldy, Ethan, Edward and William led the pack, with pride and emotion exploding out of my chest and a little bit out of my eyes; we were underway!
The reality of the Dorset Walk kicks in fairly quickly. The heat, the distance and the climbs/descents begin to take their toll. Feet begin to hurt, doubts find their way into minds. Emotions rise, tears assemble and ‘resilience’ is tested and developed!
For all participants the challenge leads to growth and achievement. Discomfort settles in and soon becomes pride. By the end of day 2 everyone realises that their limits aren’t where they thought they were and that they are much more capable than they realise.
The walk finished with two sprint finishes down Studland beach. Due to the size of the group we can no longer fit in one race! Nonetheless the eager ‘sprinters’ made their way to the front and every participant enjoyed the exhilaration of the fastest 25 metres of their 40 miles. Once the sprint finishes the surge of positive energy pours out of every smiling face. If you have been there you know how it feels!! If you haven’t you are truly missing out.
Other points from this year.
- There were several Ken Stimpson staff that drove down on Friday night to walk Saturday and Sunday. The same was true from Ely College. Their ranks included Simon Warbuton, the first headteacher to take part in the walk. It means so much to me when people go to these lengths to support the event – on a personal level, thank you.
- The Presentation evening occurred for the second time and the first since Covid. Bringing people together for a shared purpose and being able to recognise that, through words and recognition, is a real honour and as I said at the time everybody should feel very proud of themselves.
- This being the 14th year of the walk has led us to the 15th next year and a huge milestone for the event and the charity. 400 is the maximum size for the walk, surely we will be full next year…
- The walk is such an amazing experience there is a sense of disappointment that we didn’t get to 300 people this year. As always there are schools that are coming then for a variety of reasons are unable to make it. It almost feels like a sense of loss for those that miss out.
- Fitness levels really need to be there. Walking 40 miles along the Jurassic Coast requires good levels of fitness and preparation! If you are not ‘prepared’ and ‘ready’ you will struggle and there are no simple solutions once it begins!
- The presentation is an honour and the pride that people take from achieving their trophy and whisky glass makes me feel incredible. People care so much about the event and the charity it is a truly humbling experience.
To everyone that took part in any way this year, thank you so much! I hope to see you next
Finally and one of my favourite parts to the walk, Keith Billson has again offered some words about the event:
First Come, First Served
There are many firsts on the Dorset Walk – and first impressions are often long lasting. It would, for example, be difficult to overestimate the first experience of long-distance walking with its many lessons: mental attitude, physical fitness, fueling the body correctly, the constant need to be considerate of others, the prevailing silence when people ‘go inside.’ Did I mention the gradients on the Jurassic Coast? Ups and downs.
Second to the learning curves on the trail would undoubtedly be the camping – which really does seem to be a Marmite experience for many. There are a lot of factors here. For some students, camping at Dorset – anywhere – is a first. What does this involve? Well, organising the necessary equipment. Doing without your creature comforts. Food without the frills. Being outside – all day. Braving the dreaded shower block. Packing up.
But the walking and camping are both hugely instructive and educational for students. Namely, that the simple things in life are the best, the most worthwhile striving for and the most memorable. And you do not need very much money. You just need to take the first step. And then another.
An overwhelming number of students who do the Dorset Walk for the first time come back the following year and come back better prepared in every way. ‘For to those who have taken that first step, more will be given’ – a loose translation of The Matthew Effect in education as it is manifested on the Dorset Walk. In other words, once you have clocked up your first 40 miles, the next 40 become easier, more appealing and successively more rewarding. You find ways to inhabit the passage of time. I simply cannot think of a better example of profound, experiential learning – ‘learning through reflection on doing.’
If you are thinking of doing the Dorset Walk in 2023 (the fifteenth), the best advice is quite simply to make the first move and sign up as soon as you can, all the rest will follow