Silver Qualifying Expedition

David Robins and Ian Wakefield


In the summer of 1977 I seemed to be living in the Forest of Dean. I was down there for the school D of E camp in July, again for my Silver expedition then found myself there once again when my Dad assessed Ian and David’s silver expedition.

I can’t find exact dates for this expedition but it was probably in early August 1977.

The expedition was not without its problems! In those days there were of course no mobile phones so from the assessor’s point of view it was a case of positioning yourself at a checkpoint and hoping the participants turned up when they should.

This expedition got off to a difficult start. David’s father drove David and Ian down to the Forest. At Ross-on-Wye he took a wrong turning off a roundabout and while turning round to go back the car hit “a brick”. It must have been some brick. The occupants of the car were thrown forwards (no seat belts in those days) and the impact was such that the engine was pushed back. Clearly the car was going no further. These days that might have been the end of the expedition, or at least meant phone calls to the assessor to sort out alternative arrangements. But in 1977 David and Ian simply got out of the car and continued their journey to the expedition start point by hitch-hiking. This made their start time late, but by walking through checkpoints without stopping (normally there would be a ten minute rest at each) they were able to make up time.

We waited anxiously at Cannop for the lads to arrive. My father was not too impressed with David's route map, which did not include any place names but we were fairly sure we were in the right place. Eventually voices were heard along the old railway line. The lads had spotted a small yellow rock – when the “rock” moved they realised it was our dog Sandy. My Dad alluded to the difficulties in reading the route map, David responded by saying it had taken him three days to produce the map, moreover it marked the A40 from which all other locations could be deduced! Criticisms of the map were soon forgotten when we heard the tale of the problems on the journey.

David lobs a rock at me across the Cannop Brook. We know where this is because I wrote the grid reference on the slide! It's at SK621118, just north of Cannop Colliery (now the Pedalabikeway centre)

Photo: John Mann

From Cannop David and Ian’s route took them on the footpath to Edge End. Presumably they took a fairly direct route from here to the Forestry Commission camp site at Christchurch. On arrival it was decided to pitch the tent on the same spot where they had camped on the practice expedition. This was when problems struck again. They had the tent fabric but there was no trace of the poles and tent pegs. Initially it was thought the missing parts were with the supervising party at Bracelands. A thorough search was made but they were not there either. Clearly, they were back in Oxfordshire. My Dad eventually drove back to Chipping Norton where he found the missing parts outside our front door in Lewis Road, a mystery that has never been explained.

With the tent erection on hold, attention was turned to the evening meal as David and Ian tried to recall the instructions for lighting the Primus stove. There was considerable apprehension – the mangled remains of a school Primus stove which had been overpumped were fresh in the memory from training. David had only used a Primus three times before, Ian none at all. Eventually they delegated the task to me. This resulted firstly in large yellow paraffin flames shooting into the air, then an anti-climax as the stove went out. Eventually the stove was lit correctly and a pint of vegetable soup heated up. The rest of the meal comprised Smash mashed potato and (probably) beef burgers.

David Robins sets up the school Primus stove at Christchurch Camp Site. No tent up yet as the pair have just discovered that the poles and pegs are missing.

Photo: John Mann

No details of the route beyond here survive but on the second night camp was made alongside our tents at Bracelands, once again asserting the theory that “Bracelands and Christchurch are separate sites”, essential for meeting D of E regulations.

Ian Wakefield uses his boot to hammer home a tent peg at Bracelands Camp Site. Behind him is my tent and my parents Austin Allegro.

Photo: John Mann


Anyone know where this is? I always look out for it when in the Forest of Dean but have never spotted it.

Photo: Ralph Mann


David and Ian enjoy an ice cream. Given the background and availability of ice cream, I think this is Symond's Yat, near the log cabin.

Photo: Ralph Mann

The pair set up to cook their lunch, probably on the second or third day of the expedition. Note the cutlery neatly laid out on the tea towel.

Photo: Ralph Mann