The benefits of our Duke of Edinburgh's Gold Residential week

The benefits of our Duke of Edinburgh's Gold Residential week

Some words from our Deputy Centre Manager, Tom Humphreys, on what makes the DofE Gold Residential so beneficial.

I’m a big advocate of lived experiential learning, and the enhanced impact that 'learning away' opportunities have on our own development of key life-long skills, knowledge, and behaviours is clear to anyone that has spent quality time in an inspiring outdoor location in good company. Appropriately, I was introduced to the term ‘learning away’ by Learning Away (!) at a practitioner conference some years ago and their Brilliant Residentials Campaign has defined the idealised shape and intent of what these valuable experiences should be.  

Options for these sorts of trips are generously broad and diverse, reflecting the vast array of potential outcomes and location settings. These can range from school trips, geography fieldwork investigations, university research expeditions, overnight bivvis, corporate team-building, and organised delivery models including the John Muir Award and Duke of Edinburgh Award.

Though I have enjoyed the role of participant in many of the above list, these days I am most often approaching these experiences from a practitioner's perspective. Whether I am a tutor, trainer, coach, instructor, or mentor, this usually means that I am responsible for development and delivery. Sometimes adopting the viewpoint of ‘learner’ rather than ‘leader’ is handy when exploring the benefits of a particular programme, especially when weighing up the options for how a 16-17 year old may want to spend their Summer; Duke of Edinburgh's Gold Residential looks like a great option!

Achieving a DofE Award will give you skills, confidence, and a competitive edge over others when you apply for college, university, or a job. Beyond your academic achievements, universities and employers want to see evidence of ‘soft skills’ that you have developed through extra-curricular activities, such as communication, commitment, leadership, confidence, resilience, and teamwork. Your DofE Award is a fantastic way to clearly demonstrate and evidence these important skills in practice, and speaking as an employer certainly stands out on an applicant’s covering letter and CV.

Perhaps most importantly, you’ll also make a difference to other people’s lives and your community, be fitter and healthier, benefit from a boost to mental health and wellbeing, develop some skills to face and overcome personal challenges, make new friends and forge meaningful relationships, and create outstanding memories to last you a lifetime. A 'Residential' for Gold DofE is a programme that sees you spend 5 days and 4 nights on a shared activity with people that you have never met before, and is truly an exciting opportunity to meet new people and broaden your interests whilst away from home.  Your residential can have any uniting focus and include any activities that you wish as long as it meets a handful of criteria, though the general emphases of these are being away from home in an unfamiliar environment and meeting new people with whom you share the overall experience.

I am delighted to speak to all Gold DofE aspirants aged 16-17 on behalf of Skern Lodge, and warmly extend the invite to our Gold DofE Residential programme at our Centre in the North Coast of Devon this Summer ‘23. Our programme combines the spirit of both the NCS and DofE programmes which makes it s fully funded opportunity if you're 16 or 17 years of age. That’s right - free of charge!

Our Centre sits on the banks of the Taw Torridge river estuary overlooking Northam Burrows Country Park in the heart of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and is a short stroll along the South West Coastal Path from the seaside fishing village of Appledore. Nearby are the sandy beaches and surf of Westward Ho!, as well as the rocky clifftops and wavecut platforms of Hartland. We are well-placed to explore our local surroundings of North Devon, whether it be on bike, surf board, kayak, or simply in a good pair of walking boots. What more could you want.  

Supplementing our inspiring local locations are our activity areas on-site at Skern Lodge, which includes our archery range, climbing tower, swimming pool, high ropes, zip wire, assault course, and underground tunnels. Our accommodation is warmly welcoming and relaxing, and our catering team ensures that we are all happily fuelled with nutritious and healthy food to get out and explore. We can also add career advice as we offer many routes into the outdoor industry, including our own apprenticeships.  

Our DofE Gold Residential programme is running between the 14th and 18th of August, themed around developing key life-long skills, knowledge, and behaviours in the outdoors with visits to some of my favourite locations listed above as well as a suite of classic adventure activities. We have also thrown in a transfer from our nearest main line station Tiverton parkway.  

Take a look at our programmes and book yourself a space here. You'll need to tick 'Away from home' and put Skern Ledge into the 'Your School box. If you have any questions, please get in touch with us via