This summer LNBP at Braunston have had the pleasure of working with and welcoming a party from St Nicholas School in Canterbury, Kent.
The purpose of this booking was to enable the school to allow students with learning difficulties to undertake the expedition section of their Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award.

This was something of a unique opportunity for the youngsters as it is believed that it is the first time that the operating authority of the award scheme in Kent have allowed such an expedition to take place.

Here is St Nicholas School’s group leader, Andrew Bennett’s great account of what happened.


“We were unsure as to what type of expedition would be suitable for our special needs students.  Although all physically able they all have difficulties which may impact on their ability to complete the 20 conditions of the gold award.
A meeting with the Head of Kent Duke of Edinburgh, Norry Barber, was arranged to discuss the situation.  After much thought it became clear that we needed to think outside the box for this particular residential.  We finally came to a decision and felt that something very different would be appropriate.
We became very interested in taking part with LNBP at Braunston, which would appear to suit our students due to the variety of skills that would be available for them to learn and to use.  This in turn would ensure valid life skills would be learned and reinforced.
With great support and determined students we were able to make this Duke of Edinburgh journey a success”


Nigel Smith, Booking Officer at LNBP at Braunston.

“Having had the initial telephone from Andrew at St Nicholas School, discussions were underway to find two suitable weeks that fitted the requirements of the DofE scheme and the practicalities of exam timetables.
Once dates were agreed I then met with Andrew personally in order that he could risk assess the boats and was given more detailed information of what LNBP could provide. I then began the process of linking up the requirements of the group and briefing skippers”


Andrew takes up the story…..

“Chris and Diane Woodward from LNBP kindly came to visit the school a few weeks before our first practice week.  They explained to the students how the canal works and what they should expect.  The students were also shown what the route would be and how many locks they would be expected to work.  They were encouraged by Chris and Diane to help to complete the planning of the route they would take.  This was extremely useful and good preparation for our students.
All the students had never seen a canal nor been on a narrow boat before, so this in itself was their first challenge. Chris Woodward was our skipper for the first week and he spent many hours training the students in a variety of skills. They included steering, cleaning, navigation, map reading, opening and closing locks including the understanding of how a lock works, mooring up and casting off, knots, engine checks, understanding the technical side of the day to day driving and maintaining the boat, including waste disposal and topping up of clean water.

They were also expected to cook their own meals each night having organised the weekly menu before the trip.  Food technology was the skill the students had to learn throughout the year for them to be prepared for this residential to promote independence. In addition the students had their own canal boat projects. This they worked on in spare moments, showing their understanding of canals and the boats and the history surrounding it.

The students would be expected to complete a project on their final expedition. In order for their individual projects to be completed successfully a visit to Stoke Bruerne canal boat museum was arranged and a chat with a local working blacksmith. The students had to demonstrate an understanding of the history of the canal boats and the local area, which we visited.

After an intense week of training, preparation and teamwork, we felt the students were ready to put their new skills before the Duke of Edinburgh assessors Rod and Carole. The assessors joined us for the final week where on this occasion our skipper was Brian Tidbury who was extremely patient and helpful to the students.

The students were observed throughout the week, where their skills, teamwork and independence were assessed. Sam, who lacked confidence in his own abilities, found he could steer the boat with minimal supervision.  In fact, he asked if he could go on a course to be a future skipper. It has been noted after the trip that he started making his own decisions.

Danielle, although she was very good at most of the activities, she excelled in keeping the group motivated and working as a team.
Pei-sha found being away from home a challenge although she fulfilled all the tasks asked of her.  She subsequently completed the residential which involved a five day trip to Finland.  Having never flown before she was very nervous but managed to overcome her fear once in the air and didn’t suffer from homesickness once. It is felt that the Duke of Edinburgh experience, particularly the canal trips has helped to give Pei-sha the confidence to be away from her family and particularly her brothers.
Matthew doesn’t always find it easy to work within a team.  On the boat Matthew understood how important it was to work as a team. Following the trip he now works within a team at school as a lifeguard in the hydro pool.

The trip was was non-stop work for the students, and they conducted themselves on the boat and around the canal in a manner worthy of successful Duke of Edinburgh students. It gave them an insight as to the people who built and worked on the canals and to the reason the canals are still in use now.
Without the help and patience of Chris and Brian, and the use of the canal boat the outcome of this award would not have been such a success and we feel extremely grateful for the support we received.”


A huge thank you to Andrew and the pupils of St Nicholas School in Canterbury for this wonderful summary of the trip.
It was an immense pleasure to have you all with us, and from everyone at LNBP at Braunston we offer our many congratulations to you all on passing your Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award.

Would your group be interested in completing part of their Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme with us?
Why not get in touch and see how we can help with your requirements
Contact Nigel Smith (Bookings Officer) on 07967 406 875 or via email at
Alternatively send us a message enquiry on our online form here  and we will back in contact with you again soon.