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Duke of Edinburgh Award teens’ ‘undesirable’ behaviour in the New Forest

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"UNDESIRABLE" behaviour by teenagers taking part in Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme expeditions to the New Forest has prompted calls for organisers to be given extra advice.

The programme, which is operated in many secondary schools as well as being delivered by Girl Guiding and Scout groups, requires young people to take part in an overnight expedition and training exercise.

However, during a recent meeting of the Verderers’ Court it emerged that several Duke of Edinburgh groups had been seen in places they shouldn’t, and when questioned had claimed to be lost.

The New Forest is popular for DofE Award expeditions
The New Forest is popular for DofE Award expeditions

The court minutes revealed: “In a few instances their behaviour has reportedly left something to be desired, with rubbish discarded and gates left open.”

As the land manager of the New Forest, Forestry England asks all group leaders of Duke of Edinburgh expeditions to give at least six weeks’ advance notice of their planned activity.

Organisers are also required to confirm that all planned walks will follow main tracks and that dates are carefully checked against planned route and car park closures.

Furthermore, walks over heathland and off track are banned in order to avoid disturbing ground nesting birds and straying into sensitive areas, and groups must not erect additional infrastructure such as gazebos and banners.

Participants and parents are also asked to study the New Forest Code before beginning any expeditions, and are reminded that barbecues and fires are banned in the national park.

A spokesperson for FE said: “We work closely with the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.

“We have a dedicated page on our website with key information and advice for those carrying out this activity in the New Forest, and we also regularly brief DofE and other educational providers using the Forest as part of the New Forest National Park’s education forum meetings.

“We are working on a national level with the DofE organisation to look at additional ways to ensure all of those visiting the New Forest are aware of the New Forest Code and how they can care for the Forest during their time here.”

Director of DofE south east England, Peter Singleton, said: “The expedition is a key part of a DofE programme, and the vast majority of young people doing theirs protect and respect the landscape they’re travelling through.

“We provide guidance to all young people on how to abide by the Countryside Code, and work closely with authorities and leaders to ensure the New Forest is protected. We will continue to work with organisations that deliver the DofE to make sure everyone involved respects our national parks.”

He added: “Across the south-east, more than 115,371 young people are working towards a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. These amazing young people gave 510,016 hours of volunteering to their communities in 2021/22 – a major force for good across the region.”

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