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Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award Grove and Walking Track—14-18 January 2013

January 19, 2013

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award (DofEHillary), is an award given to young people age 14 to 25 who complete a program of activities designed to improve themselves and their community.

As they progress through the award structure, participants select and set objectives in the following areas:

•Volunteering: undertaking service to individuals or the community.

•Physical: improving in an area of sport, dance or fitness activities.

•Skills: developing non- pyhsical practical and social skills and personal interests.

•Expedition: planning, training for and completion of an adventurous journey.

•At Gold level, participants must do an additional fifth Residential section, which involves staying and working away from home doing a shared activity.

The Award Programme was first introduced in the United Kingdom in 1956 as The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and has since been adopted in over 130 countries.  The Award is the same around the world, but the activities and the name are adapted to suit the country.  The program was adopted in New Zealand in 1963.  It is called the The Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award to recognize Sir Edmund Hillary.  See for more information about the programme.


This year is the 50th anniversary of the DofEHillary Award programme in New Zealand and to commemorate the anniversary, a special project is being undertaken to establish The Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award Grove at CUE Haven.

The Grove is an area of a little over one hectare where DofEHillaryAward participants will be able to perform community work toward their award goals and also to make a permanent contribution to the planet.

The first thing we needed to do was enable visitor access to the Grove by means of a walking track and this week a group of students working toward their gold awards were on site at CUE Haven to fulfil their residential project requirements and to start the walking track through The Grove.

The team was scheduled to arrive mid-morning on Monday.   Andy Woodhouse, DofEHillary Award Co-Director of Training & Development, arrived early in the morning to finalise plans for the week and was also on site each day assisting the team.

The timber and building materials we expected to need for the track had been ordered previously and they arrived right on time first thing Monday morning.


The team arrived at around 10:30 after meeting at a grocery store in Auckland to do food shopping for the week.  The team leader was Daniel Scott, a DofEHillary Gold Award holder who is currently practicing in Auckland as a Geotechnical Water Resources Engineer.  He was assisted by Samuel Ames, a commercial solicitor in Auckland.  The students working towards their gold award were Andrea, Annie, David, Katherine, Kevin, Nathaniel, Patrick, Rashmica and Sarah.


One of the requirements of the residential project is that the award participants should not know any of the other team members, so over morning tea, in addition to providing a briefing about the CUE Haven project and the work to be done for the week, the team spent some time getting acquainted.


The DofEHillary Grove is near to the top of the CUE Haven property, about a kilometre walk from the cottage and after the team had unpacked the groceries, Tom took them by way of the existing walking track to show them how a finished track looks.   This way, the team could see features of the track such as steps and culverts which they would be building on their track.



The team then returned to the cottage for lunch and then got to work. The first task was to move the timber that had been delivered into the nursery to protect it from the sun.



Then it was up to The Grove to start work.  The track layout had previously been reviewed with Andy and we had sprayed the route to kill grass and weeds and cleared away the dead vegetation so the team could get right to work.  The first task was to smooth and level the track surface and to identify water tables and water flow pathways so that the track would stand up to heavy rains and water flow.





The Grove is on a hillside that encompasses the headwater of the main stream on the property and as a result very little of the track traverses level ground.  It wasn’t long before it became necessary to start cutting steps in the track to make it easier for future visitors to walk up and down the grades.

Making steps requires planning and hard work.  First, the steps are carved out.







After the steps are cut, they are boxed with a timber plank that is held in place with two wooden stakes.  We determined the number of planks and stakes we would need and Tom, Nathaniel and Patrick went down to the nursery, which doubled up as a carpentry shop for the week, to measure and cut the wood.



We delivered the wood to the work site and the team started putting the steps together.



Pounding the stakes into hard clay was a challenge.





Another challenge is keeping the stakes straight as they are pounded in and also ensuring that they are pounded into the correct level.  We made a jig to help the team members do the step installation.




The team should be proud of the sixty-one steps they installed along the track!



We also installed several drain pipes along the track to channel water away from the surface.



As the track progressed the team came to an area where they had to make decisions about the best way to route the track around large trees and other obstacles.  They found it necessary to build retaining walls along some sections of the track to ensure a level walking surface.  Building the walls required a lot of planning and design effort and the team worked together very well in coming up with the best solution.  Everyone would participate in discussions and make suggestions for improvements.





And the actual building of the walls required more teamwork:






The retaining walls look as good as the steps!





The last step in the track building involves spreading fine gravel on the surface to make the track safe for year round use.  Because of the steepness of the track, we couldn’t use wheelbarrows or other equipment so they team brought in metal by the bucket load.  It was sheer hard work.  The gravel pile is at the midpoint between the two ends of the walking track, so no matter which end we started at, there would be a long walk.  One group stationed themselves at the metal pile and filled the buckets.


While other team members carried the buckets along the track and dumped the gravel on the track.




A team member stationed at the end raked and smoothed the gravel.


The team worked very hard all week but they managed to relax during the evenings.  Each night they cooked dinner and made it a special event. It was a daily competition to see whether the girls or boys could come up with an innovative dining experience. The girls started off with creative table decorations and the boys upped the ante the following evening with a “silver” service fine dining experience for the girls.  Then it was surprise Mr Whippy ice creams for the girls one evening while the girls made meringues.


On Thursday the team celebrated Andy’s birthday with a cake.


Even though none of them had known each other on Monday, everyone got along very well and they enjoyed spending time together.  They played card games like Mafia and 500 and also took a night walk in the CUE Haven bush and saw the glow worms in The Grove.

Sarah also taught the group a number of interesting warm up exercises:




The team finished work at lunch time on Friday.  After lunch they cleaned the cottage and then held a de-briefing meeting where they discussed their experiences during the week.


We were very happy to hear that all the participants had enjoyed the week and felt they had made good friends and learned new skills.  They finished up with a singalong led by Samuel and Kevin on guitar.



We had a fantastic week as well.  We were truly impressed by the dedication, motivation and attitude of the team.  They were a great group of people who worked together as a team to make the track the best it could be and to make CUE Haven a nicer place for future generations to enjoy.

The team has every reason to be proud of their efforts.  In one week, and with no previous experience, they managed to build approximately 152 metres of track which includes 61 steps and 19 metres of retaining wall.






We’d like to thank Nestle NZ, a supporter of CUE Haven, for providing iced Nestea and drink bottles so that that team could take the cold drinks into the field:


And we want to thank Andy Woodhouse for his efforts in making the DofEHillary Grove at CUE Haven a reality and for his help and support in planning and executing the residential retreat this week.

Many thanks too to Daniel and Samuel for taking a week off from work and leading the team during the week.  They were very effective team leaders and set the tone that enabled the team to come together and work so well. Plus they did far more than their share of the work. We really appreciate your efforts!


And we especially want to thank the award participants —a great group of young people who made a major contribution to the CUE Haven project and have created something that will last a long time and be enjoyed by many people.  Everyone was willing to get out of their comfort zone, pick up a tool they’d never used before and offer suggestions on how to make the track better or the work easier.

It was real pleasure meeting and working with you all and we wish you best of luck as you pursue your DofEHillary Awards and also with all your future endeavours.  Come back to CUE Haven to have a relaxing walk on the track you’ve created and to see us again.  Or to serve as team leaders for future DofEHillary Award teams!




3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 11, 2013 7:48 pm

    wow. What an effort and result. Amazing input and teamwork. Wonderful to see young people working together to make a lasting imprint in nature and in the world for future generations to enjoy. Well done.

  2. January 20, 2013 3:54 pm

    What an inspiration! So good to hear about young people contributing to the planet instead of trying to destroy it. Bravo to you and all your volunteers.

  3. January 20, 2013 12:42 pm

    What very busy folks,Congratulations on your invovement with DofEHillary Awards – another feather in the cap of C.U.E

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