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Duke of Edinburgh – Dolphinholme Residential

As a business that’s passionate about developing our people, we’re supporting a huge number of our team members as they’re put through their paces for the prestigious Duke of Edinburgh Gold Business Awards.

In such a fast-paced industry such as ours, having the independence, confidence and advanced skills to get ahead is crucial to personal development and career success. Whilst physical endurance, tests of strength and 18 months of volunterring aren’t exactly part of the 9-5, they certainly help build a heck of a business leader and future influencer for the family!

This week, we caught up with Rachel Gyves to see how things are going…

“The benefits of the DofE programme aren’t just the skills I’ve come away with, but the amount I’ve learned about our business and how AO works is incredible. Everyone seems to do a different job, each equally important and it is fantastic to learn all about how they come together to make our business a success.

Duke of Edinburgh team


We travelled to Dolphinholme in a convoy as we usually do. Gemma kept with tradition and made a CD with all our favourite songs on for the ride.  

On arrival, we were split into two groups and given straws, paper and sellotape. We were then asked to build a bridge about one or two feet long, strong enough to hold 5 Mars Bars.

Though it appeared to be a simple task, communicating effectively as a team was crucial.  Once both teams had completed the task, each bridge held 5 mars bars so we then went to a tie breaker to see which could hold most.

I think both team’s bridges represented the business in some ways. The first bridge, was unfortunately unsuccessful but it was built with fun and passion. It looked appealing and a lot of imagination was put in.

The second bridge, was successful and held at least 11 Mars Bars. It was robust and trustworthy. It wasn’t built to look pretty, just to do the job.

That afternoon, we built tents, created a page of obstacles and solutions for the expedition, started and maintained the fire in our rooms and made our own pizzas!

Putting up a tent


The majority of us were up and out for 7am to milk the goats with the permission of a kind farmer. Having had Gemma wake up at ridiculous-o-clock to inform us it was her birthday, some of the crew needed a bit of extra sleep.

Next we planned for our 4-5 hour walk… which turned into a 7-8 hour work. In all honesty, parts of it were horrific and parts of it were hilarious! Chris and Amy taught us how to read a map but some of us were completely clueless. Thankfully, our team member Jordan lead the group through fields of sheep, bulls, cows… and cowpats!

We realised that every group had negative, positive and neutral people. In our group luckily, there was an even spread. So the pessimistic people were motivated by the positive people and the neutral people just cracked on with it. In the end we all ended up feeling very positive about our mission.

We enjoyed a BBQ and a chilled out together in the evening. We laughed about the day and how the 8 hour walk tested our sanity to the limits! 

Sat on a wall


Thanks to the lovely food from the farmer’s wife, I think we all came away half a stone heavier!!! We had a talk with Finn about his time rowing across the Atlantic. His story was amazing and made us feel grateful for what we have. 

Most of the time, respect has to be earned over a substantial period of time but I know that each and every one of us came away from the conversation with bounds of respect for Finn. On behalf of all our group, I would like to thank Finn for being so open and honest with us, it was very inspiring.

We reflected on our journey together and had one last game; one person blew a whistle to direct the other people from their group into a pen. It was funny and a huge laugh. It also showed how much trust we all have in each other to be able to be blindfolded and know the rest of your group will look out for you!

The most important thing I have come away with are pieces of everyone else;

Gemma, Kay & Jonny’s positivity, Jose & Mel’s humour, Jordan’s leadership skills, Natalie & Ben’s work ethic and Jenna’s ability to just do anything!” 

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