Every year, the 3rd Gateshead Boy’s Brigade are lucky enough to come to the Lake District for their eagerly anticipated Easter trip. The Company has a long history of hiking, and the group who stayed with us this year are gearing up to taking their Duke of Edinburgh silver award expedition in May. So this trip was a great opportunity to get in some solid fell-walking experience.
On the way here, the group stopped off at Rookin House Activity Centre for the afternoon and had great fun go-karting and trying their hand at archery. By the time they arrived here, there was just time to settle into their rooms before going outside into the dusk to build a fire and spend the evening toasting marshmallows – yum! Then it was off to bed to get some good rest before embarking on the fells the next day.
The group had planned an interesting and scenic circular route, beginning and ending at Rosthwaite, just a few miles down the Borrowdale Valley from the hostel. Their walk took them up past the historic old mine-workings of Rigg Head, then through the rather squelchy plateau to Dale Head Tarn, and finally up a steep climb to the top of Dale Head itself, which has wonderful views over the beautiful Newlands Valley. Daniel Charles, who came with the group, said:
'..the view was stunning! As far as the eye could see was covered in snow, somewhat adding to the fabulous view from all around. From here, we went down into Honister and arrived at the Honister slate mine, where a warn bowl of leek and potato soup was a very welcoming change from the bitter cold outside.'
After a filling breakfast the group set off the next day from the path at back of the hostel, up past the waterfall and on to Ashness Bridge. From there they took the path over Walla Crag to Keswick, and having got their hiking boots really into gear, arrived in less than two hours. Once in Keswick they spent time at the Leisure Centre enjoying the swimming pool before having some well-deserved free time in Keswick shopping.
Daniel said of their weekend:
'Altogether, I think that the weekend was spectacular and the facilities at Derwentwater Youth Hostel were superb. I can safely say that everyone that went on the trip is looking forward to going back next year.'
And we are looking forward to seeing you all next year too!
You just never know who you are going to get turning up at the door when you work in a youth hostel!
Many people assume that youth hostels are used mainly by school groups, ramblers and backpackers. But Derwentwater Youth Hostel is incredibly versatile and flexible, and therefore an ideal venue for so many different kinds of visitors with many different needs. We have had a huge variety of guests from all walks of life and for all sorts of reasons, some of whom we have featured in this newsletter. They range from Mountain Rescue Teams to Triathlon Clubs; wedding groups to vintage motor-bike enthusiasts, groups of families to international students; conservation volunteers to honeymooning couples….
And yes, of course, we have many school groups and lots of walkers. Being a hostel in a prime location in the Lake District, with all that it has to offer in the way of outdoor activities and walking adventures, it would be weird if we didn’t!
A recent weekend illustrated the great satisfaction we get from our wonderful variety of guests. We had a group of triathletes who had visited last year (you can read more about them below), a group of mates getting together to do some outdoor activities a week before one of them got married, and a small school group who are also regular visitors. They all had very different experiences to relay, but all of them were very upbeat and enthusiastic about their weekend.
The adult groups were sharing their stories and swapping banter with the staff and each other as they came to get their dinner and the school students from King Edward School, Birmingham, were charming and exceptionally well-mannered and polite. It was a real pleasure to serve dinner and all the staff commented on what a lovely bunch of people they were, even though they were all very different. Another group which made a huge impact on us recently were a lovely group of students from Capetown who were all so cheerful and so enjoying being here. One of them touched us greatly with this departing comment, 'We have left our hearts in the Lake District'.
It is this variety and diversity of guests which makes working at Derwentwater Youth Hostel so interesting. Many of our guests are repeat visitors – some of them returning for their fourth or even tenth or more time. Quite often I end a newsletter with: '…and we are looking forward to seeing them all next year' and that is because staff genuinely look forward to welcoming previous visitors back. We may get something different out of a visit from the guests, but seeing our visitors enjoying themselves and enthusing about what they have done or achieved is incredibly rewarding and certainly contributes to the feel-good factor of working at Derwentwater Youth Hostel.
I wonder who will turn up today?
This was the question posed by Kel Hirst of City of Lancaster Triathletes (COLT) when they returned to the hostel for a training weekend after enjoying last year’s so much. Some of you may remember reading about their hardy exploits in this newsletter last year.
They are still as hardcore as they were then – possibly more so… They call a 45 mile round trip on their bikes over Whinlatter Pass to Cockermouth 'a short ride'… Well, I suppose in comparison to their epic 90 mile ride taking in Honister, Newlands, Hard Knott, Wrynose passes, it is!
Each day began with a brave dip in the lake before breakfast and then either a bike ride or a run. Some went for a run all the way round the lake on the path, a distance of nearly 9 miles, otherswent for shorter, 3 mile runs before or after their bike rides. And some of them tired out their legs with a fell run after cycling 3 or 4 times around the lake….
'We loved our weekend with you - the hostel is an unbeatable location for swimming, cycling and running. Derwent Water is just across the road and the Lakeland passes of Honister, Newlands and Whinlatter are all within a few miles. Comfortable accommodation, fantastic breakfast to set you up for the day and where else would you get a waterfall and a red squirrel with your bacon and eggs? Amazing views that you would expect to pay 100 pounds per night in a hotel.'
The club were always incredibly cheerful and happy whenever we saw them – they never seemed to look exhausted or downbeat, which given the amount of gruelling exercise they had done, they could be forgiven for! And in case you think everyone in the club are bright young things in their twenties, then you are mistaken. They have a wide range of ages in the club, including some rather inspirational over 60s.
They enjoyed themselves so much that they are planning to come again this year in September if possible. Maybe next time some of us might be brave enough to join them on one of their rides or runs!
Back in May 2012, we had a nice email enquiry from a school about a booking for April 2013 as part of a literature trip. Nothing unusual about that you may think but the enquiry was for Cedar House School, Cape Town, South Africa, who were starting to plan an amazing 2 week trip for a group of about 40 of their students. Rather than book everything through a tour operator, Cedar House decided to tailor make their 2 week tour and booked everything direct.
Eleven months and lots more email correspondence later, Cedar House School stayed at Derwentwater for 3 nights. We were delighted to be their chosen base for the Lake District. Highlights of their Lake District visit included a morning at the Wordsworth Museum at Grasmere and their overwhelming favourite visit was to Beatrix Potter’s House at Far Sawrey. They had some scenic trips to take in the Lake District landscapes including a trip around Derwent Water on the Keswick Launch and a visit to Buttermere.
Cedar House also visited Bronte Country (Haworth), Edinburgh and London as part of their tour and were lucky enough to go to an RSC production in Edinburgh. The students ranged in age from 13 to 18 and seemed to really appreciate the wonderful trip their school had organised for them. We are pretty sure that they must be the school who have travelled the furthest to come and stay here. Their visit coincided with a very late wintery spell of weather in the UK after Easter, so they left Cape Town in temperatures of 25 degrees to land in London to a frozen landscape!
One of the school staff told us about their stay at our hostel: 'It was undoubtedly an unforgettable and most memorable experience. The hospitality, the food and the accommodation was top class and our students were very sad to leave one of the most beautiful places on this planet'. Thank you to all of the Cedar House School Party for being such lovely guests. We all think the Lake District is very special but it’s fantastic for our international guests to place it in a world context!
Many of you may know that our lovely mansion, Barrow House, was built by wealthy young eccentric Joseph Pocklington in the late eighteenth century. Pocklington - or 'King Pocky' as he became known as locally - was also renowned for his wild and wacky Regattas on the Lake.
This year, to bring back some of the excitement of Pocklington’s era, the National Trust is getting together with local businesses and activity providers to recreate the Derwent Water Regatta for the 21st Century. It will take place across a whole weekend in August and is based in and around Crow Park in Keswick. This is the site of the original regattas and is on the lake shore, near the Theatre by the Lake and the boat landings.
There will be all the fun of a traditional fair, plus mad competitions like bath tub races around Derwent Isle (site of another Pocklington mansion), and other water-based events which you can either take part in or watch from the shore. On dry land you can try slack-lining or have a go at the climbing wall or take part in a sack race or best-dressed vessel competition. Or you could just wander round the stalls which offer craft activities, refreshments and things to buy or simply just sit and soak up the atmosphere. The Theatre by the Lake will be giving an outdoor performance, and you might bump into King Pocky or one of his characterful friends as you sit or wander round! The ceremonies end with a bonfire and a barbecue on the lake shore.
It promises to be a mad, fun-filled, action-packed couple of days which really recreate the spirit of King Pocky’s extravaganzas. It starts at 11am on Saturday 3 August and closes at 3.30pm on Sunday 4 August. We will be there with a stall of homemade cakes and some fun activities to test your creativity, and staff are really looking forward to it.
We have limited space left for that weekend for those of you who want to go for the complete Pocklington experience by staying at one of his mansions.