August 2018

Welcome to the August newsletter

The lakes of the district have shrunk considerably! We've had an incredibly dry few months, with our waterfall dwindling to a tiny trickle. I'm afraid there hasn't been enough water to power the hydro-plant, but fortunately we're not dependent on the beck for our water or electricity (unlike the house in the 1930s).

Our staff member Nat has been making the most of the sunny weather to walk lots of Wainwright fells (read on for her account of recent excursions), while the rest of us have been seeking out ghylls and lakes to cool off. Our school groups have enjoyed the hot weather too, and below you can read about some of Allonby Primary School's experiences. 

We've also had some good local news, with visits from 11 species of moth that we've never seen before at the hostel; a jolly turnout for the Borrowdale Parish Coffee morning, hosted by Aukje with her delicious cakes; and a prize from the Theatre by the Lake for being top 'ambassador' in the 11-20 bedroom category (that means that lots of you have bought theatre tickets with our discount code - thank you!).

We hope you enjoy our newsletter.

The Art of Running Downhill to Catch the Last Bus
Staff member Nat has bagged lots of Wainwrights this season, accessing most of the fells by public transport. Needless to say, this can get complicated at times... Read more...

We really enjoy hearing about Nat's walks each week and, just like Wainwright, she's been using public transport to access her walks, making the stories even more entertaining. We thought you might like to read about them here:

The Wainwrights on Public Transport or The Art of Running Downhill To Catch The Last Bus

One thing is noticeable when you start planning ways to bag the Wainwrights: having a car to reach the beginning of a walk simplifies things greatly. When you have to rely on public transport, you realise how late the buses start running, how early they stop and how few are running on some routes – though I should consider myself lucky that they are even running to those remote places.  I have become quite the expert on timetables, bus stops’ locations and even bus tickets’ prices. But with a lot of planning, early starts, and the willingness to spend a lot of time looking at beautiful landscapes from a bus window (not that much of a hardship, ultimately), a good number of the summits are accessible.

There is one thing I learned about myself: I seem to be chronically terrible at estimating the time needed for most of my walks.  Maybe I think too highly of my physical capacities, or I simply forget how often I manage to get lost; maybe I am just too ambitious in planning my routes, wanting to cram as many summits in one day as possible so that I don’t have to come back to that area for one lonely Wainwright; maybe the maps are lying to me and the distances are greater than they appear (or maybe I am just bad at reading maps); one way or another, I have had one too many mad dashes to get to the bus stop on time. I still remember managing to run down from Barf to the road in 15 minutes, one minute before the bus appeared. Hats off to the fell runners out there, because I thought I was about to die ten times in that short lapse of time! 

Despite a few other close calls, I only missed the bus once after making the mistake of trying to reach Graystones from Whinlatter. Maybe that is why Graystones is my least favourite summit so far (what a boring hike up it is on top of that!). I had to hitchhike to come back to Keswick and though I barely had to wait before someone picked me up, I would rather avoid it on principle.

But even with a masterful knowledge of the bus network, some Wainwrights are still completely off the grid.  The only option left, in the absence of a car and with the awareness that I am not adventurous enough to go camping by myself, is to spend the night in a hostel or camping barn in one of those no-bus-lands – a task made easy by the incredibly dry weather we’ve had in the past three months.

My first weekend away brought me to a charming camping barn in the Kentmere valley: Maggs Howe.  The whole day had been glorious with a beautiful hike from Hartsop covering several summits around High Street and bringing me all the way to Shipman Knotts. Kentmere itself is well worth a visit: the valley is so isolated, all you hear are the birds. It is incredibly relaxing after busy Keswick. I then walked over the Garburn Pass on an atmospheric misty morning, delighted with my first night out in the Lakes.

The following week brought me to YHA Eskdale in order to bag Harter Fell and Green Crag. These two fells are easy to reach by car, but as no bus goes over Hardknott Pass I reached the hostel by hiking from Pike of Blisco to Hard Knott. I particularly enjoyed the walk to Green Crag: after a dry spell, this normally extremely boggy area made for an agreeable ramble in a deserted landscape. As this little hill is mostly visited by fells baggers, there is no well-defined path (at least none I could find), which is always good fun when you have ample time to get lost. The only encounter I made was on the top of Green Crag itself where a fellow Frenchman was reading a book. This second long weekend ended with the exquisite ride on the steam railway from Eskdale to Ravenglass, a must do on a nice day.

My last long weekend allowed me to cover the ten Western fells enclosed between the Ennerdale valley and Wasdale, as well as Whin Rigg and Illgill Head on the east of Wast Water. The first day was an easy hike from YHA Ennerdale to YHA Wasdale (though I still managed to follow the wrong beck on the way up to Caw Fell and ended up on the wrong ridge). However, my second day was over-ambitious, so I barely had time to take breaks or enjoy the views. On the plus side, I also didn’t have time to get scared while climbing up and down Yewbarrow, which was a blessing in disguise. The last fell of the day – reached at 5pm – was Pillar, which left me with one hour and fifteen minutes to go down the Ennerdale valley and then over Scarth Gap Pass in order to catch the last bus going back to Keswick. Astonishingly enough, I managed – with two minutes to spare!

Ultimately, some Wainwrights are just too far away from bus stops, hostels, and camping barns. In that case, I can always count on the kindness of friends who agree to drive me to the northernmost of the Northern fells, the easternmost of the Far Eastern fells, or the westernmost of the Western fells. Thank you Nicola!

Allonby Primary School
Ghyll scrambling, map reading and walking in sunny Borrowdale. Read more...

Allonby Primary School have stayed with us several times before and it was lovely to welcome some familiar faces. 

This year they went ghyll scrambling on the first day and walking with Katy on the second day: here are some extracts from the pupils' accounts:

'When we got to the top (of the ghyll) we sat down in the water. It was freezing at first but I got used to it. We started going down the ghyll and we started off with sliding down a smooth bit (about 2 metres) and you landed in a pool of water. There were more slides: some you could go head first, backwards, and some just feet first. At the end we got a photo of us with a waterfall behind us.'

'We looked at some maps of Derwent Water and found some places on them, then we started our walk to Cat Gill. When we got there we started walking alongside it. It was really steep, but eventually we made it. Once we were up we had to walk to Ashness Bridge so we could have our lunch. There were rocks we could climb on and there was also a stream that we could dip our feet in if we wanted to. After that we walked back to the hostel to get our belongings so we could put them on the minibus ready to go home. It was an amazing trip and I can’t wait for next year so we can go back and have the same fun we did this year.'

Burgeoning Lepidopteran
The Devon Carpet moth makes an appearance in the hostel. Read more...

Devon Carpet - until recently a scarce species found mainly in the south of England and south Wales. Following a recent range expansion it is apparently now a fairly common inhabitant of Cumbrian woodlands and occasional visitor to hostel shower blocks.

Theatre by the Lake Ambassador Award
We have an award!

In July we received a jolly surprise in the post: a certifcate from the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick, announcing our place as top ambassador in the 11-20 bedroom category. That means that our guests have spent more at the theatre (taking advantage of the discount code) than those of any other establishment in the category. Long may this continue!

Our discount code is 20738, enabling you to claim u00a33 discount on tickets, and you can either book online at, in person at the box office, or by phone on 017687 74411.

We look forward to lots more theatre visits and hope you do too.

Borrowdale Coffee Morning
Some members of the local community came along to the hostel for coffee, cake and chat. Read more...

At the end of July we hosted the monthly Borrowdale Parish Coffee Morning and it was lovely to see everyone sitting outside and enjoying the view. The Borrowdale community is stretched out along the valley, so it is good to occasionally gather in one place, particularly when cake is involved. We look forward to hosting another coffee morning in the future.

Derwentwater Independent Hostel
Barrow House
CA12 5UR
Telephone: 017687 77246

Thank you to Geoff Williams, Rebecca Laff, Fiona McCarthy, John and Sam Snyder, and KTA for generously providing inspiring photographs.
Thank you to Lisa Bamford at Stoats and Weasels for designing our website, and to Sam Snyder for building it.
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