The Lake District in January is not always the most hospitable place to be, which is why every year the Search & Rescue Dog Association (England) congregate there for an Annual Assessment for potential Search & Rescue Dogs. This year was no exception with those taking part being subjected to heavy rain, although the wind was not excessive!
8 Dogs from as far afield as Devon and Teesdale were up for assessment this year for their Initial Search Dog Grade which will have taken from 12 to 24 months of training to achieve.
Each dog & handler endures five 2 hour searches spread over 3 days on ground more suited to mountain goats! The assessment takes into account how each dog and handler works through the mountainous terrain and handles the weather conditions of a given area. The handler must make maximum use of the wind and plan his/her search strategy accordingly. On locating a human scent, the dog will locate the person and return to ‘indicate’ to the handler that it has found someone and takes the handler to where the ‘casualty’ is lying. A missed indication could cost a life in the real scenario so this final assessment has to be brutally thorough! The dogs have already been tested for night and woodland searches and trained to be winched into helicopters prior to coming to the Lake District.
Although dogs have no concept of lost or injured persons, they have been trained to search for human scent on the wind, motivated by the ultimate reward….their favourite toy! Initial training of puppies is overseen by Hon. Training adviser Jacquie Hall who used to be a Mountain Rescue team member and is now a professional dog trainer. Jacquie has been running the puppy programme for 18 years. All SARDA England puppies have to pass a basic obedience and stock test but Jacquie also looks at any temperament issues as well as building the puppy’s play drive in order that they are sufficiently motivated to work for a toy!
This year the Association, currently sponsored by Oscar Pet Food, is proud to announce that 5 dogs passed their grading. Dog Teams were assessed by experts from other SARDA organisations from the Lake District, Scotland & Wales as well as within their own organisation.
Operational dogs & handlers from SARDA England assisted the police in over 70 incidents in 2013 where lives were in danger during which 92 dogs were called and 5 lives were saved. It is widely accepted that a Search Dog can cover ground that would take several dozen searchers on foot the same time to cover, as well as entering dense cover or crags that may be otherwise difficult to search quickly and thoroughly by humans, especially in bad weather.
Search Dogs are selected as puppies by existing Mountain Rescue Team members who take them primarily as family pets. Should they somehow not make the grade, the dogs remain with their family for life. The vast majority of dogs selected are Border Collies, which are agile and quick to learn. However, there are German Shepherds, Labradors, Spaniels and a few cross-breeds currently operational.
Many people give time freely to train Search Dogs within SARDA which is a registered charity. Training and some equipment is funded by donation and sponsorship but all handlers fund their own training costs. Many volunteer ‘dogsbodies’ lie out on the hills for hours at a time to assist in training. This years’ assessment saw over 100 people coming together to make it all happen…a small price to pay for saving lives. More information can be obtained from www.sardaengland.org.uk .
This winter has seen decorating taking place at the hostel on an epic scale! Some of you may not have seen our grand Room 1. It has a beautiful ornate plasterwork ceiling but as its 18’ high and a huge area, we booked the professional painters to tackle this job and a few of the other rooms with high ceilings. Painting the cornice with all the intricate mouldings, has been a labour of love and we are delighted with the finished result. Congratulations to Bells Painters for doing a fantastic job for us. Room 1 was originally a drawing room, where Joseph Pocklington entertained his guests from 1787. Please ask if you would like to view the room while you are visiting us.
Staff, hostel volunteers, and the Community Payback Scheme have tackled some smaller bedrooms and washrooms. In our (Kathy and Dave) 25 years at Barrow House this is definitely the most redecorating to be achieved in one winter. Many areas now have Georgian colour schemes which we feel really enhance the house. We hope you’ll like all the redecoration as much as we do, and we certainly welcome your feedback.
Dodd Wood definitely rewards return visits and so this walk of the month is actually a walk for every month. Here are some of the reasons why we think Dodd Wood is a great place to go in February and beyond:
• Dodd Wood is only a 7 mile cycle or bus ride from the hostel. You can see it from our terrace.
• There are four well-surfaced way-marked trails (from 1 mile to 3 miles) to choose from. Route leaflets are available at the Dodd Wood car park or you can download them here. You can also walk onto the higher slopes of Carl Side, Ullock Pike, and Skiddaw from Dodd Wood.
• There are spectacular panoramic views from the summit of Dodd Wood (502 m above sea level): on a clear day you can even see the white square of our hostel.
• The trees provide shelter from heavy rain. We love the smell of Dodd Wood during and after rainfall.
• There are two wildlife viewing points. Ospreys usually start to appear in the area in late March.
• From mid-February the Old Sawmill Tearoom (the site of a working sawmill until 1970) is open. The tearoom is a fascinating mini museum, with photographs, forestry tools, and display boards.
We hope you enjoy walking in Dodd Wood.
The main Dodd Wood car park and bus stop are 5 miles along the A591 (towards Bassenthwaite) from Keswick. The car park entrance is on the right-hand side of the road, opposite the entrance to Mirehouse. The car park area includes the tearoom, public toilets, information boards, and forest trail way-markers.
Our history box contains a miniature photo book from the period in which Robert Graham ran Barrow House as a guest house: c.1943 to 1961. This month we had a visit from someone who has a copy of the photo book in her family: it would be lovely to hear from anyone else who has a copy.
Produced by the professional photographers and keen rock climbers George and Ashley Abraham (G.P Abraham Ltd was their company name) of Keswick, the booklet contains ten black and white photographs of Barrow House and its environs, as well as an area map on the last page. The photographs include a close-up of Barrow Cascade, a view of Skiddaw from Ashness Bridge, and a portrait of Barrow House. Please ask if you'd like to see the photo book.
We are planning to make a modern-day photo book of the same scenes and we would love to have your input for the Barrow House portrait. Do you have a photograph of Barrow House that you are particularly proud of? If you would like the chance for your photo to be included please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and the date of the photograph (month and year will do).
We look forward to gazing admiringly at photographs of our hostel!
We really appreciate having volunteers at the hostel and we’ve been lucky enough to have some more excellent volunteers including our first ever volunteer from the USA, Olivia. We asked Olivia to tell you about her experiences as a Workaway Volunteer and her impressions of the Lake District and the hostel. Read on and enjoy Olivia's enthusiam.
'Hypothetically, if one were to interview every citizen of my town (said town being Chico, California of the U.S.), inquiring as to my own personality and preferences, one might get an answer something along the lines of 'she watches a lot of T.V., doesn’t she?' or 'yeah, she doesn’t go outside much', or 'I have no idea who that is'. There might be a few outliers here or there, the select few that have witnessed the rare sight of me enjoying the outdoors, but on average everyone would sum me up as the indoor sort. I would classify myself as the indoor sort. In fact, if ever there comes a day where I feel compelled to make a profile on a dating website, I would make it as clear as possible to any potential suitors that I prefer the warmth and entertainment provided inside the comfort of my own home as opposed to the often harsh and gruelling experience one encounters when facing the battlefield that is nature.
As it turns out, I am not strictly an indoor person; I just prefer to be surrounded by beautiful things when I step outside. My own city is not necessarily ugly, but does not suit me in the slightest. It’s hot. Unbearable hot, hot to the point where going outside is more of a punishment than anything else. Hot to the point where nothing is ever GREEN, because it never RAINS so all of our parks and forests are filled with dry, yellow grass and leafless trees and grumpy people. The Lake District is essentially the opposite of this. Everything is so stupidly beautiful and colorful that it makes my eyes hurt. It’s definitely the prettiest place in England, probably all of Europe, possibly the world. Perhaps the locals host the same resentment for the cold and wet of the Lake District that I do for the heat of my own city, but for me it provides a rare opportunity to actually wear winter clothes.
I found Derwentwater Independent Hostel through a website called Workaway.org which provides people all over the world with a forum through which to find hosts, working for them an average of five hours a day, five days a week in exchange for free food and accommodation. Through this system I have stayed with five different hosts since I began traveling in June; three in England, one in Italy and another in the Canary Islands. Without Workaway I’m afraid that a such a long trip abroad would not be possible for me, but as I am provided with a place to sleep and three meals a day I’ve found that the costs are mostly reasonable (honestly the prices of bus tickets in this country….)
I’ve been at Barrow House for almost a month now; in that time I have washed my fair share of dishes, vacuumed a room or two, painted a couple walls and deep cleaned everything I’ve come across. I’ve also walked around Derwentwater Lake, walked to the Castlerigg stone circle, hiked up a few mountains I still don’t know the names of and even climbed to the top of one that featured some snow (snoW?sNoW?! SNOW!!!)
There is another Workaway volunteer here, a girl by the name Clara who is both very German and very funny. In terms of being a great human being, I’d give her a solid 10/10. Together Clara the funny German and I have visited the Beatrix Potter museum in Windemere, roamed around Newcastle, explored Durham and eaten the spiciest Thai food I’ve ever come across in Carlisle. We’ve got plans to do some kayaking and hiking up the Catbells as well.
I’m not entirely sure what sort of audience this is intended for, so just be safe let’s cover all the bases: If you are considering staying at the Derwentwater Independent Hostel: do it! If you want to maybe volunteer here: do it! If you are interested in using Workaway to visit other countries or just explore your own: do it! If you want to maybe come to California and hang out some time: sure, fine, whatever, do it! But if you live in the Lake District at the moment: don’t ever leave, not even for a second, because I can promise you that this ridiculous combination of rolling hills, waterfalls and friendly people you’ve got going on is nonexistent in any and all other parts of the world.'
We’re looking forward to having a music night at the hostel with local band, Sycamore Sykes onstarting at . They’ll be playing an original contemporary folk set with some blues, country and old time music too.
The wonderful Alhambra Cinema in Keswick is celebrating its 100th birthday this January and has teamed up with the Keswick Film Festival to show the 10 best films from 10 decades – for FREE. The 15th Keswick Film Festival takes place http://www.keswickfilmclub.
In March Keswick hosts the Words by the Water Festival of Words and Ideas from http://www.wayswithwords.
There are many other Festivals and Sporting Events happening locally this year, including the Jennings Rivers Ride on http://www.keswick.org/whats-