Hello from snowy Cumbria! We have experienced some chilly winter conditions in recent weeks, but there are plenty of ways to keep warm: you can dress up like a Search and Rescue Team dogsbody, you can run your woolly socks off at Keswick Parkrun, you can spend hours in the cinema at Keswick Film Festival, you can do energetic ice-breaking activities with your fellow group members or... you can go to Uganda! Here we have some great reports from staff and guests, best enjoyed with a hot mug of tea. Oh, and we have beautiful new tiles in our downstairs toilet!
If we see a guest coming into breakfast at 7.30am, dressed in running gear and clutching a barcode, we know we have a Parkrunner in our midst.
Parkrun is a free 5km timed run which takes place all over Britain every Saturday at 9am, and the nearest one to us is Keswick, just 2.5 miles away, situated by the Keswick Leisure Pool car park. The course is out-and-back, along a firm disused railway path, and there are beautiful views of the River Greta. Here is the website: http://www.parkrun.org.uk/keswick/
Everyone has a personal barcode, available to print out when they register for free on the Parkrun website, and this is scanned when they finish, transferring their time and finish position to the Parkrun results spreadsheet. Later that day you get an email with your result.
After the run lots of people go down to Cafu00e9 West, beneath Keswick Museum, and the popular Parkrun special is well worth running for!
Over the past year several of our guests have taken part in Keswick Parkrun, from hardy wedding guests to the Dickson family father-and-son team. There is also usually at least one of our staff members running or helping. So what better way to start the day? You will even have time for a full day on the fells (or a wedding or a lie down and a second breakfast!) afterwards.
The Owen family have visited us a couple of times, and during their latest stay they let slip that Mr Owen (Bruce) had successfully completed the Bob Graham Round on 12th July 2014.
For those of you who don’t know, the Bob Graham Round is named after Robert (Bob) Graham, who owned Barrow House from 1945 to 1961, running it as a guest house. The Round takes inspiration from a challenge that Bob set himself in 1932, aiming to run over 42 different Lake District summits in under 24 hours. Ever since Bob achieved this in 1932, people have tried to beat his time or add in more peaks (or do it in winter or twice on the trot!).
Bruce explains, ‘I cannot exactly remember when I became aware of the Bob Graham Round, or when I started to consider that I might have a crack at it. But once the idea had taken hold it could not be shifted, nor could the notion of doing it before I turned 50.’ Bruce trained very hard and he spent at least 3 months coming up to the Lakes regularly to recce the route. He says, ‘I loved every minute of it, recceing all aspects of the route (twice!), and often in the company of various like-minded friends’.
Bruce’s wife Jo takes up the story: ‘On 12th July 2014 at 6pm Bruce left the steps of the Moot Hall in Keswick to set off on the epic run: 68 miles, 42 peaks and some 28,000 feet of climbing and descending in under 24 hours. Unfortunately the weather was atrocious, and Bruce ran onto the Helvellyn range in the dark with the rain and mist closing in. They reached Dunmail Raise at 2.33am, in heavy rain and thick mist. At 7.49am they completed the ascent of Scafell Pike, with the rain clearing. As the group arrived in Wasdale the sun was at last trying to shine! Leg 4, from Wasdale Head to Honister Pass, was particularly difficult due to the distance and the amount of ascent. The most stressful time was waiting back at Moot Hall - I knew Bruce would complete the challenge but would it be within his personal target of 23 hours? Cheers rattled around as support runner Bev led Bruce up the road and he climbed the stairs to touch the green door, with a total time of 22 hours and 54 minutes.’
Bruce finishes off the tale: ‘What have I learned from the experience? A very great deal about myself, but particularly about friendships. Completing the ‘Bob’ definitely requires patience and a relaxed attitude, a team effort, a little luck, and family support (that I am gratefully blessed with). Job done? Yes…but there are two other such Rounds in Wales and Scotland and numerous other similar challenges: the long distance mountain challenge bug has bitten me.’
Jo adds: ‘Personally I would like to thank everyone that helped – it meant a lot to Bruce and the family.’ Bruce is a member of Altrincham and District Athletic Club and the Pennine Fell Runners, and several of his club mates ran parts of the way with him. His family also helped out, providing lots of porridge! Altogether there were over 20 people helping out in various ways. Some of these had completed the round in previous years, and some would like to do it themselves in the future: there is a great tradition of such reciprocal help. There are many attempts of the Bob Graham Round, but only a small proportion are successful so it is a real achievement for Bruce to complete it. Well done and congratulations from all of us!
In the midst of a month that has seen some really distressing incidents on the fells, the importance of voluntary Search and Rescue Dog Teams has never been more evident.
In preparation for such call-outs, the dogs and their handlers train very hard, admirably assisted by the people who act as dogsbodies.
The SARDA England secretary Ellie Sherwin reports on their 11th visit to Derwentwater:
‘Once again members of the Search and Rescue Dog Association England based their annual assessment course at Derwentwater Independent Hostel. In challenging weather and difficult terrain dogs and handlers had to search the Lake District fells, aiming to find the hardy volunteer bodies who are prepared to lie on the hillside for hours on end.
Over three days, three dogs and their handlers were assessed for inclusion or progression in the elite team of graded SARDA England search dogs. SARDA England operates in regions covered by Mountain Rescue Teams, from Cornwall in the South West to Northumberland in the North East, but to ensure consistent standards are maintained assessors are invited from sister SARDA groups, with assessors from Skye in Scotland and Brecon in South Wales on this occasion.
The successful handlers and dogs were Ian Burley from the Peak District with his collie KT (his second search dog), Andy Colau from the Yorkshire Dales with his collie Belle (his fifth dog), and Nick Shepherd, also from the Peak District, with his German Shepherd Dolly who passed their upgrade second assessment. KT and Belle will now be able to accompany Ian and Andy on searches. Dolly is already a veteran, having successfully found several people in the Peak District.
Ian Speirs from the North East was awarded the Novice Shield for an outstanding performance by a handler training their first search dog.'
The volunteers put in many hours to train their dogs and attend call outs, requiring dedication and very supportive families, and we love having such inspirational people in the hostel. We think the dogs are great too! You can read more about Mountain Rescue and SARDA call-outs here: http://www.sardaengland.org.
On a normal day at Derwentwater Independent Hostel, where I live and work, I usually see a few red squirrels from the dining room window, some Herdwick sheep, and a robin or two. So I really knew I was away from home when I saw some warthogs scamper past my dining table, and a hippo plod towards my hut. I was in the Red Chilli Hostel in Uganda!
In November and December I spent a month in Uganda, visiting some friends and volunteering with an educational charity that I used to work for. During this time I took a little holiday to Murchison National Park, staying at the Red Chilli Hostel just a few hundred metres from the Victoria Nile.
I was a bit nervous of the animal noises that surrounded (and entered) the camp, but I was keen to do some running and so I went with one of the hostel staff, up and down the red earth track to the Nile and back. On the north bank there were a couple of elephants, and I could see lots of hippos in the shallow parts of the channel. Later that day we went on a little boat on the Nile, towards the Murchison Falls, and I saw a crocodile and some beautiful birds. I was really entranced by the multi-coloured Bee-eaters.
The Murchison Falls are quite impressive, but to be honest I think Barrow Cascade and Lodore Falls, particularly when seen in full spate from Derwent Water, are more beautiful. I love the variety of the Lake District landscape, and the freedom to roam and swim almost wherever I wish, but I felt quite out of place in the Ugandan savannah, restricted by the climate and its dangerous animals.
I had a really interesting month but I am very glad to be off the malaria tablets and back where I belong!
P.S I have just found out that 6 years ago Dave (one of our managers) saw several Bee-eaters in Seathwaite, at the head of the Borrowdale Valley. Good old Borrowdale!
Our 2015 building-improvement works have started in earnest! In January Robert Edmondson and Partners tiled the walls of our downstairs toilet and we are really happy with their meticulous workmanship and the colour of the tiles. Look out for more improvements to come!