March 2013

We can now see the wood from the trees
The Conservation Volunteers work hard in our grounds.

On the 17th March a group of volunteers from TCV (The Conservation Volunteers) arrived at the hostel for a four-day task, working in the hostel grounds. Here's a leader's account of their visit: 'Led by Londoner Giles Green and the suspiciously non-Cumbrian sounding Steve Willmott from Kendal, the group started work the next day by attacking the overgrown rhododendri and laurel which has been crowding the lower grounds for many years.  By mid-morning smoke could be seen rising and soon their bonfire produced a fierce column of flame that could have done for the 5th of November.

With thirteen in the group, the leaders could delegate other tasks, as many of the volunteers have previous experience or who work whilst at home with their local Conservation Volunteers. With timber bought locally, Giles and Duncan Macgregor from Edinburgh struggled up the waterfall stairs and set about replacing part of the safety rails which had been swept away by a falling tree during the hurricane last year. Lower down, the path had been eroded into a narrow gully by water overflow and another pair, Helena Perez from Holland  and Deborah Cavanagh from Stockport began the arduous and technical work of stone-pitching, which involves burying stones to produce steps in the path, which can then be filled behind to produce a firm level for pedestrian traffic. At the end of two days the fire site could be seen burning long after dark and by the following morning a wider vista had opened up, allowing the lake to be seen between the trees, a sight that has not been possible for many years at Barrow House.

On Wednesday, the group took the day off (a well deserved one – Editor) and with snow visible on all the fells and more promised, they nevertheless set off up to Ashness Bridge and from there to Castlerigg Stone Circle; some by the straight route and another group of optimists going via High Seat. The latter were able to watch the elements do their worst to North; South; East and West, while enjoying a pleasant stroll in the snow themselves.  TCV run numerous holiday tasks of this sort, both nationally and abroad and as well as being worthy conservation work, they are also excellent value for money and if this group is anything to go by; immensely enjoyable as well.'

We want to extend a huge thank you to the dedicated bunch of volunteers and leaders who worked incredibly hard and achieved such a lot during their working holiday at the hostel.  You will see the difference when you next visit the hostel. If any of you want to find out more about TCV here’s a link to their website:

Expedition Medicine training courses
Doctors and nurses from all over the country come to learn new skills on the Expedition Medicine training course. Read about their exciting week at the hostel. Read more...

What do Namibia, Costa Rica, Maldives, Nepal, New Zealand and the Lake District have in common you may wonder? Well, we are all bases for Expedition Medicine Courses in 2013.   We were delighted to welcome back the Expedition Medicine Team to Derwentwater in March, for a 4 day course.  The course participants have an action packed few days with lectures on a huge range of specialist topics including expedition dentistry, Hot Weather Medicine and  Cold Weather Medicine (the  Lake District weather obliged with some arctic conditions to set the scene for the latter).  They also have a lot of outdoor practical sessions involving rope work and navigation, culminating with a large scale mountain rescue exercise on the last morning. 

The programme is very intense and every evening there are lectures from guest speakers.  The participants are busy from breakfast to bed time so the only way to fit in a run or a cycle was to set the alarm for 6.00 am!  Every morning a group set off with our volunteer Katy for a pre-breakfast run around the lake or a tour of the Bowder Stone and Lodore Falls and one morning a hardy few had a dip in the Lake – the day time temperature was struggling to get above freezing!

The hostel staff particularly enjoy working  during this course. There’s always a great atmosphere and enthusiasm in the air and excitement at the prospect of some amazing expeditions.  To find out more about the courses here’s a link

The best laid plans for Spring triathlon training...
Knutsford Triathlon Club contended with some unexpected snow.

A few months ago, we had an enquiry from a triathlon club looking for a venue for a spring training camp for their members.  The weekend was carefully chosen and the organisers came for a pre-visit to plan their training weekend of  swimming in the lake, cycling around the passes and some road runs.  We all remembered the amazing heatwave we’d enjoyed the same weekend in 2012.  What a difference this year!  Here’s the story of the Triathlete’s visit to Derwentwater on 22 March this year.

'As a club we decided it was time for a full weekend away to get in some 'fun' training. After looking at various hostels in the Lake District we decided on Derwentwater, with it's fabulous location for each discipline in triathlon. A morning's swim was planned 100 metres from the front doors, plenty of quiet hilly roads to ride along, finishing off with a trail run around the lake.

However the weather decided on plan B, the snow and ice postponed the swim and ride for later in the year. And instead a group of 14 of us ventured out on a 20 mile run instead! Followed by a well- deserved meal and (a few beers).The following day still had plenty of snow and, as we had already run around the lake, we decided on running up hills instead. The hostel has a perfect view of the 'Catbells'  fell - and after looking at it all weekend, we decided to run up it!  Temperatures reached -25 with wind chill at the top.

Even though the weather wasn't quite what we had planned this didn't deter our spirits and as a club we had a fantastic weekend. The hostel was well equipped and easily coped with the testing weather conditions. The staff were always ready to help and the cooked breakfast was enjoyed by all! It's already in the diary for next year... however we will also be booking sunshine for next time!'

It was great to have Knutsford Triathlon Club staying with us and see the value of a club get together.  They’re a well-established, active club which is going from strength to strength. 10 members have successfully qualified to represent Great Britain at the European Duathlon Championships in Horst in the Netherlands.  Good luck to all.

A chance to learn about the geography of the Lake District
A new book by our frequent visitor Peter Wilson. Read more...

One of our frequent visitors, Peter Wilson, has made the Hostel and our guests a very good offer.  Peter stays at the hostel while he undertakes fieldwork relating to the physical landscape of the Lake District.  Peter, a Lancastrian, is a geomorphologist based at the University of Ulster in Coleraine and for several years has been documenting the landforms associated with glaciation and other processes that have shaped and continue to shape the landscape.

In 2010 his book Lake District Mountain Landforms was published and can now be purchased at the Hostel at a special discounted price of 15 pounds, with 5 pounds of the purchase price going towards Hostel funds.  The 224-page book is in hardback and full colour.  The book is not an academic text nor is it a guide book.  Rather it provides enthusiastic Lake District visitors, particularly those who go fell walking, with explanations of how and when the landscape was created.  It will also be of value to teachers and students of geography who visit the Lake District for field study courses.  It’s a wonderful book which we think will be of interest to many of our guests.  Here is a selection of reviews: 

‘a remarkably lucid book’ (Books Cumbria website).

‘a comprehensive and highly attractive coverage’ (Conserving Lakeland magazine).

‘an excellent guide to the landforms of the Lake District’ (Earth Heritage magazine).

‘a beautiful, well-crafted book’ (Geography magazine).

‘will become a treasured piece of Lakeland literature’ (Online Fellwalking Club).

Please ask to see a copy at Reception.

Time out for our hostel staff
Tales from the winter travels of Fiona and Nicola. Read more...

We thought you might like to hear about the travels of 2 of our staff over the winter. 
First of all here’s a report from Nicola on her 3 month ‘sabbatical’.

'After working at Barrow House for nearly 7 years all year round, and watching the seasonal staff go off to far- flung places every winter, I decided it was my turn.  I took a 3 month sabbatical to go off travelling.   First of all I wanted a summer, so I headed down to the Southern Ocean and the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia.  I flew in and out of Melbourne, but I mainly spent my time on the coast with a side trip to the Grampian Mountains.  I don’t travel very fast, so although most people travel the length of the Great Ocean Road in a couple of days at most, I spent about 5 weeks there, camping and hostelling at different places.  I completed the Great Ocean Walk as well, about 65 miles over 5 days, staying at remote campsites with just a compost loo and a rainwater tank.  The scenery was stunning, though, and there were lots of wildlife: A tiger snake, echidnas, kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, seals and many different kinds of birds, such as parrots and pelicans.

Next was a short trip back to England to visit my family for Christmas and New Year, and then it was off to Norway for a few weeks.  I managed to cover a fair distance, visiting the main cities of Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim, all of which looked lovely in the snowy winter weather.  My last couple of weeks were spent aboard the Hurtigruten ferry, which runs every day of the year up the west coast of the country into the Arctic and back.  I managed to make it to the Arctic Circle and was treated to a showing of the Northern Lights.

After all that travelling, it was definitely good to be back home in Keswick, and back at work.'    It’s brilliant to have you back Nicola!

Travel tales part two
Now for the adventures of Fiona...

'I had such an amazing three and a half months away that I could almost write a book about my many adventures and experiences!  But so I don’t take up too much space in this newsletter I will content myself with picking out a couple of highlights instead.

Christmas was extremely memorable for all the right reasons.  I had picked a small backpacker’s hostel which promised a very relaxed and chilled out atmosphere in beautiful surroundings on Golden Bay, near Farewell Spit, which is at the North Western tip of the South Island. I was given a very warm welcome from the moment I arrived in the kitchen to find the manager, Dalia, cooking up a wonderful feast for Christmas day.  The plan was that all the guests would provide one dish each to accompany Dalia’s creations.  The hostel was filled with guests from all over the world – from the Philippines to Venezuela and Mexico, Uzbekistan to Japan and a good representation of places in between – so the dishes were as diverse and multinational as the people. I got on particularly well with Andrea from Germany and James from the USA and I spent a lovely Christmas Day with Andrea exploring the beaches and seal watching. We returned for the Christmas feast, which was served outside on the verandah on a lovely warm, sultry evening and the celebrations began in earnest. It evolved into an impromptu party where I found myself Salsa-ing with Eduardo from Mexico, Jitterbugging with James and boogying with Andrea and girls from Poland, Japan and Israel! It was a very different Christmas from the ones at home, but it was a wonderful, fun time and I found a new friend in Andrea, who I plan to visit this Summer.

The other standout memory is the three day catamaran sailing trip around the Marlborough Sounds in early February. The weather was phenomenal, with perfect sailing conditions and sunshine all the way. The first day was spent getting our sea-legs and getting to know each other, with Martin the Kiwi captain cooking us dinner in the evening after swimming and kayaking.  But the next day we were expected to catch and cook our own meals! We started off by fishing for blue cod, then dredged for scallops and finally, gathered green-lipped mussels.  Fishing is a whole new experience for me and I was impressed at how the cod seemed to be queuing up to get on the line!  We had the cod for lunch, cooked to perfection by Thomas, a trainee chef.  I have never eaten such fresh fish before – from my rod to the plate in a couple of hours! The shellfish were made into a fisherman’s pie for dinner later that day. The final day was spent gently drifting through the beautiful Marlborough Sounds with a break for a lovely bush walk followed by a swim in a jade-green bay. The rest of the day was spent lazily on deck or wrestling for our turn in the hammock... All good things come to an end, and this was not only the end of my sailing adventure but also the end of my trip to New Zealand. I was very sad to leave New Zealand but I left having made new friends and with so many wonderful, happy memories which will stay with me forever.' Thanks for sharing these highlights with us Fiona. 

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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