March 2014

Our new website
Over the past year we have been working on a new website so that we can bring you more photos, an online booking system, and lots of information and ideas for schools, universities, and youth groups. Read more...

Welcome to our new website

We were very fond of our previous site, built so quickly by school boy Sam Snyder in 2011, but Sam has now surpassed himself by coding a more advanced site and building a content management system, allowing us to change the content independently. Sam is only 17 but his knowledge and skills extend far beyond A Level Computer Studies!

A brief look at the new things on our website:

  1. An online booking system. Groups still need to contact us directly though.
  2. Pages about our historythe groundsour charity, and things to do in the local area.
  3. 360u00ba Education + Adventure. This section provides information and ideas for school, university and youth groups.

The development of the new website has been a great team effort. There were many contributions by hostel staff, volunteers, and trustees, and Lisa Bamford, a great designer at Stoats and Weasels, helped to refine and guide our ideas, producing the final design for Sam to code. We are also really grateful to Rebecca Laff, Geoff Williams, Laura Zill, the Snyder family, Fiona McCarthy, Katy Moore, Kathy Morris, Dave Piercy, and Keswick Tourism Association for their fantastic photographs. Thank you to everyone involved.

With our whizzy new content management system we can edit things very easily, so please let us know if you have any particular requests for the site. We definitely welcome feedback. In the meantime, we hope you enjoy exploring the new site.

Seaham School GCSE Geography and team-building
We thought a year had gone by very quickly when our regular July visitors moved their GCSE Geography residential to March! Seaham School have been visiting us for over 10 years and we were delighted to see them in March for the first time: it gave us a great start to the main school group season. Read more...

This month we had a visit from a group of Year 10 Seaham School GCSE Geography students from the North East of England. Seaham School, who have been visiting us for over 10 years, usually come in July, but the teachers have decided that it is better to get the coursework done earlier in the year. As the success of their activities testifies, the March visit seems to have been a good decision!

The students were here to work on their Controlled Assessment Unit, for which they were studying Tourism in the Lake District, and to look at River Studies, bringing their classroom learning to life.

The group also took part in team-building outdoor activities such as Ghyll Scrambling and Raft Building.  Many of the students were nervous, but they cheered each other on, and their confidence increased dramatically. Ghyll Scrambling seems to have been the general favourite, even though the water was freezing!

The Seaham teachers emphasised the importance of residential trips for their pupils, from the value of learning outside the classroom, to the opportunity for students to stay away from home without their parents for the first time. A trip such as this, even within a half-day drive from home, broadens their horizons, with the students gaining many new experiences. They even recorded the educational value of the trip with a scoring system, each day asking for a score out of 10 to the question ‘how important is this field trip to your studies?’ The scores simply got higher and higher throughout the week.

The students themselves told us what they thought of the trip:

'The trip has helped me learn things I would never have learnt in the classroom.  It was an amazing trip.' Yasmin Brown.

'I like the hostel as they let us have our own space and I enjoyed meeting new people.  Overall the trip was amazing.' Hannah Jobling.

'The trip has pushed me way out of my comfort zone.  The water sports were challenging but I loved every moment of it!  I wish I could come back again!' Eleanor Weir.

We really enjoyed having Seaham School to stay with us.  As always, the teachers were friendly and chatty, and the students were very well behaved.  Their visit has given us a great start to the main school season.

Expedition Medicine training in the Lake District
This month we hosted another successful Expedition Medicine training course. But what exactly is Expedition Medicine and how did the courses start? Read more...

Expedition Medicine courses have been running for over a decade.  The idea was born as a result of a fireside conversation between a group of expedition leaders and medics resting after a day's trekking in the Namib Desert.  The first courses were just in the UK, but they soon expanded to include courses specialising in polar, jungle, marine and conservation medicine in a range of countries including Norway, New Zealand, Nepal, Costa Rica and Namibia: see for more details.

The quality of the training provided on the courses is attracting more and more clients from all over the world and of the 59 participants on the course at Derwentwater in March some flew in from   Australia, Canada, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and Jersey.  This 4 day course is one of the highlights of the year for the hostel staff for many reasons:  seeing the great impression the Lake District makes on overseas visitors is one of them.  We are delighted to be one of 3 centres in the UK used for the courses. 

Expedition Medicine is an action packed programme for the course participants, with their time spent between classroom sessions and practical skills sessions outside.  You can see from the photo that it is a lot of fun at times, and we get a strong sense of camaraderie, enthusiasm and appreciation of the course from the participants. 

The most important role for the hostel staff is to keep everyone well fed, so that the participants and leaders have enough energy for the demanding programme.  We were really pleased to get the following feedback from Shelley at Expedition Medicine:  'Client feedback for the hostel has without exception been fantastic.  Everyone was delighted with the quality of the food and the friendliness of the service…and of course, the cake.  Many are still emailing me about their withdrawal symptoms!'  As a first timer on the course here, Shelley also reported:  'I was delighted in the venue.  It is a priceless location – you’d pay a fortune to stay somewhere with similar access in the Italian Lakes, and look what we have in beautiful Blighty!'

The Great Danes
We have a big thank you to say to our two most recent Workaway volunteers, Mette and Anna, from Denmark. They have been truly great! Read more...

In early March, about 1115 years after Vikings started to settle in Borrowdale, two more Scandinavians arrived in the valley, introducing infectious laughter and delicious Danish liquorice to Derwentwater Independent Hostel: welcome to Mette and Anna, our two Workaway volunteers from Denmark!

Mette (23) and Anna (18) are on gap years between school and university/vocational training and they both heard about Workaway volunteering through their friends, with Mette being given the extra recommendation that the Lake District was one of the most beautiful parts of England. So far so good. Both Anna and Mette enjoyed English as their favourite subject at school and we have been very impressed by their rapid improvements in speaking and understanding, with Mette taking particular delight in learning the meaning of the word picturesque.

Mette also said that she loves the concept of having a real life in Borrowdale, allowing her to feel just like a normal resident. So what is this real life like?! Mette and Anna have been living in the staff house in Keswick, cycling to and from the hostel each day, and they have been a great help, particularly with the Expedition Medicine group, two weddings, and several pub quiz questions.

Mette and Anna have been in awe of the mountainous scenery, but they have also been inspired by the friendliness and openness of the people they have met in England. Apparently lots of Danish people are very reserved and so Mette and Anna want to be more open and talkative to friends, family, and strangers when they return home. They also love Fawlty Towers: hopefully we compare favourably to Basil Fawlty and his style of hospitality!

We have been particularly interested to hear about the Folk High Schools in Denmark. Anna attended one of these schools for 24 weeks (they are programmes for non-formal education for young people) and her programme included an international residential to Spain. Perhaps we could host a Folk School residential too? Anna is on the case!

Anna will be with us for a couple more months so we look forward to sharing more of her experiences with you. However, on 4th April we will say goodbye (farvel) to Mette. She will be travelling to Scotland and Barcelona before returning to Denmark to pursue her ambition to be a speech therapist. Thank you and best wishes Mette!

Emma and Ben and their merry March wedding
Our first wedding of the year was inspirational. Emma and Ben included all of their family and friends in decorating the hostel and conducted their own ceremony by the waterfall. Congratulations to the new couple! Read more...

In mid-March, the hostel was the venue for the wedding celebrations of Emma and Ben.  It was a wonderful occasion and we asked the bride and groom to tell us how and why they chose our hostel. 

'When we started planning our wedding we knew we wanted to do something a bit different. A couple of friends had previously married in a hostel and said how much fun it was to have everyone staying with them; we thought we might like to do the same for ours. We looked for hostels that had hosted weddings before and found 3 or 4 we wanted to visit. They were all around the country and we honestly thought the Lake District would be too far for our predominantly London-based friends to travel.

However, when we arrived at Barrow House we realised there was nowhere else in the country like the Lake District. We were still unsure but when we found out there was a 3 hour train direct from London we realised the distance was not a problem at all and the decision was made. It was equally as easy for our overseas friends who came far and wide – from China, Mexico, Abu Dhabi, America, Australia, Russia and Italy.  Everyone, particularly the overseas contingent, loved the rural countryside setting and enjoyed exploring a new part of the UK, and many turned it into a long weekend or even a week-long break.

We wanted an original day to reflect us as a couple rather than a standard 'cookie cutter' wedding – Kathy and her team couldn't do enough to help us and we were free to plan the weekend exactly as we wanted. The fact that Barrow House wasn't registered for marriages was a blessing in disguise: we did the legal bit in our local town hall the week before and were then free to do the ceremony as we wanted – outside in wellies with a close friend of ours conducting the service!

We would strongly recommend a do-it-yourself wedding to anyone who wants to do a wedding on a budget or who just wants to do something a bit different. We had lots of people join us the night before and having a few drinks and decorating the hostel brought people together and extended the festivities. The hostel really felt like it was our home for the weekend and it felt incredibly intimate and relaxed. Having the whole weekend allowed us to spend time with each one of our guests.

All our friends and family commented on what a personal event it was and many were surprised by how easy the train journey was. The service that Kathy and the team provided was excellent in every respect – even getting in early on the Sunday morning to clear up for us before breakfast.

Derwentwater now feels like such a special place to us and we will definitely be coming back in the future.'

Thanks Emma and Ben and many congratulations on your marriage.  We’ve also had special wedding anniversary parties at the hostel by the way!

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.
© 2013 Derwentwater Independent Hostel. All rights reserved. Registered charity: 1145368