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"As always, it has been a pleasure using the hostel."

Ben Keen, The Adventure Element director and outdoor instructor, April 2017

March 2019

Spring has sprung...well, sort of.
It feels like we've been through all four seasons in a fortnight, but there are some definite signs of spring. Read more...

The Spring Snowflakes are bursting into flower and brightening up the woodland... The Spring Usher moths have landed on the windowpanes, drawn hither by the hostel lighting... A load of other things that don't necessarily have the word "Spring" in their names, but which we do nevertheless associate with that particular season, have started to appear. Flowering daffodils and gambolling lambs. Stuff like that, you know. Anyway, by the time February was underway this year it was already seeming like the poor Winter had given up and gone home, crushed and crestfallen. However, no sooner had we all donned our swimming costumes and prepared to head to the beach, than something resembling Winter reappeared again in early March to give us all a big, rainy, gale force kick in the teeth. 
Over the last couple of months staff members have been noticing a good variety of wildlife in the hostel grounds and the surrounding area. Red Squirrels are regularly seen in the woods and frequently visit our bird feeders. There have also been a couple of sightings of Otters in the lake and a Stoat very close to the building. Red Deer have been gathering on the lawn by moonlight and Roe Deer roaming the woods by day.
The outside world is noticeably noisier now. The birds are beginning to awaken us slightly earlier than we'd really like to be awoken each morning. Great Spotted Woodpeckers are hammering away at the trees. The sweet song of the Dipper can be heard harmonising with the rush of the river. The fells are erupting with the twitterings of Skylarks. The local pair of raucous "peep-peep!"-ing Oystercatchers have also reclaimed their usual territory on the lake shore.
Pools full of mating frogs can sometimes be heard before they are seen - and the sound of a full-throttle frog orgy is a sound seldom forgotten. You might hear this in Ings Wood, on the path between the hostel and Keswick. However, Common Frogs often make dangerous road crossings en-route to their breeding grounds, so take care if you are driving or cycling. Nicola saved 5 frogs on her cycle home to Keswick the other evening!
On a quieter note, Moths are softly beginning to emerge again. Species that we've seen recently have included the Oak Beauty, Early Grey, March Moth and Dotted Border. We've also seen one or two Red Admiral butterflies fluttering over the fellsides whilst out walking.
We're very lucky to be surrounded by so many fascinating plants and animals, and after the warm Winter giving rise to creatures emerging earlier than usual it looks like 2019 is going to be another interesting year for observing them. The increasingly unpredictable weather due to climate change is worrying though as Spring has become a very challenging time for Britain's already vulnerable wildlife.

By Alex Helliwell, Hostel assistant. The photo shows two Oystercatchers on Derwent Water lakeshore.

The hydro-electric plant is back up and whirring.
We can take advantage of the rain again!

It's taken a while, but we are delighted to announce that the hydro-electric plant, which was damaged by Storm Desmond in December 2015, is fully functional again. In addition to the repairs, we had to update the scheme, to meet Environment Agency requirements, and there have been some improvements to the turbine technology. The turbine has been working really well so far, generating approximately 30% of our electricity. 
 The dam and intake were repaired over a year ago, but on trying to recommission the turbine we found that a lot of parts had seized up due to inactivity. So we took the decision to commission a major overhaul, carried out by Miles Postlethwaite of Border Hydro, which involved replacing many of the internal moving parts, all of which were re-engineered from scratch by Miles.

Now the hydro is generating up to 5 kilowatts in times of high flow, and still achieving 3 kilowatts in low flow conditions. If it continues at this rate we hope to generate 35,000 kwh in a year, which will be about 30% of the hostel’s electricity consumption: well worth the investment. You can read about the history of the hostel hydro-scheme here: 

Ullscarf, a much under-rated hill
Here's an excellent walk suggestion from Tim, the hostel manager. Read more...

A local walk suggestion by Tim, hostel manager.
Ullscarf is one of our favourite fells, sitting peacefully in the centre of the Lake District, and there are many ways to approach it. The route described here starts from Watendlath, an ancient farming hamlet 3 miles from the hostel.
 Watendlath lies at the end of the road beyond Ashness Bridge and Surprise View, and now has a National Trust car park and toilets, and a cafu00e9 with unpredictable opening hours. It is about a 10 minute drive from the hostel, or a 3.5 mile walk. A circular walk of great interest can be had by climbing the slopes above the Watendlath carpark, as if heading for High Tove, but turning south as the gradient eases and heading across the open fell on a faint path towards Blea Tarn, and eventually to Standing Crag, which looks far bigger than it actually is, standing as it does against the expansive moorland. The photo above shows the view of Blea Tarn from Standing Crag.

Once over Standing Crag it's a gently rising kilometre to the summit of Ullscarf with views of the Helvellyn Range to the east and ever expanding views of the higher Borrowdale fells ahead. Returning via High Saddle and Coldbarrow Fell brings you to Dock Tarn, a small, rarely visited, but delightful spot (there's a photograph of it in the hostel servery), and onwards back to Watendlath.

This is not one of Wainwright's favourite fells, and the less-trodden route is unlikely to be found in ‘highlights of Lake District’ guides, but if you like very quiet places, with a sense of wilderness and having to find your own way, then hopefully you'll enjoy the expansive views and solitude of Ullscarf and Coldbarrow Fell.

Neele's volunteering experience
Another wonderful volunteer! Look out for an article by Neele in the next newsletter. Read more...

We've been very fortunate to have had Neele's help over the past month: another wonderful volunteer! Neele is from Germany, where she is doing teacher training, specialising in English and German, and she decided to spend a month with us in order to improve her English (although it seemed perfect to us!) and have a change of scene before her exams. 

Neele smoothed out a lot of the mole hills on the hostel lawn, so if you're playing football in the next few months then hopefully you'll appreciate her work. She also cleaned the front porch windows beautifully, so she's really improved the 'arrival experience'.

Unfortunately we haven't left Neele with such a good legacy, for she spent her last week with a very bad cold. There are lots of good things about living in the Lake District, but unfortunately it doesn't make you immune to colds!


We have two popular souvenirs for sale at the hostel: cuddly red squirrels and the ever-entertaining-and-inspiring Top Wainwright fell-bagging trumps game. Hopefully they'll commemorate enjoyable fell walks, and red squirrels seen in the grounds. 

We also have the new 2019 Independent Hostel Guides in stock, and all the left-over 2018 guides going free! There are so many wonderful independent hostels throughout the UK, and the guide provides a page of information per hostel, in addition to location maps.

Cubs at the hostel
It's great to see local children making the most of the hostel grounds. Read more...

Aukje is a Scouting Association volunteer and she's forged good connections between the hostel and the local packs. In January both packs of Cubs from 1st Keswick Scouts visited the hostel. Pack A and Pack B made a campfire in our fire pit, roasted marshmallows and tried their hand at fire lighting using flint and steel. They also learnt how to put up a tarp to make a shelter in our grounds, and at the end of the evening everyone had hot chocolate. On the Pack B evening the sky was clear enough to look at the stars and the cubs identified some constellations, working towards their Astronomy badge. We hope to have more sessions in the hostel and grounds for scout groups: better top up the marshmallow stocks!

Plantlife: looking out for the small things
Read on for more information about a photography competition. Read more...

The wonderful conservation charity, Plantlife, are running a photography competition called LOST (Looking Out for the Small Things): Beatrix Potter's Vision: A Celebration of the Lake District, which closes on 23rd April. They are keen to get more entries, particularly in the People in Woods category and in the Under 18 age groups. The details are attached here. Perhaps you could enter a photo from your stay in Borrowdale - we look forward to hearing how you get on. 

Plantlife is a British conservation charity working nationally and internationally to save threatened wild flowers, plants and fungi, and they have been running courses and events in Cumbria to help people learn about different habitats and their flora. Aukje recently attended a course about woodland management, with a focus on protecting lichens, bryophytes and rare species, and she received lots of helpful information about the Borrowdale Atlantic woodland in which the hostel is situated. The Plantlife events are free and several are held in Borrowdale: the next one is at the Bowder Stone on 29th May. The website also has many free resources, for identifying wild plants and much more: Discover Wild Plants

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