On the last weekend of April we were all relieved when the sun shone on what proved to be one of the loveliest weddings we have seen. Rachel and Neil, with their friends and families, totally transformed the hostel with vintage chic – we have never seen it look so pretty! Rachel is from Cumbria and wanted a Lakeland setting for their wedding. Rachel tells us why they chose our hostel and how the day went:
'When we were looking for a venue we wanted a beautiful location with space for indoor and outdoor celebrations, and room for people to sleepover instead of having to pay for hotels was really important. However, we didn't want a 'typical' wedding venue with all the limitations and formalities that come with that, instead we wanted a laidback venue with lovely features but with an interior that we could transform with our decorations and really make our own. The hostel was more than perfect for this - the location, building and grounds are absolutely beautiful - and gave us the idea of having our ceremony at the top of the waterfall - and the interior lent itself well to being adorned with tablecloths, flowers, bunting and vintage trinkets! The added bonus of amazing in-house catering and a bar just made it even better! We were completely overwhelmed by the work that our friends and family put in on Friday night to help us decorate - we literally couldn't have done it on our own.
On the day of the wedding we couldn't have been happier - all of the staff were amazingly helpful, the food was delicious, and our guests were well looked after with no fuss - the staff seemed to work by magic! Even the weather was on our side which made the afternoon garden games and bouncy castle all the more fun! Waking up to a lovely cooked breakfast was just what we all needed to finish off the celebrations and minimise some hangovers! We want to say a massive thank you to Kathy, Dave, and all of the staff at the hostel for helping to make our wedding as perfect as it was! We're already thinking about planning our first anniversary party!'
One of their guests said some lovely things about their stay here:
'We had the best weekend! Such a beautiful wedding. Thanks so much for inviting us and introducing us to such a great place! We're definitely going back there again! The staff were so friendly, they even went to find a lamp from their own rooms so our baby could have a nightlight! So sweet!'
It was a really magical day and must be one of the most genuinely relaxed weddings we have experienced, which made it very easy for the staff. Thank you so much for your kind words Rachel, and we would truly love to see you all back for your first anniversary.
You may be wondering what earth I am talking about with this caption, but the photo above may give you a clue! I first bumped into the Fylde Under-15 Rugby Team when I was cleaning by the front door and three of the lads trooped in looking for the way to the toilets. Nothing particularly strange or remarkable about that, except that all three were dressed in onesies (those things which look like babygros for big people) complete with tails and ears... They certainly didn’t look like your typical rugby types, that’s for sure! Steve Worsnip, organiser of the trip, (and also a onesie wearer) explained what it was all about:
'The tour was titled the Onesie Tour, involving casual onesies for travel and relaxation, with a change into very practical onesies as they experienced Ghyll Scrambling with Glaramara and Paintballing at Rookin House Farm.'
Their stay at Derwentwater Youth Hostel was a trip to celebrate the end of a very successful rugby season for the 21 lads and their team coaches, all from Lytham St Annes. As well as the activities done off-site, there was a lot training on our field for the rugby match on Sunday against a team from Carlisle. You may be wondering if the onesies made an appearance for this event, but Steve informed us that:
'Onesies were discarded for the very serious matter of Rugby against a very good side from Carlisle, with Fylde RFU coming out on top with a 29 – 12 victory. Derwentwater Youth Hostel provided a perfect venue, with excellent accommodation which allowed all the boys to share one large room, plus food that absolutely hit the spot. We had a great time, and we are very grateful for your support and hospitality.'
This was certainly a first here at Barrow House – though I think that the somewhat eccentric and whimsical Joseph Pocklington, who built our lovely mansion, would have appreciated the idea of unusual outfits!
We have been very fortunate to have been helped by two volunteers recently. The first is our Brighton Bathing Belle, Katy, whom you may recall reading about when she stayed here last Summer on her swimming trip around the Lake District. The visit had a lasting impact on Katy, and we were thrilled when she contacted us about doing some volunteering. Here is the tale in Katy’s own words:
'When our editor, Fiona, served me breakfast on my first visit to Derwentwater Youth Hostel last August, I never realised that I would return as a volunteer and see the other side of the breakfast counter! Like many other guests, who return to the hostel year after year, I made a personal connection with the house and its staff. I was fascinated by the long history of the house and grounds, as well as its recent survival story, in which the hostel became independent of YHA. I kept in touch and started volunteering in January this year. Since then, the guests, the landscape, the history, the enthusiasm of the staff, the freedom of independence, and the potential for so many more groups and individuals to have incredible educational, adventurous, and invigorating experiences have inspired me with lots of ideas. I am now working on some of these ideas: look out for some themed local walks and online access to the Barrow House archive material soon!'
We have also been lucky enough to have Lise, our Belle Belgian, helping out. She is studying marketing in Belgium and was given a six week placement here because 'Improving my English was the most important thing for me. Then the fact to discover a new country and a new culture was very attracting'. From the word go Lise always joined in with the conversation and within a week it seemed like she had been here ages. She particularly enjoyed the 'team atmosphere and I directly felt comfortable into it'. She also claims that her favourite part of her time here was 'the cryptic crosswords of the staff while the morning break' - even though she couldn’t be persuaded to join in to improve her vocabulary! As well as being an incredibly quick and hard worker, Lise was very effervescent and fun to have around.
Lise made the most of her stay here, doing lots of walking in the area and visiting several cities and socialising with staff. She learnt all sorts of idiom and even dialect words - her favourite new phrase is '…and then the penny dropped' - which she managed to include in her college assignment about Barrow House and Joseph Pocklington! She said she chose Joseph Pocklington 'because he is like an icon in the Lake District and not only for the Hostel but also for the Bowder Stone and the Derwent Isle'.
The difference in her fluency in English at the end of the six weeks is amazing. Kathy, our manager, says 'It was a real pleasure having Lise to volunteer - she was always enthusiastic and I think she was amazing because she had a real have-a-go attitude and took every opportunity to practise and improve her English'.
Lise says she will most miss 'all the team and their kindness but also the amazing landscape'. Lise made a big impact on the staff and we will miss her very much - but we hope she will come back and visit us in the future.
It is now eighteen months since we had a very successful rebirth as an independent hostel after being sold by YHA. But what many people don’t realise is that there is a growing network of independent hostels throughout England and Wales and also in Scotland. There are now 257 independent hostels throughout England and Wales who are all part of Independent Hostels UK (IHUK) and appear all together in the Independent Hostel Guide and on the IHUK website.
This network of Independent hostels is increasingly filling the gap left by YHA by providing affordable accommodation in places of interest, for young and old alike. Derwentwater Youth Hostel is just one of the many hostels which have survived and prospered under private ownership, despite being sold by YHA because they were considered to need too much investment to be viable or profitable businesses.
There is now a substantial group of independent hostels (plus camping barns and bunkhouses) in Cumbria which means that there is all sorts of potential for linking the hostels for a walking or cycling holiday. Being a link in a chain of successful hostels gives more scope for our visitors wanting to explore different areas of Cumbria in one trip. And because each hostel is owned and run independently, there is the sense of individuality and uniqueness which makes visiting each hostel a surprise and a pleasure.
Derwentwater Youth Hostel is featured in a colourful new leaflet produced by IHUK promoting nine of the independent hostels in Cumbria. The new leaflet shows the stunning locations and diverse and interesting buildings that these nine hostels occupy - from our 220 year-old Georgian mansion to the converted Methodist Chapel at Kirkby Stephen. We would never have been able to fund a publicity tool like this independently, so we are really pleased to be included in the leaflet which really enhances and compliments our own marketing efforts.
Being part of this Cumbrian Hostel group, which in turn is part of the IHUK network, is exciting and really creates a sense of belonging. There is close contact with the other hostels and there are plans for monthly meetings and get-togethers to share ideas and happenings. Although independent businesses, we are working together, which is a really positive move for staff and guests alike.
So if you were thinking that with all the recent YHA closures that a hostel-to-hostel trip was going to be impossible, think again! We have copies of the free Cumbrian Independent Hostels leaflet at the hostel, and you can buy the Independent Hostel Guide at our reception. These will give you all the details you need to organise your holiday, or else you can look on the IHUK website. But do make sure you include a stay here at Derwentwater Youth Hostel!
We were really pleased to have a new group to stay with us in April, a group of over 50 year 3 children from Ashfield Junior School, Workington, Cumbria. Year 3 children are in their first year of junior school and aged 7 & 8. Ashfield have a great residential programme for their children and booked a 2 night visit for these pupils for their first school residential. You may be interested to learn that Cumbria is a very large county – in fact it has the second largest county council area in England but has the second lowest county population density – with only 5 towns with more than 20,000 population, including Workington.
Although we’re not far from Workington, it was still a big adventure for the year 3 children to come away for 2 nights. It was a bit too daunting for a few children who joined in for daytime activities only but that’s the beauty of staying in the same county. The Staff from Ashfield were brilliant and made the trip a lot of fun and the children were soon at home here and very confident and happy. They used our grounds to do a variety of activities and spent their last day at Whinlatter Forest before heading home. Next year they will go further afield on their year 4 residential to Scotland.
It was lovely to get feedback from the children and be reminded about what they like and what’s important to this age group.
'Thank you for making us so welcome at Derwentwater Youth Hostel. We all had a fantastic time, my favourite part was eating the British bacon for breakfast.'
Thank you for making us so welcome. Everyone in the Youth Hostel was very friendly and kind. I enjoyed sketching the waterfall and watching the wildlife in the gardens.'
'We all had a great time. I loved the view from my bedroom window, we could see the forest.'
'My favourite meal was breakfast...the sausages were divine.'
'I loved my room and the bed was very comfortable.'
'We loved making dens in the grounds.'
'I'd like to say thank you for the epic time I had at Derwentwater Youth Hostel. Room 4 was a great room.'
'My favourite activity was making a den because we had to climb over logs and stuff!'
So well done to the Year 3 Staff at Ashfield Juniors for successfully introducing these youngsters to school residentials and we’ll really look forward to you bringing another group to stay in 2014.