May 2015

Welcome to the May newsletter
Confetti, blossom, and school groups!

The last scatterings of cherry blossom and confetti are swirling off the terrace and the snow has melted from the fells. Our school groups have really made the most of these seasonal changes: Classrooms in the Forest helped the Westfield children to learn about seasonal foraging, plant life, and bird migration, while Allonby Primary School observed the vibrant new tree canopy from above, walking over Falcon Crag and around Cat Gill. We hope you are enjoying some interesting seasonal changes too.

Highlights from Heleni
Thank you to Heleni, a great volunteer from Belgium. We waved her au revoir at the end of May. Read more...

We have just said goodbye to Heleni, a Marketing student from Belgium, and we would like to thank her for all her hard work and bright smiles. Here is a little interview we did with Heleni at the end of her two month volunteering placement:

1. Why did you come to Derwentwater?

For my studies I had to do a work placement to improve my English. I didn’t have a contact in England and so I subscribed to the Workaway website and found several possibilities. But I wanted to go to a place where Belgian people don't usually go and so I took the opportunity at Derwentwater Independent Hostel. Furthermore, in my English books I had heard about the Lake District and I wanted to see with my own eyes this beautiful part of England. In Belgium I live in the city and so it was a good experience for me to discover the countryside. And it was my first time in England and I didn’t want to go to the big cities that I can go to easily from Belgium.

2. What have you been doing here?

I lived in the staff house in Keswick and so I took the boat to the hostel every day. I really enjoyed it and it is not the usual means of transport in Belgium. When I said to my family and my friends that I took the boat to work they were very surprised. The boat was relaxing and the view amazing. After a few weeks, the boat drivers recognised me: they are very friendly.

In the hostel I worked 5 hours per day, with 2 days off per week: it is not hard. Kathy and Dave were very flexible with the hours of work: for me they adapted it with the boat. The members of the staff are very friendly. It was a pleasure to work with them.

In the hostel I did different things: the rooms, gardening, cleaning, several tasks in the kitchen. I even made cakes for the guests, painted a bunch, and helped Katy (one of the staff) with the activities for several school groups. It was a good experience for me and I really liked to take care with the children. The tasks were very varied: we never do the same things all the time.

3. Can you share some experiences from your placement?

The first day I arrived, it was my first time in England and I knew nobody so I was very stressed. But all the people are very friendly and patient with my English.

I was very surprised at the view from the hostel: its another world compared to where I live in Belgium. The views from the hostel and from Keswick were my favourite. It was very calming. And with the sunset it was magic. It never gets old. Behind the hostel there is a waterfall: when it’s raining a lot it’s very surprising.

I went to the Castlerigg Stone Circle. I have seen pictures on internet but in the reality it’s impressive. It was cloudy when I went and the atmosphere was mysterious and the view amazing. For a little town (Keswick) there are a lot of things to explore.

I went to other parts of the Lake District in Ambleside. But the view is not so surprising as Derwentwater. I don’t regret my choice to go here, I met exceptional people, wonderful places. I really recommend to people to discover this part of the Lake District.

Thank you Heleni!

Westfield Primary School
The pupils from Westfield had a great time exploring our grounds with Classrooms in the Forest, and some of them spent an afternoon being Vikings with Plattyplus too! Read more...

On 4th May, all of the Year 3 and 4 pupils from Westfield Primary School (Workington) came to stay at Derwentwater Independent Hostel for a one night residential, generously subsidised by the Hadfield Trust.

The Hadfield Trust grant enabled the pupils to learn and explore outside the classroom with local experts in their field, including John and Sarah Platt of Plattyplus, and Barbara Thompson and Phil Cheesley of Classrooms in the Forest.

The Year 3 pupils focused on Plants and the Environment, making the most of the hostel grounds with Phil, while the Year 4 pupils focused on Vikings, walking down to Plattyplus at Lodore for an afternoon of Viking activities. Unfortunately it was too wet and windy to take the longboat out on the lake or make an open fire, but the pupils still enjoyed a wide range of activities, from shield design to wheat grinding.

On the second day the Year 3 pupils continued their activities with Phil, while the Year 4 pupils did an exciting Early Settlers session with Barbara, based in the hostel and grounds. Barbara helped the pupils to forage for nuts and seeds, and they made the most of the short season for pignuts, digging up a good crop in the meadow. They also made natural dyes (lots of turmeric involved!) and used this to dye Herdwick sheep’s wool. Then they fried tiddlers from the lake, tried on different types of clothing and animal skins, and looked at uses for different plants and natural materials.

In the evening the pupils wrote postcards to their friends and family, and it was good to see the wide benefits of a residential, beyond the outdoor activities:
‘Today I learnt how to make a bed, table manners, and being patient. I walked up a hill and it was not far until we got to see an enormous waterfall. It was lovely.’ Jessie Grace Johnston.

Thank you to the Hadfield Trust for making possible these formative residential experiences.

Education and Adventure with Allonby Primary School
The pupils from Allonby Primary School made a great mountain rescue team. They even carried their teacher across the grounds on a stretcher! Read more...

We had a really exciting two days with the Year 3 to 6 pupils from Allonby Primary School. Our theme was Emergencies and we made a great mountain rescue team!

Allonby Primary School (West Cumbria) is very small (22 pupils in total) and so it was interesting to work with a variety of ages and abilities. We are also very grateful to the Quarry Hill Grassroots Grant Fund which subsidised the residential and made it affordable for everyone.

Our theme was really brought to life with a visit from Mick Guy and Martin Bell, both dog handlers with Keswick Mountain Rescue Team (KMRT) and the Lake District Search and Rescue Dog Association. Just as we had finished our introductory session (types of emergencies, different weather conditions and associated hazards, precautions, voluntary rescue services, and the different roles in a mountain rescue team) we saw blue flashing lights, accompanied by a whining siren: our mountain rescue team was complete!

We ran outside to greet Mick and Martin and their dogs Ginny and Isla, and then we had a go at unpacking the KMRT vehicle, looking at the different rucksacks and stretchers. Then the pupils tried a search and rescue exercise: one of the teachers hid in the grounds and, once search dog Ginny had found her, the pupils splinted her leg, helped her on to the stretcher, and carried her back to the hostel. The session ended with lots of good questions, and everyone had a go at sitting in the driving seat of the 4x4. We all learnt so much - thank you to Mick, Martin, Ginny and Isla, particularly as they had been on a big search for two missing walkers on Scafell Pike the night before!

In the afternoon we played 'Pass the Rucksack' to learn about how to prepare for a mountain walk, and then we set off for our own walk, up to Ashness Bridge and Falcon Crag, and down Cat Gill to the lake shore. At several points we stopped to discuss different mountain rescue scenarios, some of which had actually happened in those locations (the mountain rescue incident data is available at and in the KMRT annual report booklet), and the pupils demonstrated a keen respect for the challenging nature of our walking environment.

In the evening the pupils wrote thank you postcards to KMRT and played in the grounds, and the following morning they went ghyll scrambling with Glaramara Activity Centre.

We were delighted to read this report from the Allonby Head Teacher, David Owen: 'The KS2 children had a fantastic experience at Derwentwater Hostel this week. The first day was based around the theme of Emergencies and they were able to appreciate the work of the Mountain Rescue Team. Perhaps the highlight given the children’s glowing reports upon return was the Ghyll Scrambling on Wednesday. This presented quite a challenge to the children, who rose to it admirably. I believe that this sense of challenge is what lies at the heart of a residential and it provides an opportunity for the children to discover new things about themselves.'

Round the world to a Derwent Water wedding!
Keen long distance sailors, Clare and James, held their Antarctica-themed wedding party at the hostel. Read more...

On the weekend of 16th May Clare and James held their wedding celebrations at the hostel.

Their guests embraced our bunkbed accommodation: after all, about 60 of them are used to much closer quarters, having sailed to Antarctica with Clare and James, spending weeks in narrow bunks that appear to go up and down!

In 2013 Clare and James organised a 22 000 mile sailing trip (more about that here: and it was in Antarctica that James proposed to Clare, witnessed by a penguin. Clare then got down to planning the wedding on the return journey, with the help of a wedding magazine bought in Rio de Janeiro. Little did we know when we received Clare’s first email enquiry that she was sailing on the other side of the world! Clare did have a link with us though, having stayed here as a child with her family on an Art Weekend in the 1990s.

Clare and James transferred their superb sailing organisational skills to a very special wedding party, including a meal for 180 friends and family (with the main course cooked by the groom),  followed by a ceilidh with Lake District band Striding Edge. Clare even managed to organise a dry and sunny Saturday for their wedding celebrations, when most of the UK had rain!

James is Scottish and it was great to see so many of his family and friends wearing kilts. It was the first time our Belguim volunteer, Heleni, had seen anyone wearing a kilt!

Congratulations to James and Clare: we were delighted to be the venue for your wedding celebrations.

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