We would also like to welcome Matthew, Jacqueline and Angela to the hostel staff, Emperor moths and Cuckooflowers to the hostel grounds, and Birra Moretti to the hostel bar.
So far this year we've had three fantastic volunteers, each of whom have written excellent articles. We hope you enjoy reading their stories, as well as the pieces about local walks and wildlife.
Last but not least, we would like to say a very big thank you to Nicola, who left the hostel this month after 13 years of thoughtful, caring and cheerful service. She made many people - guests, staff, volunteers, and suppliers - feel really welcome, and we hope the photo below will be a nice reminder, in addition to the lovely garden she has created around the beck-side of the hostel.
After thirteen years Nicola Leah has decided to leave the hostel to take up a job nearer home in Keswick, without the early starts and late finishes each day. We will all miss Nicola’s enthusiasm, and would like to thank her enormously for all her time and hard work. Her campaigning, and support for Dave and Kathy (former manager), were invaluable in securing the future of the hostel, helping to set up Derwentwater Independent Hostel after the sale by YHA in 2011. If a history of the hostel is ever written, there should definitely be a chapter dedicated to Nicola.
At the same time we welcome Matthew, who joins us on a permanent basis, and Jacqueline and Angela who are both with us for the season. We wish them all well.
I'm Neele, 25, from Rostock, Germany, and I spent 4 weeks as a volunteer at Derwentwater Independent Hostel. Originally, as I'm becoming a teacher for German and English and doing my final exams this summer, I wanted to improve my English, get to know British culture, and take full advantage of active relaxation. However, it turned into so much more than I expected, for which I'm more than thankful. First of all, working at the hostel is a lot of fun, never gets boring, and brings you to work with warm-hearted, open-minded, helpful, environmentally-friendly people.
Work shifts of the staff, and with that my workmates, changed many times, and as the staff come from different areas of Britain, it gave me insights into different accents, local history and regions. There’s also a wide range of things to do as a volunteer at the Hostel, from cleaning, filling the bird feeders, and serving food to guests, to raking molehills or decorating tables with flowers.
If I was asked for the highlight of my volunteer experience, I’d say the Lake District as a whole. The region is more than stunning and gives you the feeling of relaxing vacation the minute you see all those mountains and hills meandering back to back with the lakes. As photography is my main hobby, I really enjoyed the huge amount of amazing photo motifs.
Next to all those beautiful and densely branched trees in Cumbria there are two scenes which I’ll never forget.
One was from the top of Cat Bells, which is superb already but was even more stunning on this occasion, as it started to rain the minute I got to the top, which sounds not too welcoming but as the sun stayed it caused two rainbows over Derwentwater, between which I saw the hostel. That was simply amazing!
The second was on my day trip with Nicola. On a very sunny and warm day we walked from Rosthwaite up Castle Crag to Grange and back to Rosthwaite. The path leads beside beautiful little streams, historical stone bridges and stone walls, and when you arrive on the top of Castle Crag it gives you an amazing view above Derwentwater with its mountains to the side, and as I looked down the other side, I saw all these endless interwoven mountains and the valleys along a river in between. In the valleys the sun was mixed with a bit of mist, and there it was: one of the most picturesque landscapes I’ve ever seen. As we walked, Nicola told me so many interesting facts about the region and its history (e. g. mining, Derwent pencils) but also about the English language (e. g. ‘i before e except after c’) and some British characteristics. That was my favourite day!
My time as a volunteer at Derwentwater Independent Hostel empowered me, both personally and regarding my language skills and I’ll take home with me many experiences, knowledge about the British culture and heart-warming memories. I'm already looking forward to coming back.
People who live in the Lakes already know that they live in one of the most beautiful areas of Great Britain. People who live in the Lakes are already used to reading about how fascinating this place is, how beautiful, how stunning. It is very difficult to find new words because there are these things you get used to after a while.
There are these things you get used to. I realised this again during my recent and fourth stay at Derwentwater Independent Hostel. Let me give you some examples:
How could it happen that I have never heard about Latrigg before? Or haven‘t even recognised it myself during my last three stays at Barrow House? It was just behind Keswick all the time. One reason could be that you can hardly see it from the hostel windows. And ‘people don‘t talk about it very much. They are used to having Latrigg always there’, she said. And it‘s also in the shadow of the majestic mountain Skiddaw.
How could it happen that I spend a whole boat ride on WhatsApp? To go to work by boat is extraordinary. ‘I will boast about it at home’, I said. So the first one or two rides are full of taking photos, staring outside, turning your head around. And then you get used to it: you are just waiting, with your phone in one hand, headphones in your ears, until you arrive at the Jetty.
How can I forgive myself for not being fired up when the new staff member saw her first red squirrel? She’d never seen one before that day. For her it was a wonderful moment and she wanted to share it with us. ‘It made my day’, she said. Of course, I am used to seeing red squirrels nearly every day, even at home. But she isn’t. For me, a new thing was seeing so many pheasants walking on the fields around Keswick.
People just get used to things. But then it is always an incredible feeling to recognise something that you can consciously enjoy, experience, share and learn!
Are there things you never get used to?
People get used to the surroundings, the culture, food, public transport, humour, weather, prices, landscapes, boat rides, squirrels, pheasants, people, the dialects...
After my stay in Keswick I went down to London. I had a conversation with a friend in the underground. We talked about this and that and that he‘s trying to learn German only by Youtube videos. So we talked about this and that in half English and half German. After a while he said, ‘we shouldn‘t speak German if people of the football team come inside. We should talk English then’.
‘But they would anyway recognize that I am from Germany.’
And then he said - and this made me very very very very proud:
‘No, they would think that you are from the North!’
Hey, my name is Max and I was volunteering at this lovely hostel for six weeks. I like to think of myself as a practical guy and I dislike being idle. Therefore, when packing my bag, I took care to include my work shorts.
Now these work shorts aren't just an old pair of shorts that I use whenever I don't want my nice shorts to be beaten up. No, these shorts are specifically made to help me with all kinds of tasks. The first opportunity I had to wear these shorts at the hostel was when I got to fix the hand rail, leading from the hostel terrace to the grounds below.
The shorts have many pockets: some are just like any other pockets on shorts, but some are on the side and there is also something like a sewn-in holster on the right-hand side, all of which helped me to get all the tools I needed from the basement to the stairs leading down the small hill. I stuffed a bag of screws into one side pocket, the cordless drill into the holster, clipped a tape measure to one of the pockets and finally grabbed a saw and the wood for the rails. When I started fixing the rail I planned on keeping the supporting boards. However, I soon realised it was not going to be quite that easy. I had been levering at the old rails and had removed most of the old nails, when I started having trouble with rusted off heads of the nails. They kept getting stuck and, in removing them, I had to damage the board underneath. So I ended up removing the supporting boards and replacing then as well. Once all this was done the rest of the work was easy: just measure out the boards and rails, stagger the seams and attach all of it with weather-proof screws. Cleaning up afterwards was also quick: just stuff everything back in my pockets and throw away the old boards.
The second time the shorts came in handy was for installing the new signboards at the top and bottom of the hostel grounds. The shorts are made of heavy fabric and have triple sewn seams. This allows me to just stuff a couple of hands full of screws into the outside pocket without having to worry about any tears or punctures. Like that I was able to carry all the things I needed for hanging the signs and when I started putting things together I always had a screw at hand.
The final feature on these shorts that helped me in fixing things around the property is the loop for a hammer. When I fixed fences at the very bottom of the grounds and up at the waterfall I just chucked a bunch of screws into my pockets, stuck the hammer (for removing the old nails) in the loop, and put the electric drill in my other pocket. Then I could just shoulder the boards and work all over the grounds quite easily.
Not to imply that these shorts did all the work, but whenever it came to fixing something it was nice to have something reliable to work with.
A couple of colourful non-native species of wildfowl have been seen loitering by the lakeshore in the last month. One was a Red-breasted Goose that could be found trying to hide amongst the flock of feral Barnacle Geese that spend the summer here each year. The other is a splendid looking male Mandarin duck that seems to enjoy lazing around in Barrow Bay at the bottom of the hostel drive. The woods around the hostel are now alive with the songs of summer migrant birds including Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Wood Warbler, Redstart and Pied Flycatcher. The whimsical calls of Cuckoos can also now be heard in the surrounding area.
Speaking of Cuckoos, there are lots of beautiful Cuckooflowers (whose flowering is said to coincide with the arrival of the first Cuckoo) growing on the bank in front of the hostel. They're accompanied by a host of Yellow Pimpernel, Red Campion, Wavy Bittercress and various species of Speedwell (that I'm not really confident enough to name...) growing nearby. Bright blue cones of Bugle, honey-scented rods of Crosswort and elegant white flowers of Meadow Saxifrage, are starting to appear in the meadow ground at the bottom of the drive as well.
Orange Tips seem to have been the most numerous butterfly here so far this year but there are also a few Peacocks and the odd Speckled Wood flying around.
Finally, there have been a couple of very notable species of moth found in the hostel and grounds. The first of these was the nationally scarce Barred Tooth-striped, which was quite hard to spot against the bark of the tree it was resting on. But for people who prefer their insects huge and with pictures of eyes on their wings, the highlight of the last month has to be the female Emperor Moth discovered by Katy and Aukje in the hostel porch one morning. Apparently, once a virgin female Emperor Moth has found a place to settle she'll begin emitting pheromones which can attract a multitude of males (which are smaller and more brightly coloured than the female). Particularly large numbers of males can gather if she is held captive in a container that prevents them from reaching her and mating, as the magical love vapours will just keep pouring out of her. It's fortunate that Aukje quickly removed her from the porch, or the hostel might have been engulfed by a swarm of sex crazed man-moths.
Bessyboot (550m) has always been one of my favourite short walks, particularly as I can fit it into my split shift break, with enough time to put my feet up before returning to work at 5pm. However, if you have all day, you can simply spend more time exploring all the grassy bowls and rocky knolls around Bessyboot and Tarn at Leaves.
Invisible to all who look straight past it towards the high fells, Bessyboot occupies a glorious position at the head of Borrowdale, between Langstrath and Coombe Gill. To many it’s just the end of Glaramara, but to those seeking isolation and views of the High Borrowdale Fells, it’s an excellent destination in its own right.
Starting from Stonethwaite, you don’t have far to walk down Langstrath before turning right, steeply up through the woods alongside Big Stanger Gill, below the looming crags of Hanging Haystack. Thirty minutes of hard work brings you out onto the open fell, with a winding path to follow to the summit of Bessyboot. However, it’s worth taking a diversion north, to the end of the fell at High Knott, where the view north along Borrowdale opens out dramatically before you.
I always like to descend via Coombe Gill, after visiting the quiet Tarn at Leaves, and returning to Stonethwaite around the bottom of the fell, taking the shortcut through Chapel Stile Farm, past the church and primary school. At 550m above sea level, Bessyboot is one of the loveliest of smallish hills, and I hope you enjoy it too.
Note: at weekends and school holidays you can park in the Borrowdale Primary School car park in Stonethwaite, where there is an honesty box. Alternatively, you can park carefully in the lane.
3rd Gateshead Boys' Brigade Easter Weekend at Derwentwater Independent Hostel, by David, aged 14.
Thursday 18th April
After a few hours on the minibus we finally arrived at Derwentwater Independent Hostel, and ate some lunch outside while waiting for the rock-climbing instructors to arrive. They took us to Goat Crag, and we did some outdoor rock climbing: a brilliant experience. After arriving back at the hostel, some of us went to our room for a bit of relaxation time, some of us played table tennis, whilst others went outside to play football. After dinner we all went down to the lakeside for a fire and had toasted marshmallows with melted chocolate on top.
Friday 19th April
After a good night’s sleep, we got up about 7am and drove to Seathwaite Farm to begin our adventure. We hiked up Scafell Pike and stopped at the top for lunch. On the way back we stopped by Stockley Bridge and went in the plunge pool, which was extremely cold. Then we cooked a delicious dinner back at the hostel, played pool and table tennis, relaxed outside, and went to bed.
Saturday 20th April
After having another brilliant night’s sleep, we packed up our things and went to Rookin House Activity Centre to do Quad Biking, Go Karting, an Assault course, and the ArgoCat. Some of us were really scared on the ArgoCat, but we all enjoyed it. All the activities there were very enjoyable, and the facilities were also very good. After all the activities we had our lunch and went back to the minibus, ready to head back home.
Here is a bigger picture of the gift which Clara gave us at the end of her recent stay. We love the way she customised the 'Merci' chocolates! We would also like to thank Clara for her friendship and excellent help - how lucky we are to have such amazing volunteers.