What a great mix of guests we have had this month, with more diversity than ever before. We met a Canadian theatre group who had just finished their run at the Edinburgh Festival (a multi-media theatrical adaptation of Paradise Lost, which they nearly performed on-the-spot in reception!), we revelled in the rain with families from Oman (they purposefully came to the Lake District to see rain and vegetation), and we saw the before-and-after versions of 13 Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award Expedition participants.
We hope to see you at our Heritage Open Day on Sunday 14th September, with free guided tours and child-friendly activities (details below), or perhaps you will pop in to see us en route to the Borrowdale C-Art installations (Ashness Bridge, Watendlath, and the Bowder Stone will be looking a little different from 13th - 28th September).
On Sunday 14th September we are holding a Heritage Open Day, with free guided tours of the house and grounds. Here is a little preview, zooming in on the neo-classical, Adam-style fireplace in Room One (the former banqueting hall). This fireplace was built for Joseph Pocklington in the late eighteenth century, and it depicts a scene from the life of Belisarius. But who was Belisarius and why is he on a Georgian fireplace?
Belisarius was one of the most famous military generals of the eastern Roman Empire, leading armies for the emperor Justinian I. However, despite Belisarius’ loyalty, Justinian became increasingly suspicious of his successful general. Most of Belisarius’ life has been documented by his secretary, Procopius, but the most uncertain part, shifting into legend over time, is the unfounded story of Belisarius’ demise at the hands of Justinian. As might be expected, this is the story which has most inspired writers and artists.
The story goes that in AD 562 Belisarius was unjustly implicated in a plot to overthrow Justinian. When Justinian later heard of this supposed treachery he ordered for Belisarius to be blinded, dispossessed, and reduced to a life of begging for alms. This story was circulated in the 12th century by the Byzantine writer John Tzetges, resurfacing with a tragic play by Jean de Rotrou in 1643, a painting by Salvator Rosa in about 1651, and a philosophical novel entitled Bu00e9lisaire (1767) by Jean-Francois Marmontel. It was in the late eighteenth century (Barrow House building time) that the legend of Belisarius became really popular amongst artists. For instance, Joseph Wright of Derby, who made many engravings of Lake District scenes, made a picture of Belisarius in 1775. As in our fireplace decoration, Belisarius is usually depicted as a blind old man with a stick, dressed in rags and remnants of his armour, begging for alms, and watched by Roman soldiers or taken pity on by families and ex-colleagues. However, he is portrayed as a figure of humility and stoicism, representing strength in the face of adversity and a refusal to be embittered by injustice.
So, if you stay in Room One, or have the opportunity to see the fireplace, you will be able to interpret the legend for yourself. We hope it does not give you strange dreams!
Belisarius in brief
Lived: c.505 - 565
Home: Based in Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire (the eastern half of the Roman Empire). However, he was often away at war.
Job: A leading military general in the age of Byzantine emperor Justinian I. He led imperial armies against the Sāsānian Empire (Persia), the Vandal kingdom of North Africa, the Ostrogothic regime of Italy, and the barbarian tribes encroaching upon Constantinople.
Wife: c.532 Belisarius married the widowed Antonina. It is believed that they loved and respected each other very much. As an old friend of the Empress Theodora, Antonina had a useful influence at court, but if we believe the legend of Belisarius’ demise then this was not enough to save him.
More: To find out more about Belisarius and the artworks he inspired, have a look at the following: http://www.britannica.com/
We will be giving guided tours of the hostel, including the Belisarius fireplace, on Sunday 14th September. This is part of the Heritage Open Days and we will be open for tours and refreshments from 12.30-16.30.
The Wallace High School students are seriously tough! ‘Character building’ is the positive way to look at a ridiculously wet and windy week of camping and hiking.
During a week in which we received lots of last-minute bookings from soggy campers, the thirteen intrepid sixth-form students from County Antrim (Northern Ireland) completed their 3-night Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award expedition in really testing conditions. Camping in a different location each night, the DofE students walked for at least four hours each day, carrying all of their food and equipment. The Gold Award stipulates that participants have to be self-sufficient for 4 days and 3 nights, travelling through unfamiliar wild country along a self-designed route. For the Wallace High School students, the weather made everything just that bit more challenging…
The students also carry out a project during the expedition, investigating a topic of their choice. So, once back at the hostel, the Wallace High students presented their findings, very relieved to be warm and dry.
A regatta needs water, but perhaps not quite as much as we had on Sunday 10th August! However, despite the bursts of rain, we all agreed that the second National Trust Derwent Water Regatta was a great success.
We were in a fantastic position on Crow Park, with a grandstand view of Derwent Island, and this provided the inspiration for our main activity, where people (old and young alike) could add to our giant painting of Derwent Island: there was no space left on the easel by the end of the first day! People were also able to decorate gingerbread Derwent Islands with writing icing, sample cakes made from Georgian recipes, and get creative with pens, glitter and stickers to make lots of bunting.
From our stall we could watch the colourful Keswick Youth Theatre performances, as well as all the action on the lake, with entertainment from the best-dressed boat competition, bath-tub racing, and coracle-building. And it was impossible to miss the highlight of the weekend: the three fires of the cannon and their echoes around the lake could be heard from quite far away!
We really enjoyed meeting lots of people at the regatta and we hope to see you there next year.
All six of the Theatre by the Lake summer season plays are now in full swing. So what do we think of them?
We are all in agreement that the standard of acting is incredibly high, but we differ a bit in our opinions about the choice and content of the plays. Kathy and Dave’s daughter, Hannah Piercy, has been volunteering at the theatre as a youth reviewer, and her reviews have been really helpful. We look forward to hearing your opinions too!
Rookery Nook: A harmless and gentle farce. The actors do a brilliant job of a fairly uninspiring script, and it is impeccably produced, with great sets and costumes. Here is the link to a review ofRookery Nook by Hannah:
The Winterling: Gripping performances from the actors, but quite a puzzling play, with several people saying that they didn’t really ‘get it’. Perhaps this is intentional? Here is a mini-review from one of our guests:
‘We really enjoyed The Winterling (though I still can’t see the relevance of the title). The performances were amazing. We didn’t read any programme notes, so we tried to reach our own conclusions about the plot. Reading about it afterwards, we were wrong, but preferred our version! We thought 'Mr West' was a runaway soldier/military intelligence/spy type, rather than a criminal gangster, but we were proud of understanding the flash-back episode at the beginning of the second half. It was riveting, with some really vivid set piece speeches and dialogue. Do go and see it if you can.’
Dracula: Some of us were not keen on going to see this, but even the doubtful were won over! Here is a link to a review of Dracula by Hannah:
Seeing the Lights: This is a new play, really well-suited to the theatre’s studio space. It is not ‘hilarious’, as billed in the programme, but it definitely made us laugh. I was so engrossed in the play, with the actors so believable in their characters, that I didn’t want the interval to come. However, with so much material and such strong characters, there is not enough time to develop them fully, and it seems as though the author has tried to fit too many ‘issues’ or ‘themes’ into the play. A lot of people will be able to relate to this play though, and it has many poignant moments. Here is a review by Hannah:
Old Times: Like The Winterling, this is a thought-provoking play. Kathy and Dave found it quite puzzling, but they definitely think it is worth seeing.
The Comedy of Errors: It is interesting to see one of the lesser-performed Shakespeare plays, and several of our guests (local and international) have enjoyed it. Here is a review by Hannah:http://www.thepublicreviews.
Some of us like to try other hostels’ bunk-beds on our days off, and you only need to go into another valley to feel like you’re on holiday. It is exciting to walk or cycle to another hostel, and we can help you plan an inter-independent hostel trip if the idea takes your fancy. Here are some of the independent hostels that we have tried recently (click on the hostel name to go to its website):
Skiddaw House: This is such an exciting place to stay! I ran here on a beautiful July evening, with strong smells of honey from the purple heather. You cannot drive here and so it is quiet and peaceful, with everyone arriving by bike or foot (it is situated on the Cumbria Way, 6 miles from Keswick).
Elterwater Independent Hostel: I stayed here in June, running up the Langstrath Valley and over Sticks Pass (the Cumbria Way), with a really exhilarating descent into Great Langdale. I was pleased to find a new bridleway along the valley, and I arrived in Chapel Stile (1/4 mile from the hostel) just in time to buy some yummy strawberries from the village shop. The hostel started operating independently of YHA this year, but the manager has stayed on (a similar story to ours) and there is a very special feeling here.
Shepherd’s Crook Bunkhouse: Kathy and Dave stayed here in August. It is the most luxurious ‘bunkhouse’ I have ever seen, with homely bedding, a very smart self-catering kitchen, and options to purchase local produce. It is close to Ullswater, but much quieter than Patterdale and Glenridding (the two villages right by Ullswater). Many people stay here on the well-trodden Wainwright Coast-to-Coast route, but there is also a fantastic variety of local walks.
Greenhead Independent Hostel: an ex-YHA hostel, Alex went here for a night. The hostel is really close to Lanercost Priory (English Heritage) and this is what Alex wanted to explore. It is also great for exploring Hadrian's Wall.
Wayfarers, Penrith: Wayfarers Independent Hostel opened in 2013, and it has lots of really thoughtful touches, with an amazing purpose-built bike store. The hostel is really handy for Penrith train station, and Kathy and Dave enjoyed a comfortable stay here in August, at the end of their train journey from Scotland.
We were really lucky to have Teresa volunteering for us during August. Not only did she work incredibly hard in the hostel, she chatted away to our Spanish guests, making them feel very at home, and helped to make the Derwent Water Regatta a great success. Teresa took her volunteering role very seriously and we are delighted to include her thoughts and comments here:
Hi everybody! I'm Teresa and I'm from Catalonia.
Every summer I try to take advantage of my holidays (Teresa trained as a psychologist and now works as a teaching assistant in a Special Needs School), doing things which allow me to discover and explore new places, meet people, learn about their lifestyles, and experience new things...but above all I really like doing things which are useful for our society.
For me, the best way to achieve all these things is to work as a volunteer. For this reason, I've been doing volunteering holidays for the last three years, and I can say it is a great choice (Teresa has previously volunteered as a rhododendron basher in Killarney Park, Ireland, and as a general helper with Earth Connection Centre in Scotland). This year I decided to come to England, and more precisely the Lake District, because one friend told me about this stunning place. She assured me that it was worth a visit, and now I can say she was absolutely right.
Ok, so I had decided to come to the Lake District, but the key question was 'how can I volunteer and be helpful?' Surfing on the internet you can find lots of places to go and work as a volunteer, but many of them work for their own profit. I needed something more. Finally after 4 months of looking I got it. Yes! I would go to Derwentwater Hostel (found on the Workaway website) and for very good reasons. Here are people who look more thoroughly around them, and likewise try to help our society in some way or another. And in that point is where I found Derwentwater Hostel. This makes the difference. For this reason I chose to go with them.
I was at the hostel during the month of August, helping in all of the common tasks of a hostel. At first it might not sound very exciting, but now at the end of my experience I can assure you I had a really good time and it has been a worthwhile experience. Why? Well, at this point I could list all of the things that I did in my free time, but instead I would like to tell you that for me the best part of my experience has been the people from the hostel. They have been really nice and kind to me. I can say that they have tried to help me with every single thing I could need and they have been really patient with me, such as when I have not been able to find the right words in English. And beside all this, they cheered me with going to different and interesting places and doing lots of new things, like the Derwent Water Regatta and the Keswick Launch. They managed to make me feel like part of the team and I'm really appreciative of this. I'm really grateful. Thank you very much.
Thank you Teresa!