The hostel has always enjoyed being the venue for the Birmingham University Wilderness Medicine Society’s training weekends and the visit this November was no exception. It is a student organised trip and the organisers get full marks from us for the professional way they plan it. The one thing outside their control is the weather. They had challenging conditions on their first day followed by a glorious day for their mountain walks and expeditions – perhaps they had planned this too! Immy, one of the students from the organising committee, told us more about their Lake District trip.
'The University of Birmingham Wilderness Medicine Society arrived at Derwentwater Independent Hostel late on Friday 8th November ready for a packed weekend out on the hills. Our group is formed of medical students from Birmingham University who want to learn about dealing with medical scenarios in remote settings, as well as enjoying time spent in the great outdoors.
This year we decided to return to Derwentwater Independent Hostel again as it is the perfect setting for our annual weekend away, as there are limitless walking and exploring opportunities on our doorstep! We began the Saturday morning with skills stations laid out in the hostel grounds, although due to the rain and hail we had to move a few of these inside. Each station was led by a doctor with experience in expedition and mountain medicine, and covered topics such as altitude sickness, pre-hospital care of a casualty and hypothermia. The stations were very hands on and apart from being a bit damp we all enjoyed them thoroughly! We then collected our fantastic packed lunches (provided by the hostel) and headed out for a long walk around the surrounding area.
On arrival back at the hostel we were greeted by a delicious three-course dinner, which was much needed after our long walks. We then settled down to listen to a couple of inspirational talks from two of the doctors, who had climbed Everest and spent a year in Antarctica. A good night’s sleep and full English breakfast prepared us well for Sunday when we all went out on some fantastic walks (one group climbed snow-topped Skiddaw and another went up Great Gable) where we were able to put some of our skills from the previous day into practice with some ‘real life scenarios’. All in all we had a fantastic weekend, which would not have been possible without Derwentwater Independent Hostel and its fantastic staff. Thank you for having us again!
As many of you know, our dining room is very versatile. In early December 2013, our two favourite Astronomers, Andy Green and Dennis Ashton, returned to give an Astronomy masterclass to some pupils from Appleby Grammar and installed the Stardome Planetarium in the dining room. Have a look at the Stardome website if you are interested in booking the planetarium: www.stardomeplanetarium.co.uk
One of the pupils kindly wrote a report on their science residential at the hostel. ‘As part of our GCSE Physics course the Year 10 Separate Science class went to the Derwentwater Independent Hostel near Keswick to go through an Astronomy Masterclass given by two experienced astronomers. This was a great opportunity for active learning instead of doing this part of the syllabus in class. Our first talk was on meteors and after lunch my group first had a talk by one of the astronomers on the life and death of stars. We learnt an extraordinary amount during all the talks. We were absolute novices at the beginning of the course. After this talk, we swapped and my group went into a fabulous planetarium where we learnt all about the stories behind the constellations and more about the night sky.
After a short break it was straight back into the action again with another talk on theories about the universe over time, and current theories about the beginning and end of the universe. Some of us struggled to get our head around the idea of before the big bang, where there was no time and nothing, not even emptiness. However, we enjoyed the talk all the same as everything was really interesting.
After dinner we all went outside in the hope of seeing all the stars which we had learnt about during the day. Unfortunately, there was just one thing stopping us…clouds. After a quick tutorial on how to use a telescope we all saw some houses in Keswick (not what we were expecting!) and then it was back inside- not a single star seen.
For the whole of the second day we were in groups of 5/6 and we were making a short presentation on a proposed base on Mars which we were designing. We had lots of issues to think about which were given to us in a talk first, and then everyone got to work. Every group’s posters were excellent but one had to win, which was a group who had looked at colonising Mars in the future (David, Jack, Alistair and Owen).
Overall, this trip was a fabulous opportunity and experience which we all enjoyed. The two astronomers were great in making the learning materials and presenting them, and also for showing us their great telescopes and planetarium. It was certainly better than two days of school.’ (Next year the hostel staff are going to down tools and join in the masterclass – we’ll learn a lot).
Walla Crag is a wonderful little fell (as we call mountains in the Lake District), with a memorable height of 1234’. Alfred Wainwright (renowned for the Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells) describes the ascent of Walla Crag as ‘a beautiful short climb up steep colourful slopes overlooking Derwent Water’. It’s the perfect walk for all ages, from toddlers to grandparents.
You are rewarded with excellent views of the Lake and the Borrowdale valley on the ascent from Ashness, and from the heathery summit you have a grandstand view of Keswick nestling directly below. It’s a good spot for a picnic too. You also have great views of mighty Skiddaw and Blencathra and the Helvellyn Range over to the east.
There are a few different routes. If you’ve already taken the path from the Hostel waterfall to Ashness and then the gradual ascent over Falcon Crag to Walla Crag, we can also highly recommend the route up another waterfall – Cat Ghyll. You can also extend the walk by carrying on to the Castlerigg Stone Circle or climbing Bleaberry Fell and High Seat as well. Probably best to take Wainwright’s advice not to descend via Lady’s Rake – ‘An inviting opening in the cliff (Lady’s Rake) 150 yards south of the cairn is a trap to be avoided.’ Many years ago Dave misguided some friends into the trap of Lady’s Rake and they were missing in action for quite a while. It’s a standing family joke which we don’t let him forget!
We can highly recommend a walk up Walla Crag for everyone. Yesterday a group of 19 of us (Dave's family) enjoyed a route up Walla Crag and met many other walkers and groups coming from Keswick, where we finished with hot chocolate and seasonal mulled wine. We wholeheartedly agree with Mr Wainwright, ‘No excuse is good enough for missing this easy half-day’s walk, which is delightful throughout. Walla Crag gives a brief but excellent insight into the joys of fell-walking.’
It’s a pleasure looking back on 2013 as there have been so many highlights for us, not least the wonderful weather we enjoyed in July, when we had day after day of brilliant, long, sunny and settled days. We also enjoyed a lovely Autumn in the Lakes. The trees kept their leaves much later than usual as the Autumn gales took a holiday this year. Whatever the weather in the Lakes though, our visitors always seem to make the most of their stay. One of my personal highlights of the year was watching the Tour of Britain cyclists at the top of Honister Pass. The weather was dreadful but 1000’s of spectators gathered at Honister to cheer on the riders. The atmosphere was amazing and one of the riders commented afterwards that the spectators could have stayed in the dry at home and watched on TV, but we wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
Some of my other favourite hostel memories of the year include the wedding of Rachel & Neil in April and the visit by the Dot Crotchets & Raging Harmonies Choir from Lancaster in September. I will never forget the sound of their beautiful harmonies and closing my eyes and feeling I was in a Cathedral.
One of the best things about working at the hostel is welcoming overseas visitors and seeing what an impression the Lake District makes on them. We especially enjoyed the visit of 2 new groups this year - Cedar House School from South Africa in April and the girls of Nanyang High School, Singapore in May.
We’ve been very fortunate this year with our great overseas volunteers including Doreen, Lise and Laura as well as our DofE volunteers, Isaac and William and our long-term volunteer, Katy, who is working on so many different projects for the hostel. Various Conservation Volunteers have performed an incredible job in clearing the rhododendrons by the Borrowdale road and the Cumbrian youngsters from Clip who’ve made the Willow animals and many bird boxes for the grounds.
Recently we celebrated our 2nd anniversary as an independent hostel in November and had a very productive and beneficial day with our Trustees in December with lots of brainstorming on how we can improve the hostel in the future.
However, the very best thing about working at Derwentwater Independent Hostel is the guests who stay here. So many of you, individuals, families and groups return year after year. We really appreciate your support and friendship and should like to wish you all a Very Happy New Year and hope to see you back at Derwentwater in 2014.