Our latest group of volunteers were Junior Rangers from Bell Baxter High School in Fife, who came for four days as the culmination of their John Muir award programme. Bob Weston, the group organiser, very kindly explained about the programme and gave us this account of their visit:
'The award is presented to groups or individuals who carry out a variety of projects allowing them to discover, explore and conserve the ‘wild places’ of the UK. The Junior Ranger programme is a European initiative to encourage young people to become involved in the management and conservation of the environment as an interest and possibly to lead into work within the Conservation sector in the future.
Their programme runs throughout the year so the group is able to undertake conservation projects, such as tree planting and footpath repairs, once a month within their local area. The aim is to help the local community to improve the habitats and biodiversity of Fife.
None of the young people had visited this area before, but they soon discovered its breathtaking natural beauty. The group cycled along the old railway line from Keswick, which was a great introduction to off road cycling, and then advanced onto the harder trails in Whinlatter Forest, which was great fun (apart from the odd midge or two!!) Canoeing was a blustery affair, with the group battling the strong wind and very choppy waters to cross the depths of Derwentwater. All thanks goes to Platty+ for making sure we all had successful and fun outing.
Day three proved to be a challenge for some as we tackled the dizzy heights of Cat Bells. Following a leisurely boat trip to the starting point at Hawes End, the group meandered their way up the steep slopes to the summit cairn - pulled along by a group of primary school children who were happily skipping past on their geography outing! The talk on the way up was of the Lake District National Park and of how Beatrix Potter, with her historical links to the conservation movement, instigated the creation of the National Park. The descent to Grange was less traumatic, and the promise of ice cream at the tea room was a great boost. The trip was completed by a great open top bus ride in the sunshine back to Keswick.
As part of the conservation element, we carried out activities within the hostel grounds to improve access by clearing vegetation off the footpaths and repairing steps up to the waterfalls, putting up nesting boxes and removing some of the invasive plants that had overtaken the wildlife garden and the front area of the hostel.
At the end of the expedition the group was treated to a trip to Go-Ape at Whinlatter, followed by a traditional Lakeland pub tea.
Huge thanks go to the hostel staff for all their support and for making us very welcome, ensuring the week went smoothly, for the great accommodation and fabulous food. We hope to come again and would recommend to others to visit and enjoy the great facilities found at Derwentwater.'
The team from Fife did some sterling work in the grounds and we are enormously grateful for all their hard work. We are so pleased that they were also able enjoy some local activities and have some well-earned fun.
Newbarns School in Barrow-in-Furness have been coming to the hostel every year for 17 years, so they really are old friends! As usual they bought a group of Year 5 pupils, as well as staff and helpers. When asked to contribute something to this newsletter, their teacher, Mark Laird, very cannily handed the task over to three of the pupils, Aimee, Logan and Chloe. Together they wrote the following piece, which I think you will agree is beautifully written with plenty of detail and a soupcon of wit!
'On the 8th of May, we went to Derwentwater Youth Hostel. The rooms were amazingly clean and tidy but they weren't very clean when we were finished with the rooms! We all had great fun on the bunk beds and there was plenty of space to have a midnight feast (shhhhhhhh don't tell the teachers!) We thoroughly enjoyed the amount of grassland that was provided for us to play on, plus the woodland was great to play in and make dens out of sticks. The food there was unbelievably divine and it had amazing quality. I had the spag bol and it was gorgeous. Overall though, I think everyone's favourite was breakfast; a brilliant English breakfast. We all loved it. The sausages were very popular and the bacon was as well. The food was 10 out of 10!
We were able to play many games in and out of the hostel including: the world's 2nd most famous hide and seek, capture the flag and seeing how many sweets we could fit into our mouths. (Again, shhhhhh!) This trip was a brilliant time to get to know our friends and the teachers, we really enjoyed it and we would love to come again. It would not have been fun if we were naughty.
We went on the ferry across the beautiful lake, only some of us enjoyed it because the people on the front deck got SOAKED!!! The walk we went on took 5 hours! We were all exhausted when we came back. I went straight to sleep. On the walk we stopped and enjoyed the food and drink from the cafe. It really warmed us up on the coldest walk of the trip. Before the cafe we saw Surprise View where you can see for miles and miles and miles. But when we got to the hostel we got warm and dry again. We all enjoyed the table tennis, pool and the table football. We all would love to come again and have some more of the marvellous food. From the happy Year 5.'
I don’t think there is anything to add to that except well done and thank you to Aimee, Logan and Chloe!
Beatrix Potter is very well-known for her much-loved stories and paintings about animal characters such as Mrs Tiggywinkle (who lived at Catbells!) and of course, Peter Rabbit, most of which she worked on whilst here in the Lake District. But, as Bob Weston from Belll Baxter High School (above) mentioned, she wasn’t just an author but a committed conservationist and a free-thinker who defied the conventions of her Victorian upbringing to create a lasting legacy.
When Beatrix Potter first visited the Lake District, late-Victorian-era prosperity threatened to bring ever more tourism and development to the region. At the same time, the local economy, which was based on sheep farming on the fells, was declining rapidly. Without her efforts, much would have been lost.
The income from the sale of her books allowed her to make her first purchase of land, Hill Top Farm in the village of Near Sawrey, in 1905, followed four years later by nearby Castle Farm. Gradually she bought up adjacent properties, putting together a series of parcels that protected the watersheds, ancient woodlands and the open fells where the sheep grazed.
In 1913, after marrying local solicitor William Heelis, she finally moved onto the Castle Farm estate and became deeply involved in the community. She served on committees to improve rural living, opposed hydroplanes on Lake Windermere and founded a nursing trust to improve local health care. In 1923 she bought Troutbeck Park, an enormous but disease-ridden sheep farm which she restored to agricultural health. Preserving the tradition of hill farming Herdwick sheep required constant attention to breeding and land management, but without this effort, a way of life and an entire landscape would have been lost. She became one of the most admired Herdwick breeders in the region and won prizes at all the local shows.
Beatrix worked closely with the National Trust, helping it to acquire land and manage farms with a view to long-term preservation. In 1930 Beatrix became de facto land agent for the Trust, managing some of their farms, as well as her own, over a vast section of the Lake District. She bequeathed fifteen farms and over 4,000 acres to the National Trust - a gift which protected and conserved the unique Lake District countryside and is now a central part of the National Trust's contribution to the Lake District National Park. The land adjacent to the hostel is in the care of the National Trust and we work very closely with them, so Beatrix Potter’s legacy is very much part of lives here.
Last year I told you about the incredible efforts of a group of people who raised money for the Children’s Heart Unit Fund (CHUF) at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle. Well, they were back again this year, doing their fourth amazing Coast to Coast challenge.
The challenge came about after Ivan and Nadine’s son Seb was given heart surgery and subsequent care at the Unit when he was a baby. They felt they wanted to give something back to the hospital and so Ivan conceived his ultra Coast to Coast (C2C) involving marathons, mega-cycle rides and long swims - a coast to coast triathlon in effect.
This year, the four day challenge included a 75 cycle ride from Whitehaven over four of the hardest mountain passes in the Lakes (climbing the equivalent of half of Everest); a swim across the lake from Nichol End to Barrow Bay; a 65 mile cycle over Hartside Pass to Alston; a 35 mile run through Northumberland; and, on the final day, a Marathon run taking them to the finish at Longsands Beach, Tynemouth. It was on day two and the swim across the Lake where the hostel played their part with hot showers, hot drinks and some well-deserved bacon butties. They had the most perfect day for the swim with sunshine, clear blue skies and a very still and calm lake. It was lovely to see Ivan, Nadine and all their supporters again and we were delighted to meet Seb who is now a very active nearly-five year old! Ivan updated us on the progress of their fundraising efforts:
'Our C2C4 went fantastically well and was by far my favourite of all the challenges we have organised in the past 3-4 years. It was the perfect balance of toughness, humour and passion to ensure everyone had a fantastic time. It was the toughest C2C we have completed and pushed us all to the absolute limits. We are now close to 10,000 pounds away from our 330,000 pound target required to fund the complete rebuild of the playroom and outside play area of Ward 23 at the Freeman Hospital.'
We wish them every success in reaching the total with this most recent challenge and look forward to seeing them next year for C2C5!
As time goes on our visiting groups seem to get more and more diverse and the gathering of 89 members of Mensa from around the world for a Summer camp proved no exception.
This is the seventh year that young members of Mensa have got together for an international Summer camp since the first one was held by Danish Mensa to celebrate their 25th anniversary. This year, Jacqueline Yu, who is originally from Hong Kong but now lives in London, decided she wanted to give something back and took the lead role in organising this year’s camp with the help of a small committee. The purpose of the camps is to bring together like-minded people where they can be themselves, meet other people and have a relaxing and unstressful time. Jacqueline told us, 'It is a big group of diverse people with a shared identity. The ten days allows people to really get know each other. They make lifelong friends and although they may not meet up very often they fit right back in with each other when they do see each other. We all share a kinship.'
They decided they wanted somewhere reasonably remote as they want a place where they can have an uninterrupted social gathering. Jacqueline knew from past camps that lakes are a popular feature - so she chose our hostel not only because of the accommodation but because of its proximity to the beautiful Derwent Water. They were blessed with some of the hottest weather we have had in several years, so swimming in the lake was very much on the agenda! Some of them signed up for activities such as archery at Rookin House and the climbing wall near Castlerigg, and several of them went on a day trip to Edinburgh. For most though, it was a chance to chill, chat, and get to know people or play games around the table. Mensa is in fact the Latin for table, and was chosen to symbolise people being gathered around a table as equals, irrespective of social distinctions such as race or religion.
Jacqueline said of their stay, u201cWe loved it the moment we got here - all the staff are very friendly and helpful and made us feel very welcome. The different function rooms have given us all the space we need and the self-catering kitchen is great. We have loved being close to nature. And everyone has said that the food is the best they have ever eaten at camp!u201d
The Summer season of six plays at the Theatre by the Lake is well underway, and hostel staff have been lucky enough to see most of the productions between them.
Early in the season managers Kathy and Dave went to 'See How They Run', a classic farce and thought it was brilliantly funny. In direct contrast, our volunteer Katy saw the Jacobean tragedy 'T’is Pity She’s a Whore'. It is quite gritty, and not for the fainthearted, but Katy was very impressed with the staging. She was also bowled over with 'Vincent in Brixton', a recent play which imagines what happened when Vincent Van Gogh visited Brixton in the 1870’s, and thought it was one of the best plays she has ever seen.
I went to see the classic 'An Inspector Calls' along with fellow staff member Alex. We were totally gripped and thought that the Inspector of the title was suitably enigmatic and mesmerising. The ending certainly gave us quite a talking point the next day at coffee break! And just recently four of us were lucky enough to see 'She Stoops to Conquer' on its opening night. We all thought the scenery was both amazing and cleverly organised, and Kathy and I loved all the sumptuous and dashing costumes. The story was light-hearted and mischievous, and it was a thoroughly entertaining evening out.
The final play of the six, 'The Shape of Things' is yet to be seen by staff as it isn’t being staged until August 2. It is billed as a 'savagely comic drama by one of America’s most original and controversial voices' which sounds very promising. Perhaps one of you might beat us to seeing it – if so we would love to hear what you thought of it.
If you are real theatre buff, from 5 August you can see all six plays in one week. But don’t worry if you don’t plan to visit the Lakes until Autumn - the run of shows carries on until November so you have plenty of time to see them yet.
And remember, the hostel is an Ambassador for the Theatre by the Lake which means that if you stay here you get a 2 pound discount on certain tickets. Just mention you are a guest here when you book your tickets. We thoroughly recommend a night out at the iconic theatre - it is a lovely way to spend an evening.