We were very pleased to see our old friends Ormiston South Parade School from Grimsby who have been coming to Derwentwater Youth Hostel since 1990. What sets Ormiston apart is that the trip is mainly planned and organised by a team of volunteers which includes teaching assistants, parents of former pupils and sometimes former pupils themselves. To keep costs down they also have the help of external sponsors, such as Grimsby College who provide a funded mini-bus each year. The team’s dedication and enthusiasm to make a memorable visit for the journey never seems to dwindle. This year they brought 23 energetic eleven year olds.
Their programme consists of some quite impressive walking routes, which are fully assessed to stretch the children so that the children gain a great sense of achievement when they complete them. On the first day they walked all the way to the top of Fleetwith Pike overlooking Buttermere, and on the second day they walked up the steep, stepped path to King’s How and from there down to Watendlath where they had refreshments at the cafe. One boy was rather underwhelmed by the second day’s route, declaring that he 'expected life or death experiences in the Lake District'…!
The children also had fun ghyll scrambling and testing their nerve on high ropes, with team-building games and activities taking place after an early tea. Their evenings were busy and fun-packed too - on their second night they went to the Lakeshore and cooked sausages and toasted marshmallows, and on the night before the Summer Solstice they went to Castlerigg Stone circle to experience some local heritage and found themselves joined by druids and other revellers!
It was lovely to see the staff and children all enjoying themselves so much and making the most of a fantastic spell of glorious weather. One of the children declared ‘this has been fantastic! I want to come back for my school reunion!' Karen Bacon, teaching assistant at Ormiston, and one of the voluntary organisers, says that it is this kind of feedback 'along with the noticeable change in pupils through the week is all the reward the hardworking volunteers need.' She goes on to say, 'Many ex pupils have related back the difference that these trips made to them as part of their preparation for senior school. The unique combination of the Derwentwater Youth Hostel and the blue print of the Ormiston South Parade activities makes a genuinely memorable, learning and development experience for pupils.'
We think the team of volunteers are to be applauded for their commitment and hard work in ensuring this annual event happens and works so successfully.
To add to our ever-growing numbers of overseas’ visitors, last month we had 35 students from Nayang Girls High School in Singapore. They were here on an 8 day tour of England, starting in the Lake District and then going on to York, Cambridge and London. With a roll call of 1700 pupils, places on the tour were like gold-dust so each student had to apply, saying why they should be given a place on this special trip.
During their visit to the hostel they went on a walk to Surprise view and from there to Keswick, accompanied by our volunteer Katy. To some of the girls, the uphill walk to the viewpoint was like climbing a mountain, as they had never experienced anything like it before. The girls wrote journals and the teacher sent us this moving piece by Chang Yi Lin, aged 16, which really gives an insight into the profound impact their visit here had on the students:
'Although we all shared one big room and had to sleep in bunkbeds (I slept on the lower bunk and because the 'ceiling' was so low, I bumped my head almost every time I get out of bed), the view was AWESOME! And it was really fun staying in the same room as everyone.
Although the weather was quite temperamental - rainy and windy, making the trek quite tiring - it was overall an enjoyable and satisfying experience. Firstly, the view was ABSOLUTELY AMAZING! The clear waters, lush green trees, jade green mountains in the distance, everything was just paradise. It made me remember how much I loved the beauty of Mother Nature. Caught up in the fast-paced lifestyle and high end modern society like Singapore - all modern glass and steel buildings, crowds, stress from daily life, schoolwork, deadlines - often we lose ourselves among the chaos.
Surrounded by the natural beauty of Mother Nature, I was overwhelmed by the feelings aroused within me; this warmth and bursting joy within me, which pictures can never replace - the serenity, the tranquillity. I felt released, relieved, refreshed physically and mentally as I stood silently by the gravel shore, beneath the outspread branches of a bending tree, just looking out into the wide lake, clear skies, the mountains and trees. Just standing there, breathing in the fresh cool air, watching the trees sway with the wind, the ducks dancing in the waters, the birds chasing each other in the wide blue sky, I could never feel happier.
I think for people like us, living in busy cities like Singapore, it is essential for us to find time to go back into the arms of Nature, to rewind, recharge, to learn to slow down our footsteps and enjoy life, to live it.'
Sandra Yeng, one of the teachers, also emailed us to say:
'We felt privileged to have enjoyed the first two days of our tour in Derwentwater Youth Hostel and Keswick. The beauty of the property, lake and town, the lovely conversations with the other guests, and the charming hospitality of Kathy, Katie and the rest of the staff gave our students a great taster of English countryside - we think some of them will yearn for such respite when city life in Singapore gets to be too much. Thanks, Kathy and your staff, for going the extra mile to keep our 35 teenagers comfortable, healthy and happy!'
I think all of us here feel somewhat humbled and privileged to think that the place where we live has such an overwhelming effect on people from the other side of the world.
Last weekend we had a party of more than eighty people all gathered together to celebrate a number of milestone birthdays. They had lots of food, wine, cake and a live band. Nothing particularly unusual in that you might think, but this party took place between 11am and 5pm on a Sunday!
Helen Marshall is no stranger to the hostel as she is a vicar in Keswick. Helen and her husband David have both reached their half century this year and their son Tom has just celebrated his 18th birthday, with his brother, Simon, turning 16 in the Autumn – clocking up 134 years between them! To join their special celebration they brought together friends and family from all over the country - from London to Carlisle, and a good few places in-between, as well as from Leipzig and California.
Their elder son Tom made a very eloquent and moving speech which started with these words:
'A 134th birthday party, celebrated here in the halls of Barrow House, on the road that goes ever on to Borrowdale ...it sounds exactly like something by Tolkien. Forgive me if you aren’t an avid fan of the Lord of the Rings; that will be my one and only reference. But this is a marvellous little corner of England and the view outside is one of our favourites. We’d particularly like to thank Kathy and Dave, who run the hostel here, for all their help and kindness along the way, and for allowing us the use of Barrow House; it has made the day very memorable indeed.'
Younger son Simon was the keyboard player in the jazz band, Black Velvet, with his friends from Keswick School contributing drums, saxophone and lead vocals. They played timeless classics as well as more contemporary tunes, much to the enjoyment of everyone gathered in the dining room with their tea and homemade cake. Later on, everyone had a two course hot lunch, followed by a walk up past the waterfall to Ashness Bridge. Finally, before everyone left there was more tea and cake to send them on their way (you can never have too much tea and cake…!)
It was a very happy affair and everyone looked thrilled to see each other and all be gathered together in one place. Helen Marshall said, 'Thank you SO much for all your hard work in making our party such a success. Everyone said what a lovely event it was and what a wonderful venue to have it in - we found it worked so well. Even with a large number of guests it didn't feel crowded. It was great to have the use of all the different rooms and to be able to use the large dining room for the band and to get everyone together for the speeches. Everyone commented on how delicious the lunch was and what wonderful cakes!' We loved Helen’s Aunt’s comment that the hostel was 'perfect - so many nooks and crannies and different corners to relax in'!
It just goes to show that our hostel can be used for all sorts of gatherings and events – not just school trips and weekends away. A daytime party of this scale is certainly a first for us!
As many of you may know, from time to time we are visited by conservation volunteers who do valuable and much-needed work in our grounds. Last week we were lucky enough to be visited by members of the Community Learning in Partnership (CLIP) Project. The CLIP Project is a 3 year lottery-funded youth volunteering scheme run by The Conservation Volunteers (TCV). Working with 16-25 year olds across Cumbria, they enable more young people to take up volunteering and contribute to their local communities. They support them by helping them find placements and fill in application forms, and by accompanying them to their volunteer interviews or first sessions. CLIP puts volunteers in a wide variety of placements, from animal care and care work to event management and, of course, conservation work.
The CLIP group who came to help at the hostel were from all points of the compass across Cumbria - from Whitehaven in the West to Kirkby Stephen in the East, and from Barrow and Ulverston in the South to Carlisle in the North. They spent most of the weekend being very industrious around the hostel grounds. As well as clearing some footpaths and a stream, they crafted some brilliant wooden habitat boxes for birds, bees and lace flies. They were also taught willow-weaving, and created two fabulous willow sculptures which now grace the front of the hostel and have been much admired and commented upon.
As a well-earned reward for all their hard work, on the Sunday they had some fun by working as a team in Dragon Boating on Derwentwater. All pulling together they tried to break the course record and, although unsuccessful, managed a very respectable time of 1 minute 21 seconds.
The weekend residential went down well with the young people and here is some of the feedback they gave:
'It was fantastic – I couldn't have asked for a better day.'
'I really enjoyed the whole day and the time at the youth hostel.'
'I was able to achieve certificates for volunteering and will carry on volunteering throughout Cumbria.'
As well as gaining skills in conservation and willow weaving, the young people learnt how to work as a team and became more confident. As a result, they want to take on more responsibility in their volunteering and are also increasing their employability.
Charlotte Robinson of TCV, who manages the CLIP project, said of the visit:
'It was a fantastic weekend! The weather was great, everyone took part with great enthusiasm and the young people really supported each other throughout the weekend. The willow sculptures the volunteers created look stunning in the grounds and I would encourage everyone to visit the youth hostel to have a cake and coffee and sit out on the terrace and take in the view. We are already planning our next residential to be held at the hostel in October.'
We are thrilled with the work they did for us and are particularly enamoured of the willow sculptures which will remain in the hostel grounds for many years to come and are a lovely legacy of the CLIP project.
Lutterworth High School in Leicester is lucky enough to take a week off timetable at the end of May in order to participate in a wide range of trips and specially designed courses. These take place as far apart as Paris and South Africa, with the students fundraising to cover the cost. Their visit to our hostel is the only UK-based residential that they organise and they return every year with a new group of students drawn from Years 8 and 9.
Assistant head teacher, Dick Salter, was kind enough to write up an account of this year’s visit to the hostel:
'The students’ prior experience of outdoor activities is broad - some have never done a full day’s walk whilst others are seasoned campaigners! The students benefit enormously from the week and enjoy sharing the rooms and dining room tables and activities with students from other year groups. The hostel at Derwentwater is close to perfect for our needs - the hostel and its grounds are huge and every year they use them in a different way - some years it’s football; some years it’s cricket on the front; in other years groups have insisted on repeated visits to Ashness bridge in their spare time. And if it’s raining the hostel can easily swallow up 50 students playing pool and table tennis.
We use Keswick Adventure Centre to run the activities: the range they provide is fantastic for our students who do canoeing and raft building on the lake, mountain biking up Latrigg from Keswick, and ghyll scrambling at Stoneycroft Ghyll in the Newlands valley. The highlight for many is the Via Feratta at Honister and many of our students grow in front of our eyes as they master their fears.
The teachers on the trip see students in a new light, and although we are experienced leaders of trips we are not especially active, so we have to face the same outdoor demands alongside our students, which means we grow together! This is all possible because of the experienced staff at both the hostel and the adventure centre. And leaving the best till last – THE FOOD…!'
Katie, from Year 8, gave this review of their visit: 'I think what made it for me was my group that I did all the activities with, because we all made friends and it didn't matter if we were in different years we all just got along anyway. I definitely made some new friends that I wouldn't have expected to make. I loved the Via Ferrata - it was amazing! Even though some bits were terrifying, it was great because the people who were around you whilst you were climbing on the side of the mountain, you could talk to and laugh about how scared you were.'
Dick is not the first teacher to mention how teachers and students see another side of each other, and what a bonding experience residential trips and activities can be. Personal growth and development of their students is hugely important to a great many schools and it is so uplifting to think that our hostel can play a part in that process.
1. Family Activity Holidays
We are running our ever-popular activity holidays again this summer, where families can take part in all sorts of adventurous fun together. It can be both challenging and rewarding, and is a very bonding experience. Our package includes 3 night’s accommodation and 2 day’s activities - from canoeing to climbing, to gorge scrambling and games challenges… We still have some availability in August and can promise that you will have immense fun.
2. Derwent Water Regatta
This promises to be a mad, fun-filled, action-packed weekend which really evokes the spirit of Pocklington’s extravaganzas of the past. Based in and around Crow Park in Keswick, it starts at11am on Saturday 3 August and closes at 3.30pm on Sunday 4 August. There will be a traditional fair, fun water-based competitions and dry land activities, as well as craft and refreshment stalls. Visit our hostel’s stall and have some of our cake homemade from Georgian recipes, or try out some fun activities to test your creativity. The ceremonies will close with a bonfire and a barbecue on the lake shore. Definitely one for all the family and not to be missed!
3. Wonderful walking
Being in the beautiful Borrowdale valley, amidst some of the most scenic fells, Derwentwater Youth Hostel is ideally situated for people who love walking, whatever your level or experience. Whether you want to wander along a gentle, low-level path, take the kids up their first fell, or tackle a more demanding mountain, the hostel makes a great base. Just make sure you take some our famed homemade flapjack or chocolate oatcake with you for a fuel stop!
4. Local Attractions
It isn’t just the stunning scenery which brings people here. There are a myriad of attractions suitable for people of all ages. The newest is the Dinosaur and Raptor Experience, which boasts life-sized dinosaurs. The Lake District Wildlife Park is a perennial favourite, with a collection of several hundred domestic and more exotic animals to visit. Whinlatter Forest Park provides mountain biking, Go Ape!, forest trails and children’s’ play areas, all within a fifteen minute drive of the hostel. And at the very top of the Borrowdale Valley lies Honister Slate Mine with mine tours, slate-cutting demonstrations and, for the more adventurous, the Via Ferrata.
5. Our stunning view!
It really doesn’t get better than this… Relax on our terrace with a thirst-quenching cuppa or a beer, or cosy up in the lounge, and drink in the wonderful vista before you. Your eye is drawn down our lawn to Derwent Water where you can see the outline of Catbells and Causey Pike across the lake in one direction and the mighty Skiddaw in the other. It’s a millionaire’s view which can be enjoyed by everyone. And the view out the back from our dining room isn’t bad either… Watch our very own waterfall cascade down the rocks after a heavy rainfall and see the red squirrels, woodpeckers and nuthatches visit our feeder whilst you are busy feeding yourselves on hostel nosh!
Early August has filled up fast, but we still have availability for the second half of the Summer holidays. Get in touch to make an enquiry or to book your Summer break - we would love to hear from you.