I spy with my little eye, something beginning with…B. Bouncy castles? Bark? Buzzards? Biscuits? Bridesmaids? The North Lakes pupils played this before donning their blindolds, inter-hostel walker Barbara Matthewson packed binoculars as her luxury item, and the U3A History Group set their sights even further, looking round the house and grounds for clues to the past (who can spot Belisarius in the Room 1 furnishings?). We hope you enjoy reading about all these different activities.
We have limited availability in July, but if you are in the area then please come and see us at the Derwent Water Regatta on Crow Park on 11th and 12th July. There is more information about the regatta activities here: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/borrowdale/visitor-information/article-1355835657851/
Was it fitting that I should finish my Lake District Round at Derwentwater Independent Hostel, once owned by Bob Graham, creator of the Bob Graham Round? Had I, like him, completed 68 miles and the ascent of 42 Wainwrights in less than 24 hours? Well, no, I hadn’t. 39 Wainwrights and around 108 miles, but in 11 days…and that is how I like it!
I hope you’ll take the time to read my story, and perhaps think about planning a hostel to hostel walking route of your own. I’ve enjoyed 8 or so hostel to hostel walks over the last 20 years. I’ve really enjoyed the sense of a journey and getting away from the clutter of everyday life when travelling on foot each day, carrying with you only what you need. My sister used to have a fridge magnet which said ‘one moment on the lips, a lifetime on your hips’. I have developed a similar thought for backpackers: ‘one moment in the pack, 10 hours on your back’. So I try to keep my pack weight as low as I can, without compromising safety. I took good waterproofs, strong boots, hats for cold and sun, gloves, warm layers, first aid kit, map, compass, and whistle. But I slept in my spare T shirt, dried myself on a J cloth and a flannel, and took very light spare trousers and Crocs as indoor footwear. My luxury items were binoculars and camera. I posted parcels to a few hostels to top up with food, tea bags, toiletries, sun cream, and boot cream. You could start with a route of a few nights: for instance, Derwentwater Hostel makes a great base for setting out to the Honister, Buttermere or Borrowdale hostels. There are usually choices of routes between hostels, so you can adapt according to how you and the weather feel: it’s your trip, not something anyone else has devised or written a book about.
I set out from Ambleside Hostel, on June 9th, looking forward to the next 11 nights which I’d booked at a selection of Lake District Hostels. Depending on the weather each day, I planned to be flexible with the route, but hoped to be able to spend as much time as I could up on the hills. And there was always the bus…
Starting in warm dry weather, my route took me to Patterdale over Fairfield and St Sunday Crag, then to Grasmere via the Helvellyn Ridge, on to Elterwater via Pike O’Blisco (not an obvious choice, but to fit in with a friend on one day - the rest of the time I was on my own). From there over to Borrowdale via Glaramara - the hottest day, shorts and t-shirt weather so carrying the rest of my clothing and lots of water. Then the weather turned cooler for the rest of the trip, which meant a lighter pack as I wore more clothes and needed less water. I walked on over Dale Head, to Buttermere where I spent 2 nights, so enjoyed the next day with an even lighter pack on Whiteside and Grasmoor.
The next hostel was Black Sail. I set off past Scale Force, to Red Pike where I was stunned by at least 40 swifts zooming round the summit, flying so low and fast near me that I could hear the wind in their feathers. I watched them for several minutes. Then a great roaring below the summit, and a whirlwind swept nearby me across the summit, lifting and swirling small stones as it went past. Two most amazing things on one summit! Back then to the more ordinary delights of walking over High Stile and Haystacks to arrive at Black Sail. I had 2 nights here, and walked up Steeple and Pillar with cloud spilling over from the South in the morning, veiling and unveiling the views. The next morning it rained, for the first and only time on my trip. As it was a short walk to Honister, and not much option to lengthen the route in the wind and rain, I enjoyed a morning in pleasant company at the hostel, setting out for Windy Gap when the rain stopped. I went over Green Gable and Grey Knotts to reach Honister. Leaving there on my last whole day, I made a second visit to Dale Head. Near Dale Head Tarn I had a good view of 2 stoats. Going on to High Spy I usually walk along the western edge to enjoy the views down the steep crags, but it was far too windy. Derwentwater and the hostel, my last of the trip, came in to view. Passing over Cat Bells and around the South of the lake I was finally there! A bottom bunk in a quiet dorm! The best hostel meal of the trip - I always remember Derwentwater for its generous portions. I’d ordered chicken and chips and had been looking forward to them all day, and they did not disappoint.
Low cloud the next morning made a good excuse for a short walk into Keswick over Walla Crag to catch the bus. My legs, which up until now had felt strong, and only made brief protests when starting off up another hill, were not having a good morning - they were telling me they knew they hadn’t got to do much more so they weren’t going to try!! Finally, the crowded streets of Keswick. Grasmere and Bowness seemed very strange after the quietness of the fells and dales.
I’d thoroughly enjoyed my walk - I usually walk in the Lakes in March and October - but the fells in June were delightful. I’d enjoyed the company of the birds - skylarks, meadow pipits, wheatear, ring ouzels, buzzards, kestrels, ravens, crows, jackdaws, swifts, and swallows. The flowers had been beautiful, starting with bluebells and ending with foxgloves, and with heath bedstraw, tormentil, butterwort, lousewort, sundew, cotton grass, hawthorn blossom. The weather had been kind. I’d met some great people in the hostels and been well looked after by staff. Great memories.
My route in more detail:
Total mileage: 108 miles. Wainwrights climbed: 39.
Day 1: White Moss Common to Ambleside. Loughrigg. 5 miles.
Day 2: Ambleside to Patterdale. Low Pike, High Pike, Dove Crag, Hart Crag, Fairfield, St Sunday, Birks. 11 miles.
Day 3: Patterdale to Grasmere. Lanty’s Tarn, Keppel Cove, Raise, White Side, Helvellyn, Nethermost Pike, Dollywagon Pike, Grisedale Tarn, Tongue Gill. 14 miles.
Day 4: Grasmere to Elterwater. Red Bank, Elterwater, Langdale, New and Old Dungeon Ghyll, Pike O’Blisco, ODG. 10 miles.
Day 5: Elterwater to Borrowdale. From NDG, Mickleden, Rosset Gill, Allen Crags, Glaramara. 9 miles.
Day 6: Borrowdale to Buttermere. Rigghead Quarries, Dalehead, Hindscarth, Robinson, High Snockrigg. 8 miles.
Day 7: At Buttermere. Lanthwaite Green, Whiteside, Hopegill Head, Grasmoor, Wandope, Whiteless Pike.
Day 8: Buttermere to Black Sail. Scale Force, Red Pike, High Stile, High Crag, Haystacks, Loft Beck. 10 miles.
Day 9: At Black Sail. Steeple, Scoat Fell, Pillar, Boat How, Beck Head. 10 miles.
Day 10: Black Sail to Honister. Beck Head, Windy Gap, Green Gable, Brandreth, Grey Knotts, Moses Trod. 6 miles.
Day 11: Honister to Derwentwater. Dalehead, High Spy, Maiden Moor, Cat Bells. 9 miles.
Day 12: Derwentwater to Keswick. Walla Crag. 3 miles.
If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is around to witness it, does it make a sound? This was one of the questions we discussed with the Year 4 pupils from North Lakes School (Penrith), sitting by a tree that was uprooted by a tornado which tore through our grounds in 2012.
The North Lakes programme consisted of 4 different activities: Climbing, Ghyll Scrambling, and Kayaking with Glaramara and Plattyplus; and a Words in the Woods activity with Katy, exploring trees in the grounds with sight, smell, touch, hearing, and philosophical discussion!
The Words in the Woods activity started with a game of ‘I spy’, using lots of different adjectives and similes. Then we discussed the different senses, moving into a Bat, Tree, and Moth game where one person is blindfolded (the Bat) and everyone else is either a tree or a moth, calling out ‘moth’ or ‘tree’ continuously until the bat has detected all of the moths and ‘eaten’ them. Continuing with the blindfold theme, the pupils took it in turns to smell and feel 6 different natural objects that their partners had collected from the grounds. As they did this, they tried to find similes to describe their sensations. Then they focused on one object and, after returning it to the pile and removing their blindfolds, they tried to identify the object they’d focused on.
Then we discussed the different features of trees, and the pupils helped to create a tree trail, making a features sheet for their chosen tree. This included a rough map to indicate the location of the tree, diagrams and drawings, and written descriptions. We encouraged the pupils to study the features as thoroughly as possible, using all of their senses (apart from taste!).
We concluded the session with a walk up the waterfall path (studying tree features along the way), and a group discussion of our philosophical question, exploring the nature of reality and the importance of our different senses.
It was great to work with the North Lakes pupils, with lots of different ideas and observations, from one child who was really scared of every little insect, but who fascinated everybody when she found a beautiful leaf skeleton and a leathery fir cone, to another child whose father is a tree surgeon (hopefully we had all our facts right!).
Jemina, from Finland, was only with us for 7 days, but she fitted in so swiftly, and did so much, that it seems like she was here for much longer.
Jemina made us several different types of sweet buns, from Cinnamon Rolls (Korvapuustit) to Cardamom Muffins (Kardemummamuffinit), and she made the most of every day, walking, swimming, and helping with all the hostel duties. We are looking forward to hearing about her onward travels, with more volunteering placements in Europe and Asia. Thank you for your energy, enthusiasm, and baking Jemina!
We also had brilliant help and companionship from Shauna Gogerly, a Workaway volunteer from London. Shauna excelled in Georgian baking and flower arranging (for the history tours), working energetically at the wedding weekend, and helping the North Lakes children with their tree studies. She also did some really useful gardening in the grounds, obviously happy to be back in her wellies (Shauna has done lots of volunteering at festivals and on farms).
Really making the most of her free time, Shauna went to The Theatre by the Lake three times, kayaked to Derwent Island for a guided tour, walked round Buttermere, took part in a guided walk over Helvellyn, visited Dove Cottage and the Wordsworth Museum in Grasmere, and went to Woolfest in Cockermouth. Oh, and she collected our latest volunteer Sandra (from Northern Spain) from the station and walked with her over Cat Bells: our volunteers really are fantastic!
June has been a really interesting month for group visits. Here is a sample:
The Lake District Enduro Challenge, led by Discover Adventure, took place on 20th June, with 22 participants (Team Animal) raising money for the RSCPA. The challenge consisted of an overnight expedition, canoeing on Derwent Water, cycling over Honister Pass, and trekking around Haystacks. The activities were particularly challenging in the strong winds and rain. Well done to all of the participants.
The 'leisurely' Three Peaks (Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike, and Snowdon) challenge took place on the same weekend, led by Inspired Outdoors. The group arrived from Scotland at about 8pm, quickly refreshed themselves, and then set off for their ascent of Scafell Pike, returning to the hostel at about 2am! They enjoyed a few hours of sleep before a very hearty hostel breakfast.
Continuing the walking theme, four different Duke of Edinburgh Award groups have stayed with us in the past month: Carmel College, Bradford Grammar School, The Belfast Institute, and The Methodist College (Belfast). Well done to all the students who completed their Gold Award expeditions.
In June we also gave two talks and tours for local interest groups: the Flock church social group, and the U3A History Group. This was a great opportunity to share our heritage and do some more Georgian baking.