Well we believe quite a lot! Two years ago (yes, really, it is that long already) the hostel went from being part of a major national and international organisation to becoming a small, independent business with charitable status, but we retained the name the hostel had used during the YHA years.
But now we think the time has come for a new name which reflects more accurately who we are. We are incredibly proud of being an independent hostel and so, without much more ado, we give you: Derwentwater Independent Hostel!
Becoming an independent hostel has given us so much more freedom and scope to explore opportunities we just didn’t have previously. One of the most important changes is that it has enabled us to become more involved in the local community, working closely with other local businesses and suppliers to forge real partnerships, using local suppliers and encouraging locals to enjoy the hostel grounds. Whereas before the grounds were gated off, locals and visitors are invited to take the walk down from Ashness Bridge through the hostel’s grounds, past our stunning waterfall, and pop in for tea and homemade cake – and maybe see a red squirrel along the way! We work with several local adventure and activity providers so that we can offer groups and families an all-inclusive package. And instead of a having to use big national catering supplier we source all our food and beverage from companies based just a few miles from Keswick.
With independent status, we have had the freedom to be able to work on exciting new initiatives, such as an innovative new educational development which will offer an all-round package for schools and other educational establishments, and which has immense scope for teachers and pupils alike. The hostel will also be shortly launching their new website which will reflect the new branding and provide even greater depth of information and ease of navigation than the current site.
And now that we are part of the ever-increasing Independent Hostel UK (IHUK) network it means friendly support from other hostels in the Lakes and marketing support via IHUK’s website and handbook.
Kathy says 'Initially we were, in all honesty, very daunted at being independent but it’s been so brilliant and liberating. I think it is significant changing our name to Derwentwater Independent Hostel – we are very proud now of being independent. I really think that other people see us differently and are more supportive and helpful.'
The owner of our hostel, John Snyder, says, 'I am immensely proud of the Derwentwater Independent Hostel team. The first two years of any new endeavour is the hardest part. Our team started with no advance bookings, and have beaten their forecasts each year making a small surplus which we can channel back into the hostel as a not-for-profit charity. The evidence of their hard work is that we can continue past that all important two-year milestone!'
A journey of understanding was the title of the week-long residential programme organised by the charity Encompass. Encompass was established by the parents of Daniel Braden, who was one of the 202 people killed in the bombing of a nightclub in Bali in 2002. They believe that, if people can grow to understand each other on an individual level, the bonds of friendship will overcome any divide.
The Journey of Understanding involves up to 28 young people coming from the United States, Israel, Palestine, Indonesia, and the United Kingdom, to meet, talk and form friendships with the aim of gaining cultural understanding. So far Encompass has brought together more than a thousand young people taking part in the challenging outdoor activities and workshops which form the basis of their Journey of Understanding.
For the first time Encompass based their Journey of Understanding in the Lake District and at our hostel. The 28 young people came from many different backgrounds, cultures and faiths and were an incredibly enthusiastic and friendly bunch. Some of the week was sheer fun and games, but much of the week was spent in undertaking workshops and discussions which were both thought-provoking and intense. These often continued long into the night, well after the official end of the workshops.
All the participants seemed determined to get the most out of their week, throwing themselves into the activities which most of them had never even heard of before. Salma, one of the delegates said, 'My stay with Encompass has been amazing - from the food we have been having to the activities that have been arranged for us. Today we went Ghyll Scrambling which is walking through running streams and climbing rocks in waterproof clothes (which weren’t actually so waterproof!). It was freezing but it got me in touch with nature.'
The week was declared to be an unmitigated success and Encompass loved it so much that they will be returning with another group in February. The staff here enjoyed having them here very much and were very sad to say goodbye. The group made great thank you poster with some really lovely messages. A few of the group also contributed to a blog, which you can read here; but I will leave you with an excerpt written on their last day, by Sahna, which shows what a powerful impact it had on those involved:
'I came to the Journey of Understanding thinking I would just be learning about other cultures and people but for me the greatest development was learning about myself. We started the week as strangers but we leave with a bond that is stronger and deeper than most relationships. To say this is a life changing experience, is the biggest understatement.'
The Lake District, and the Borrowdale Valley in particular, is a favourite with the Goodchild family. They have been visiting the valley every year since 1999, when their youngest was two and toddling around in nappies – he is now a strapping sixteen year-old! They came and stayed at the hostel earlier this year and Jessica Goodchild wanted to share one of the walks they did whilst they were here:
'We absolutely loved our trip to the Newlands Valley -just the other side of Catbells - and the route up to Causey Pike. We parked just near the bottom of Stoneycroft Gill, and started the walk on the good, gradually inclined track. You make steady progress without getting too exhausted. It seems a bit odd at first, because Causey Pike is across the other side of the gill to the left and so walking parallel to it looks like you will never get there! However, the track swings round as it climbs and eventually you come to a sort of shoulder and a meeting of paths. Here you can clearly see a path sloping up through the heather directly to just below the summit. This section is a little steeper, but by now you will have got well into your stride and it doesn’t seem any more tiring or difficult than the first section. The view is also unfolding below you – you can see Bassenthwaite Lake and Keswick appear in the distance, with Skiddaw standing guard. Before too long you reach a long saddle and then it is mere minutes before you hop over all three of Causey Pike’s bumps which make up its summit. The views over the Newlands Valley, across to Catbells and back towards the mighty Grasmoor are out of this world. There always seems to be a special quality of light shining over the Newlands Valley and this makes everything even more magical - you can openly view the surrounding fells while also feeling calmly secluded. We really recommend you give Causey Pike’s impressive shapely summit a look!'
Editor’s note: From Easter until the end of October you can also get the Honister Rambler bus to Braithwaite and then walk the mile to the start of the walk from there.
On a fine weekend late in the month we welcomed Leeds Mountaineering Club to the hostel. The club has been going since the 1960s – the first incarnation was as u201cLeeds Youth Mountaineering Club in 1962. Nobody is saying why they dropped the 'youth' part in 1965, but the club brought a real range of people across the age groups, who all seemed to gel really well.
This may be because the club are so active, with a well-attended weekend meet every fortnight. This involves going away to Wales, Scotland or the Lake District to enjoy the mountains together and stay in Mountaineering Club Huts, so they all get to know each other pretty well. This weekend though was their Annual Club Dinner, for which Dave rose to the occasion with a special meal. The menu included such tasty things as feta and roast onion tartlet, local trout poached in wine, and an amazing chocolate torte with a Clementine sauce. Nearly everyone made a huge effort and really dressed up for the occasion – some of the chaps had even donned tuxedoes and the women looked gorgeous in their glamorous frocks.
This is their first visit to our hostel, as they like to choose a different location for their Annual Dinner every couple of years or so, although it is usually somewhere in the Lake District. Andy Golborne, Entertainment Secretary, said, 'We chose the hostel for the brilliant location. We found your website, which we really liked, and loved the look of the building when we saw the pictures of it. As well as looking good it was also large enough for our group, so we made enquiries straight away!'
The group certainly made the most of the location amongst the fells, with a few groups of them walking up either Scafell Pike or the High Spy ridge to Catbells, others doing the fantastic scramble on Cam Crag Ridge up to Glaramara, some mountain biking a 30 mile route involving Skiddaw House and Whinlatter, and a couple of people running up Dale Head – and that was just on Saturday! It is a wonder they had any energy for the Ceilidh which was organised for after dinner… However, when local band Feonix arrived and started playing they all threw themselves into the dancing with great energy and enthusiasm. They also had time for a photographic competition – the entries were stunning, depicting locations from the UK, Europe and Nepal – and an awards ceremony after dinner. And on Sunday, before leaving, they all went on more walks and activities with Andy saying, 'We’ve had a great time – and not too many sore heads!'
They certainly know how to pack everything into a weekend and we would love to see them again next year.
We thought it was about time we had another volunteer from overseas as we hadn’t had anybody since the lovely Lise from Belgium left in May! Through the brilliant Workaway scheme we were contacted by Laura from Ludwigshafen am Rhine in South East Germany, who arrived in the first week of November to work with us for six weeks.
Like most of our European volunteers, one of Laura’s aims is to improve her English – and like most of our European volunteers we find her English is already of a very high standard. Before she came to the hostel, Laura spent several weeks in Ireland learning English at a language school in Galway. She certainly tuned in her ear, since, as well as being able to speak very fluently, she understands all our various accents and speeds of talking without having to ask us to repeat anything!
Laura says, 'I heard from friends that the Lake District should be amazing – and it is! I chose to come to Derwentwater Youth Hostel because there was a lovely picture of the building and it looked wonderful – the romantic idea of the Old English House. The first night I was here I stayed in the hostel and when I woke up and saw the view over the lake it was – wow! Everyone is very nice (She had to say that – Dave was listening! Ed) and it is a good place to work.'
Laura is pretty hardy… She now has a room in the staff house in Keswick which means that she has to cycle in to work every day. A bike was purchased from our good friend Linda Furniss at Keswick Tourist Association especially for the purpose which, with a bit of adjustment from the boys to the saddle and handlebars, suits Laura admirably! When asked what were the best and worst things about working at the hostel she said the early morning bike ride covered both – 'the good is that the cold air wakes you up and you feel healthy, but the bad is that is hard work so early in the morning!'
She wants to make the most of her time in the UK, so as well as exploring the Lake District she is trying to visit some of the cities in Northern England and Scotland. Locally, she has admired the views from Latrigg and soaked up the atmosphere at Castlerigg Stone Circle. Further afield, she has already visited Edinburgh and Glasgow with and plans to go to Liverpool or Newcastle next.
It’s lovely for the staff to have volunteers from overseas, not just for an extra pair of hands, but to learn about another country and to get a different perspective on our lifestyle and our surroundings.
For the Alhambra Cinema in Keswick, 2014 is a special year. Not only does it kick off the year with its fifteenth Film Festival from , but the cinema also celebrates being 100 years old. Anyone who has visited the cinema appreciates the beauty of its original early twentieth features – it is quite an opulent venue for such a small town.
The Film Festival is always a popular affair and attracts celebrity support. John Hurt is the Patron of the Festival and takes part in a Q and A session as well as introducing a film of his choice. In 2013 he provided the narration for one of the films and presented the Osprey Award – which is the award for the best local short films at the Festival. This year the Festival also attracted acclaimed British Film producer, Dan Boyd, who introduced his own film, War Requiem; and Anwen Rees-Myers who produced In Love with Alma Cogan. There are hopes for other celebrity guests and supporters to tie in with the centenary celebrations.
These celebrations include free film from Friday to Saturday, when Tom, the owner of the Alhambra, shows two films from each decade. And, as usual, there will be an excellent programme of exciting UK and international films and there will also be screenings at the IMAX cinema at Rheged. They are still making the final selection of films, but visit their website or their facebook page to get the latest news and updates.
The Osprey Awards are also going to be bigger this year as the qualifying area is being extended from covering just Cumbria, to include Northumberland, the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway. They hope to have a new venue in town given over entirely to these short films too, where people can drop in and out.
2014 really is going to be an exciting year for the Alhambra. We wish them all the best for a great centenary and a successful Film Festival.
Earlier in the month, Nicola and Kathy represented our hostel at the first ever Independent Hostels UK (IHUK) Conference at Hatters Hostel, Liverpool on 12 November. It was a great get-together of people from over 50 hostel and bunk houses from all over England, Wales and Scotland.
Kathy says, 'We had some really interesting and informative conference sessions ranging from Social Media to Green Energy. It was fantastic to meet so many enthusiastic people and meet the people behind IHUK. Sam Dalley of IHUK produced the first copy of the Independent Hostels Guide back in 1990 (a simple photocopied guide,) and we celebrated the 21st Birthday of the IHUK at the Conference. They put on a great conference and everyone enjoyed the evening entertainment with an acoustic guitarist playing whilst we had dinner at Hatters, followed by a visit to the legendary Cavern. The conference was a huge success and we’re looking forward to the next one already!'