November 2014

Welcome to the November Newsletter
This month: Vikings, Scouts and New Year Availability.

You might remember mention of a Viking in last month’s newsletter. Well, this month we had 20 of them (or at least 20 very good young actors, remarkably at home with runes, sagas, and longhouses), all from Richmond Hill Primary School, and joined by local Borrowdale Viking experts John and Sarah Platt. We also had a busy time with a big weekend event organised by Eden District Scouts (from Cumbria) and enjoyed a lively music night with local folk band Stooshie. 

We would like to say thank you to our new volunteers Anastasia from Australia and  Angela, from East Anglia. They have been helping around the hostel, and keeping us entertained: no need to go into hibernation this November!

If you are interested in staying any weekend in December or from 27 December over the New Year period, we have plenty of rooms available.  Keswick is looking very festive and there is always plenty to do in the area.  Theatre by the Lake's new seasonal production of 'Peter Pan' is running until the end of January.  Other festive favourites include the special 'Father Christmas Cruises on Derwent Water'. To see the full range of Keswick events visit   

The Vikings are Back!
Richmond Hill Primary School go back in time to meet the Vikings. Read more...

In the middle of November, 20 Year 3 pupils from Richmond Hill Primary School, Aspatria took part in our 360 degree Education + Adventure programme, with educational activities in the house and grounds on Thursday afternoon, and adventure activities with Glaramara Activity Centre on Friday morning. Richmond Hill School is the second school to benefit from our DIH Fund, and they certainly made the most of the opportunity.

This term the Richmond Hill Year 3 topics include Volcanoes, Rocks and Soil, and Who lived in Britain, and so we took a 500 million year journey through the history of Borrowdale, re-enacting the formation of the Skiddaw and Borrowdale Volcanic Rocks, exploring our waterfall, and learning about the Vikings who settled in Borrowdale.

On Thursday afternoon we were joined by local Viking experts John and Sarah Platt of Plattyplus, and they brought lots of exciting things with them, including shields, clothes, animal skins, grinding stones, and lots of intriguing stories! After a surprise greeting by our costumed leaders, the pupils divided into three groups, completing three different activities throughout the afternoon: these included shield decorations (with chalk and stencils on chalk-board replica shields), grinding wheat, and learning about Viking households and customs.

After waving goodbye to our Viking visitors we learnt about Viking names and their meanings, with each pupil adopting a different name and writing it down in runes (the Viking alphabet). Then we made our names into necklaces and introduced our new selves to each other!

On Friday morning the pupils were due to go ghyll scrambling, but there was too much rain and so they went indoor climbing instead. Then pupils re-lived their experiences by telling Viking-style sagas of their adventures, and it sounds like they had a great time!

The teacher in charge told us 'The children and school staff had a fantastic time at the hostel. The hostel was warm and friendly. The food and choices were amazing.   They all enjoyed the different Viking activities as well.'  The hostel staff really enjoyed having these well behaved young Vikings to stay!

Eden District Scouts ‘Spooky’ Event
Camp fire in Honister Slate Mine and crafts inside and out at the Hostel. Read more...

We were delighted to be the accommodation venue over the weekend of 14 – 16 November for a fantastic event organised by Eden District Scouts.  The organisers put on a great programme and had obviously put in a large amount of planning as the weekend seemed to go like clockwork.  Here’s their report on the weekend.

'Brilliant! Amazing! Exciting! Interesting! Very, very, very dark! Great! I’ve never done anything like this before!' Words and phrases used by young and old to describe Eden District Scouts ‘Spooky’ event based at the Derwentwater Independent Hostel, the Ashness Scout Hut, and the Honister Slate Mine.

More than 140 young people aged between 6 and 18 together with 30 or so adults took part in the weekend which was filled with new experiences, fun and adventure.  All the young people had the opportunity to explore the slate mine: the Beavers and Cubs were led in small groups on a mine tour by Honister staff; the Scouts experienced the indoor via ferrata ‘Climb the Mine’; and the older teenagers, the Explorers, were guided on the external Via Ferrata Extreme which took them up onto Fleetwith Pike.

Between the adventures in the mine ‘spooky’ craft activities were available in the Hostel for the youngest sections, and most of the Beavers also had guided hill walks beside the spectacularly full waterfall behind the hostel building.  The Scouts were busy with backwoods cooking in the grounds, and enjoyed a hill walk to Walla Crag, while the Explorers also did some cooking, and enjoyed a geocaching session.

Another highlight of the weekend was the two evening ‘camp fire’ events in The Theatre – a huge cavern - at the mine.  The singing for the Beavers and Cubs was led by a Scout County Leader, while the second get-together, for the Scouts and Explorers, was mostly run by the Explorers themselves.

For Simon Woodrow, brand new District Commissioner for Eden, this was his very first District event, and he spent his first few hours greeting parents on the Hostel drive!  He said afterwards 'I was lucky enough to be involved, and to see all age groups having a brilliant time!'  (Editor’s note – coincidentally the new DC had helped on several trips to the hostel with Lovat School and Kathy and Dave enjoyed renewing their acquaintance.)

And for us all in Eden District Scouts, this was something different, which required a lot of planning and 'behind the scenes' activity.  Without the help of the staff at the Derwentwater Hostel, who made the young people so welcome, and worked their catering and housekeeping socks off, we couldn’t have done it.'

We’d just like to say a huge well done to all involved on organising such a wonderful weekend for the Beavers, Cubs, Scouts and Explorers.



Moulsham A Level Geographers
42 years of River Studies

Moulsham High School (Essex) Geography students have been coming to the Lake District since 1972: their annual measurements of Greenup Gill form a pretty significant record of the local environment! This long-term collection of river data gives the students a sense of real worth as they carry out their measurements and contribute to the ever-growing river study.

Paul Mason has been bringing Geography students (first with Thurstable and now Moulsham) to the hostel since 2002 and he wrote some lovely comments for us this year during their annual October visit:    

‘I am so glad to see that the hostel continues to grow and cater for its visitors. It provides an excellent base for carrying out river studies within the Borrowdale Valley. Over the years hundreds of Essex students have been knee-deep in water collecting data, but however cold or wet we have got, a warm welcome has always been provided by the hostel. Students always remember this place: it is often the first thing they mention to me after years have gone by and they are all grown up. A big thank you from a teacher and all the Thurstable as well as Moulsham students that have been here.’

This year the A Level students did a study of the 2009 Cumbrian Floods (Cockermouth in particular) and they looked at the current river management in Cockermouth and Keswick. They compare this case study with a study of flooding and river management in Bangladesh. The students had to give presentations of their findings at the hostel, but they also wrote essays in answer to the question.  We were very impressed at how much work they did and wish all the students all the best with their A levels.

Liverpool Tropical School of Medicine
Tropical medicine in the Lake District? There is a connection! Read more...

The hostel had a new group staying in October.  The trip was arranged by Sarah, a German doctor  who organized a weekend away for 40 colleagues.   We’re grateful to Sarah for the following account and can vouch that many of this hardy  group did indeed swim in Derwent Water!

'On Sept 1st 2014 another intake of the Diploma of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene started at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. 91 doctors  from 3 different continents met with a common professional goal  of studying tropical diseases. Quickly, however, we discovered, that not only profession connected us, but also the love for the outdoors and we were soon busy to arrange weekend trips into the countryside. One of them led us to the Derwentwater Hostel in the Lake District, run by Kathy and her wonderful staff.

Planning our trip to the Lakes was already a real pleasure as communication with the hostel staff was welcoming, always friendly and always eager to provide us with as much help, information and comfort as possible.

We found the hostel being beautifully located on a small hill overlooking a lake, which had almost all of us in for a short dip into the cold waters in spite  of  the rainy weather. The dormitories were comfortable and warm. The historical interior of the building was well preserved and simply beautiful. Little notes made by the staff and visitors about the latest animal sightings in the area contributed to a very personal experience. We enjoyed a wonderful hostel dinner and whoever wanted to go on a little digestive hike afterwards was able to do so just behind the hostel where a little footpath runs up the hill from where a beautiful panorama view of the lake and the surrounding hills can be had.

We spent our evenings in the cosy common rooms playing cards and pool, chatting and dancing.

The weather was unsteady, but that didn't hold us back from climbing 'The Great Gable' and from going on a hike in a muddy valley just north-east of the hostel. There we were, a bunch of grown-ups having fun on mud-slides and rocky slopes covered in mist. Visibility was bad, but sun broke through once in a while revealing beautiful views of the countryside.  A well deserved pint in one of the great local pubs was our reward at the end of our sporty day. 

We enjoyed a wonderful weekend and comparing all the places we went to throughout our course, the Derwentwater Hostel sticks out as the best and friendliest accommodation. Great thanks to Kathy and her team for making us feel so much at home!'

Derwentwater Independent Hostel
Barrow House
CA12 5UR
Telephone: 017687 77246

Thank you to Geoff Williams, Rebecca Laff, Fiona McCarthy, John and Sam Snyder, and KTA for generously providing inspiring photographs.
Thank you to Lisa Bamford at Stoats and Weasels for designing our website, and to Sam Snyder for building it.
© 2013 Derwentwater Independent Hostel. All rights reserved. Registered charity: 1145368