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 National Citizenship Scheme is described on their website as, 'a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity open to all 16 & 17 year olds in England... (to) take on new challenges and meet new friends.'
One of the organisations delivering the scheme is the Football League, which you may be surprised to know is a charity with a remit to oversee community and youth development activities at Football League clubs. Rotherham United is one of the clubs bringing groups to our hostel for the activities part of the scheme.
I caught up with a few of the young people from the club on the third day of their adventures, to find out more about the scheme and what they had got up to so far. They told me that the scheme takes place over four weeks, involving a week's residential doing activities, another week's residential learning life-skills such as budgeting and first aid, and then two weeks community-based volunteering.
When I met them, the group was buzzing after their day's hike up Catbells, a first fell for most and no mean feat for people not used to walking. Michael Buchanan told me, 'What made it the best was that everybody cheered each other to the top. I didn't want to leave - the views were amazing'u009d. Lucy McCaffery commented, 'I can't believe I went all that way - I am so unfit!' She also praised her group for the support they gave her when abseiling, 'I was crying before we started, but everybody was so supportive that I loved it and was up for another go'.
Kara Martin-Walsh was very impressed with the hostel grounds saying, 'It's a beautiful place - not many places have their own waterfall!' She also had praise for the hostel food, 'I'm gluten-intolerant and it's really hard at school - I've never been offered a proper alternative meal. It's really nice to be given a choice - going out of the way to make sure I can eat the same meal as everyone else.' And Michael noted 'we are treated like adults, not kids. We aren't regimented but have a choice of all the different areas in the hostel to go to.'
The students loved their activities and appreciated the fact that the same instructor from Glaramara stayed with each group for the entire week's activities, with Lucy saying 'they are really well-organised and really patient'. Their leader, Cheryl Davidson, from the Football League, was also extremely well-organised, and the students were very well-behaved. Cheryl said that compared to other venues she has taken groups to 'this is more personal and friendly'.
For me the nicest thing about the group's stay was how well they bonded and supported each other. Kara summed it up when she said, 'We went from being strangers to becoming friends.'
'Derwentwater Youth Hostel is the perfect expedition base for the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award - it is surrounded by wild country, great camping areas, has challenging weather and fits really well into our plans.'
We love to get feedback about the hostel and gain an understanding of how we can meet the needs of different groups, so it was great to hear from Andy Woolley from Monmouthshire Youth Service who was here for the third year in a row with his DofE students. From small beginnings four years ago with just five students, the DofE scheme in Monmouthshire has grown and grown and this year 79 young people are doing their gold award with 56 of them coming to Derwentwater Youth Hostel for their expedition assessment.
The gold expedition is an unaccompanied four-day hiking and camping challenge. There are about six students in each group and each day they have to walk approximately 15 miles a day carrying everything they will need on their back, including food for four days, camping equipment and spare clothing. It is an extremely arduous challenge and not for the faint-hearted!
The group use the hostel for the pre-expedition check - making sure they have their route cards and all their equipment and that they are up to speed with emergency procedures. The night before they go off into the wild the hostel dining room is strewn with maps, rucksacks and equipment. Terry Smith, one of the team of helpers and volunteers who assist Andy in facilitating the expedition, said 'it is great having all this space to ourselves for the pre-expedition check - we can really spread out.'
Terry and the other two helpers, Matt Jones and Alyn Jones, were also being assessed this trip as they are doing their Supervised Expedition Leader qualification which is recognised by the Mountain Leader Council. They have been supporting the Monmouthshire DofE group for 3 years now, providing transportation and an extra pair of hands for Andy, who is out on the hills keeping an eye on the groups and assessing them out of sight.
It was a fascinating insight into the organisation involved in getting the expedition off the ground and the extent of the challenge faced by the young people taking part. We hope they all found some enjoyment in the expedition itself and a sense of achievement when they completed it - they certainly deserve that Gold Award!
Having fallen in love with the idyllic Derwentwater Independent Hostel back in November 2013, we returned again to this wonderful hostel and beautiful landscape, to run our most recent Encompass Trust ‘Journey of Understanding’ in February 2014.
The ‘Journey of Understanding’ is a 10-day residential programme which takes place in the UK. Each programme involves 24 young people, from a mix of backgrounds, faiths and cultures, drawn from America, Indonesia, Israel, Palestine, and the UK. Their perceptions of the world and each other are highly polarized through religious and social tradition and conflict. During the 'Journey of Understanding' young people join together and build bonds through challenging outdoor adventure activities, and a complementary programme of professionally-facilitated discussion workshops and skills sessions.
During the course of the programme participants are encouraged to confront stereotypes, develop the confidence to interact with those from other backgrounds, and they learn the skills which will enable them to promote intercultural understanding when their journey ends. Once they return home, they use their new-found skills to develop community projects which foster the same spirit of understanding which they themselves have learned through their encounter with Encompass. The journey goers will be meeting on Monday 3rd March for their first post Journey planning ahead session and it looks like we have a lot to look forward too!
DIH has been the perfect oasis to hold our programmes. From the substantial dorms, spacious workshop and dining areas to the ‘chill-out’ rooms, the hostel really ticked all our boxes. The breath-taking beauty of the Lake District is a wonder for all, but for Mohammad, from Palestine, it was even more! 'You didn’t tell me this was heaven on earth', he exclaimed as he burst into the room, having visited the ‘Surprise View’.
Participants were in awe of the period hostel, with its breath-taking ceilings, lovely staff and good hearty home cooked meals. There were smiles all around. Thank you all at DIH and we can’t wait to visit again! If you’d like to read more about Encompass, have a look at their blog:
Thanks to Sahdia, one of the Encompass Staff for this article. We are delighted to be the venue for Encompass’s inspirational programme.
Every year, the 3rd Gateshead Boy’s Brigade are lucky enough to come to the Lake District for their eagerly anticipated Easter trip. The Company has a long history of hiking, and the group who stayed with us this year are gearing up to taking their Duke of Edinburgh silver award expedition in May. So this trip was a great opportunity to get in some solid fell-walking experience.
On the way here, the group stopped off at Rookin House Activity Centre for the afternoon and had great fun go-karting and trying their hand at archery. By the time they arrived here, there was just time to settle into their rooms before going outside into the dusk to build a fire and spend the evening toasting marshmallows – yum! Then it was off to bed to get some good rest before embarking on the fells the next day.
The group had planned an interesting and scenic circular route, beginning and ending at Rosthwaite, just a few miles down the Borrowdale Valley from the hostel. Their walk took them up past the historic old mine-workings of Rigg Head, then through the rather squelchy plateau to Dale Head Tarn, and finally up a steep climb to the top of Dale Head itself, which has wonderful views over the beautiful Newlands Valley. Daniel Charles, who came with the group, said:
'...the view was stunning! As far as the eye could see was covered in snow, somewhat adding to the fabulous view from all around. From here, we went down into Honister and arrived at the Honister slate mine, where a warn bowl of leek and potato soup was a very welcoming change from the bitter cold outside.'
After a filling breakfast the group set off the next day from the path at back of the hostel, up past the waterfall and on to Ashness Bridge. From there they took the path over Walla Crag to Keswick, and having got their hiking boots really into gear, arrived in less than two hours. Once in Keswick they spent time at the Leisure Centre enjoying the swimming pool before having some well-deserved free time in Keswick shopping.
Daniel said of their weekend:
'Altogether, I think that the weekend was spectacular and the facilities at Derwentwater Youth Hostel were superb. I can safely say that everyone that went on the trip is looking forward to going back next year.'
And we are looking forward to seeing you all next year too!
You may be wondering what earth I am talking about with this caption, but the photo above may give you a clue! I first bumped into the Fylde Under-15 Rugby Team when I was cleaning by the front door and three of the lads trooped in looking for the way to the toilets. Nothing particularly strange or remarkable about that, except that all three were dressed in onesies (those things which look like babygros for big people) complete with tails and ears... They certainly didn’t look like your typical rugby types, that’s for sure! Steve Worsnip, organiser of the trip, (and also a onesie wearer) explained what it was all about:
'The tour was titled the Onesie Tour, involving casual onesies for travel and relaxation, with a change into very practical onesies as they experienced Ghyll Scrambling with Glaramara and Paintballing at Rookin House Farm.'
Their stay at Derwentwater Youth Hostel was a trip to celebrate the end of a very successful rugby season for the 21 lads and their team coaches, all from Lytham St Annes. As well as the activities done off-site, there was a lot training on our field for the rugby match on Sunday against a team from Carlisle. You may be wondering if the onesies made an appearance for this event, but Steve informed us that:
'Onesies were discarded for the very serious matter of Rugby against a very good side from Carlisle, with Fylde RFU coming out on top with a 29 – 12 victory. Derwentwater Youth Hostel provided a perfect venue, with excellent accommodation which allowed all the boys to share one large room, plus food that absolutely hit the spot. We had a great time, and we are very grateful for your support and hospitality.'
This was certainly a first here at Barrow House – though I think that the somewhat eccentric and whimsical Joseph Pocklington, who built our lovely mansion, would have appreciated the idea of unusual outfits!
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.
Last month we welcomed back one of our regular youth groups, the Gateshead Boys’ Brigade. Thank you to Daniel Wales for writing this report of his stay:
‘Our bags and rucksacks were packed and we set off for the Lake District. After a stop at an Activity Centre to do an assault course and enjoy a ride on an all-terrain vehicle we arrived at Derwentwater Independent Hostel, just outside Keswick. The hostel is just off the main road out of Keswick and has a football pitch and a lovely view of Derwent Water. We found our dorms and made up our beds, although I needed help with my duvet cover!
Down in the kitchen our leaders were preparing a delicious tea of chicken fajitas and apple strudel and custard. We were really hungry after all of our activities! As we were self-catering, we all pitched in to tidy up and leave the kitchen clean for other people to use. The hostel has a table tennis room, where I spent most of my free time playing with friends, a pool and table-football room, and a TV lounge. Just when it started to get dark we headed down to the lake side and lit a camp fire. We played games, sat around telling jokes, and toasted scones on the fire. It was really warm next to the fire and I loved the atmosphere. It was quite late by the time we got to bed and even later when we got to sleep, due to lots of chatter!
The following morning we packed our rucksacks, ready for a hike up Helvellyn. It was a very long way up, and steep at times. However, the view from the top was fantastic. We could see Scotland, the coast and many other mountains in the Lake District. I thought coming down would be easy but it turned out to be just as difficult. Eventually we made it down and enjoyed an ice cream in the sun. By the time we arrived back at the hostel all of our faces were bright red, so a leader headed off into Keswick to buy after-sun cream.
We relaxed in the hostel after our walk, and some of us even had a lie down on our beds! However, eventually the smell of spaghetti bolognaise drew us from our bunks and we headed to the dining room. Once fed we felt revived enough to play football until bedtime.
After breakfast the next morning we had a major tidy up in our dorms and then packed our bags, ready to leave. I was sorry to leave the hostel as I like spending time there. However, we had ghyll scrambling to look forward to near Wastwater before heading home. This is the second time I have stayed at the hostel and I hope I can go back again. It is a great place.’
We look forward to seeing Daniel and the Boys’ Brigade again!
What do you get if you cross CLIP conservation volunteers with coppicing and chocolate? Charcoal drawings and bonfire-baked chocolate cakes! In just two days a group of young people, who had never met each other before, became an inspirational team, using every minute of the day (and most of the night!) to improve our grounds, learn new skills, and make the most of our woodland resources.
We have been very fortunate to host several CLIP groups over the past 3 years, and each time we are amazed by the range of activities they achieve. The activities on this visit demonstrated excellent use of resources, with some delicious and highly artistic results.
On the first day Gareth Thomas of Woodmatters supervised some much-needed coppicing of the young beech trees at the top of the grounds, making an incredible difference in a short amount of time. With the left-over wood, he then showed everyone how to make charcoal, as well as techniques for whittling sticks. By the end of the day the group had also made a living willow arbour (it has developed a soft leafy canopy already!), some willow knives, a big bonfire, and some very useful barbeque sticks.
After a long day of enthusiastic hard work, the group then spent the whole of the evening outside, using their new skills and resources to fantastic effect: this was truly a zero-waste weekend! Here are two of the things they baked on the bonfire: whittled sticks wrapped in dough, flavoured with dried fruit and spices; and hollowed-out oranges filled with chocolate cake mix, wrapped in foil.
The following morning the group enjoyed a well-deserved session of dragon boating on Derwent Water: no doubt they are capable of making their own boats in the future! Then it was back to the hostel for a review of the weekend, using Saturday’s hand-made charcoal to draw pictures and diagrams.
Here are some of the comments (picture them in charcoal!) from the review:
‘I am now more confident in myself and feel that you do not need to change as people will accept you’
'I have gained key skills, such as developing group work as well as trying new things without hesitation'
Sarah Bisson, the Youth Project Officer told us: 'We have seen many young people through this project volunteer their own time to benefit others and their community - it truly is inspirational.
Thank you to everyone at CLIP for their inspirational projects. We hope you get a chance to come and lie under our willow arbour soon!
You can read more about CLIP conservation work on their blog: http://blogs.tcv.org.uk/
In May we welcomed a really interesting new group from the Albemarle Barracks (near Newcastle). Lisa Robinson, the Community Development Worker for the area, leads a youth group for the children who live on the army barracks, and she has the considerable challenge of organising activities for a wide range of ages.
With a grant from the Royal British Legion, Lisa was able to organise a trip away for the youth group, and we are delighted that she chose our hostel for the venue. Without further ado, here is a report from the youth group members:
‘We are Albemarle Youth Club, and we come from an Army Barracks near Newcastle. This means that at least one of our parents is a soldier with the British Army. Albemarle is near a big city, but is quite isolated (there are no buses we can get and only one shop on camp). There are about eighty houses on camp, and more houses in estates off camp for military families.
Because it isn’t very easy for us to travel to the city, there is a Youth Club on camp. We do some cool stuff while we’re there, like cooking, art, music, gardening, and games. There are between eight and ten club regulars.
Although we have been on day trips as a group, we have never been on a residential before. For some of us, it was the first time we had ever stayed away from home!
The Royal British Legion offers a fantastic scheme called Poppy Adventure Breaks. The scheme funds an activity holiday for children from military families who might not have had a holiday for a while, or whose parent is away for a long time. We were able to take advantage of this.
We arrived on a sunny Monday lunchtime after a three hour coach journey (and having to get up at 7.00 on the first day of the school holidays!). We met Graham, our Activity Leader from Glaramara Activity Centre, and got straight down to business with team games, orienteering and archery before tea. Lucy was excited to get a bull’s-eye with her arrow, as she hadn’t ever done archery before! Speaking of tea, the food at the hostel was amazing! We loved the choices we got, it was all really tasty and we definitely didn’t go hungry. Special mention to the breakfasts: we had to keep going back for more!
On our first night we saw the hostel’s resident red squirrel, who gave us a cheeky wave from the bird feeder out the back.
We had to make our own beds: some of us are used to that because we have been to boarding school before, but there were plenty of us who needed some help from our friends. Our rooms were really nice: we liked sharing with friends, and we had daily room inspections with a scoring system: the girls came out on top over the week, but it was pretty close!
On Tuesday we climbed in the morning. A lot of us were scared of heights, but we faced our fears! We went ghyll-scrambling in the afternoon. That’s basically climbing up the middle of a river! You get really wet, and it was hard work getting over some of the big slippery rocks, but we all loved jumping into the pools and we all crawled through the tunnels, even though that bit was scary.
Wednesday was our hardest day: we were all tired, and had to climb a mountain and walk for seven hours! But we got to have lunch in a cave, and had an ice cream on the way home to keep us going. We had a torchlight disco on Wednesday night, and ate so many sweets.
On Thursday we canoed on Derwent Water, and it was a great end to our trip. We got achievement awards from our leaders at lunch time.
Thanks for having us. We were sad to leave because we had such a good time, and we definitely want to come back!’
Earlier in September we had a really interesting group at the hostel, with 30 young people from all over the USA. With so many states represented, there was a fascinating cross-section of US cultures, and their unity developed throughout the week.
Thank you to their leader, Kookie Taylor, for writing this report:
'In partnership with the Tees Valley Youth for Christ, 30 American students have been twinned with schools and churches across Teesside, where they will be serving as youth workers for the next year. The majority of the group had never been to the UK before, and so the Lake District was a perfect introduction to our long-term stay in the UK.
After arriving at the hostel we immediately hiked to the top of Surprise View. Everyone was completely enamoured by its effortless beauty, and it was a powerful place for considering how this landscape might have been created. While admiring the view, TVYFC Director Mike Taylor shared an inspiring message on Vision.
Following Surprise View, we hiked a little over three miles to Watendlath Tarn, hidden away in the mountains. Then, after the refreshing hike, we headed back to the hostel and played sports games until tea. We were graciously served a filling meal and delicious desserts by the hostel staff.
After a morning of worship and sharing our stories, we tackled Cat Bells together. Our group represented many different levels of fitness, yet every student was capable of reaching the top. Whether you are a casual walker who wants to make the most of a beautiful afternoon, or an experienced hiker looking to explore further, Cat Bells is a highlight for everyone. Each view was truly spectacular, and the fresh air was exhilarating.
After our leg work-out on Cat Bells, we challenged our upper bodies to a little kayaking on Derwent Water. Kayaking was equally breath-taking, but from a uniquely different perspective. The weather could not have been more ideal, with the water glistening magnificently in the afternoon sun.
We spent our third day in Ambleside, enjoying the best of town and countryside. Some of us stayed on the high street, enjoying a quiet day in the coffee shops, while others spent time shopping, playing volleyball in the park, or hiking on Loughrigg Fell. That night we also had a relaxed evening out in Keswick.
Overall, TVYFC was completely blown away by the beauty and charm of North England, as well as the service and accommodation at Derwentwater Hostel. The staff attentively met all of our needs, and made our time in the Lake District that much richer. It was an unforgettable week.'
Thank you Kookie, and good luck to all the Tees Valley youth workers.
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.
We have now said goodbye to all the energetic staff who guided groups of National Citizen Service (NCS) participants through their weeks of challenging activities. Everyone seems to agree that the weeks were a great success!
Each week we accommodated a different group of young people aged 15-17. The groups came from Oldham, Stockport, West Midlands, Blackpool, and Birmingham, and for many of them it was their first visit to the Lake District. It was also the first week of their NCS programme (the team building week) and so everyone was finding their feet. The second week of the programme is a self-catering residential in university accommodation, after which they start voluntary service projects in their home communities. The groups were divided into teams of about 12, and these teams stay the same throughout the programme, with one NCS Senior Mentor per team, supervising the whole programme.
We were really happy to find out that Florence King, who volunteered with us during her Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award in 2012, was one of the NCS Senior Mentors. Here is an interview with her:
1. What is your role with NCS?
My name is Florence and I have had the pleasure of working with NCS for two years now, both years as a Senior Mentor. My role focuses on pastoral care, making sure my team of 12 young people, of different abilities and backgrounds, are all okay. So it can be a very interesting few weeks, but it is wonderful to see how quickly they learn from each other and how, in just a few days, they feel like they've known each other for a very long time!
2. What were some of the activities you delivered during the week at the hostel?
The first week of NCS can sometimes be the hardest. It is the first time some of the young people have been away from home and it is a very active week, so they are very tired by the end of it! While we were staying at Derwentwater we were lucky enough to go ghyll scrambling, hiking, camping and canoeing, as well as doing lots of other team building activities at the hostel. As their Senior Mentor, I also delivered evening sessions each night, where my team and I reflected on our week so far.
3. What was the feedback like from the group after the first week? (on the activity side, rather than about the hostel)
After the first week, my team could not stop talking about how much they enjoyed it! They were all very grateful to have had the opportunity to do those activities and visit the Lake District. They had nothing but positive feedback after the first week: I think that first week is one of the most important times of NCS. It is when the young people really begin to learn a lot about each other as well as themselves. Some of them really push themselves and are surprised at how much they can achieve if they really try.
4. How has the group developed since the hostel week? Do you have any examples of their project plans?
Each team developed a lot after the first residential week: the majority of them became very good friends and had already made plans to meet once NCS had finished! My team in particular were very quiet at the start of the week and I think the first week really helped them to come out of their shell and feel more at ease with each other. My team have been planning their campaign, which they will present in September, and they are focusing on how everyone is different but how each person is special in their own way.
5. Can you tell us some of the personal highlights and challenges that you have experienced with NCS so far?
Some of my personal highlights of the NCS this year were seeing how much my team developed. At the beginning I was a little concerned that they might take a while to bond and to throw themselves into some of the activities, but I had no reason to be worried: they put 100% in and really impressed us all. The team is now working closely with The Together Trust, which is a charity that caters for adults with learning disabilities, and it is lovely to see how passionate they are about helping and making a difference.
We wish Florence and all the NCS teams the very best for the remainder of their programme.
At the end of September a very colourful extension was added to the hostel: a huge bouncy castle! This was just one of the exciting things that Cumbernauld Athletics Club organised for their young club members. Travelling down from Scotland on Friday, the young athletes were treated to a fantastic array of team building games and fun activities: orienteering in our grounds, treasure hunts, dragon boat racing with Plattyplus, and a fancy dress pirate party.
They also did lots of running, starting with Keswick Parkrun on Saturday morning. 71 club members (almost all under 18) took part, and this swelled the field to a record attendance. It was also a record for Cumbernauld, for the most club members taking part in one event at the same time. Thank you to everyone for a very lively weekend!