You just never know who you are going to get turning up at the door when you work in a hostel in the Lake District.
Derwentwater youth hostel
Many people assume that youth hostels are used by solely by school groups, ramblers and backpackers. But here at DERWENTWATER INDEPENDENT HOSTEL (previously Derwentwater youth hostel ) we have had a huge variety of guests from all walks of life and for all sorts of reasons.
Of course we have school groups. We have 88 beds to fill after all, and are in a wonderful location in the Lake District for adventurous group activities. The school groups range in age from tiny five and six year olds to strapping seventeen year olds. We also have youth groups such as Scouts and Beavers (they’re the cute 6 year-old version of Scouts) as well as students pursuing their Duke of Edinburgh award either out on the fells or by doing a volunteer placement in the hostel. Volunteers have also taken the form of 17 year old students doing repair work on storm-damaged paths and walls in the grounds of the hostel. So yes, students of all ages are certainly represented and make up a large chunk of business as well us giving us a much-needed helping hand. Hostels provide a valuable residential resource for an excellent educational experience for thousands of children and young people each year, so it is important that hostels continue to welcome school and youth groups through their doors.
However, there are so many other people out there who find Derwentwater Youth Hostel an ideal venue for all sorts of celebrations and events. In April were thrilled to host a beautiful Lakeland wedding in which the ceremony took place by our very own waterfall, a sit down meal cooked by us in a marquee on the terrace, and the evening’s entertainment and dancing in the hostel dining room. Another couple chose the hostel to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary with family and close friends at Derwentwater youth hostel. And yet another couple brought their friends and families together for a weekend at the hostel to celebrate the birth of their baby and have a naming ceremony for her.
As the hostel is ideal for families, with our fantastic grounds for exploring and playing in and a wealth of family-oriented activities on our doorstep, it is no wonder that we are filled with families during the school holidays. For one group of families we provided a lifeline when they found that their accommodation in Northumberland had been double-booked. Fortunately we were able to step in and accommodate all 50 of them for their annual get-together and they had a fantastic time – it looks like we might be seeing some of them again! Other families have taken advantage of our family activity holiday package which provides full board and five days of fun and adventure from climbing on a via ferrata to kayaking on the lake. They often want to come back to Derwentwater youth hostel and do it again the following year too.
And then there are the athletes… We are on the coast to coast cycle route and get many people using the hostel as their first night’s stopover. Just the other weekend we had a group of 28 young people aged between eleven and fifteen, all kitted out in their Lycra! But they aren’t the youngest C2C-ers – earlier in the year we had two little lads aged nine who were as keen as mustard and raring to go as they left here on the morning of the second day of the route.
At the other end of the age spectrum, when Derwentwater youth hostel was used as a base for a training weekend for a team of triathletes, there was a woman who had taken up the triathlon when she was 60 and was relishing the early morning lake-swim and 80 mile bike-rides. And we can’t leave out the fell-runners. With the hostel previously being the home of the founder of the Bob Graham round and well-placed as base for both training and doing the actual event, we have had quite a few intrepid fell-runners attempting the incredible challenge of 42 fells within 24 hours, a distance of 72 miles and climbing to a total ascent that falls just short of Everest. The equivalent challenge for cycling is the Fred Whitton event in which cyclists have to cycle over all the Lakeland passes covering a distance of 120 miles. The route passes right by the end of our drive and so we have both participants and spectators staying.
Given the prime position of Derwentwater youth hostel amongst some of the most beautiful fells in the Lake District we do get our fair share of ramblers. A lot of those are raising money for charity by taking part in events such as the four 3000-ers challenge and the 10-in-10 (ten peaks in ten hours). And then there are the Wainright-baggers – people who are aiming to climb all 240 fells that Wainright listed in his legendary guide books. The school groups also usually manage to bag a Wainright or two during their visit – the favourite is Catbells which can be seen across the lake directly opposite the hostel.
Since becoming an independent hostel we have welcomed a greater number of overseas visitors than previously. These range from individuals from all over the world, who are travelling throughout the UK with the Lake District as an essential stop-off, to groups of all kinds. Over the past few months we have had a group of students from Indonesia, Chinese students from the Strathclyde University Chinese Society, a group of international young entrepreneurs which included people from United Arab Emirates, Columbia and Greece, a gathering of friends from Nepal and a group of Latter Day Saints from Utah. We have also welcomed volunteers from Germany and France who gave us some much-needed help. We are very much enjoying this greater diversity of visitors and being able to meet people from so many different nations.
Some of visitors just can’t be categorised. Mountain Rescue have visited us in a few forms – with their Search and Rescue Dogs on a training weekend, for their AGM, and most recently at a charity event for the Prince’s Trust, when they landed a helicopter on our lawn and we provided lunch for the team and the young people and their families from the charities. Almost as noisy as the helicopter are the motor-bike enthusiasts who come every year, roaring up the drive on their vintage bikes. Although we like to call them the Hairy Bikers they’re not really that hairy at all! And then there was the Cumbrian youth project called Digital Natives, who used cutting-edge technology to project a fantastic and creative light show onto our hostel building. It was incredibly spectacular and very unique.
And finally, we can’t forget our non-human visitors. We have Colin the red squirrel who calls by every morning to feast from our nut-feeder to the delight of people having breakfast in the dining room. At twilight the badgers come out and try and steal the bread from the bird table by ingenious means, and sometimes staff going home after their evening shift are lucky to see a roe deer or two in the grounds. There is a huge variety of birds who visit our feeders, from woodpeckers and jays to bluetits and nuthatches. And we mustn’t forget the moles who think they are helping to aerate our lawn and the Herdwick sheep who think they are doing us a favour by mowing and fertilising it!
So a youth hostel is incredibly versatile and flexible, and therefore an ideal venue for so many different kinds of visitors with many different needs. I wonder who will turn up at Derwentwater youth hostel today?