Whether you’ve a question about the hostel or you want to know about events in the Lake District, we’d love to hear from you.

    Category Archives: News

    How we adapted to make you welcome

    21st August 2020


    Manager Nick explains what we’ve done to bring visitors back to Elterwater and make you welcome, and reflects on a strange season in the Lakes 


    ‘Furlough’ and ‘lockdown’… the first, a word that if asked previously to define I would have suggested something agricultural. The second, a word I’d normally associate with a second-rate sci-fi movie. But not anymore… now words firmly embedded in my vocabulary.

    If I’m honest, lockdown in this beautiful part of the world with very few people around and almost zero traffic was blissful. I certainly can’t complain. Instructions from our glorious leaders to exercise locally didn’t place too much of a burden either. Ever-present were all the same challenges as for everyone else, i.e. seeing family and friends and all the usual social interactions. Skype, Teams, Whatsapp, social media… where would we have been without them?

    View from Loughrigg: always here to make you welcome

    Elterwater from the summit of Loughrigg: amid all the changes, the Lake District remains glorious

    It was certainly odd seeing the place so quiet. The last time that even comes close to comparing was the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001. The obvious difference was that this was affecting human health, and the financial impact was global rather than to a few mainly rural areas.

    I was furloughed at the end of March having enjoyed a week-long holiday earlier that month, skiing, walking and exploring in Norway. I arrived back to the early stages of the UK response, managing one trip to Liverpool for a concert before lockdown.

    Then I spent about a week ‘closing down’ the hostel, dealing with cancellations of bookings and then preparing the hostel to shut down… a surreal experience especially as we’d only just fully reopened after the switch from our winter business pattern.

    Much of the rest was played out in everyone’s lives and on the news.

    A return to work in June was welcome and I enjoyed the challenge of making the hostel ‘COVID secure’.   The ‘reopening’ of the area was a very mixed bag. The hostel was still closed under the restrictions, but rapidly growing visitor numbers caused mixed feelings among the local population.

    Hostel front

    The hostel looking lovelier than ever

    There was a feeling of isolation and vulnerability among some of our older and isolating residents and the emergence of an apparent new type of visitor. These new visitors seemed unaware of the need to clean up after themselves and respect the environment, causing some conflicts with more careful visitors and residents.

    This still prevails now in August, with significant problems caused by litter, poor parking, damage caused by portable barbecues and trespassing. I admit to be looking forward to the end of the holidays and the return of our ‘normal’ visitors who respect the area. It’s great that new people are getting to see the Lakes, but I’m not sure all appreciate it in the way our traditional visitors do. Hopefully there’s a balance to be found; we certainly want to make you welcome.

    Nick Owen, ready to make you welcome

    Manager Nick Owen

    The boost to some elements of the local economy is welcome but others, including ourselves, are still severely restricted in how we can operate (none of which I disagree with) but it does make for very challenging times for a small business

    The regulations prevent us from having the self-catering kitchen open, showers have to be allocated to ‘bubbles’ to reduce the chance of cross infection, guests affirm that they are COVID symptom free and we have a programme of frequent disinfection of touch points e.g. light switches, door handles etc.

    We have portable screens that we can use to separate and protect guests and sanitiser stations located around the building and, in accordance with most recent changes, are requesting that guests wear masks in public areas when not eating or drinking. So far everyone has been happy to comply and a fairly relaxed atmosphere prevails.

    During all this I have been involved, as usual, with my local mountain rescue team. That too has presented many challenges, not least the need to protect team members and the team operation from the virus while dealing with a fairly significant increase in incident numbers.

    We’ve been pushing our #beadventuresmart hashtag and via social media to try and alert visitors to the need to keep safe. The jury is still out on whether that has been successful or not.

    So where are we now? We’re up and running, albeit in a limited way but there’s little by way of light at the end of the tunnel. It’s good to be able to make you welcome again and though it’s a different experience than any of us are used to, we’re trying to make it as normal and enjoyable as we can.

    Feedback so far suggests our guests are generally as happy as usual, happy to comply with restrictions and feel safe and comfortable. It looks like we’re in this for a while yet, and the next challenge is how to function efficiently and sustainably through the winter season, since it’s looking unlikely our normal successful model of welcoming groups will be possible.

    And then to 2021… the challenge continues …and we won’t speak of home haircuts!


    Five best books about the Lakes

    26th January 2020

    Here’s a list of the best books to start a debate in  book clubs and reading groups. The dramatic and romantic landscape of the Lakes has always inspired writers as well as artists, and we would be keen to hear what are YOUR favourites.

    We’ve welcomed several authors to stay with us here at Elterwater over the past few years, many of them setting their stories, or their research, right here.

    They include novelists and historians, an expert on Roman Britain, and an actress with impeccable and detailed insights into the work of Arthur Ransome.

    What each of them appreciates is the rise in numbers of book clubs, where people get together to share thoughts, recommendations and literary criticism – and often a glass of wine and a bit of gossip at the same time.

    Book clubs don’t just encourage reading, they encourage readers to step outside of their comfort zones, says a novelist friend of ours. “People are much more likely to try a new author, or a new genre, on the recommendation of friends, rather than just Amazon review,” she said.

    In Cumbria there are village book clubs in places like Ambleside, Grasmere and Keswick, and regional groups in the Eden valley and beyond, as well as the annual literary festival in Keswick, Words on the Water

    They meet in each other’s homes, in village halls, in cafes, and one group we know has an occasional night away, staying in the heart of our inspirational landscape. So if that might be of interest to YOUR book club, do get in touch.

    You’d be welcome to have an overnight stay (or two) when we have the space, mid-week, low-season. Have dinner cooked by our own chef before starting your discussions in the sitting room, or opt for self catering. We have some good wines to offer; cosy, small shared bedrooms, and a splendid cooked breakfast if you wish. Let us know when you’d like to come.

    And meanwhile, here’s OUR top five. It won’t be the same as yours, so tell us what are YOUR favourites.

    Pigeon Post: Arthur Ransome. One of the Swallows and Amazons series and considered by many to be his best. It won the Carnegie prize for children’s literature when published in 1936. Set in the Coniston fells near the Coppermines valley, as an adventure story it remains as gripping as ever, and has the most wonderful, surprising and funny finale.

    The Plague Dogs: Richard Adams. The third novel by the author of Watership Down, this is an unusual tale, narrated by Rowf and Snitter, two dogs who have escaped from a government research station which has an animal testing facility. There are location maps drawn by the guidebook writer Alfred Wainwright, and a cameo appearance by the world famous naturalist Sir Peter Scott. The fictional research station was set near Grizedale Forest.

    Silent Traveller in Lakeland: Chiang Yee. Exiled from China in 1933 ,Chiang Yee spent more than 40 years away from his homeland. Adopting the name the Silent Traveller, he threw himself into writing, painting and poetry, and produced some evocative and enduring travel books. The Silent Traveller series began with this imaginative book on the Lake District, which was an immediate success on its first publication in the 1930s, selling out several reprints in a matter of months. It also caught the critics’ attention, praised for providing an entirely new angle on the Lake scenery.

    Scratch and Co – The Great Cat Expedition: Molly Lefebure. Molly, who had a house at Low High Snab, in the Newlands Valley, is another writer whose work was illustrated by Wainwright. This witty story is an account of the first ascent of the H.K.P., the Highest Known Peak in the Kingdom of Catland, originally published in 1968. It’s written in the tradition of classic mountaineering stories and over the years since its first appearance it has built-up an enthusiastic readership among the mountaineering fraternity. It’s a glorious send-up of a mountaineering book – complete with “Alpine Club” type characters, hair-breadth rescues and all the tensions of a Himalayan expedition.

    Rogue Herries: Hugh Walpole. Out of fashion at the moment, but described by John Buchan as the finest English novel since Jude the Obscure, this is the story of the larger than life Francis Herries – the rogue of the title – who uproots his family from Yorkshire and brings them to live in Borrowdale where their life is as dramatic as the landscape surrounding them. Herries is a violent and impetuous man, a faithless husband and a capricious father, but the Borrowdale valley (his home for 40 years) and his unrequited love for gypsy Mirabell Starr are the two forces which drive him. It’s the first in a series of four books in this family saga. Deeply atmospheric.




    Lighting up the Pikes as rescue team reaches 50

    6th January 2020


    The most famous outline of all the Lakeland fells will be lit up spectacularly to celebrate a rescue anniversary this spring.


    The Langdale Pikes – Harrison Stickle, Pike o’ Stickle and Loft Crag – will be lit over the mountain summits by hundreds of torches to mark 50 years of the Langdale Ambleside Mountain Rescue Team.


    The illumination, on the evening of Friday April 3, will be part of a series of events throughout the year to mark the efforts of the volunteers who have saved hundreds of lives on the hills, and rescued injured walkers and climbers. Last year they were called out 101 times.


    It is the first mountain light-up in the southern Lake District and will be hosted by Lakeland Mountain Guides, who have organised something similar on Catbells in the north.


    “It promises to be an exceptional sight,” said LAMRT leader Nick Owen. “The Langdale Pikes can be seen from many miles away on the approaches to the Lakes. It’s an outline which is familiar to everyone who has been to the Lake District, but they will never have seen anything like this before.”


    Nick, who by day is the manager of the Elterwater Independent Hostel, leads a team of around 40 volunteers from all walks of life, including doctors, paramedics , an insurance expert… and an architectural and sculptural metal worker.


    The event is being co-ordinated by deputy team leader Sarah Anderson – one of six women in the team – who said that anyone could take part if they were competent in the hill environment after dark. “The route will be marshalled but we do expect people to be able to look after themselves,” she said.

    Hundreds of torches

    So far nearly 200 people have indicated that they will take part, with more than 1000 expressing interest on the team’s Facebook page.


    The LAMRT was formed in 1970 from the amalgamation of two separate teams, who would use the now familiar base on Lake Road in Ambleside.


    The team has some notable ‘firsts’ to its credit, including the invention of the now universally used Bell stretcher by team member Peter Bell, an engineer who also developed the Reviva, an early device to give first aid treatment to hypothermia victims. Due to its location in the centre of the Lake District, the team has also become one of the busiest in the UK.


    Climbing legends


    Previously, rescue from the fells was done on an ad hoc basis by local climbers, notably Sid Cross of the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel in Langdale. The 1950s had seen a huge increase in the numbers of people who took up rock-climbing as a sport. And with post-war increase in affluence and personal mobility, many youngsters from the northern cities began to make weekend tracks to the Lakes, camping rough or in farmers’ barns, especially in Langdale, many of them later to become climbing legends.


    “Inevitably this led to an increase in the number of people getting lost, or having mishaps and accidents,” says Nick Owen.  “Volunteers came from among the local climbing fraternity but this relied on enough climbers being in the right place when an incident occurred.”


    Lost on the hills


    Call-outs were not as frequent then, but often were very lengthy affairs and the heavy and cumbersome equipment available, such as old Thomas stretchers, took its toll on rescuers and victims alike.


    In the 1960s as more and more people wanted to experience ‘the great outdoors’, the Lake District saw the beginning of a huge boom in tourism. For mountain rescue, it meant that the client changed dramatically. Instead of climbers, it was the new breed of fellwalkers who were coming to grief on the hills, getting lost, breaking limbs and falling victim to hypothermia and heart attacks.


    Rescue teams in Langdale and Ambleside were merged, and the LAMRT has
    proudly defended its position as a self-funding organisation, with a dedicated membership of unpaid volunteers.




    Thanks to its good relationships with local people and to many small contributors and fund-raising helpers, together with larger individual donations, the LAMRT has managed to bring itself to the present day with huge experience and expertise in its field, a formidable range of rescue and para-medical equipment, a high degree of communications technology and a training programme second to none. It has won the respect of and developed excellent working relationships with the Police, the County Ambulance Service and the coastguard whose Search and Rescue Helicopter Service often assists local teams with emergency evacuations.


    Be prepared


    Today their role includes education, putting across the message that those heading onto the hills should be well equipped and well prepared, and able to use a map and compass, not just rely on a mobile phone.


    The team has been at the forefront of the Be Adventure Smart campaign. Says Nick Owen: “The mountains of the Lake District are not high by international standards, and severe snow and ice conditions are rare, but they should not be underestimated as they can be unforgiving for even the most experienced and well-prepared walkers.


    “Severe weather conditions can set in within minutes and navigation can be difficult at the best of times due to a scarcity of obvious paths and tracks. We encourage hill goers to be adventure smart, asking, do I have the right gear, do I know what the weather will be like, am I confident I have the knowledge and skills for the day?”

    Nick Owen introduces hostel visitors to the Rescue Team


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