Out for a walk in the first spring sunshine, we detoured up hill through the woods at Shining Cliff to see the old youth hostel.
Climbing the path through the trees the hostel seems almost suspended above you, an idyllic spot in acres of woodland.
The original wooden hostel started as a collection of former army huts. The Grith Pioneers or Grith Fyrd, an alternative group with links to the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry, had helped convert the huts into accommodation and training workshops for unemployed people in the late 1920s.
The Grith pioneers also had a base at Godshill near Fordingbridge which may have been linked to an early youth hostel at there. The details about the hostel at Godshill, which ran from 1931 – 1945 are difficult to track.
The Grith Pioneers was one of a maze of organisations that sprang to life in revolt against an increasingly urbanised and consumerist life in the years after the first word war. They and others like them gave impetus to the movement that founded youth hostels.
The Grith pioneers seem to have faded away. The Woodcraft Folk and the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry, organisations with which they were linked, have continued.
YHA took the huts as a youth hostel in 1947, an example of the many and varied ways in which youth hostels came into existence. Shining Cliff was rebuilt of stone after the huts burned down in a fire in 1976.
It ceased trading as an official youth hostel in 2007 but still runs as a hostel, part of the independent hostel network. It offers accommodation for self catering groups of up to 20 in five rooms.
Information on the hostel from John Martin’s on line listing of all youth hostels.