Back at Borrowdale in the Lake District a couple of weeks ago, I remembered I was last there about fifteen years ago. Lots has changed and lots has not, but that’s a bit like youth hostels too.
Last time, I went to Borrowdale because the deputy prime minister, then John Prescott, wanted a visit. He had been there as a boy on a school trip, a time so memorable for him that, in the wake of foot and mouth disease which had devastated the British countryside and youth hostels, he had emptied his pockets to help YHA.
A lot has changed since then. I’ve retired from my job with YHA. I’ve written two books, been to the USA twice, my children have left home for good and one has made me a grandfather.
Other things have not changed.
My job then was media and it was again this time. I was in the Lake Distrct to meet Emma Jane Kirby, a reporter with the BBC News at One programme.
I drove up the day before, and spent the night in the hostel.
I woke early, another thing that doesn’t change. I made a cup of tea, like I always do, and enjoyed the fact that a youth hostel offers self catering as well as meals and a bar.
When I wake I can make a cup of tea in the kitchen and my sleeping companion doesn’t get disturbed, as she does in a hotel when there’s tea making in the room.
I like being in company in the lounge. One of the staff was tidying the bar. I listened to a couple debate an unfinished jigsaw from the night before. Which piece fitted where?
Another guest pondered a run from the front door to nearby Castle Crag, a run which can earn him a place in the hostel’s competition for the quickest up and back.
The atmosphere of the hills seeped into the hostel, something to do with the light and the people. A woman, coming through the door, brought a breath of fresh air about her as she warned me that it was breezy outside.
Later a couple of young women studied a map and planned their day while another man was teaching his son how to read a map and compass.
I bet it was the same in 1939, a time Emma Jane Kirby wanted to talk about for the BBC. It’s a lot more comfortable. The hostel has camping pods in the grounds. My bedroom has a carpeted floor. There are hot showers and wi-fi and cars in the car park that wouldn’t have been there in 1939.
A lots has changed but a lot has not which is what I love about youth hostels. They’re modern and up to date but the atmosphere and the people are just as they were back when they started.
You can read the BBC piece here and some of my interview. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-43521810
You can find out more about the youth hostel at Borrowdale here. https://www.yha.org.uk/hostel/borrowdale
Read about John Prescott’s trip to the Lake District. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/holidaytypeshub/article-597625/Prezzas-Lakeland-labour-love.html