Sunday, May 24

Lake District: 3 Tarns Wildcamp: Tue May 19th

Before the wash-up post, a few words about the YHA, and Ambleside hostel in particular.

I've stayed at YHA hostels across the length and breadth of the UK since my first backpacking trip in the mid 70s (Llanbedr to Bangor - carrying kitchen sink and all) So I've some experience of the cultural changes across the organisation over the years, especially in the last two to three.

Whilst I can be a little nostalgic at times about the special atmosphere each hostel had in times past I'm realistic enough to acknowledge that the YHA has had to adapt to modern market conditions. Or cease to exist. At times some change seems to have been almost contrary to the ethos behind the organisation's original aims. But like most modern businesses (for that is what it must be to survive) change will be a continual and evolving process. With mistakes along the way.

I'm not keen on Ambleside YHA. Too large. Too impersonal. Too prone to school parties & day trippers. On the other hand it is ideally located for Ambleside, the Windermere cruiser, and the regular 555 bus service north to Grasmere/Keswick or south to Windermere Railway.

So an ideal hop on/off point, and why I stick with it despite some reservations.

As I’d already mentioned earlier trying to book a bed for the night had turned into a farce. On the plus side Ambleside's policy of offering Bed & Breakfast as a minimum has, I'm happy to say, now been dropped. Compared to past visits this time the YHA staff felt much more friendly and sincere, improving the general atmosphere of the hostel as a result.

I'm not too sure what bright spark decided to install a fully fitted bar on site, especially with the proximity of numerous pubs nearby, but that doesn't fit with the hostel's drive to attract school parties.

However I do suspect it might have had some small part to play in the detrimental nocturnal activity of a fellow roommate who managed to pass from taciturn window gazing/snacking to unconsciousness in a matter of minutes. Predictably, considering the position he lapsed into, that resulted in that great YHA bugbear - the Snorer From Hell. Well , they all have one, but this bloke surpassed every other contender I've ever had the misfortune to encounter over the years. Even over the rock music playing on my MP3 his sonic attack was unmistakable.

After twenty minutes he had a choking fit (I didn't touch him - honest) which resulted in his adopting a more normal sleeping position. The intensity of his speciality lessened. but not by much.

Luckily I was tuckered out after the last few days, and surprisingly managed to fall sleep. But given that it was still early the rest of the room had to contend with the assault as they crept to bed later in the evening.

One young guy I chatted with during the stay resorted to sleeping in the YHA lounge, amongst a number of other rooms (Hi Danny - hope it all works out for you) Or should I say tried to sleep. I thought I was first up the following morning, only to find the poor lad wandering wraith like & red-eyed around the hostel ground floor after a singularly unsuccessful night trying to find a dark/quiet corner to curl up and pass out.

OK. All you hostelers will have a similar tale I'm sure. Some even take the earplug/eyeshade approach. But there's got to be a better way surely?

On the positive side during this stay I was lucky enough to meet some like minded people and trade tales & experiences; Despite, inevitably, kids bouncing off the walls at times. For me that what hosteling is all about. Spending time, however transitory, with people from diverse backgrounds, but mostly sharing the urge to explore the world in their own particular way.

Its an unique strength that the YHA has largely lost, save in the occasional small/basic hostel. A major selling point really. But as to how to use it, if indeed it can ever be recovered….I've no idea.

Its this factor, not the accommodation cost, that keeps me renewing my membership. For a few pounds more I would have privacy & comfort in a B&B or budget hotel. But I prefer that old YHA buzz of interesting people stepping outside their normal lives to do something for themselves.

(The last morning)

I caught the early bus down to Windermere railway and ducked inside Booths Supermarket next door for a newspaper. Since my last visit Booths has added a fine café section, which offers a clear view of the station platform. So no more hanging around in the cold and rain for me from now on.

The return trip home was long and largely uneventful. For a change I fell into a couple of reasonably long conversations along the way. I'm normally an MP3-book out-leave me alone rail traveller but after the relaxation(!) of recent days I was more open to sharing time with those around me. Wonder how long that will last?

This time the change-over at Manchester Piccadilly gave me a chance to check out the local facilities. As I've discovered it offers a hourly direct service to Bournemouth it’s a route I think I’ll be using more in the future. One tip though - beware the station toilets - 30p entry!

I sat with crossed legs until the train arrived.

Given the amount of fast food/coffee bars in the esplanade those facilities must make a fortune.

As the train worked its way southwards the sky cleared until finally I disembarked to warm weather and bright sunshine. Bloody typical.

'Oh its been bad weather down here', I was told later.

'Not as bad as where I've been' I thought quietly to myself, gritting my teeth.

Another trip complete; This one rather more eventful than usual, leaving me much to reflect, and a few formative ideas for future pieces.

But for the moment, time to round it all up for the Wash-Up report.

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Sitting with crossed legs until you can board the train is not always a good idea. Having (until recently)worked on the railway for a number of years I have known many trains where all the toilets are out of use for various reasons. The 30p charge would have seemed like a total bargain under those circumstances.......!!
Thats where the empty drinks bottle comes in
Oasis bottles seem a popular choice :-)
Next time I go by train it will be Bournemouth - Wolverhampton
Wolverhampton - Oxenholme Lake District(Kendal)
Before Virgin lost the franchise you could travel direct from Bournemouth to Oxenholme(Kendal):(
My own hostelling days started in the early 70s when I was a young lad of 13.It was an exciting time and gave me the opportunity of visiting many new places and opened my eyes to the beauty of our wonderful countryside.My last stay at youth hostels was in 2007 when I stayed at Grasmere(Thorney How)and Patterdale.I can only say Never Again!!Grasmere was an absolute nightmare.Poor food and poor accomodation.By contrast Patterdale was much better but not the best nights sleep having to share with half a dozen others,some of whom snored and others who had to get up in the night.I would much prefer to either camp or spend a little bit more on B & B.Anyway,great trip report which I have enjoyed reading.THANKS.
Really enjoying this little series John, a really interesting angle.

I've not done much youth hosteling - only stayed in one twice but for me I think you put it perfectly about those I like minded people:
"interesting people stepping outside their normal lives to do something for themselves."
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