Dotted around Britain there are large country houses converted into Youth Hostels. According to Hostelling International:
The founder of the youth hostel movement was a German teacher, Richard Schirrmann. He was a believer in learning by direct observation and often took his classes on excursions and hiking trips. The hiking trips could last several days, and Schirrmann and his pupils would find accommodation in farm buildings.
On one of these excursions, on 26 August 1909, the group was caught in a thunderstorm. They finally found shelter in a school building in the Bröl Valley. The headmaster let them use a classroom and a farmer gave them some straw to sleep on and some milk for their evening meal. The storm raged the whole night. While the boys slept, Schirrmann lay awake. That was when he had an idea…
Only an hour or so's drive North of Liverpool and we can stay in the midst of the 'fells' or mountains of the Lake District. Here are some of the grounds of our new home (for as long as we choose to stay).
But, as beautiful as the hostel and gardens are, the greater beauty calls us. We climb from the tamed lawns of Grasmere up a steep but carefully laid stone path into the blue-topped hills above. It is still early morning and long shadows show up the hills like actors on a stage.
The Herdwick sheep are not quite ready for visitors.
I watch nervously as some of our party head for what looks like the edges of solid ground
We skim the top of the crags and look down towards Dove Cottage, Wordsworth's first home which was ‘crammed edge full’ with his family and guests and then follow across a ridge to Rydal Mount where he spent his final years. Past Rydal Mount is a huge stately home called Rydal Hall on the grounds of which gushes a slender mill stream overlooked by a terrace cafe. We stop for a lunch of soup, paninis and cappucinos and then press on, downwards this time, to Rydal Water.
|William Wordsworth helped to choose the site of chapel of St Mary in Rydal, where originally an orchard stood.|
|Rydal Cave where swallows swoop|
Cosseted again by the homely shores of Grasmere, we visit the tiniest of shops (I am taking this photograph with my back against the farthest wall) for the gingerbread Wordsworth was said to have yearned for.