Hostel Regulations, Infectious Diseases and Sweeping between the Legs.

POST 14: 10 April 1990: Day 3 – Dent Youth Hostel to Grayrigg – 24 miles                  

Despite us feeling exhausted in the morning, the warden of the hostel showed no mercy, giving us the onerous job of hoovering the lounge. This was like being at home. However, as a potential ‘New Man’ I whizzed the hoover around and felt pleased for having helped. Gary, not a ‘New Man’, seemed to disappear for a long session on the toilet until all the work was done. Fortunately, most hostels no longer require jobs to be done. However, if you go back to the original hostel rules, first described many years ago in a publication ‘Youth Hostels in Lakeland’, third edition, price one shilling, it is a very different story.


We want our guidance of you to be gentle, since we know people, and especially young people, are apt to shy away from anything which resembles education, control and regimentation when they are seeking a holiday (sounds like my teenage son!).


Youth Hostels are for the use of members who travel on foot, by bicycle or canoe; they are not for members touring by motor-car, motor-cycle or any power-assisted vehicle (if this was still in force the hostels would be nearly empty).

No one may stay more than three consecutive nights at one hostel, except at the discretion of the warden (what a warm welcome!).

Members who have contracted, or been in contact with, an infectious disease must not use hostels during any part of the quarantine period (a bit worrying this one).

Members arriving or returning after 10.00pm without the previous consent of the warden, are liable to be refused permission or fined one shilling and reported to the Regional Secretary (this would be a serious curtailment of our evening activities and fortunately has been significantly relaxed. However, I would be quite happy to return to these rules if meal prices were as then, one shilling and nine pence each for breakfast and supper and nine pence for lunch packets).

Hostel Duties

There is often a special place for special kinds of scrap and if the containers are not plainly marked then please explore the containers to make sure that you are not dropping your paper, tins, or plaster dressing in amongst the scrap food! (The spirit of exploration was even extended to disposal of waste, clearly the YHA were one of the first organisations to be into re-cycling).

The peeling of potatoes seems to be regarded by members with mixed feelings, but despite its age-long association with servitude we would rule that this particular hostel duty is amongst the best of hostel duties. One can, at least, sit and talk whilst it is being executed, and in the process one can pick up quite a deal of useful information. It is admittedly one of the lengthiest of hostel chores, but if the company is good, and it usually is, that can be an advantage. Washing-up is another important and rather heavy duty, but wardens usually allot plenty of hands to this task. It needs to be organised pretty well if it is to be done speedily and economically. Hot water should not be wasted by running of hot water into the washing-up sink and subsequently you are not to be faced later by cold water; the process should be reversed if you are not to be faced later on by cool water emerging from the ‘hot’ tap when greasy plates still have to be washed. (This seems excellent advice as some conception of times past would not go amiss with many of today’s cloistered teenagers. My son has great difficulty loading and unloading our dishwasher, something many of the larger hostels now have).

Sweeping duties need a little thought; this point needs stressing for the benefit of the newcomer to hostelling who, landed with the not really exacting job of sweeping a dormitory, passage, stairway or a dining or common-room, often feels over-faced when he has the job of facing a shifting mass of fellow-hostellers and apparently has to sweep around or under them, or just be polite, and ease off his work so that the job is unduly lengthened and probably something is skimped. It is best to wait a little while until the traffic has thinned out a little, and the waiting time can always be employed in finishing off your own packing.’

Having diligently carried out my duties, we left the hostel in mist and rain. I immediately took my waterproof trousers out of my rucksack and it was at this point Gary said he had forgotten his and left them at home. On finding this out the heavens opened and, so as not to have to wait for me to put my trousers on, he made a hasty decision to meet me in Dent. The fact neither he nor I had a clue where Dent was didn’t matter. I wasn’t concerned as I had the maps; Gary wasn’t concerned either, but should have been. As I completed putting my waterproofs on, I saw his figure disappear at fast pace into the mist and rain; he was obviously contemplating a warm dry pub, compared to a wet road.


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