“It’s a bit remote, isn’t it? How will you cope?”
This was my parents’ reaction when I announced that I had decided to volunteer at YHA Edale during the month of August 2014. I had a bit of time this summer before starting a PhD at Sheffield University and, appreciating the role Youth Hosteling played in shaping my love for the outdoors, I thought it would be an ideal way to repay a little of what I owe to YHA for so many wonderful experiences. It was daunting however, to step off the train into another world – where the sound of traffic is replaced by bleating sheep and mobile reception is non-existent. I soon grew to love this tranquility, and the stunning view of the Mam Tor Ridge from the Youth Hostel.
As an activity centre offering climbing, canoeing, abseiling, orienteering, etc, YHA Edale truly delivers YHA’s objective of introducing young people to the countryside. During my placement, the Youth Hostel was full to capacity with kids attending YHA summer camps. One hundred and forty over-excited children, along with their leaders and instructors, create a lot of cleaning and catering to be done…It felt very satisfying to take up these tasks which enable the camps to be run. It was a fascinating insight into the logistics of mass catering and I soon found that I particularly enjoyed plating up meals at the servery. Even when I had a touch of laryngitis and completely lost my voice I ploughed on regardless! It was brilliant to see children and young people from all backgrounds experiencing the outdoor life, especially those who had been supported by charities and bursaries and would not have had a summer holiday otherwise. There was also great camaraderie between the staff and other volunteers as we all sought to deliver an unforgettable adventure for the kids. I found the cleaning tasks more challenging at first – especially each time the kids left and we had to make the entire hostel presentable for the weekend guests in double quick time. Nevertheless, I became quicker at wiping showers, cleaning toilets and tidying rooms and soon found that these jobs have a satisfaction of their own.
During my free time, the hills of the Hope Valley beckoned…Have boots, will travel! Thanks to my trusty OS maps, I was able to explore the Kinder Scout Plateau, Stanage Edge and Derwent Moors, the plague village of Eyam and the Goyt Valley. The transformation of the hills into rolling oceans of purple heather took my breath away, and I would often wander for hours without seeing anyone else.
The days ticked by at a relentless speed and soon I found that I was down to my last few shifts. I have learnt so much – how to crack a 7.00am start, which cleaning product suits each job best, how to sweep and mop a floor to perfection – and met some incredibly selfless people. I feel privileged to have been able to have given this time to Edale and would encourage anyone to consider volunteering with YHA. Even if the opportunity isn’t advertised, often the help is very much needed and appreciated so if you have an idea, go out on a limb and ask! And hopefully, you will build as rich a trove of memories as I have.
YHA Edale and the rest of the YHA team would like to thank Caroline for her hard work and enthusiasm. It was great to have you on board!