Supporters have vowed to oppose the closure of a Lake District youth hostel.
A Facebook group has been formed to try to get the Youth Hostels Association to change its decision to shut the Derwentwater hostel in Borrowdale (login required).
Fans of the Derwentwater hostel at Barrow House say it is an important facility that allows everyone, especially young people the chance to stay in the most beautiful place in the UK.
They add the hostel is unique and totally irreplaceable. The campaign group is urging supporters to write to the YHA chairman Chris Darmon and chief executive Caroline White to tell them they are ‘making a mistake for the YHA and the young people who get so much out of a trip to the Lakes’.
The closure is one of eight across England, including the Helvellyn hostel at Greenside, Glenridding, the one at Hawkshead in the Lake District, Osmotherley in the North York Moors, and hostels in Newcastle upon Tyne, Salisbury, Arundel and Totland Bay on the Isle of Wight.
But the YHA said it is investing more than £30m in its properties over the next five years, including major refurbishments at the isolated Black Sail hostel in Ennerdale. A new hostel will open at Berwick upon Tweed and the accommodation in Oxford Street in London will be redeveloped.
Buyers for the Kendal and Thorney How, Grasmere, hostels have been found to enable them to continue operating. The eight are scheduled for closure at the end of the 2011 season.
A statement from the organisation, which was formed in 1930, said: “Closing a youth hostel is never easy and YHA does understand the impact this decision will have, particularly for members and guests who enjoy close links and have strong loyalties with this particular hostel.
“We are working closely with all of our staff who are affected by this decision.
“By closing and selling hostels, YHA can release the capital value of these sites to pay for the future investments need elsewhere and to reduce the amount of money we need to borrow to meet our total investment needs.”
The decisions to close the eight venues were taken at the board of trustees’ January meeting.
The statement continued: “YHA is committed to have a network of youth hostels that meet the needs of our customers both now and in the future, one which will be financially sustainable, in which we can invest securely, and which is able to grow and support our charitable object.
“These plans are a major step towards achieving that goal, which will see a capital investment of more than £30m in the next five years.
“Other sites that will be invested in this year are Wilderhope in Shropshire, Rowen in Conwy, Grinton Lodge in North Yorkshire, Salcombe in Devon, Poppit Sands in Pembrokeshire, Tintagel in Cornwall, and Wells-next-the-Sea in Norfolk. This shows our commitment to the breath of our network spread across England and Wales.
The youth hostelling movement was started by German schoolteacher Richard Schirrman to encourage town-dwelling young people to meet new people in the fresh air of the countryside.
Its heyday was in the 1950s with growing membership and hundreds of new hostels opening. Members were expected to join in with washing-up and cleaning duties and travel to hostels by car was discouraged. But increasing demand for smaller rooms and more comfort have changed the nature of many of the buildings and a professional management was put in place in the 1980s.
The 2001 foot-and-mouth disease outbreak hit the YHA hard and an estimated £5m of revenue was lost as the British countryside was effectively closed, and in 2002 10 hostels were closed.
Separate hostel organisations exist in Scotland and Northern Ireland.