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Within this section we'll be posting articles and information about the countryside, trends, and stirrings and visits. If you have something you would like to contribute, please get in touch. Currently we have a piece on the YHA.

Previous articles:
Messing about on... Canals by the Webmaster
East Anglian Farm Rides - The Way Ahead? by Nigel Dyson


Discovering the YHA


What is the YHA?

"To help all, especially young people of limited means, to a greater love and care of the countryside, particularly by providing hostels or other simple accommodation for them in their travels, and thus to promote their health, rest and education". These aims, set out when the Youth Hostels Association first began in 1930, remain as important as ever. The Association grew from the dedicated effort of visionary people and provided a firm foundation for recent years which has seen great strides in upgrading and the development of new hostels.

Images are often outdated - of spartan surroundings, rules and regulations and a mistaken belief that hostels are only for young people. Today, a Youth Hostel signifies good value accommodation which is friendly, comfortable, dependable and secure, backed up by an assurance of standards which apply to Youth Hostels around the world.


Large but Local

The 229 Youth Hostels throughout England and Wales provide a major national resource. Together, they account for over 13,500 bedspaces which places the YHA in the top league of accommodation providers. But it is the location of the hostels which makes them a truly unique asset. Over the years, sites have been found in some of our most spectacular landscapes, in remote hill country, on Heritage coasts, or lowland woodland settings. Many Youth Hostels are in villages or small towns, where they are close to the countryside but also are accessible to other facilities and form part of the local community. Hostels range in size and comfort - from former shooting lodges to pretty village cottages and Victorian mansions. Many are in incomparable locations ideal for walkers.

As a body of some 293,000 members in England and Wales, the YHA is a social movement, enabling people of all ages to meet others in a special atmosphere of friendship. The international movement, of which YHA England and Wales forms a part, is rightly seen as a force for peace and understanding. Membership of YHA England and Wales entitles people to travel and hostel in over 60 countries around the world with more than 4,500 Youth Hostels to choose from.


A Love of the Countryside

Whilst others have recently discovered the concept of "sustainable tourism", the aim of the YHA from the start has been to instill a knowledge and love of the countryside and an understanding of the deeper values associated with our environment and heritage. This has always come first; our accommodation is a means to an end. Increasingly, there is a wide range of types of hostel, clearly indicated so that members can select which one is likely to meet their particular needs. Yet throughout, our firm principle is that the simple, recognisable character of Youth Hostels is always retained.

From its inception, the YHA has been an environmental movement which has worked with its own resources to implement sustainable tourism principles in practice. We have a seven point Environmental Charter for Youth Hostels worldwide which underlines our commitment to important issues such as reducing consumption, recycling and conserving energy.


Being a Part of the YHA

The Youth Hostels exemplify the YHA with their wide range of opportunities to explore all parts of the countryside - from bustling market towns and villages, to remote and little-visited corners of the UK. The YHA is a member organisation and you will be asked to show your membership card on arrival at a Youth Hostel. If you are not already a member, you can join at the first Youth Hostel you visit or alternatively, join online at www.yha.org.uk. You will receive a free annual guide listing all the hostels in England and Wales and receive a regular members' magazine and discounts on travel, places of interest and shops.

When You Stay

'Booking your stay is easy - simply telephone, write or e-mail, using the booking form on the YHA website (www.yha.org.uk) to the hostel of your choice. Once on the hostelling trail you can book a bed ahead from most hostels at no extra cost.

Hostels are often full, so it is advisable to book your bed in advance and remember to bring your membership card with you.'

When you stay at a Youth Hostel you will sleep in comfortable bunk bedded rooms sharing with people of the same sex, unless you have made special arrangements in advance - for instance, families or groups of friends may be able to acquire rooms with fewer beds, often with their own washing facilities. Otherwise, you will find showers, toilets and washing facilities close to your room. You will he given freshly laundered bed linen with which to make up your bed. Pillows, duvets and/or blankets are also provided.

At most Youth Hostels you will find comfortable sitting areas for relaxing and socialising, as well as facilities such as drying rooms, cycle stores and local information. While many hostels have areas specially set aside for smoking, there are also many "No Smoking" hostels. At small Youth Hostels - to keep prices low - you may be asked to help with simple household tasks. You are asked to clear up after yourself.


Group Walks and Visits

Circular routes from hostels are popular with walkers who like to spend several nights in one place. exploring the countryside from their base. If you are a member of a walking club or simply a group of friends and family you can choose in the winter to rent a whole Youth Hostel for your group under the YHA's `Rent a Hostel' scheme. A brochure on `Rent a Hostel explains how to book and is available by `phoning 0870 870 8808.

YHA has been spending considerable sums of money refurbishing its buildings and improving standards of comfort and privacy. Each year, more hostels are identified for improvement, a few more properties open for business for the first time, and those surplus to requirements are closed.

Today YHA is a vibrant organisation catering for the needs of young and old. So long as you are young at heart, a warm welcome awaits you!

[Taken from an Introduction to the Yorkshire Dales Guide with kind permission of the YHA.]

[Webmaster's note: Many of the YHA's hostels are listed in this site's Accommodation section.]

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