A weekend to Castlerigg, whether with school or youth club, was a cause of serious excitement and anticipation, this was though a time before mobile phones and radio 1 became unreachable when it separated from radio 2 on a Saturday morning. We did though have Frankie Valley, a year with 3 Popes and at mass you could have Eucharist of both kinds, which was unheard of anywhere else.

We were greeted on arrival with a request not to throw the stones from the car park into the trees, due to them being so expensive. Next came your room allocation, boys always exiled to the rooms way down the corridor, could you really sneak out over the Chapel roof? With the girls in rooms adjacent to the top of the stairs. No surprises then, when, after creeping down the corridor after lights out, we were unceremoniously dispatched back down the corridor by the guardian, posted there, specifically for this purpose. Weekends like this soon revealed those amongst your friends that had issues with foot hygiene!

At this time Father John Foulkes was synonymous with Castlerigg, he did seem tailor made for this type of ministry. I also remember a sister Sheila? A nun who had no problem defending receiving a speeding ticket, this, in a time before speed cameras.

Saturday afternoons involved a hike up Walla Cragg, was this though, we thought, just a scheme to get us far enough away from any pub that we could have got back to before closing time at 3pm?

Saturday afternoons involved a hike up Walla Cragg, was this though, we thought, just a scheme to get us far enough away from any pub that we could have got back to before closing time at 3pm?

Walking down to Keswick has its own fascinations, there is the street that has trees in the road, not on the pavement. There was also a shop that had a well sunk in its floor, it must have been fenced off though! All the times I went to Castlerigg I never went to see the pencil museum. There was though the trip up the stone circle.

Saturday night entertainment was interesting, as I’d missed our school’s first visit to Castlerigg I should have realised the enthusiasm of my “friends” to assist me into space had ulterior motives, you won’t be surprised to hear “my great step for mankind” ended with a jug of water being poured down my trouser leg. Another favourite was Humanus, a game were the computer controlling your Biosphere shut down, the result was a over-competitive boy sat in a darkened room on his own, confused, wondering what the future would hold, whilst all his friends, having given up ages ago were enjoying the social, laughing at the very lonely, last surviving human, learning a valuable life lesson.

Sunday mass in the Chapel was a real celebration, we had previously prepared our prayers, bidding prayers, which always included “having a safe journey home.” The sign of peace was also not universally included in masses throughout the diocese, but was also enthusiastically undertaken, on what we realised was the final day with our new friends. It was also unheard of to receive Communion under both kinds as we did at Castlerigg, but it was though a special memory that we could share when we got home.

It was at Castlerigg that I saw a picture of Pope John Paul 1 which encouraged me to write to the Vatican to obtain a copy for myself. I still have the picture and always wonder when I look at it, what if?

Someone tried to encourage us to join a “Friends of Castlerigg organisation” but we were the wrong age to engage with this endeavour. There was also a social night in Preston that we were happy to support.

I can also remember a fund raising event at Castlerigg, which may have been a sponsored walk, but again my special memory was an outside mass celebrated on the lower lawn.

It was always interesting to meet children from towns and cities from other parts of the diocese, and as Frankie Valley used to say ” Who loves you pretty baby?”

Ian Hunter.