Hostelling in Eastern England
The website editor writes:
I was brought up in Cambridge and as a teenager I used to explore East Anglia by bicycle staying at youth hostels. Looking through some of my old stuff I came accross a book titled Hostelling in Eastern England. The front cover is on the left below and on the right is a map from the book showing hostels in East Anglia. It is quite a thick volume, with information about the hostels and places to visit on route between the hostels. I think that if you were to write such a book today it would be a somewhat thinner volume!
In the whole of Essex and Suffolk, the only hostels shown on the map below that are still open are Cambridge and Blaxhall. We do have a splendid new purpose built hostel at Lee Valley in Essex to the north east of London and there is a camping barn near Manningtree that I hope to visit some day, but that's all. Indeed I can remember visiting a few hostels back in the '60s that presumably had closed even before this book was published - Finningham in Suffolk was the very first hostel I ever visited (by cycle, one tiring day from Cambridge), another was Brandon that gave access to the lovely Brecklands and another was Maldon that played a major role in the formation of the HSC.
So it seems that we have lost relatively more hostels in East Anglia than in other parts of the country. That is a pity since for one thing, cycling is regaining popularity amongst the younger generations and East Anglia is great for cycling with mostly gentle gradients, pretty villages and lots of country pubs. Although some high quality new hostels are opening, the network is looking a bit sparse in some places these days, you would need to be a fit cyclist to cover the gaps between hostels in some parts of the courntry. I suspect that one of the difficulties faced by the YHA is that it no longer seems to be acceptable to take a large old house and put a hostel sign on it with minimal conversion work. All the new hostels are either purpose built or elaborately converted and while they do provide excellent facilities, the typical cost of opening a new hostel now seems to run to millions, so no wonder we cant have all that many of them.