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The Edward Carpenter Community
For men who love men

High Close 2023

Langdale Youth Hostel, Lake District, Cumbria

Tue 22nd to Tue 29th August 2023

This event has already happened

Loughrigg Tarn

“Let your mind be quiet, realising the beauty of the world, and the immense boundless treasures that it holds”

Edward Carpenter


We've had some wonderful weeks at High Close in recent years and are delighted to be returning to YHA Langdale in August.

A magical place to stay – this sprawling Victorian mansion is steeped in history and perched above its own three-tier arboretum that’s managed by the National Trust. The hostel’s enviable location is unmatched with stunning views of the Langdale Pikes. This is a place from which the central fells can be explored and enjoyed immediately upon stepping out the front door. The hostel is set on a quiet hillside in the beautiful Langdale Valley, yet within easy reach of Ambleside and Grasmere where Wordsworth lived for many years at Dove Cottage. The area offers excellent walking from easy afternoon strolls to energetic all-day mountain hikes and the nearby Loughrigg Tarn offers exhilarating outdoor swimming.

Aerial view of High Close
High Close with Grasmere beyond

We have exclusive use of the large and character-packed building with its big dining room and workshop spaces, secluded garden and veranda with wide views towards Windermere. Sleeping accommodation is in bunk beds in rooms varying in size from four to twelve beds and with many more beds than people there is plenty of room to spread out. It’s likely that a small number of upper bunk beds will be used to accommodate everyone. All meals are vegetarian and prepared for us by the Hostel staff.

What happens on the week depends on the participants who come. While lots of people will take advantage of the outdoors and go off hiking in the fells it may be you want to spend time chilling out on the veranda, playing games, sitting up late chatting and making new friends. There’s plenty of scope both to facilitate and participate in activities and workshops - it all depends on what those attending decide to bring and contribute. The time is ours to unwind, meditate, sing, dance, walk or just take in the beautiful countryside. Base groups and/or a heart circle will meet daily before the evening meal and provide an opportunity to get to know 5 or 6 gay men really well and help us share the challenges and joys of being in a community of 55 gay men.  Above all we hope the week will be relaxed, informal, friendly and fun.


Your organisers this year are Stephen Messinger, Chris O'Malley and Peter McCarthy. If you have any queries specifically about your booking, you should contact Stephen: *******.*********@********.***. If you have any other general queries, you can contact Peter: *********@***********.***

Stephen Messinger
Chris O'Malley
Peter McCarthy

Joining ECC in 2016 led to some of the most special and beautiful things I've ever experienced with other men who love men. Still remembering it clearly, I arrived at Laurieston Hall, Dumfries in August 2016, for my first ECC event with an existing ECC member, and another new member in my car. It had been a very long drive from Southampton and all I could think of on arrival was using the loo and getting a cuppa. There were to be 60 or so others there and most seemed to have arrived already. How I controlled my over-stretched bladder I’ll never know because wonderful, warmly welcoming men barred my way to the toilet with greetings and friendly enquiries about who I was. The nearest comparable experiences before arriving that day were residential psychotherapy training conferences, of which I had attended many. There were always many new and well known faces to meet, workshops to attend and speakers to hear, conversations, meals and drinks to share. So it wasn’t the presence of so many people, nor the set up of the week that took me by surprise. It was the welcoming, authentic and warm community that deeply touched me. I enjoy being a part of the event organising team and happily draw upon the event planning work I did before my retirement in 2016. It's a pleasure to set up the space with other organisers where our community then gathers, and then to become a part of that community as it takes, fills and shares that space.

I’ve been attending EEC events since 1995, when the impact of my first experience - a 60 man residential at Laurieston Hall, was unforgettable; transformative and empowering. It wasn’t an easy experience for me, but support was readily available and the structure of the organisation and of the week itself sustained me and enabled me to  get through. I remember crying in the car on the way home, tears of joy and belonging, a sense of having found something I’d needed for a long time, an experience that had been embracing, warm and affirming. Subsequent weeks at Laurieston and elsewhere have continued to bring me friendship and close contact, challenges and opportunities to express myself, to see others and be seen in ways the ‘outside’ world does not easily facilitate. I’ve had the greatest fun, playing, singing, dancing - laughing and crying with other men, creating vital connection and community in some of the most beautiful locations in Britain. ECC is undemanding, but highly supportive of authentic self-expression and comfortable relating with others; informal networking and the scope to offer contributions or to take up the offers made by others - or both. I look forward to another variation on this theme at High Close 2023 and look forward to meeting old friends and making new ones. I am excited to work with Peter and Stephen on my first week as an organiser, helping to create a week that will hopefully offer the range of opportunity that will ensure everyone gets the ECC experience that I so much believe in.

My first ECC week was in 1996 at Laurieston Hall in Scotland. It was incredible to experience, for the first time, a genuinely kind and supportive community of men. There were many more weeks over the years, all amazing in their own way, even the ones when I wanted to leave halfway through. I always stayed, and out of that discomfort all sorts of wonderful things happened. I’m very happy to be part of the organising team again this year, and so pleased to be doing it with Chris and Stephen.  I've spent many years working in the music and theatre world organising and supporting groups of people to work collaboratively on various projects.

High Close - A History

In case you wondered why we refer to this venue as High Close, as well as Langdale Youth Hostel, here's a short history of this enchanting place.

High Close in 1909
High Close in 1909

From 1621 – 1879 High Close worked as a hill farm. Originally a small hamlet of cottages, it was part of a large sale of properties to the Benson Family in 1575. The Benson Family were fullers (finishers of cloth that would be made into garments and sold in Kendal).  There is evidence of a fulling mill in Low Wood, a reservoir, sluice, bracken kilns and a service road.

1575 also saw the beginning of a decline in the clothing trade reducing the mills in the Grasmere Parish from eighteen to two in 1765. In 1792 High Close was sold to George Law of Brathay Hall, a successful Jamaican trade merchant. The years 1792 – 1802 saw the first extension to the original farmhouse with the construction of what is now the drawing room and the partitioning of the attic into rooms.

Between 1802 – 1857, High Close changed hands a few times. Through the Law Family from George Law’s heir and brother Henry Law, to his nephew and heir John Law Beetham. Then sold onto John Hird then to James Greenwood whose son, James Greenwood Jnr., would sell it onto Edward Balme Wheatley Balme (EBWB) in 1857.  In 1866 a major refurbishment and expansion was planned and executed by EBWB and the architects Corey & Ferguson of Carlisle.

Upon the death of EBWB in 1896, his son-in-law and land agent, Frank Maude Taylor Jones Balme inherited High Close. After his death in 1911 his son, Frank Edward Thorpe Jones Balme inherited until his own death in 1951. In 1951 Frank Edward Thorpe Jones Balme’s trustees and the commissioners of the Inland Revenue directed that High Close should become the property of the National Trust. 1st January 1954 then saw the leasing of High Close to the Youth Hostels Association (YHA) and it opened its doors to its members the following Whitsun, 6th June 1954.

Vision and Values

The organisers of this event kept the following three points in mind when setting up the week. It’s anticipated that the same values will then be held and followed by everyone on the week as it unfolds.

As members of the Edward Carpenter Community we are committed to:

1. Becoming fully ourselves as gay men
By being creative, courageous, open, truthful, loving and fully responsible for ourselves.
We will pursue personal growth and engage in activities that increase our self-awareness, self worth and well-being.

2. Creating community
By being welcoming, inclusive, safe, empowering, encouraging, allowing, accepting, co-operative, challenging, forgiving and fun.
We will do this through friendship that builds trust and intimacy and formal and informal gatherings and events. We will embrace diversity. We will make decisions by consensus, support each other and share skills and knowledge.

3. Living respectfully and holistically within the wider world
By engaging, inspiring, questioning, pioneering, and sharing our lives and gifts.
We will build relationships with others and be aware of the impact of our thoughts, intentions and actions on our communities and planet.

Essential Information

Venue: Langdale Youth Hostel, High Close, Loughrigg, Ambleside LA22 9HJ

Dates: Tuesday 22nd August to Tuesday 29th August 2023

Accommodation: Bunks in rooms of four to twelve beds. There is plenty of space for people to spread out.

Accessibility: The building can present some physical challenges for people with mobility difficulties. Please contact one of the organisers if you would like to check out how this may apply to you.

Nearest shops: Grasmere 2 miles, walkable. Ambleside 5 miles.

Travel: The nearest station is Windermere which is 9 miles away. The nearest bus stop is 1 mile away in Elterwater Village. There is a daily bus service which runs hourly. There are plenty of taxis available from Windermere and the cost is fairly reasonable if you share with others.

Arrival/departure: Arrive from 5pm on 22nd August and leave by 10.30am on 29th.

Places: 50 places will be available on the week and we’ll reserve a proportion for first-timers until 30th June 2023. When bookings open, places can fill up very quickly.

COVID-19: Our events are open to men of all backgrounds, some of whom may be medically vulnerable. To help keep everyone safe, we have adopted a set of covid guidelines which we ask all participants to read and adhere to.
Covid Guidelines.

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