Handy decoration from the fells brightens up health centre

Patients arriving recently at Ambleside Health Centre were treated to a cheering sight for sore eyes – a fairy-tale Christmas tree with not a glitzy bauble or hint of tinsel in sight. Instead, the novelties hung on its branches used nothing more than dried orange slices, pine cones, twigs and paperchains made from recycled brown paper.

The super-sustainable festive decorations are hand-made by Ann-Marie Verner and Jo Jackson, and make full use of anything they can recycle. Both of them enjoy hill walking and tackle a different  walk with friends each week, stopping only to gather up discarded litter and plastic – and dropped gloves.

Every year a surprising number of fell walkers, including many little ones with very small hands, don’t notice they’ve dropped a glove or mitten. Quite a number of these end up, in true Blue Peter style, as ones that Ann-Marie (who is is medical secretary at Ambleside’s Central Lakes Medical Group) and Jo found earlier, and were strung up round the Health Centre foyer, adorned with jingle bells and tiny wooden star buttons on their woollen fingers, and pegged between recycled pages of Wainwright walks. The cost of it all was nil, with the added bonus of days spent out-of-doors on the hills as the Wainwrighters gathered their ‘finds’.

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The pair completed all 214 Wainwrights a few years ago and are now ticking off the Birketts, of which there are 541,  including 209 of the 214 Wainwrights, and 59 of the 116 Wainwright Outlying Fells. Ann-Marie and Jo are up to number 311 so far. Ann-Marie also notched up 365 fell summits last year, not all different ones, some as local as a quick dash up Todd Crag, others day-long multi-top hikes. She started and finished with Wansfell, and is now on the journey again this year.


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Author wins Lake District competition

An author who loves the Lakes has won a competition organised by a top Windermere hotel.

Katharine Norbury was one of several hundred people who entered the online competition to win a free stay at the award-winning Cedar Manor.

Her name was pulled out of a hat by hotel owner Jonathan Kaye.

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Katharine Norbury is an author, audio-book reader and regular contributor to the Guardian.  After training as a film editor with the BBC she studied Creative Writing at UEA and has a PhD in creative and critical writing from the University of Huddersfield.

Katharine spent 20 years in the film and television industry before writing her first book The Fish Ladder: a Journey Upstream (2015) which combines travelogue, memoir and a celebration of the natural world. Said Jonathan: “Anyone who has read it will know that Katharine loves the Lake District, so we will be very pleased to welcome her here.”

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Katharine Norbury. Photo by Robin Farquhar-Thomson

The Fish Ladder: a Journey Upstream, which was published to great critical acclaim in 2015, was shortlisted for the Wainwright Prize 2016, longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award 2015, awarded the Telegraph Book of the Year 2015 and Katharine was selected as the Observer Rising Star in non-fiction for 2015. The book is now being developed into a feature film for which Katharine is writing the screenplay.

Katharine is currently working on an anthology of women’s writing about nature in the archipelago of Britain and Ireland, Women on Nature with Unbound and a second work of creative non-fiction about the idea of home.

The Cedar Manor has just  been given the AA Gold award and five stars for their guest accommodation, along with a coveted breakfast award.

Based on the outskirts of Windermere, the Cedar Manor has ten luxurious rooms including a self-contained suite, and has won a host of top awards over the years since  Jonathan and his wife Caroline took the helm. They have been prize winners for design, customer service, and green credentials, taking the sustainability award at the Cateys, the Oscars of the hospitality world.

Five stars means awareness of each guest’s needs with nothing being too much trouble. AA Gold Stars are awarded to the very best properties offering excellent levels of quality throughout and outstanding levels of hospitality and service.


Lakes hotelier joins the national judges

Windermere hotelier Jonathan Kaye joined the judging panel for the hospitality industry’s top award event in London.

Jonathan was invited to be a judge at the Hotel Catey Awards at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge hotel in London. The presentation dinner was attended by 750 guests, representing the best of the British hotel industry. Jonathan was there with his wife, Caroline.

The Cedar Manor has regularly featured in the finals, and last year was judged to be the UK’s top hotel in the sustainability category.

Since they started in 1984 the Cateys have become established as a celebration of UK hospitality, showcasing innovative brands and trail-blazing individuals who are nominated, selected and rewarded by their peers.

Jonathan and Caroline Kaye

Jonathan and Caroline Kaye

Jonathan said: “It was a great honour to be asked to join the judging panel after Caroline and I have attended many ceremonies as finalists and guests. The UK has the best hotels in all the world, and our association with the Cateys has helped us develop and improve our own hotel to be a world class establishment in the Lake District.”


Cumbrian film festival awards top movie

The extraordinary true story of the teenage Arab prince sent to London on a high-stakes diplomatic mission was voted the best feature film at Ambleside’s Inward Eye film festival.

Born a King took the honours after a showing on the final night of the three-day inaugural event, organised by Hopscotch Films at Zeffirellis cinema, and Rydal Mount. The festival was deemed to be a great success and is likely to become an annual event.

Four years in the making, Agustí Villaronga’s Born a King, starring Ed Skrein (Deadpool) and Hermione Cornfield (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) and produced by Andrés Vicente Gómez, is a true events-based historical drama.

Prince Faisal of Saudi Arabia, aged just 14, was sent by his warrior father to London in 1919 to negotiate the formation of his country – dealing with Lord Curzon and Winston Churchill among many other eminent political figures. His job was to persuade the great powers, after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire with WWI, to adopt a policy of non-interference towards Saudi Arabia.

A Spain/UK production, filmed mostly in Saudi Arabia, the screenplay is by Henry Fitzherbert, co-writer of the 2018 Simon Pegg/Nick Frost comedy horror Slaughterhouse Rulez, along with Bader Al Samari and Ray Loriga.

Ambleside audiences judged that it was a beautifully-shot portrayal of a fascinating and deeply moving little-known story.


Screenwriter Henry Fitzherbert and actor Simon Paisley Day with the best feature film plate awarded by Zeffirellis

Charlotte Wontner of Hopscotch Films said she was thrilled that the film’s screenwriter and one of the actors were present at the festival. She said: “The festival was a great success and we hope that Inward Eye will now become an annual feature on the film calendar.”

Alongside the festival, the very first Inward Eye Writers Workshop took place at Rydal Mount, which is the home of the poet William Wordsworth, and still owned by the Wordsworth family. Charlotte Wontner is a great great great great granddaughter of the poet.




A friendly Lakes sheep and a running shoe join forces to support international races

A partnership between two iconic Lake District brands will enable the International Under 18 Mountain Running Cup to be staged in Ambleside next summer.

The Herdy Company, with its world famous smiling sheep, and the running shoe specialists inov-8 are to be headline sponsors of the event which will bring young athletes from across the globe to the Lakes.

Herdy at Blea Tarn

The IUMRC is the world’s premier competition for young runners, and is being held in England for the first time, organised by Ambleside AC. The runners will tackle a typical Lakeland fell-race course on Loughrigg as part of a weekend festival of running, with a flag-bearing parade through the streets launching the start of the event.

Event director Duncan Richards, the England team manager, who has been negotiating to bring the event to the Lake District, said that the organisers were thrilled to be working with two of the most important and exciting brands in the region, after needing to raise £30,000 to stage the races.

“We have inov-8, who are the technical specialists who are synonymous with fell running, and Herdy is the welcoming face of a character that symbolises the Lakes,” said Duncan. “One enables runners to tackle all levels of fell terrain, while Herdy is inspired by the Lakes’ native Herdwick sheep who know the fells even better than the best runners!”

Spencer Hannah, co-director and founder of Herdy, said: “The fit couldn’t be better. Herdy was born in the Lakes 12 years ago and the Herdy face is all about spreading smiles and sharing happy moments. We’re here to welcome the runners, their families and all the visitors to this fantastic event and the spirit of Herdy is here to inspire friendship, shared adventure, the freedom of the Lakeland fells and communities coming together.

Michael Price, COO of inov-8, said: “inov-8 was forged in the fells of the Lake District 16 years ago and we are supremely proud of our heritage. Loughrigg and the surrounding fells form part of our testing ground where we go to test the grip of our running shoes, so we know it well and will be out there in force to support the world’s best junior mountain runners when they come here next June.”

Their sponsorship is joining other local and national partners who are contributing to make the event happen. They include Epic Events, retailers Pete Bland Sports and Kong Adventure, the wealth management company Atkins Ferrie, and Love Ambleside, the local organisation that was founded to promote the town in the wake of Storm Desmond.

Other companies, including McClures of Windermere, and the Grasmere Brewery, are providing items for the athletes’ goody bags.

Alongside the international race, Ambleside will also host an uphill time trial race to the summit of Wansfell on the Friday evening after the opening ceremony.

On the Saturday, (June 20) the FRA English Junior Championships will take place in the morning, followed by the international races, and then an open race for all runners over Loughrigg and Silver Howe the following day.

The youth event has been a stepping stone for under-18 fell and mountain runners to race internationally since 2006.  Olympic triathletes Alistair and Jonny Brownlee are among those who have started their international racing careers at this championship, and for the last 12 years teams from across the world have converged annually at mountain locations in Italy, France, Ireland, Bulgaria and Czech Republic to compete for the trophy.

The visiting athletes will be accommodated at Ambleside YHA over the weekend, with a few youngsters staying at Windermere and Coniston YHA hostels on the first night.

“This is a fantastic accolade for our local club and will bring the international spotlight on Ambleside,” said Duncan.

“This event is all about developing and inspiring young people, be it international athletes, local athletes, local schools, clubs and communities.”

Duncan, who has been the England team manager at the last six Youth Cups, added: “I have seen the benefit such an experience can bring to young athletes, the confidence born from the shared experience of international competition.”

More details:




Top actor heading for Ambleside film festival

The acclaimed actor Tom Conti is to make a surprise visit to the Ambleside Film Festival on Friday.

The screen and West End favourite will be in conversation with the audience at Zeffirellis Inward Eye festival on Friday afternoon. (Screen 1, 4.30).

Famous for playing Charles Bovary in Madame Bovary, the Jewish novelist Adam Morris in The Glittering Prizes, and Norman in Alan Ayckbourn’s Norman Conquest trilogy, Conti has had a wide-ranging career on the stage, in the cinema and on TV.

Born Thomas Antonio Conti in Paisley in 1941 to a Scottish mother, his father was an Italian immigrant.

Conti initially trained for a career as a classical pianist at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, but switched to acting. He began in repertory theatre in Glasgow and London, and then had a number of successful TV mini-series roles before hitting the headlines as the paralysed sculptor in the right-to-die play, Whose life is it anyway? in London and on Broadway.

American audiences loved his starring roles in Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, and Reuben, Reuben for which he earned a leading actor Oscar nomination.

with Pauline Collins in Shirley Valentine

With Pauline Collins in Shirley Valentine

He starred in Shirley Valentine opposite Pauline Collins, Someone Else’s America, and Blind Revenge.

And he earned glowing reviews for his performances in Jeffrey Barnard is Unwell in several different stage productions, and One Helluva Life.

He’s also a writer, and has published a thriller novel. Conti is married to the Scottish actress Kara Wilson, and his daughter Nina is an actress and ventriloquist.

Zeffirellis managing director Dorothy Smith, who is organising the festival along with Hopscotch Films, said: “We are very excited that Tom Conti is joining our list of actors, writers, producers and directors who will be talking to our audiences here. We love his work, and we know that he has appealed to a wide range of cinema and theatre audiences.”

To book tickets for this talk, and for any of the films at the festival, go to https://www.zeffirellis.com/inward-eye-film-festival

or call 015394 33845.

Practical help for small business in Cumbria

A series of practical workshops to help small businesses identify their next innovation is being staged in Cumbria.

The Coaching for Innovation mini-series has been organised by Cumbria Innovations Platform and The Harrison Network to help business owners identify changing customer needs and to explore how they can meet those needs.

The workshops aim to help find creative solutions, while designing and testing ideas, and will look at the need for continual innovation to keep a business moving forward.

The first workshop (November 14) at the People First Conference Centre in Carlisle will look at the challenges faced by a businesses from the customer’s point of view, and examining the competition. It will be driven by the needs of individual delegates to explore what customers really want, how to overcome barriers to innovation, and if you are focusing in the right area.

The end result will be a “problem statement” to take through into the second workshop (December 12) where ideas to solve problems will be explored and ways of unlocking creativity will be discussed. Each delegate will come away with at least one innovative solution to test out with clients.

The third workshop (January 16) will follow up the process and examine what worked – and what didn’t.

“We want to give small businesses the opportunity to see how they can stay ahead of the competition by continuously innovating,” said Cumbria Innovations Platform project manager Sarah Allison.

“What does innovation mean for your business now? What value does it create? How do you motivate, influence, plan, and communicate your innovation? How do you know it’s working?

“These workshops are designed to create step change in approach to innovation and a network of people with the will, ability and relationships to support one another into the future. In addition to the workshops we will be providing each business with a 1:2:1 coaching session to support them in taking forward their innovation goals.”

Venues for the second and third workshops will be chosen to suit the delegates who attend from the outset of the series.

Cumbria Innovations Platform is open to small and medium sized enterprises based in Cumbria, to facilitate business innovation and commercial success.

Further details and booking form: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/coaching-for-innovation-mini-series-overcoming-the-barriers-registration-73250567419