Swim experts float eco-friendly company

The north’s leading open water swimming experts have launched a new company which aims to combine maximum safety with sustainability.

Based in the Lake District surrounded by water, Puffin Swim has grown out of a heritage developed by Pete and Andrea Kelly who run the adventure swimming company Swim the Lakes. They pioneered adventure swimming in the Lakes District and are specialists in outdoor swimming wetsuits and equipment.

Now Puffin Swim has launched the UK’s first biodegradable swim tow float. The Billy Eco15 Drybag float is a bright inflatable swim tow float designed to increase the visibility of the swimmer to other water users and increase safety.

puffin swimmers in Windermere (2)

Until now tow floats have been made from PVC or PVC coated nylon. The biodegradable tow float from Puffin Swim gives swimmers a more environmentally-friendly choice.

The new project is driven by the team’s love of wild and beautiful places and an understanding that they must try to reduce their impact upon them and to help protect them. It is partnered by the RSBP’s Puffin Appeal, to adopt a puffin.

Said director Andrea Kelly: “Puffin Swim is passionate about swimming outdoors and the real adventure of using swimming as a means to explore the wild environment and travel through open water.  For this we need reliable, good equipment that will empower us, improve our experience and be functional.

“But we have a duty to protect the environment as well as our clients. We rely on good equipment day in, day out, for work and play. We have tried and tested all of our products and will continue to source and design the best products for the greatest experiences. But wherever possible, these must be sustainable.”

Their first product, the tow float, is both tough and durable. Said Andrea: “For those who might be thinking …how can it float on water if it degrades? But it’s not affected by water. It will not degrade in use, only when composted.

“Biodegradable TPU is very durable and resistant to abrasions. It is also very tear and puncture resistant making it an ideal material for a swim float. It will last as long, if not longer than a PVC float; the big difference is in the way it is disposed of, composted rather than landfill.”



  • The Billy Eco15 is made from biodegradable TPU which when composted degrades over 3 – 5 years. This has a huge environmental advantage over PVC floats which following their useful but relatively short life can take hundreds and thousands of years to degrade.
  • Biodegradable TPU is a solvent-free TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) that can biodegrade. TPU is a form of plastic and traditionally it is not known for being eco-friendly. Biodegradable TPU, on the other hand, is low in toxicity and can biodegrade much better than traditional TPU, and better for the natural environment.
  • The range of swim floats from Puffin is designed with optimal streamlining which minimises drag whilst the swimmers tows the float behind them.
  • The Billy Eco15 float is simple to use and highly effective. As a 15 litre volume drybag float it also gives swimmers the option to take some small items with them during their swim.

More information: http://www.puffinswim.co.uk/

Or contact Andrea Kelly: chuffin@puffinswim.co.uk



Cumbrian crime thriller with foot and mouth background

Book review: Burning Secrets, by Ruth Sutton

It was the springtime we’ll never forget, when the shadow of foot and mouth disease spread across much of the country.

Cities once ravaged by the blitz were spared this time. Instead it was the quiet and picturesque corners…more than corners, in truth, huge swathes of land….that saw bonfires of burning animals, villages isolated, and farmers even driven to suicide in despair.

Cumbria was the worst affected region, with the fells out of bounds (ludicrously, to city visitors arriving in clean boots), tourism businesses wrecked, and healthy animals slaughtered.

This is the backdrop to Ruth Sutton’s latest novel, Burning Secrets, set in northern Cumbria where families were torn apart by the outbreak. Even to the extent of sending children to live elsewhere, to more easily access their schooling, just as wartime evacuees were sent to live “in the country”.

ruth portrait

Ruth Sutton

And it’s one of these, a sensitive and trusting lass called Helen, who goes missing, kidnapped by a man with serious instability issues.

It seems to take a tortuous age before she’s safe – well, relatively so – back with her family. But those who wonder why a police search could be so slow need to understand how normal life came to a halt during the crisis. There was no freedom to move around in country areas. Why, even tourists trying to get to Windermere on the Kendal bypass had to drive over a disinfected mat.

The tension increases on Helen’s return when mysteries continue to thwart the local police. And here we are introduced to one of two intriguing women characters, Detective Sergeant Anna Penrose, an outsider regarded with suspicion by colleagues, but one who proves to be as tough as her military training.

The other is the missing girl’s mother, Rose, secretive, cunning and apparently vulnerable all at the  same time.

Sutton’s characters are her great strength, and there are still new readers coming to love her trilogy, Between the Mountains and the Sea, and her subsequent crime novels set in West Cumbria, Cruel Tide and Fatal Reckoning. Will they want to see more of DS Penrose? Or will they be hankering to see familiar faces and familiar territory ?

It will be the new readers, those from beyond Cumbria, who will find a fascinating and surprisingly grim picture behind the picture postcard views of the Lake District. Sutton knows how to do realism.


Festival discount for Windermere guests

The Lake District’s top musical festival has teamed up with a luxury B&B in Windermere  whose guests will be able to buy discounted tickets.

Visitors booking at 1 Park Road in Windermere will have access to the offer for the Lake District Summer Music Festival.

Eblana string trio. Photo: Ian Dingle

Eblana string trio. Photo: Ian Dingle

The biggest event of its kind, the Festival has chamber music at its heart and hosts over 40 events in different locations across the South Lakes. Venues include historic churches and halls found across the region, including Kendal, Windermere, Ambleside and Ulverston.

The owner of 1 Park Road, Philip Burton, is a trained classical pianist whose guests are encouraged to play the piano in the lounge. He and his wife Mary also run special music-themed breaks in the Lakes.

“The Festival is a significant event on the music scene in the Lakes and we want to make sure that our summer visitors know what’s happening, and have access to this wonderful programme,” said Philip.

This year the Festival features more than 40 separate events, of works from 87 different composers, with some artists appearing at LDSM for the first time, not least the young musicians giving nine Festival Début Concerts.

“We add a distinct and compelling musical focus to Cumbria’s rich cultural heritage of painting and literature in the Lake District,” said Festival general manager Kim Sargeant. “Our aim is to develop this musical focus, to fulfil a major role in the provision of music regionally, to be welcomed by local communities and sought by musicians, music-lovers, young and old, around the world.”

Guests at 1 Park Road will have to book in advance as the discounts cannot be applied at the door. When making their reservations at the B&B, they will be given the discount code to book tickets for concerts.

Full details of the programme can be found at http://www.ldsm.org.uk/international-festival.

To book to stay at 1 Park Road, see the website

Philip has written about the music he loves…and what pleases his guests https://1parkroad.co.uk/if-music-be-the-food-of-breakfasts/


Ambleside: a town to be celebrated in flowers


The newly restored mural of Ambleside Rushbearing will take pride of place at a community flower festival in the town.

More than 20 local charities and organisations will celebrate their activities with displays of flowers and artefacts at Ambleside’s St. Mary’s Church over Spring Bank Holiday weekend. (From Saturday 26th to Monday 28th May.) The event has been organised to celebrate the richness of life in the town.

The church will be open from 10am to 5pm each day, admission is free and refreshments will be available. There will be musical interludes, including recitals on the celebrated Hope Jones organ.

On the Saturday evening (May 26) there’s a concert by Kendal Big Band. This is a 17 piece ensemble playing swing, dance and vocal arrangements, hosted by the Rotary Club of Ambleside.

Tickets are £10 and available from Rotary members and at the door. Refreshments will be available and concert goers will have the chance to view the floral displays.

The 11am service at St. Mary’s on Sunday May 27 will be a special community event to celebrate life in Ambleside. The preacher will be Canon Beth Smith, who was raised in Ambleside and was an accountant in the village for many years before entering the ministry.

The mural on church wall shows the Rushbearing tradition which is carried out every summer. It was painted on the church wall by Gordon Ransome, an art student at the Royal College of Art, which was evacuated to Ambleside during the war. It was painted as a thank you to the people of Ambleside in 1944 and local children were used as models.


Top backgammon players head to the Lakes

backgammon board

Top backgammon players from across the UK will head to Windermere at the weekend for the annual Lake District championship.

The Lakes event is being staged for the fifth time at the Cedar Manor Hotel, with the backing of the UK Backgammon Federation and the British Isles Backgammon Association. It will bring together 16 of the most experienced and award-winning players from far and wide for what promises to be a nail-biting series of matches on Sunday.

Lounge & Bar

Last year’s winner was Bradford’s Steve Lee who claimed victory after a final 7-3 win over Pol Lapidakis from Newcastle.

One of the world’s oldest board games, combining skill and chance, backgammon is played in cafés across the Mediterranean and in the most exclusive of London clubs, with world championships staged in exotic locations.

The championship is organised by Cedar Manor owner Jonathan Kaye who learned to play backgammon when he was manager of Raffles nightclub in London. His dream is to see backgammon established as part of the café culture of the Lake District, as it is in Mediterranean countries, and he hosts a regular local backgammon club.

“We are now recognised as one of the major tournaments on the UK calendar,” he said.

“But while we attract the top players, we also welcome people of all abilities at our regular monthly club event. We will be very pleased to hear from any local players who want to take part.”

The winner gets a cash prize and a voucher to stay at the hotel.



First woman at the helm of traditional Lakeland sports


A new chair has taken the helm of the committee which organises England’s oldest traditional sports event.

Marjorie Blackburn is the first woman to lead Ambleside Sports, now in its 132nd year. Mrs Blackburn takes over from Jak Hirst who is stepping down after 13 years. He will keep an advisory role, and retain responsibility for attracting sponsorship.

Marj and Jak

Mrs Blackburn, who lives in Ambleside, has been a member of the organising committee for 18 years, alongside her husband, Mike, himself a former chairman.  Her professional career includes teaching and training, personnel and business, and she is a keen golfer, walker, and member of a local singing group.

Many tributes were paid to Mr Hirst’s “total dedication” to the Sports and he was described as a great team leader.

Ambleside Sports is run entirely by volunteers who spend months in planning and organising, and then a full week of setting up and taking down the sports field equipment. One of the highlights on the Cumbrian calendar, the event includes fell racing (with a new category for under-9s in the popular Guides race this year), hound trails, track cycling, Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling and many stalls and sideshows.

The committee has also given £14,000 in the last five years in sporting scholarships to young people in the area, to help them develop their sporting potential.

Also stepping down from the committee was Tom Harrington MBE, the Cumberland and Westmorland wrestler who won 44 world championships.

This year’s event will be held at Rydal Park on Thursday July 26. Space is still available for anyone wanting to book a trade stall in the “craft” marquee to sell local produce, art, jewellery etc, and these can be booked for £35, including table,  via the website http://amblesidesports.co.uk/



Folk legend to play benefit gig for homeless charity

Legendary folk singer Roy Bailey is to play a benefit concert for the homeless at a Kendal venue this summer.

The 82 year old performer and social campaigner will sing at St George’s Church, Kendal on Saturday 14 July to raise funds for the town’s winter shelter scheme.

roy bailey

Each winter for three months, a group of local churches open their doors to the homeless in a scheme administered by the charity, Manna House. The scheme also features a residential trip over Christmas itself.

Based in Kendal, Manna House provides a community of support to meet the physical, social and emotional needs of people who are homeless or vulnerably housed in South Lakeland. There’s a daytime drop-in centre offering company, food and advice, and a network of support, practical assistance and learning opportunities.

Sheffield-based Bailey rarely travels across the Pennines these days. One of the UK folk and acoustic scene’s most loved and admired performers for more than 50 years, he has sung and played on stages, TV and radio across the world. He was awarded an MBE for services to folk music in 2000, but later returned the award in protest at Government foreign policy.

From his early days performing skiffle in student union bars, to his love of traditional songs and the stories they tell, he has developed a unique repertoire of songs of dissent and hope.  In 1990 Roy joined forces with the politician Tony Benn to present their show ‘The Writing on the Wall’ for which the duo won Best Live Act at BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.

A dedicated social conscience has underpinned all his work and he remains committed to his life-long principles of equality, liberty, justice and internationalism. Bailey has worked with many different people throughout his career and can count many well respected people, from all walks of life, among his enthusiastic supporters. Tony Benn called him “the greatest socialist folksinger of his generation”, and he is admired by leading performers such as Billy Bragg, Martin Carthy and Mike Harding.

Bragg says of him: “… as powerful as anything I’d heard by The Clash – it was Roy’s voice, the strength of it and the compassion in it.”

He contributed vocals to Chumbawamba’s 2008 album The Boy Bands Have Won, and joined the band on stage on their farewell Leeds show in October 2012.

In 2016, Roy released his first live album, Live At Towersey, which was recorded in secret at the leading folk festival and featured songs written by Si Kahn, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, John Tams, Robb Johnson and others.

Manna House winter shelter co-ordinator Lois Sparling said: “We are thrilled that Roy Bailey has agreed to come and perform in Kendal. Roy is as compelling, entertaining, thought provoking and moving as ever. As well as being an acclaimed folk artist, he’s also committed to fighting social injustice, and we hope this concert will bring the work of Manna House and the Winter Shelter to a wider audience.

“Homelessness is a complex and growing problem, and it’s one we must all face.”

Tickets for the concert at St George’s Church, Kendal on Saturday 14 July are £12 and available now from www.trybooking.co.uk/2724