Artist’s life from Cumbria to Italy, and back again

Jean Sturgis: A Sense of Place : Paintings, Prints and Drawings

An artist with Cumbrian roots and a love of Italy will be featured at a new exhibition opening in Grasmere next month.

The Heaton Cooper Studio will host a display of paintings, drawings and etchings by Jean Sturgis who died at Kentmere two years ago.

This exhibition brings together work from across the span of her career, revealing an artist of great sensitivity with a distinct and expressive vision.


Born Jean Nicoll, in 1931 just outside Kendal, she was the daughter of J.S. Nicoll, a Director of K shoes, who encouraged her early enthusiasm for art.

Among his friends were the artists Robin Wallace and William Wilson, and Jean, as a girl, was able work with them, since her father invited them to the family home at Staveley to lead painting courses for local children.

She studied art first at Goldsmiths College, London and then at the Slade School of Art. “It was a stimulating and challenging time,” says her artist son Daniel Sturgis. “Among her painting tutors were William Coldstream (the founder of the Euston Road Group), Patrick George, Maurice Field and L.S. Lowry. She learnt etching and print-making from the brilliant print-maker John Buckland-Wright. The emphasis of the teaching was always towards careful observation and working directly from the motif.”

In 1953, Jean was awarded a prestigious travelling scholarship that allowed her to work at the British School at Rome. Her 18 months in Italy –first in Rome, then in the little hill-top town of Anticoli Corrado – instilled in her a life-long love of the country, its art and its people.

Returning to England she settled in London, exhibiting in various shows in Edinburgh and London, including the Leicester Galleries, one the most prominent forums for post-war British painting. She also taught at Queen’s Gate School, and in mental hospitals.

In 1958 she married the architect Tim Sturgis and together they had five children. “Her dedication to family life altered the trajectory of her artistic career, but she continued to paint, and to engage with the arts in other ways,” says Daniel.

jean nicoll

Jean Sturgis was the Chief Examiner for O Level Art for the Oxford & Cambridge Examination Board, and taught art at the Westminster Under School. She also contributed acclaimed plant-drawings and watercolours to several gardening books, for authors including Rosemary Verey, Penelope Hobhouse and Esme Clarke. She contributed water-colour garden plans for books on Levens Hall, and Hatfield House, as well as for Hugh Cavendish’s A Time to Plant – Life and Gardening at Holker.


She returned to exhibiting in the 1990s, with a series of one-person shows in London – first at the Clarendon Gallery, and then at the Rebecca Hossack Art Gallery. In 2009 she was selected by Mary Burkett as one of five-artists in group exhibition at the Red Barn Gallery, in Melkinthorpe.

Settling in Kentmere where she developed a beautiful garden, Jean Sturgis continued both to paint and to etch. Her later works retain all their sense of engagement and particularity. She said: “Landscape; buildings in their setting, whether urban or rural; trees and flowers in their surroundings: these have always been the stimuli for my work.”

The Grasmere exhibition, created by son Daniel with the artist Julian Cooper, will open at the Heaton Cooper archive gallery on April 14, and will run until the end of June. Director of the studio, Becky Heaton Cooper, said: “This will be a fascinating insight to the life and work of a very talented artist whose work deserves wider recognition.”






















Classic and vintage cars heading for Lakes this summer

One of Cumbria’s most entertaining charity fundraising days returns to Grasmere this summer.

The Lakes Charity Classic Vehicle Show is organised by Windermere and Ambleside Lions to raise funds for local charities while bringing hundreds of classic and vintage vehicles from all over the country.

Last year’s event saw around 300 cars, vans, buses and motorbikes heading for the showground in the village, and raised over £10,000.

sports cars rally

The show attracts specialists and fanatics who are fascinated by the vehicles of a bygone day. Among the regular visitors is a group who call themselves “the Grumpy Old Men” who bring their cars – including an MGYB – over from Yorkshire. There is range of classic cars such as those from the BMW, Triumph and Morris Minor owners’ clubs, and a rare Brough Superior car made an appearance last year. The organisers are hoping for a visit from a 1950s double-decker Ribble bus this year.

But there’s also live music, food stalls, a beer tent and activities such as a Scalextric challenge, making the day a family highlight on the Lakes’ calendar.

This year the organisers will be supporting the Westmorland and South Lakes Group of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the Sandgate Hydrotherapy Pool in Kendal.

Multiple Sclerosis affects around 100,000 people in the UK, most being diagnosed between the ages of 20 and their late 60s. MS is a neurological condition which affects the nerves and is caused when the immune system isn’t working properly. The local society aims to help people with MS in the area by offering support and understanding. They currently have 165 members, 150 of whom are MS sufferers, with the remainder as committee members and helpers.

The Sandgate Hydrotherapy Pool was built in 1977 with donations received through public subscription for the children and adults in the community who have mental and physical health problems. The fundraising was led by members of Westmorland Mencap, who have continued their support for the Pool ever since, more latterly through the Trustees of South Lakeland Hydrotherapy Trust.

The pool offers a unique service to the population of Cumbria, as the benefits of hydrotherapy have been well known for many years, and the Kendal pool offers these benefits to swimmers and non-swimmers alike in a supportive, non-competitive environment that affords privacy.

The Lions are an international organisation with 46,000 local clubs comprising 1.4 million men and women who believe that “kindness matters”.

“Lions are changing the world one community at a time, by addressing needs at home and around the globe. And when we work together, we can achieve bigger goals,” said president Philip Fell.

“We are a vibrant and committed group of local volunteers that are always looking to meet new people, help to fundraise in their local community and most of all to have fun.”

As well as the classic car show they organise other events including the Windermere Festival, and the Jingle Bell Jog. They can often be found at local events with their bouncy castle, and helping out to fundraise for local, national and international causes.

Said Mr Fell: “The show is on Fathers’ Day this year so it will be a great way to treat your dad.”

Entries are now being taken for this year’s show which is on Sunday June 17. For more details see:

A familiar question at Windermere guest house: Will you marry me?

Love is most definitely in the air at a guest house in Windermere.

In the ten years since the current owners took over, 26 couples have got engaged at 1 Park Road.

outside sign

And on each occasion, the proprietors, Philip and Mary Burton, have been in on the secret of the proposal.

“We know that the Lake District is known as a romantic destination. We are delighted to have rather more than our fair share of happy couples,” said Mary.

“Though it’s always a tense time for us, until he or she says yes! But we’ve not had a refusal yet.”

In each case the man or woman intending to propose has got in touch, with special requests. One couple travelled all the way from Scandinavia. He proposed on the Saturday, and by the following afternoon, his fiancée had booked a wedding venue and made all the arrangements.

On another occasion, a young couple who were about to be posted on military service to Afghanistan, came to stay for the weekend. “He organised a picnic hamper with food and champagne,” Philip recalls. “I don’t know how, but he managed to smuggle it on board a rowing boat to take out on Windermere. They got into the middle of the lake, and he stood up to ask the girl to marry him – and the boat almost capsized.”

Keri and Sarah from Oxford are the most recent duo to get engaged at 1 Park Road.  Keri proposed at the summit of Gowbarrow fell: “Thank God she said yes, otherwise would have been a long walk down.”

keri and sarah

Sarah and Keri

She added: “Mary and Philip are fantastic and can’t do enough for you. I think they were more nervous than I was proposing. Philip told me to message him on the way back so they could put a bottle of bubbly in our room for when we got back.”

There was nothing particularly romantic about the place when Philip and Mary took over the business ten years ago. “But we did fall in love with the house from the moment we first arrived to view it,” said Philip.

He organises a special romantic breakfast menu once the secret is out in the open. “It’s always a special occasion, and it’s lovely that other guests can share in the celebration.”


Emergency response training in the heart of the Lake District

A specialist training programme in medical care is being staged in the Lake District in the new year.

The five-day Certificate in First Response Emergency Care (RQF) is a nationally recognised prehospital care qualification. It’s suitable for those seeking a career in the emergency services, ambulance service, the event and security medical sector or those who work in high risk workplaces or are just looking to extend their skills.

responders pic

Run by MedSkills Academy at their HQ near Ambleside, the course will give learners the knowledge, skills and competencies needed to deal with a range of prehospital care emergencies, such as managing a patient’s airways, catastrophic bleeding, management of fractures, medical emergencies and more.

It will cover issues including the roles and responsibilities of a first responder, medical emergencies, patient assessment, traumatic injuries, and how to deal with catastrophic bleeding, shock, poisoning and intoxicating substances, external and internal bleeding, helmet removal, neck, spine and pelvic immobilisation, environmental exposure, burns and scalds, minor injuries and incident reporting. It is endorsed by The Faculty of Pre-Hospital Care, The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.

MedSkills director Nick Wright said: “This fantastic qualification is perfect for a range of roles in emergency care, such as event medical responder, emergency care support worker and more.”

The course runs from Jan 15-19 and accommodation can be arranged. For full details see

For more information call 0800 612 5123


Motivational running team head for awards night

A young business which has led more than 400 newcomers to take up running is in line for a sports award.

Jogging Pals has been shortlisted in the finals of the Cumbria Sports Awards, which will be celebrated on Friday night.

Founded three years ago by Glyn Rose and Wayne Singleton, both England Athletics coaches, the Jogging Pals programme has taken former non-runners from couch to 5k throughout Cumbria and North Lancashire.

glyn, wayne and helen - Copy

Glyn, Wayne and run leader Helen Pye

The scheme has  been so successful that the business now has six running leaders and is organising “improvers” programmes for runners who want to continue to 10k, 20k or even further. There are also guided runs in association with the National Trust and the Forestry Commission at Sizergh Castle and Grizedale Forest.

“It’s a great honour to be shortlisted for this award, and a tribute to our team,” said Wayne Singleton, a former smoker and drinker who now competes in triathlons, has run marathons, and is a keen open water swimmer. He works at the Alpkit store in Ambleside.

He started running again, after being a junior athlete, when he was breathless walking up the stairs. “It changed my life, and I wanted to do something to help others,” he said.

Those “others” include couch-potatoes who have lost weight, taken part in competitive races and even trained as coaches themselves. Some run for fun, or for the social side of running. “We wanted to prove that running is for anyone, even if they have never run before.”

He and Glyn Rose, another “convert”,  have since taken part in the Great Manchester 10k, Great North Run, London Marathon, New York Marathon, and Lakeland 50. Wayne has also competed in the Marathon des Sables in the Sahara desert.

Their aim was to encourage newcomers to achieve 5k with encouragement, with one training session a week and two other runs. “The plan was then to let them loose in the wild, as we put it, as there are so many running clubs in the region” said Glyn. “But we found that our members wanted motivation to do more, so that’s why we introduced programmes to extend their distances.”

Jogging Pals pay £45 for an eight-week programme, and members are encouraged to join up together to run at other times. “One of the keys to our success is enabling people to ‘pal up’ as the weeks go by, to train with other people who may live close by, and to make friends,” said Glyn. “The social aspect of jogging is massively important to us, and we make a lot of friends through this. But we also acknowledge that for some people, we are improving their health and fitness, and even saving their lives.”

Their website (  carries testimonials from newcomers, often seriously overweight, who have benefited from the programme, and have carried on running.

One wrote: “In the final night of the course I jogged without stopping once for the full 5k and I was elated. By the end I’d realised I’m a tortoise. I’m slow but steady and I get there in the end.” He now has an entry for the Great North Run.

The annual Cumbria Sports Awards will be held on Friday at The Low Wood Bay Hotel, Windermere. The event recognises the outstanding talents, commitment and successes of teams and individuals throughout Cumbria who are involved in sport.


pals jogging


Mathilde, and the Nordic influence in Grasmere

Where art lovers and fellwalkers and foodies come together now is an exercise in serenity and style. Mathilde’s, the café which opened this summer in Grasmere is quietly and elegantly proving to be the place to meet and linger. In summer on the long slate-paved terrace, or inside the light-flooded room with a window onto the fells – prominently Stone Arthur –where even the light shades are works of art and a glass door leads to exciting exhibition space.

view from mathildes

Now, in winter, the Nordic influence of this new addition to the Heaton Cooper Studio, is adding a cosy and subtly festive air. Cinnamon rolls are served, alongside Carvetii coffee, pumpkin spiced Nordic waffles, on Scandinavian artisan crockery. What you WON’T get at Mathilde’s is piped-music Jingle Bells.

The café is the vision of the Heaton Cooper Studio director Becky Heaton Cooper who is great granddaughter of Mathilde, and also an artist and designer as well as businesswoman. Becky brought in Head Chef Rob McGill and Manager Nicola Tickle who then recruited a team of fine bakers and baristas. Together they have developed an exciting, seasonal menu with a subtle Scandinavian influence. Salads of gravadlax or beetroot, lingonberries and dill; breakfasts of wild mushrooms on sourdough toast with poached eggs currently grace the plates of diners.

Mathilde was the young country girl from Norway who fell in love with an English painter and together they founded a dynasty of great landscape artists. Naming the café after her is a fitting tribute to the woman who played a quietly supportive role in the life of Alfred Heaton Cooper, and gave birth to their son, William. The father and son became known as the most famous of the English landscape artists of their respective generations. Her grandson, Julian Cooper, is now Britain’s foremost painter of mountain scenes and it’s his exhibition that was on show in the adjoining Archive Gallery all summer.

Mathilde’s was not an easy life. She arrived in the country with her young husband speaking no English. (They landed at Newcastle on November 5th, and hearing all the fireworks, and seeing light from bonfires, Mathilde asked Alfred if this was a special reception to welcome her.) Alfred was a struggling artist, and they moved around the Lakes from one home to another. They had four children, and Mathilde ran the home and devoted her life to their care. But they were a happy and loving family, occasionally returning to Norway for long holidays where Alfred loved to paint.

Now in the gallery founded by the Heaton Coopers, a new generation of artists is keeping alive their spirit. The latest is a young painter offering a new perspective on the landscape, Stefan Orlowski, whose current show opened as the now-traditional Grasmere curtain raiser for the Kendal Mountain Festival. It’s called Land Lives, and it is curated by Julian Cooper whose Full Circle exhibition has just ended.

Developing the gallery and opening the café has been a labour of love for Becky Heaton Cooper. “Mathilde was the love of Alfred’s life,” she says. “It really was a love match. Alfred was the centre of her world, and we think it’s wonderful to have her name here now at the centre of our new expansion.”

Mathilde’s is open daily from 9.30am until 4.30pm. Breakfast is served till 11.30.



Another award for Ashley as climate change campaign gathers force

Campaigning photographer Ashley Cooper has won an international award for his work on the impact of climate change.

Ashley, from Ambleside, was presented with the Green Apple award for Environmental Best Practice at a ceremony at the House of Commons, in the media and marketing category.

His book, Images from a Warming Planet, is already shaking the political establishment and a plan is under way to send a copy to every world leader. The book documents his 13 year journey photographing the devastating impacts of climate change on every continent around the world.

The Green Apple Awards were The Green Organisation’s first initiative when it launched in 1994, and they have gone from strength to strength ever since. The Green Organisation is an international, independent, non-profit, non-political, non-activist environment group, dedicated to recognising, rewarding and promoting environmental best practice around the world.

Initially aimed only at local authorities, the organisers were soon asked to set up a similar scheme for commerce and industry.  Then there was growing interest from overseas, so all of these sectors are now a permanent fixture on the calendar with a presentation ceremony every November in the House of Commons.

The aims are to improve environmental performance, encourage the efficient use of resources, enhance the competitiveness of organisations, and support the wider goals of sustainable development.

Ashley’s book, which appeared in print last year, had a national launch in London recently sponsored by Impact, the multi-award winning global leadership action company.

green apple pic

He is pictured receiving his award from Michael Cook of The Green Organisation