Monthly Archives: March 2014

From the mountains to the sea – art takes to the lakes and fells in the Lake District

A major open-air art exhibition following the watercourse from the heart of the Lake District to the foot of Windermere will be staged this spring.
Reflective Moments is a celebration of the work carried out by Windermere Reflections, the Ambleside-based group tasked with improving water quality in the catchment area, as they near the end of their three-year programme.
It will feature workshops, events, and temporary art installations created by Cumbria-based artist Steve Messam, starting at Dunmail Raise. These will follow the flow of water down the River Rothay through Grasmere and Rydal water into Windermere, finishing at Fell Foot at Newby Bridge. Locations along the way are Wordsworth’s former home at Allan Bank in Grasmere, the viewing station in the grounds of Rydal Hall, Borrans Park near Ambleside, the Windermere ferry, and Claife viewing station.
The exhibition aims to celebrate the work of Windermere Reflections while highlighting the significant contribution of the Lakeland fells to international culture and heritage.
“The fells have influenced the way we perceive and appreciate landscape,” said WR programme manager Liz Davey. “Windermere’s water flows from Dunmail down through the catchment past historic landscape vantage points of Roman and modern British warfare, to those of the picturesque and Romanticism movements.”
Events forming part of the exhibition include participation in aerial photography and Chinese landscape art, and a chance to create poetry on board the Windermere car ferry.
Throughout the week, visitors will be encouraged to share their viewing experiences and photographs online.
Steve Messam is an environmental artist based near Brough. He creates large-scale temporary artworks in stunning landscapes all over the world – from carpet patterns made from 25,000 jars of ink on Lindisfarne to a series of vast balls made from umbrellas in the heart of Shanghai and over-sized bubbles flying over a boating lake on the Fylde coast.
He said: “The challenge is to encourage people to experience the history of looking at the landscape which has made the Lakes globally important”
Reflective Moments will comprise the following:
• Dunmail Raise viewing box – the WW2 pillbox beside the Grasmere to Keswick Road will be transformed into a Camera Obscura – a fitted lens in one of the windows projects the view over Grasmere on to the opposite wall, while the outside will be clad in 2,000 silver balls, reflecting the surrounding landscape and making it shimmer in sunlight. From May 23.
• At Allan Bank in Grasmere, once home of William Wordsworth and a key location in the development of the Romantic movement, visitors will be able to send their cameras 1,000ft into the air beneath weather balloons to take stunning aerial photographs in a drop-in workshop with artist Bryony Purvis. May 24/25
• Rydal Hall: Cumbrian artist Irene Sanderson will host free workshops in Chinese landscape painting in the viewing “grotto”. The oldest purpose-built viewing station in the UK, it was refurbished in 2005 and overlooks a waterfall.(Rydal Hall is one mile north of Ambleside.) May 24/25
• Borrans Park at Waterhead will see the installation of a giant kaleidoscope, three metres high and five metres long, which will look out down Windermere and fragment the view while people silhouetted on the lakeshore become moving patterns.
• Windermere car ferry – Foot passenger can create their own Lakeland verse with giant magnetic poetry. From May 24 for a week.
• Claife viewing station: the ‘Sound Mirror’ is a collection of unheard sounds of water and the lake emanating from the rocks and trees. The sounds of trees drinking and crayfish walking are part of the audible treasure hunt. May 30/31 and June 1.
• Fell Foot park will host ‘Drop’, Messam’s giant reflective installation based on a raindrop – the building blocks of the Lakes – and standing the height of a three-storey building. There will be another chance to take aerial photos with Bryony Purvis. From May 30.
The project is part of Heritage Lottery funded Windermere Reflections to mark three years of campaigning to improve the water quality in the Windermere catchment area. Liz Davey said: “As with all our work this has been a true partnership initiative from start to finish and in selecting the sites for this work we are grateful for the support of the National Trust and their tenant farmers, South Lakes District Council, Cumbria County Council and Windermere Ferry, and Rydal Hall.”
She added: “Through our work we’ve enjoyed using art as a way of introducing environmental issues and connecting people to their landscape.”
Artist Steve Messam added: “This is a way to facilitate opportunities for people to share what they see, and to share their understanding of the landscape. The way that the project finishes at the foot of Windermere, with the possibility of following the water’s onward journey out to sea with aerial photos, truly connects key areas through the catchment and the water’s ultimate destination – the mixing pot of the sea.”


School students competing for Wordsworth poetry prize

School students throughout Cumbria are competing for a poetry trophy offered by the descendants of William Wordsworth.

Entries have come in for the Rydal Mount Wordsworth prize for young poets, a new prize which will be awarded annually. Along with the trophy is a cash prize donated by the Wordsworth family who still own Rydal Mount, near Ambleside, the house to which the famous poet moved 200 years ago. It was there that he published the definitive version of England’s most famous poem, Daffodils, and from where his wife, Mary, published the epic The Prelude after William’s death in 1850.

The curators, Peter and Marian Elkington, who manage the house and gardens, which are open to the public, are organising the contest with the support of the Wordsworth family. More than 100 pupils from schools around the county submitted entries. An award ceremony at Rydal Mount will be held on April 10. Wordsworth’s descendants will judge the poems and present the prizes.

Along with the annually-awarded trophy there’s a £50 cash prize for the winner, and signed books for two runners -up.

A competition staged last year for pupils at Ambleside Primary and The Lakes secondary schools was a huge success and Mr Elkington said that the enthusiasm of the young poets had spurred the decision to run the event every year. “There was some really remarkable talent and the Wordsworth family were really impressed by the standard of the poems that they judged,” he said.

World cup theme for Lakeland cake contest

The annual Lakeland Cake of the Year contest is to be staged again at Windermere in June, with the topical theme of “Brazil and the World Cup”.

The Briery Wood Hotel will again host the contest which attracts creative bakers from all over the Lake District and beyond.

The event is organised to raise money for Alice’s Escapes, the charity established by the late Alice Pyne, the Ulverston teenager, to provide respite holidays for families with terminally ill children.

Organiser Jen Braithwaite said that the theme this time gave a broad scope for bakers to exercise their artistry. “We expect there will be some wonderful football cakes, but with the theme of Brazil, we might also get some representations of rainforests or carnivals or samba dancing – the possibilities are endless.”

The contest is famous for attracting exceptionally high standards and last year’s winner was a sponge and fondant model of Ambleside’s iconic bridge house. The baker of that cake, Elliot Johnson, will be on this year’s judging panel, alongside Lancashire Life food writer Philippa James.

Entry forms will be available soon from the Briery Wood Hotel website, and further details can be found by emailing The contest is on Saturday June 21.

Wainwright peak-baggers welcome at Ambleside guest house

A new centre dedicated to the Wainwright peak-baggers is to be set up in Ambleside.

Christine and Anthony Harrison at the Smallwood Hotel want to help walkers share their achievements when ticking off the Lakeland fells. They are going to create a display of Wainwright books and memorabilia along with a log book, wall charts, pictures and maps to record fellwalking guests’ achievements.

They are also planning an online forum on the hotel’s website where walkers can share their adventures on the hills, and will encourage walkers to take photos of themselves on the summits to create a picture montage for the hotel.

Both keen walkers, Christine and Anthony say that many of their visitors are fell walkers using the ideal location to tick off as many summits as possible. The hotel lies within reach of many hills in the Central, Eastern and Far Eastern Fells, and bedroom windows look across the town to Wansfell.

“Our guests often come back after a day on the tops, full of pride and a sense of achievement, and we thought it would be good to provide them with a chance to talk about what they’ve done with other walkers,” said Christine.

“We want to encourage them to get out onto the fells, and encourage them to share their stories afterwards.”

They say that their scheme is not so much a tribute to Wainwright himself as to the walkers who now challenge themselves to follow in his footsteps.

Their plan has been welcomed by the broadcaster Eric Robson, chairman of the Wainwright Society, who made a series of programmes walking with AW for the BBC in the 1980s. He said: “Anything that encourages new generations of walkers to enjoy the experience of the  fells is to be welcomed. Following in Wainwright’s steps, and being inspired by his guidebooks, has changed the lives of tens of thousands of people.”

Derek Cockell, secretary of The Wainwright Society, said: “The Society is always pleased to hear of initiatives that encourage people to pull on their boots and get out on to the Lake District fells.”

A register held by the Long-Distance Walkers Association lists almost 700 people who have completed all 214 summits in the seven Wainwright guides, but the Wainwright Society believes that the actual figure is many more than that, and there are several people who have made multiple ascents of them all. At the start of 2014 there were 74 people who had completed more than one round, seven of whom had completed ten or more rounds.

Alfred Wainwright, who died in 1991, is best known for his famous Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells which he compiled between 1952 and 1966. They are handwritten and hand-drawn works of art which have given inspiration to walkers since, and he was awarded the MBE for his work.

Wainwright was also the creator of A Coast to Coast Walk, which is 190 miles (305 km) long from St Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hood’s Bay in Yorkshire and is now of one most popular long distance walks in the country.

A memorial to him can be found in the church at Buttermere; his ashes were scattered above the village on his favourite mountain, Haystacks.