Monthly Archives: April 2014

Thrilling finish in Lake District backgammon championship

A 16 year old Dallam schoolgirl reached the semi-final of the inaugural Lake District backgammon championship, in her first ever competition.

Kate Watton, from Grange over Sands, was stopped from reaching the final by the reigning Midlands open champion Ian Hesketh, from Edinburgh, in the contest at Windermere’s Cedar Manor Hotel. Hesketh then lost in a close and thrilling final to Newcastle’s Graeme Turner.

Turner, a commercial banker who took up serious competition only a year ago, had knocked out current British open champion Martin Barkwill in an earlier round. He carried off £100 in prize money, a free weekend at the Cedar Manor, and a signed copy of The Wind of Change, by backgammon journalist Chris Bray.

Kate, an A level student who hopes to study English Literature at Durham University, defeated her father, John, in an earlier round. He said later: “We play three games a day over breakfast.”

Her semi-final opponent Hesketh, a learning technologist, said: “She should be very proud to do so well in her first tournament. She was in a field that included players who travel the world competing.”

Also reaching the semi-finals was Samantha Wilkinson, an academic scientific researcher from Edinburgh who has won two contests in Scotland.

In another family affair, Staveley’s Robbie Altinyollar reached round two while his father, Farit, was beaten by Ian Hesketh in the opening round.

The contest was organised by Cedar Manor owner Jonathan Kaye, who was knocked out in the first round by Kate.

He said: “It was great to see so many players coming into the Lakes for this event. It was a very enjoyable day, and the start of things to come. People were making new friends, and arranging to meet and play again, or even form clubs in the area. Backgammon is very popular on the internet and it is really good to see people enjoying the game in the real world.”

The contest was supported by the UK Backgammon Federation, and was promoted by journalist Chris Bray who is the backgammon correspondent for The Independent and has been playing and studying the game for more than 30 years.

If you go out on the tops today be sure of a big surprise….

A teddy bear from Ambleside has started to tick off the Wainwright fells.

bear on helvellyn

The bear, named Livingstone Wainwright by guests, lives at the Smallwood Hotel which is the centre for peak-baggers walking the 214 felltops listed in the legendary guidebooks. When a couple of visitors wanted to take the bear with them on a day’s hike, owners Christine and Anthony Harrison gave enthusiastic approval.

Teddy’s first summits were Low Pike, High Pike, Dove Crag and Little Hart Crag. Then on Good Friday he was taken to the top of Helvellyn by walkers from Tees-side, Andrew Taylor and Callie Doyle. He’s been up Helvellyn again this week.

“The bear is now part of our Wainwright display,” said Christine. “We’re very happy for him to be taken out for a walk.”

Christine and Anthony are helping walkers share their achievements when ticking off the Lakeland fells, with a log book, wall charts, pictures and maps at their guest house.

They are also planning an online forum on the hotel’s website where walkers can share their adventures on the hills, and they 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.”


Windermere’s Caroline running for a good cause

A Windermere hotelier who wants to run a half marathon before she’s 50 is in training to raise money for a good cause.

Caroline Kaye, who owns the Cedar Manor Hotel with husband Jonathan, has a place in this September’s Great North Run.

Caroline, who started running only two years ago, is fund-raising for the charity Lupus UK. She’s being assisted by parents and friends of Windermere Prep School who are holding a charity coffee morning for the same cause.

Lupus is a chronic and presently-incurable illness of the immune system, a condition in which the body’s defence mechanism begins to attack itself through an excess of antibodies in the blood stream. It causes inflammation and damage in the joints, muscles and other organs, and Caroline’s 21 year old daughter Natalie is a sufferer. “She was diagnosed when she was 15, but it had taken two years to identify from when she first showed symptoms,” said Caroline.

“That’s not unusual as the condition is very difficult to identify. We are helping the charity in their attempts to research the causes, and possible treatments, for Lupus.”

Natalie is a beauty advisor and make-up artist for Estee Lauder at Selfridges in London. Younger sister Elizabeth, 7, a pupil at Windermere Pre School, is playing her part by helping Caroline’s training efforts – she goes alongside on her bicycle when mum goes for a run. “Though she’s not too keen on the hills,” said Caroline.

She started running after joining a “boot camp” at Windermere School, run by Helen Westmorland who is now her personal trainer. “As a Londoner who fell in love with the Lakes, I loved training in this landscape. We’d run with Helen for a while, then she would stop for a stretching session, and she would say: stretch towards the fells, stretch away from the fells. You don’t get that experience in London.”

Caroline has done just two races so far, 10k trail events at Coniston and Derwentwater. After surgery for a knee problem last year, she’s back in training and confident of achieving her goal at the famous north east race. “It’s something I wanted to do before I was 50, and there’s not much time left,” she said.

The Windermere school coffee morning will be held on Friday May 9. On the following day, which is World Lupus Awareness Day, Caroline will stage an afternoon tea party in the gardens at the Cedar Manor. “Local people, and our visitors, are very generous. I know that there are many demands on people’s kindness, and I think it is important that we raise attention to a cause which is not well known.”

Caroline can be sponsored at

Lupus affects mostly female patients, and symptoms may include fatigue, eye problems, mouth ulcers, joint or muscle pain, rashes, anaemia and miscarriage. It is not infectious or contagious, and can be triggered at puberty, after childbirth, during the menopause, through exposure to sunlight, after viral infections or trauma, or after prolonged courses of medication. More information from

Schoolgirl poet takes Wordsworth title – and sits in the bard’s chair

heidi the winner


A 15 year old schoolgirl from Carlisle has won the Rydal Mount Wordsworth Prize for young poets.

Heidi Ostell, a pupil at Trinity High School, won the award with her poem, Leviathan of the Forest.

It was judged to be the best from more than 100 entries from school pupils across Cumbria by descendants of the poet William Wordsworth.

At the award ceremony at Rydal Mount near Ambleside, which was the poet’s home for most of his life, his great-great-great-great-grandson Christopher Wordsworth presented Heidi with a trophy and a £50 cash prize.

Her name is now the first on a plaque which will be permanently displayed at Rydal Mount as the poetry contest becomes an annual event. And her poem will be framed and hung on the wall for visitors to read.

She sat for press photographs in Wordsworth’s favourite chair in the drawing room.

Christopher Wordsworth said: “The whole family was thrilled by the number of entries and the high standard from all schools and all age groups. It is so good to see we have many budding poets in the county to carry on the Wordsworth tradition.”

The theme for the poetry contest was flowers and trees.

The runners up were:

13-15 Category

WINNER: Georgina Proudfoot of Trinity School, Carlisle, for Red Rose.

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Adam Kirkbride of St. Joseph’s RC High School, Workington, for Lotus Flower; Rhianna Johnston  of Trinity School for Memory Tree; and Clover Hopwood of The Lakes School, Troutbeck Bridge, for The Four Seasons.


11-12 Category

WINNER: Kirsty Laverack of The Lakes School for Dandelion

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Charlie Smith of St. Joseph’s for My Oasis and Emily Connell of St. Joseph’s for English Oak


10 and under Category

JOINT WINNERS: Isabel Milbourn of Crosby-on-Eden School for The Old Man and Faye Logan of Ambleside CE Primary School for Bluebell Woods.

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Ellen Maia Gledhill of Ambleside Primary for Snowdrop; Lucy Armstrong of Crosby-on-Eden Primary for The Vast Giant; and Jenzel Ocampo of Ambleside Primary for City tree.


Heidi said that the inspiration for her poem came from a scene in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings in which the Ents (trees) come alive. “I liked the idea of bringing a tree to life and giving it personality and I found the imagery of the forest was really impressive and detailed – which also inspired me,” she said


She has previously written a few poems in school: “I like how it’s more of an art form than just a piece of writing – each line has to be carefully crafted.


“I like Gothic poetry such as Edgar Allen Poe and Byron. Since entering the competition I’ve become more interested in Romantic poems.”

Her favourite Wordsworth poem is A Night Piece: “ I really like the descriptions of the night sky and the poem makes you appreciate its size and depth.”


Leviathan of the forest – by Heidi Ostell


Below a vast canvas of ever changing sky

surrounded by diverse forms of life and enchantment

the tree stands still.

Absorbing the world through the veins in its leaves,

shivering and dancing in the tranquil breeze

alive yet silent.

Ancient roots sprouted upwards from the earth,

intertwining, twisting, ascending,

encased in a skin of bark and moss,

engraved in timeless memories.

As gold liquid sunlight pours over the tree,

small birds dive through its branches,

and when the sun dies, the opal moon,

illuminating like fireflies,

is held in the sky by a million stars,

watching over the leviathan of the forest.

The tree is almost infinite,

if not for the captivity of time.

Eventually, it weakens –

defeated by wind, rain and storms.

Life fades away from the tree, like a cloud in the horizon.

At the foot of the decaying tree, sprouts a tiny stalk,

growing upwards.


Number 13 is lucky for some at Windermere restaurant

cedar dining


It might be unlucky for some – but number 13 is going to be lucky indeed for diners at Windermere’s Cedar Manor Hotel and Restaurant.

From next week, every 13th diner booking each night will not have to pay for their meal. The offer will run until Friday June 13th.

The “lucky for some” scheme has been launched by hotel owners Jonathan and Caroline Kaye whose restaurant has won awards for food and service.

“We always enjoy stories of good luck and good fortune that our guests tell us,” said Caroline. “I’m not terribly superstitious myself – but I’m always glad when it gets to midnight on Friday the 13th.”

The restaurant is often the setting for happy occasions as guests and local diners take the opportunity to propose. (And luckily, if he’s forgotten to bring the ring, there’s locally-made designer jewellery for sale in the hotel’s welcome lounge.)

It’s also used by families wanting to mark special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries. Regular diners, however, head for the signature dishes of head chef Roger Pergl-Wilson who uses local ingredients for modern British dishes.

To see the menu and book a table, see But Caroline warns: “Don’t ask how many have booked already that night. We want it to be a surprise for the 13th visitor!”

The offer doesn’t apply to Saturday nights.

Swim safe code launched at Windermere

swimsafe nigel and team

Managing director of Windermere Lake Cruises, Nigel Wilkindson, with swim specialists Andrea Tucker and Pete Kelly, at the launch of a new safety code for lake users.

The “be keen to be seen” message follows negotiations between groups of lake users as open water swimming attracts a massive new following.

Thousands of people now take a plunge in the lakes, tarns and rivers every year. The new swim-safe code spells out a hat, flag, float and boat message designed to make the Lakes a safer place for all users.

Working with event organisers, open water swim providers, commercial boat operators and Windermere Lake Users Forum, the Lake District National Park has produced 10,000 leaflets spelling out how swimmers can protect themselves from boat collisions and serious harm.

Lakes ranger Sara Spicer said the initiative followed concern that increasing numbers of swimmers in Windermere, Ullswater, Coniston Water and Derwentwater were at risk unless they followed some simple but effective guidelines.

She explained: “A bright hat is number one priority, followed by a tow float, and if a white and blue Alpha flag-flying support boat or kayak is available, particularly for groups of swimmers, so much the better.

“We are also encouraging people to swim in the quieter lakes and avoid the four main navigable lakes, which have many different users.  Great North Swim, which sees 10,000 competitors in Windermere, the British Long Distance Swimming Association, boat companies, marinas, swimming providers and lake users from across the national park are all giving invaluable support.”

South Lakeland District Council lake wardens will be giving out tow floats to the swimmers they come across when they are out on patrol. These are also available to buy locally at Head to the Hills – Swim the Lake District in Ambleside..

Bright yellow and pink hats will also be given to difficult-to-see swimmers on navigable lakes. Swim event organisers will also be publicising the swim safe campaign.

“It is also important to remind boat users that there may be swimmers in the water who may be difficult to see,” added Sara. “Solo swimmers are particularly hard to see. It’s easy to forget that boats, particularly larger vessels, take time to change their course or stop if they need to avoid someone in the water.”

Head to the Hills – Swim the Lake District, who have provided open water swimming courses, events and guided swims across the Lake District since 2010, were involved in the development of the swim safe code.

Director Pete Kelly welcomed the swim safe code: “We have been providing safety advice for swimmers both formally through our courses and swims and informally through our swimming group.

“But as open water swimming in the Lake District becomes more popular it’s great to have the extra support this code will bring. It provides clear advice to both swimmers and boat users ensuring the risk of incidents are reduced and safety awareness is increased.”

Nigel Wilkinson, managing director of Windermere Lake Cruises, which carries in excess of 1.25 million passengers a year, said: “We are genuinely concerned about the consequences of a collision on Windermere and the swim safe code is an excellent initiative to help mitigate that risk”.

Further information on

For introduction to open water swimming in the Lake District see

Cedar Manor – a love affair with the Lake District

(First published in Lancashire Life, April 2014)


Jo Vincent’s stunning chandelier 

He was a tough, worldly-wise climber fresh from Everest base-camp, with years of Lake District hiking behind him. She was a pretty, petite beauty consultant and fine jewellery expert who had spent years tripping along Kensington High Street and Sloane Square. And the two of them were alone in a blizzard on a bleak February day on the Langdale pikes.

Were this a Mills and Boon novel, our hero would have swept our heroine into his arms and his duvet jacket, and carried her down to safety.

“In fact, she beat me to the summit, even though she’d never been on a fell before in her life, danced down the mountain, and showed no signs of aches and pains the next day,” says our hero. It was a defining moment in the delightful romance of Jonathan and Caroline Kaye. Not only did it put a seal on their relationship, but she joined him in a love affair with the Lakes.

Ten years later they are living the dream, running the stunningly beautiful Cedar Manor hotel which looks across Windermere to the hills of their adventure – and occasionally running up the hills near their Lakeland home. They bought the hotel in 2007 and have turned it into a delightfully quirky country house with contemporary twist kind of place, where they are constantly revamping and innovating, always with the help of local designers and local craftsmen.

It’s a labour of love to which they have given their lives, with a great deal of fun and enjoyment along the way. “Pleasure shouldn’t be a serious business,” says Jonathan. “Though that’s not to say we don’t take it seriously.”

He’s a host with an easy manner honed by a wealth of hospitality experience in hotels and restaurants – and ten years running the legendary Raffles nightclub in Chelsea, an unusual diversion on the career path of a man who always wanted to be a Lakeland hotelier. “Well, it was either that or airline pilot. I did actually go along for a first interview for that. I took a friend along with me for company. He got in, and I didn’t,” says Jonathan.

There’s no sense of regret, though, for it’s clear he is now doing what he always wanted to do. His family, from Birmingham, spent a week every summer in the Lakes, at a hotel on Ullswater. It was a basic place, a converted monastery with just essential facilities and solid-fuel cooking. “During the years we stayed there, the proprietor went to college, learned about fine dining, and married an interior designer. Together they transformed the place, and year by year we made that journey with them. That’s when I decided what I wanted to do with my life.”

It was also where he fell in love with the lakes and the fells although his parents were not adventurous and, as an only child, he wasn’t allowed to explore far. “I went pony trekking with my mum. My dad preferred to look at the scenery from the comfort of the car.” But the seed was sown, and he embraced the chance to take on the Duke of Edinburgh challenge at school, and later camp in the Lakes with friends. His adventurous spirit was really fulfilled when he joined the mountaineering club at the former Leeds Polytechnic where he spent three years on a degree in hospitality and business studies.

It was on work placement as part of his course that he found his instinctive work ethic rewarded, gaining valuable experience with London’s Sweeney Todd restaurant chain, along with the Forte and Thistle groups of hotels. By the time he graduated, he had worked in virtually every department of catering and hospitality (and served cocktails at a Fleetwood Mac post-concert party).

He worked for some time in hotels across the south of England until he spotted tiny box advert in the London Evening Standard for a manager for a prestigious night club. “It was so elite, they didn’t name it in the ad,” says Jonathan. He survived a bizarre and unorthodox recruitment process, and took on the managership of Raffles, transforming it in 10 years into a hugely successful business as well as a top quality night club where celebrities and royalty were welcomed discreetly, and where the clientele drank champagne as if it came out of a tap

It was during this time that he met Caroline. She was a single parent with a 10 year old daughter (who will be 21 this year and is working as a make-up artist in Selfridges in London). Caroline was working as a beauty consultant for Estee Lauder for John Lewis, at their flagship Peter Jones store, and Harrods. She had also managed the jewellery department for John Lewis – that is, fine and fashion jewellery, and also second-hand pieces which she bought for the store. It was a career which would prove invaluable in her future life, offering the opportunity to develop a natural sense of artistry and style. And, as she discovered once running the Cedar Manor, a talent for decorating.

“Working on a beauty counter, and as a make-up artist, teaches you the fine details. It’s come in very handy when I’m grouting the tiles,” she says. Indeed, Caroline does take a very hands-on approach to the design and décor at the Cedar Manor, and is happy to tackle painting and decorating on the grand scale as well.

But back then, a cedar was a tree that grew in the countryside, and Caroline was a city girl. If Jonathan was to entice her to share his dream, she needed to fall in love with Lake District. Hence her dramatic first visit, climbing the Langdale fells in snow and hail. “I’d never done anything like that before,” she admits. “I really loved it, and realised how fit I was. But when I got back to work on Monday, on the beauty counter, my colleagues were astonished – my face was raw and peeling with the effects of wind and snow and occasional sun. I’d never known anything like that.”

She was hooked, on the Lakes as well as the man and his dream. And by the time she and Jonathan had a daughter of their own, Elizabeth, they were ready to make the life-style change, head north and find their own hotel to run. The Cedar Manor was waiting for them.

“It’s named after the cedar tree in the garden, a Himalayan species that seeds only once every 40 years, and it happened last year,” says Caroline, London lass now fascinated by the botany, history and geology of her adopted home. The house was built in 1854, designed by the same architect as the neighbouring St Mary’s Church.

That notion of keeping it local applies still, with the Kayes determined to use the best local designers, craftsmen and products. The evidence is throughout the hotel, in the individual rooms with their distinctive names and matching views – Claife Heights, Wansfell, Crinkle Crags – but is showcased ultimately in the detached Coach House suite.

Here is sumptuous luxury with every possible attention to detail. The carpet is made from a Herdwick/Swaledale blend from Cumbria Carpets. The flooring is oak from RR Stone at Staveley. The furniture is made to measure – no, to fit, precisely – by Andrew Smith’s team at Lakeland Fells Furniture just down the road in Windermere. That’s everything from a dining table concealing a remote console for the TV and computer connections in the “conference” suite, to the mirror-surround for the astonishing bathroom with its twin spa bath, colour changing lights, twin basins with Philippe Starck taps, and platinum leaf bath design by Alison Tordoff.

Andrew built the discreet kitchen on the upper floor of the Coach House, where room service can deliver breakfast at a guest’s requested time, or where guests can make their own toast, and choose from the full range of Nespresso coffees. He also built the hide-away conference facilities, for the Coach House can also be booked for meetings and presentations on a daily basis, as well as for private dinners for up to 10 guests or wedding breakfasts.

The individual touches are there, of course, throughout the hotel: fridges with fresh milk in rooms, as well as Farrer’s coffee and cafetieres, I-Pod docks, hand-made chocolates, environmentally friendly cosmetic products. Cedar Manor has a gold standard “Green Tourism” award, using LED lights, replacing out-dated boilers with energy-efficient alternatives and using only recycled paper products, recycling whatever they can along the way.

The Coach House has delicate chandelier-style lighting in the bedroom, though none so dramatic as the recently-installed Bombay Sapphire chandelier in the main hotel, made with glass from gin bottles.

All bear the hallmark of Alison Tordoff, the designer from Fidget based nearby in Bowness, who has played a key role in stamping the distinctive mark on the Cedar Manor style. She designed a bespoke “bookend” wallpaper for a reception room where Caroline and Jonathan are displaying the work of local artists, jewellers and craftsmen. Look at the book titles, and you can see that Jonathan and Caroline’s sense of humour has proved that style can be fun.

They are having the time of their lives, and so are their guests. Happy? For 51 out of 52 weeks in the past year, the Cedar Manor was voted top hotel in Windermere on Tripadvisor. Their guest book overflows with superlatives. And the best hotel interior in the Bloomburg International Hotel Awards went to Fidget and Alison Tordoff for her work on the Coach House, lounge and Crinkle Crags bedroom at the hotel.

Are they sitting still? The plan is for more improvements, better design, constant development. And for Caroline, a personal goal this year. Having moved to the Lakes she and Jonathan took up running, and now she has a place in the Great North Run. She’s excited about that, as she and Jonathan are about everything in their lives. Their guests may come to the Cedar Manor for a quiet rest; they are more likely to go home feeling restless – and inspired.