Monthly Archives: May 2014

Downhill all the way at Ambleside film premiere

The first film premiere I went to was in Leeds for the comedy, A Private Function. My friend Eileen played the farmer’s wife and I sat one row behind the scriptwriter, a chap called Alan Bennett.

It’s been downhill all the way since then, ending at Zeffirelli’s in Ambleside tonight for the premiere of Downhill, an endearingly funny road movie about four guys who avoid all the roads and attempt to walk the Coast to Coast path. They covered – and drank – 192 miles of glorious northern countryside and glorious northern hospitality, apart from the B&B where the mushrooms got mixed up with the baked beans.

Such detail never bothered Alfred Wainwright whose description of the route inspires thousands every year to make the pilgrimage from St Bees in the west to Robin Hood’s Bay in the east. And inspired writer Torben Betts to tackle a comedy full of errors, directed by James Rouse, and produced by Benji Howell.

They call it a testament to the tragically incompatible, a blow-by-blow account of the highs and lows of decades-long friendships. Their actors – Richard Lumsden, Karl Theobald, Jeremy Swift and Ned Dennehy – were calling it torture after the first day. But they survived – at least, most of them – to make the crossing intact, with only one drop-out, one cheat (a small misdemeanour) and one gay outing.

It’s filmed as a spoof documentary, with the invisible cameraman revealed briefly as the son of one of the characters (who steps from behind the lens and to his dad’s defence. And there’s a bit of the plot revealed briefly.) The technique works very well indeed, as do the closely-studied shots of the landscape, revealing the slate and the stone of the Lake District and North Yorkshire more dramatically than the leaf and the lane.

The early stages are my home territory, the end of the route sentimentally familiar. My running club, Clayton le Moors Harriers, once tackled the Coast to Coast as a relay event and I ran the last 19 miles from Glaisdale to Robin Hood’s Bay carrying the baton – a pebble picked from St Bees’ beach. I can still taste the fish and chips that the Downhill wanderers relished at the end of their journey.

Sand in their shoes, stars in their eyes, they asked guests at the premiere to turn up in evening dress and hiking boots. Or wellies, like the main star of the night, Dorothy Smith, manager of Zeffirelli’s, who hosted a gala night with a difference. We had champagne, we had canapés, we had a jazz band. We had a green carpet, and sheep on the pavement outside.

Zeffs is the cultural centre of the Lake District, a five-screen cinema which hosts live music, a café bar by day, a packed restaurant by night, and an artistic sibling in the next street, Fellini’s. Dorothy and her team rise to all sorts of occasions, and won a customer service award at a recent ceremony. They served stars and guests as if they hosted the Oscars every week, and they handed over a cheque for £900 to the local mountain rescue team at the end of the evening. It was night to remember, even if it was Downhill all the way.


Downhill is on general release from Friday, opening in London at the Empire, Leicester Square.



Portrait of Dorothy Wordsworth returns to the family home

portrait of Dorothy

A rare portrait of Dorothy Wordsworth as a young woman has been bought by Rydal Mount, her home near Ambleside that she shared with brother William and his wife, Mary.

The unsigned and unattributed miniature was given by Dorothy’s niece Dora to Maria Jewsbury who, at the age of 24, had presented a collection of her poems to William Wordsworth.

It was sold for an undisclosed sum by auctioneers Bonhams of London to members of the Wordsworth family, who still own the house where the poet lived for most of his life. Curator of Rydal Mount, Peter Elkington, said he was thrilled at this acquisition.

“Dorothy lived a long time, and most of the representations of her show her as a placid, middle aged woman. But she was known to be enigmatic in her youth, and the essayist Thomas de Quincy described her wild eyes and impulsive nature. This comes much closer to that notion of her.”

Maria Jewsbury was invited to stay with the Wordsworths at Rydal Mount where she became a great admirer of Dorothy and firm friends with Dora and the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s daughter, Sara.

In 1831Maria married a missionary and on departing for India she offered the portrait to Dora – who turned it down because she didn’t like it. Maria died in India in 1833 – of cholera – and the painting was given to Henry Coleridge, Sara’s husband and cousin. It was one of a number of items relating to Coleridge the writer which were sold by Bonhams.

Now it has come home, to hang in the drawing room at Rydal Mount alongside the more famous portrait of Dorothy as a mature woman. Said Peter Elkington: “It’s a really significant addition to our collection and sheds more light on the life and nature of this influential woman.”

Share your photos of remarkable Lakes exhibition Reflective Moments

Visitors to the Lake District’s most unusual art exhibition are being invited to share their own photos of the events and installations on social media.

Reflective Moments opens this weekend and runs for a week at a number of venues from Dunmail Raise and Allan Bank in the north of the Windermere catchment to Fell Foot Park. It is organised by environmental campaigners Windermere Reflections.

Visitors will be invited to peer through a viewing tunnel, step inside a giant kaleidoscope, and experience the landscape through a camera obscura. On the Windermere ferry they will be encouraged to create poetry on giant “fridge magnet” boards.

And at each site they will find details of how they can upload their own photos to share their creative moments.

Reflective Moments sets out to show not just the grandeur of the landscape but how it has been viewed through history, particularly at the time of the picturesque and Romantic eras.

The viewing tunnel is at Allan Bank near Grasmere, once the home of William Wordsworth. The kaleidoscope is at the head of Windermere near Ambleside, and the camera obscura at a wartime pillbox on Dunmail Raise.

Visitors will also experience sensory exhibits at Claife on the west shore of Windermere, try Chinese landscape painting, and create poetry on the cross-lake ferry.

The events mark the final months the Windermere Reflections programme, which was tasked with informing and educating residents, businesses, landowners and visitors of the need for diligence to maintain good water quality in the lake.

Alongside the workshops, the temporary art installations created by Cumbria-based artist Steve Messam 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 Windermere Reflections’ 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.”

Visitors’ photographs can be uploaded to the Windermere Reflections’ Facebook page, and also shared via Flickr.

Lead artist Steve Messam said: “We are encouraging people to look at the landscape in a different way and to share their own creative moments. It’s going to be one big photo opportunity.”

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. They can also visit the Victorian viewing tunnel in the grounds. 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 th

Tea and cake help charity in Windermere

Two days of feasting on tea and cake in Windermere raised more than £800 for charity.

A tea party at Windermere preparatory school was followed by an afternoon tea at the Cedar Manor hotel, both events organised by the hotel’s owner, Caroline Kaye.

The money raised is going to fund research into the causes and possible cures for lupus, a condition suffered by Caroline’s 21 year old daughter, Natalie.

Caroline is also in training for the Great North Run to raise further funds for the cause.

The school tea party raised more than £400 thanks to the generosity of the parents, teachers and friends, many of whom donated cakes.

The baking for the hotel afternoon tea was done by sous chef Michael Vango, along with friends of Caroline and her husband Jonathan, and visitors there raised almost another £400.

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. Caroline said: “Natalie was diagnosed when she was 15, but it had taken two years to identify from when she first showed symptoms.

“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, 8, a pupil at Windermere School, is playing her part by helping Caroline’s training efforts – she goes alongside on her bicycle when mum goes for a run.

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

She said: “Local people, and our visitors, have been very generous. I know that there are many demands on people’s kindness. We have raised money, and just as importantly, we have raised awareness about the condition.”

Caroline can be sponsored at

Neighbours, everybody needs good neighbours, in Windermere

Residents of a road in Windermere are proving what it really means to be neighbourly, while protecting their local environment.

The voluntary efforts of people living on Victoria Road North have taken community action to new heights, from woodland management to the planting of a communal orchard.

They are being supported by green campaigners Windermere Reflections as part of their Windermere Footprint project. But the residents themselves have led the way.

“We wanted to see how our community could work together to live more sustainably and increase neighbourliness,” said Barry Butler, one of the residents.

Following a survey to find out what local people wanted to do, the group began in style with a new year party hosted by one of the residents. Since then they have been improving their area, and helping to clean up the environment.

The group won support from South Lakes District Council to fund a woodland management plan for School Knott Community Woodland, and organised woodland management and woodcrafts events for local people.

Windermere and Bowness Civic Society agreed to ‘adopt’ the woodland group to help support its work, and community orchard was planted with the help of the Wood Education Programme and the Windermere Food Group. One resident is making bird and bat boxes for the woodland area.

All the residents received a Windermere Reflections Property Pack with tips on cutting carbon and pollution. And they have booked a training session with a wildflower expert and a bird expert in order to understand how to attract more wildlife to the woodland, with support from Windermere Reflections.

“We have done several community litter picks to remove the disintegrating plastic rabbit guards from the trees.  One person has spent a lot of time doing this and has collected 35 bags of guards,” said Barry.

“People have been interested in different elements of the project, but it’s the idea of helping to look after and make improvements in the woodland which has been the most popular part.  Being involved has certainly got some people talking and having fun when they didn’t know each other before.”

Windermere Reflections’ programme manager Liz Davey said: “These people are truly local heroes. They have sought advice and support, and then got on with it themselves, improving their own environment. We could all learn a great deal from their example, and we are thrilled with what they have achieved.”