Monthly Archives: November 2014

Ambleside’s Chris joins world’s toughest athletes


Ambleside athlete Chris Stirling has gained an elite place in the world’s toughest triathlon.

He will take part in the Norseman Xtreme in Norway next summer, a point to point race that starts by jumping off a ferry into a fjord and ends on a mountain summit.

Chris, 32, who works at the Climbers Shop in Ambleside, was this year’s winner of the Wasdale triathlon, recognised as the world’s toughest at the half “iron man” distance. He finished second in the Celtman, the Scottish extreme triathlon, half an hour inside the previous course record.

Originally from Portishead, Bristol, Chris moved to the Lakes 10 years ago to live and train in the mountains. He has a background in climbing, mountaineering and fell running, and decided to start racing in 2012, triathlon and fell running. He  represented Northern Ireland in mountain running events in 2013 and again this year.

He said: “I am very happy and honoured to make this list of international athletes. Norseman was part of my original inspiration for taking up triathlon in 2012 so you could say this is a dream come true. It certainly feels that way.”

Norseman Xtreme Triathlon is considered the ultimate triathlon on the planet, and the race that “any hard core triathlete should do at least once”.

The course runs point-to-point – or fjord to peak, starting at sea level, with a four-metre drop off a ferry into the Hardangerfjord, crossing the Hardangervidda mountain plateau, and finishing at the rocky peak of Gaustatoppen, at 1,850m above sea level and 220km away. There’s a total ascent of 5,000metres.

Chris, who trains six or seven days a week, often two or three sessions a day, is now looking for sponsors and supporters; he will need a back-up team to accompany him to Norway and transport.



Celebrations and a poetry contest for two centuries of Daffodils

Plans are under way to celebrate a literary landmark in the Lake District next spring.

April sees the 200th anniversary of the publication of William Wordsworth’s Daffodils, arguably the most famous poem in the English-speaking world.

Rydal Mount, the house where Wordsworth lived when he published the definitive version of the poem, will be the focus of a number of events to mark the occasion. There will be a special theme for the annual Wordsworth prize for young poets, open to all schoolchildren in Cumbria. And there will be a literary lunch at the Old Stamp House restaurant in Ambleside, the building where Wordsworth was working as a civil servant back in 1815.

The curators of Rydal Mount, Peter and Marian Elkington, will also host an anniversary celebration at the house.

“The poem is loved throughout the world,” said Peter Elkington. “Our overseas visitors, particularly from Japan and America, know it off by heart. They love the English Romantic poets.”

Rydal Mount was presented recently by a decorative scroll, more than two metres long, inscribed with Daffodils written in Chinese calligraphy and brought to the Lakes by a lecturer at Shandong Jiaotong University in Jinan.

The poetry competition for young people will be launched in the new year but all schools in Cumbria are being alerted to prepare their young writers. The poems this time will be on the theme: “I wandered….”

Last year’s winner was 15 year old Heidi Ostell, a pupil at Trinity High School in Carlisle. Her poem, Leviathan of the Forest,  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 has been framed and hung on the wall for visitors to read.

Christmas shopping? Grasmere has it wrapped at the Heaton Cooper Studio

Lake District Christmas shoppers will have the chance to buy everything they need this year in Grasmere.

The Heaton Cooper Studio offers a Christmas shopping experience which is free from crowds and canned carols. In the bright and elegant galleries can be found ideas, inspiration and gifts for friends and family which are distinctive, unusual and beautifully designed.

heaton cooper shop

Art predominates as this is the gallery of Lakeland’s most well-loved landscape painters, and the prints – or even originals – by Alfred and William Heaton Cooper have been treasured gifts for generations. But the beauty of their work permeates all the items on sale, from tiny Chinese white ceramic brush holders to huge framed masterpieces. The collection echoes the mantra of William Morris, to have “nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”.

The “useful” includes painting and activity books for children alongside calligraphy sets, watercolours and brushes, and exquisite cedarwood pencils with silver plated caps. Exclusive to the UK are the Henri Roche pastels, hand-made in Paris by the family which supplied Degas, Whistler and other leading artists.

There are distinctive hanging photo frames, candle holders, ceramics, jewellery, and a family of enchanting wire-sculpted reindeer, along with greetings cards and a small collection of antiquarian books.

The studio is open daily from 9am till 5.30 pm.

Children to design Christmas lights

Christmas lights in Windermere and Bowness this year will feature the work of local contest-winners in a project organised for the town’s three primary schools.

Award winning designer Alison Tordoff, who lives in Windermere,  has set up a competition for children to design their own festive lights. The winning designs will be made into illuminated lights and displayed in Ellerthwaite Sqaure hanging in and around the tree. The big lights switch-on in the town is Saturday November 29.

Alison, who runs Fidget Design, has enlisted the help of Liam Clark at Kendal’s Sun Signs  who will be making up the shapes of the final chosen designs, ready to be attached to LED rope lights.

Children from St Martin and St Mary’s, Goodly Dale, and St Cuthbert’s primary schools are all taking part in the competition. It is planned to have two winners from each school, and the children’s artwork will be displayed in local shop windows.

They will also be displayed at the Windermere Aquatic  clothing store and Fun Factory whose managing director Grahame Armer is sponsoring the competition.

Alison said: “The children can work in groups or on their own, and create designs which are as colourful as possible. The finished artwork needs to be hand in to their schools  by  Monday  November 24.”

She added: “We are really pleased that the Windermere and Bowness lights organisers, and our sponsors,  are encouraging young talent this way. It  makes them a real part of this community event.”



Write it proper: spaghetti, the judge, the prisoner and the press release

When we see blog posts or tweets from journalists and magazine editors complaining about the quality of press releases, those responsible should hang their heads in shame.

It’s not just that press release composition is so very basic to the skills needed in PR – yes, even in the digital age. It’s the casual disregard for accuracy, correct punctuation and spelling that gives PR a poor reputation.

Some fairly substantial organisations have been named and shamed recently, the very ones who spend a fortune maintaining their reputations in all other respects. And yet those very first impressions can make or break “reputation”. As editors confirm regularly, how can you know that the rest of the message is accurate if the name of the product – or the MD – is spelled wrongly?

When I was teaching PR, Lynne Truss and her guide to the use of the apostrophe, The Girl’s Like Spaghetti, was top of the students’ reading list. (Though I did resort to shock tactics occasionally, warning that “every time an apostrophe is misused, a kitten dies”. Not pedagogically sound, but it seemed to work.)

And who’s to blame for the misuse of the comma? Schools? Years ago, looking through my son’s homework, I commented on the casual approach to grammar and punctuation. “It doesn’t matter,” he said. “It’s only geography. We only have to bother about that in English.”

It matters. Commas matter. There’s a big difference between: The judge said the prisoner was a fool and  The judge, said the prisoner, was a fool. When in doubt have a look at Let’s eat Grandma.

The failsafe reference work for journalists and PRs is the BBC style guide

If you run a PR department, or an agency, and have any doubts about your own grammatical reputation, give Cumbria PR a call. We can edit, correct, revise or rewrite your news releases, website content, marketing or advertising copy, and you can be confident that your messages don’t become spike fodder.


Exciting new plans for Heaton Cooper Studio

As a new exhibition gets under way in a new gallery at Grasmere’s Heaton Cooper studio, the great-grand-daughter of the founding father of the artist-dynasty is at the helm of exciting plans for the future.

Becky Heaton Cooper is director and general manager of the business established by the landscape painter Alfred Heaton Cooper in 1905. His artist son William Heaton Cooper, Becky’s grandfather, built the present gallery in Grasmere in 1938. For generations their paintings and books have influenced the way the landscape of the Lake District has been viewed.

Now Becky, an artist herself, is supervising plans to extend the village-centre building, create a new gallery and workshop space with a café, and diversify the range of exhibitions.  Trained in fashion and textile design, she has exhibited her own contemporary mixed media paintings, but admits that her career as an artist is on hold. “I put a lot of creative energy into the business. There will be time to come back to my own work,” she says. She is also a climber, runner and mother of four year old twins.

There will be a new entrance, and a glass fronted gallery/workshop looking directly out to Stone Arthur and the high fells, as well as an extended shop. The studio has always sold prints and some ceramics, but is diversifying to include art books and gift items, as well as a wider range of artists’ materials. At the children’s table, young artists are encouraged to create work which is scanned and uploaded onto the Heaton Cooper website. There will be more painting demonstrations by local artists, for locals out of season as well as for visitors

The Heaton Cooper family tree is a pictorial essay on the development of art in the Lake District and beyond. There are 10 artists represented, including Becky’s grandmother, the sculptor Ophelia Gordon Bell (herself the daughter of  a famous animal painter, Winifred Gordon Bell), and her uncle, Julian Cooper, the internationally renowned painter whose recent work has been concerned with finding a relevant contemporary language for painting mountains and rock. The mountains, crags and tarns of the Lake District are themes that permeate the artistic genealogy.

The most loved works, though, are by Alfred and William, each distinctively capturing the magnificence and the beauty of rock and fell, stream and lake. They add to the cultural wealth of Grasmere, the artistic counterbalance to Wordsworth’s poetry and influence in these parts. Becky is custodian of their heritage, a task she undertakes with as much love and caring as business acumen. Born here in Grasmere, she studied at Newcastle and worked for fashion designer Nigel Cabourn, and with Coates Viyella, before returning to the Lakes, working locally while she developed and sold her own work in the Grasmere studio.

She joined the family business to work with her father, John: “I’d always been familiar with the business, and always wanted to work with him.” As he took steps towards retirement, Becky took the helm. She’s married to Dave Almond, a National Trust property manager, and they live near Loughrigg Tarn with their children Ophelia and Alfie (who are always encouraged to experiment as artists, in the family tradition.)

“It’s very special, to be a part of all this. It has a fascinating place in the history of art and a special place at the heart of the Lakes. I feel very lucky to be custodian of that heritage, and to be part of this family.” She understands her ancestors feeling for the crags as both an artist herself and having been a climber: she’s tackled all the traditional classic Lakeland climbs and “done seasons” in the Alps – “But I was no good at leading!”

Her own favourite picture? It’s a painting is of Scafell Pike from Upper Eskdale by her grandfather William, painted in 1936.  Meanwhile visitors are enjoying the current exhibition, Working the Landscape, set in a new gallery and celebrating a centenary of Lakeland hill farming seen through the eyes of the Heaton Cooper family in their sketchbooks, paintings and sculpture.


Alfred Heaton Cooper was born in Manchester and brought up in Bolton, Lancashire, one of six children of mill worker parents. Alfred left school to become a clerk in Bolton Town Hall. But his mother recognised his passion for drawing and painting and encouraged him to submit some of his artworks with a view to gaining an art scholarship.

He was successful and went to London in 1884 where his arrival coincided with one of the most active periods of challenge and change in western European art. He studied under George Clausen and was heavily influenced by Turner, Constable and the Barbizon school, also by Millet, who was one of the first to portray the life and work of the common man in painting.

He later spent time in the Norwegian fjords determined to make his living selling landscape pictures to the European tourists who went there in great numbers. He was fascinated by the rural peasant life of the people of the Sogne region,  married a local girl and built a studio beside the fjord at Balestrand, which stands today and is known still as Cooperhus.

Alfred returned with his bride in 1894, settling in the Lake District, where wealthy tourists promised a better livelihood. A red roofed log cabin which Alfred had shipped from Norway caused quite a stir when it was first erected in Coniston village as a studio, but his expectations of the wealthy tourists were not fulfilled sufficiently for Alfred to sustain his growing family. More people seemed to be visiting Ambleside than Coniston, so the log studio was moved there, where it still stands today, now a restaurant.

Alfred settled to a life of continuous painting. His wife ran the studio while he tramped the Lakeland fells and valleys, finding scenes which inspired him to paint and which would appeal to visitors. An important source of income was a commission from travel guide publishers A & C Black, for whom he illustrated many books.

William Heaton Cooper was the third child of Alfred Heaton Cooper and his Norwegian wife Mathilde. He was born at Coniston in October 1903.
He gained a scholarship to the Royal Academy School in London and subsequently exhibited at the Royal Academy, the RBA and the Royal Institute.
Alongside his painting, he became an authority on the lore and landscape of the Lake District, walking and rock climbing in its mountains with the pioneer climbers of the 1920s. There can have been few men with a better knowledge of the Lakeland fells, their structure and their geography.
This knowledge is apparent from his books on Lakeland and his illustration of the rock climbing guides published by the Fell & Rock Climbing Club, of which he was elected life president.
He was elected in 1953 to membership of the Royal Institute of British Watercolourists and was for eleven years president of the Lake Artists Society.

After his father’s death in 1929, William took over the studio in Ambleside which his father had built, in order to provide for his mother and younger sister. A period of intense unhappiness followed during which a search for inner peace and integrity led him on a religious quest, culminating in his adoption of the doctrines of the Oxford Movement (Moral Rearmament). His painting continued to improve, so much so that he soon eclipsed the reputation of his father. A decision was taken to move the studio business to Grasmere and the building of a home and studio there began in 1938. In the same year he met the sculptress, Ophelia Gordon Bell, who later became his wife.

It was after World War ll that the idea of reproduction sales occurred. The advent of improved colour printing techniques meant that more faithful reproductions of originals could be made and literally thousands of prints have been sold.

William’s style of mountain painting is more impressionistic than his father’s, with his knowledge of geology used to the full in his sometimes spare and skeletal depiction of crags and fells. He was fascinated by the ever changing light of Lakeland, often painting the same views at different times of day; and would walk miles over the fells, camping out to capture the late or early sunlight over fell tops and lakes. The result has been a body of work which continues to give pleasure to thousands of visitors to the English Lakes. William died in 1995 and is buried in Grasmere.