Monthly Archives: March 2015

Final chance to see the art of the crags

fell and rock guidebooks


Easter will provide a final chance for visitors to see an acclaimed exhibition of mountaineering art in Grasmere.

The show, at the Heaton Cooper studio, is based around William Heaton Cooper’s exquisite drawings of Lakeland crags used in the definitive climbing guides to the area.

Lines of Ascent, hailed by visiting climbers and art lovers since it opened, features the work William produced for the Fell and Rock Climbing Club guides for 50 years from 1930s onwards. The books were bibles for the climbing community, showing new routes as they developed, drawn on site and working closely with the climbers at the crag face.

Alongside these drawings, guides and journals are climbing photographs from the 1930s and 1940s from Heaton Cooper’s private album, as well as some of his paintings that reference the mid-twentieth century climbing scene, including some not seen before.

There is also an Alpine sketch-book full of vivid drawings and  sketches of the Grandes Jorasses from above the original Couvercle Hut, and crowded interiors of the old hut in the 1950s.

The Alpine theme at the exhibition is extended with Julian Cooper’s huge oil painting  Eiger Face, shown alongside images of the famous 1938 first ascent and subsequent routes up the North Face of the Eiger.

The exhibition will close at the end of April, to be followed in May by a tribute to one of the most accomplished sculptors of the 20th century.

Ophelia Gordon Bell  (1915 – 1975) is known as the wife of landscape painter William Heaton Cooper. But the new Grasmere show, A Vital Spirit, aims to bring attention to her own life and extraordinary talent. It opens on May 18.


The art of fellrunning: exhibition at Rydal

An exhibition which pays tribute to Joss Naylor and all Lakeland fellrunners has opened at the Old School Room tea shop at Rydal Hall near Ambleside.

The work by Cark-in-Cartmel artist Elizabeth Shorrock features her distinctive sculptural books, fold-out maps and mixed media collages to present a fascinating perspective on fellrunning achievements.

There are hand-drawn folding concertina outline maps of iconic fell races including those at Borrowdale, Dunnerdale, Ennerdale, Langdale, Coledale and the Three Shires.

Collages such as the “Lakes Waters and Meres” exhibit feature footprints to highlight the routes taken by Joss Naylor on some of his Lakeland epic runs. There’s also an unusual recycled print tray filled with tiny mixed media tributes to Joss’s achievements.

The intricately-detailed work is all the more remarkable because Shorrocks has never tackled a fell race herself. “I’ve been walking in these hills since I was 19 but the thought of running up one, let alone a whole succession of them, filled me with awe,” she says.

“The work for this exhibition is based on Joss’s career. I went to fell races, talked to runners, but drew the line at joining in.

“I wanted my work to tell some of the stories and to pay tribute to this amazing man and to all those who run – or walk – the fells.”

A member of the Green Door artist collective, Shorrock specialises in creating in handmade books –  sketchbooks and notebooks for practical use –  but her main focus is on using different folding methods to create sculptural artists’ books. “I am fascinated by the many ways 2D sheets of paper can be turned into 3D structures.”

The exhibition runs until the end of April. The Old School Room tea shop is open every day except Christmas Day from 10am, serving sandwiches, soups and home-made cakes.

print traywasdale racelakes meres and waters



Lake District has new backgammon champion

The new Lake District backgammon champion is Edinburgh-based science researcher Samantha Wilkinson.

She took the title after a thrilling final against financier Barry Teece, also from Edinburgh, at Windermere’s Cedar Manor Hotel. Last year’s winner Graeme Turner from Newcastle was knocked out in the first round by Grasmere Gingerbread owner Andrew Hunter. Andrew’s 11 year old son Monty, playing in his first big tournament, was defeated by Ambleside chef Robert Shaw.

The only other woman in the contest, 17 year old Dallam school student Kate Watton, was beaten by finalist Barry Teece in the first round.

Sixteen players from across the UK took part in the competition, part of the British Isles Backgammon Association Backgammon Tour and Grand Prix, which is organised by the Cedar Manor’s owner Jonathan Kaye. Champion Samantha won a two night stay at the hotel and a cash prize.

Jonathan Kaye, who runs a regular backgammon club at the hotel, said: “It was a terrific day with some really thrilling games. It proves that backgammon is growing in popularity. We’d like to see it played in cafes and bars across the Lakes, as happens elsewhere in Europe.” ends

Love-ly gift for TV presenters from award winning designer

Lakeland_Books_Mug_Back_400x400look north


North West Tonight presenters Annabel Tiffin and Roger Johnson were presented with rather special mugs on World Book Day.

The china mugs, created by award-winning designer Alison Tordoff for her new Love District range, featured two favourite books chosen by the news anchor team.

Annabel had picked a family favourite from when her children were younger,  If you give a pig a pancake, while Roger had chosen The case of the missing masterpiece. Both titles were incorporated into a wraparound design of bookends featuring Alison’s fantasy news and weather related books.

They were handed over in the North West Tonight studio at the BBC Media City HQ. “I thought it would be a fun thing to do on World Book Day,” said Alison, whose design company is Fidget Design. “I wanted to stress the importance of reading, particularly for young people. They need to be encouraged to read books.”

A range of china mugs featuring Lake District spoof titles was also launched on World Book Day. The same titles can be found on a wallpaper design in the Love District range, and on tea towels and aprons. The wallpaper was made originally as a prototype for Windermere’s Cedar Manor Hotel, which has won awards for design excellence.

The Love District is a new label from Fidget Design which celebrates the history, culture and landscape of the Cumbrian fells and lakes.

The  range also includes hand-made cushions decorated with outlines of the Lakeland fells, including Catbells, Haystacks, and the mountains at the head of Wastwater, voted Britain’s favourite landscape view. “The ideas for this new label were inspired by Cumbria and the Lakes,” said Alison, who has won awards for her hotel designs.

“I am passionate about the Lake District and its rich culture of art, history and literature, as well as the landscape.”

Based in Windermere, Fidget Design has won national and international awards including best hotel interior in the International Hotel Awards. Items from the Love District range can be bought from the website, The range will eventually include design-led gifts and home accessories including fine china mugs.

A percentage of the initial sales of the new range will go to the charity Lupus UK, which is researching causes and possible cures of the complex auto-immune disease.

catbells cushionteatwoel and apron1haystacks cushionbooks wallpaper small



Kate’s business finds her heart in a garden

Kate Ayres, Heart of a Garden

Kate Ayres inherited her green fingers. Her great-grandfather, she believes, would be very proud of her business venture, Heart of a Garden. He was trained at Kew Gardens and went on to be curator at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Peradeniya in Sri Lanka. “I always loved pottering about in the garden with my mother, but it took a long time to become a career” says Kate.

Based in Ambleside in the Lake District, her heart now truly is in a garden. She has landscaped her own, lovingly, and is now helping others to add touches of distinction and individuality to theirs, supplying a range of unusual and high quality ornaments and décor.

Hers is an online shop, and her customers are all over Britain, but she is especially pleased to help local clients, particularly hotels with lovely gardens – of which there are many in Cumbria. For example, she has provided garden furniture (tables, chairs, bench and arbour) and lanterns in the grounds of the popular wedding venue and organic guest house, Cote Howe, close to the shores of Rydal Water.

It’s only been in the last few years that Kate found her garden heart, after a range of fascinating business careers. This energetic climber and fell-runner, who also helps run a mountain guide business with her partner, started her working life making and selling violins. Originally from London, she left school at 16 but after working for a couple of years she went to study violin making at the London College of Furniture. “I enjoyed music. I played the piano and flute, and I was keen to run my own business making and repairing violins for a living.”

That dream was fulfilled, and for many years she and her first husband ran a successful violin shop in Manchester. But when her two children grew up, and the marriage ended, Kate took a radical change of direction and moved to Ambleside, signing up for a degree in teaching at the University of Cumbria.

It was there that she pursued her love of the outdoors, eventually gaining her Mountain Leadership certificate and qualifying as a climbing instructor. She graduated at the age of 50 but decided not to go into teaching, and spent three years working as a school administrator and finance officer for a small, rural primary school.

At the same time, she was working as an outdoor activities instructor with her partner Mark Eddy for their company, Mountain Journeys, taking clients on mountain walks, fell runs, rock climbing and abseiling sessions.

“I really enjoy the outdoor work but I wanted to pursue other challenges as well.” Her mind, and her heart, took her towards gardening. She had designed and landscaped her own garden, and wanted to fill it with ornaments and statues which were different from those sold in most garden centres. “That was the start of Heart of a Garden. I started to source garden ornaments and gifts from around the country, and realised that there was a demand for the unusual.”

As the name of the venture implies, there’s a lot of Kate’s heart and passion in the work. The website is full of beautiful and quirky items, from delicately-crafted garden furniture to pots, wind sculptures and bird tables. There’s an emphasis on sustainability – wooden plant labels, seed savers made from recycled cardboard, even a range of plant pots made from recycled tyres.

“It is very satisfying, knowing that I can bring art and design into gardens,” says Kate. “The statues, sculptures, animals and birds are proving popular for hotel gardens, too.”

Cumbrian gardeners and hoteliers can call for advice and individual orders: 015394 31806.

Wordsworth returns to the Lakes


Christopher Wordsworth, pictured, the great great great great grandson of William Wordsworth, is heading to the Lake District at the end of this month to recite the poem published by his ancestor 200 years ago. Christopher will recite Daffodils in the grounds of Rydal Mount, the home of William and his family for most of his life, and from where Daffodils was published. His audience will be the finalists in the Wordsworth Young Poets award who have been invited to a prizegiving ceremony on March 31. Christopher will announce the winner.

Rydal Mount, near Ambleside, is still owned by the Wordsworth family but is open to the public.