Monthly Archives: July 2016

Watch the Tour all day FREE in Ambleside as big screen brings bike race to town

Visitors coming to Ambleside for the Tour of Britain cycle race will be able to watch the entire day’s action FREE on a giant screen in the town centre.

Ambleside Together has arranged for live screening of the event throughout the day in the grounds of the University of Cumbria campus.

Cycling fans who want to see the racers in action on the most dramatic section, the ascent of The Struggle from Ambleside to the Kirkstone Pass, will be able to watch the subsequent action on the screen without leaving the town. After watching the racers go through, they can return to the campus grounds for the entire day’s event.

kirkstone cyclist

The Tour is Britain’s premier road cycling event and Glasgow will host the Grand Depart of the opening stage of the eight-day race on Sunday September 4. After the opening stage finishes in Dumfries and Galloway’s Castle Douglas, the cyclists will head for Cumbria on Monday September 5, racing from Carlisle to Kendal.

Free entry to the event is from 9.45 with live coverage from 1pm  till 4pm. The morning will include recorded footage and other cycling films.

“We were very excited to learn that the Tour was coming through the town, and thought that this would be a great way to help cycling fans enjoy the whole day,” said Ambleside Together treasurer Wendy Rainer. She and the committee arranged for the screen to be in place with grant funding from South Lakeland District Council.

“This is a community-organised event which is all part of our flood-recovery plan. We hope that visitors will stay in town and support local businesses, and in return we wanted to say thanks with this free event.”

According to the race organisers, the day’s racing starts from Carlisle at 10.45am. It is estimated that the leading cyclists will go through Pooley Bridge at 11.50am, Cockermouth at 13.18am, Keswick at 13.47am, Grasmere at 14.17pm, Rydal at 14.24pm, Ambleside at 14.26pm (Smithy Brow 14.28pm), top of The Struggle (Kirkstone Pass) at 14.35pm, Cook’s Corner 14.45pm, Plumgarth’s roundabout 15.01pm, and finishing uphill at Beast Banks, Kendal, 15.05pm.

“We are very pleased to be working with the University of Cumbria in providing this great facility for visitors and local residents,” said Mrs Rainer.

Ambleside Together, which launched the popular Love Ambleside campaign following the winter floods, is also organising the country’s first Festival of the Fells which will be held in the town from September 22-25. For more details see


Lakes’ toughest triathlon enters world rankings at Number One

The Lake District’s extreme iron-distance race Triathlon X has been judged by the experts as the toughest in the world.

Triathlon X, which was staged at Ambleside last month, enters the ratings for the first time and goes straight to number one, in a list compiled by 220 Triathlon magazine.

Their statisticians base their findings on scores for a range of features including bike elevation and run elevation, run surface type, isolation, the median finishing time (at The X, over 18 hours) and the psychological factor they call the  “psych battle”.

Triathlon X comes out with a total points score of 89 out of 100, ahead of the join-second-placed Altriman in the Pyrenees, and Snowdonia’s The Brutal. Further down the list are races previously considered the toughest, including Norway’s Norseman.

“Make no mistake all 11 of these Ironman distance triathlons are tough and not for the faint-hearted, but which is the toughest long-distance race of all?” wrote the magazine’s editor.

“And the winner is… Triathlon X in the Lake District.  A bike route on the legendary Fred Whitton cyclosportive route and a run up Scafell Pike and down again makes the new-entry Triathlon X the world’s toughest triathlon.”

“The bike is based on the infamous Fred Whitton cyclosportive route, the hilly granddaddy of all classic bike rides that happens to be 180km long. So it’s been an obvious long-held dream to have it as the showpiece of an iron-distance race,” said Anthony Gerundini, 10th in 2016 and 113 time Iron finisher.

descending scafell pike

“The route takes in the iconic passes of the Lake District, including Hardknott and Wrynose. And it further spices up the route to include ‘The Struggle’ at Kirkstone Pass, familiar to anyone who’s done Helvellyn Tri, and the tough 25% gradient of the Honister Pass. The run then takes in the ascents through Mickelden, Rossett Ghyll and Esk Hause before the rock fields of Great End and Broad Crag. And then the challenge of England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike, and back down again.”

The race, hosted by YHA Ambleside at Waterhead, was won by American Andrew Drobeck in 12 hours 40 minutes. First woman home was Newcastle University’s Daisy Baggs in 16 hours 50 minutes. They each received £1000 prize money from sponsors Lakeland UK and Heart of the Lakes.

Competitor John Bishop said: “Having done the Brutal as well (I came 2nd in 2014) I’d say you have it hands down. Nicer course too – no laps.”

Race director Mark Blackburn said: “We knew we had created the toughest possible course, and that was confirmed by all of our competitors. This is great news, to have the experts prove it with statistics. It is fantastic for Ambleside and the Lake District.”

See the findings here:



Hyper-local newspaper proves there’s life in print

A pioneering hyper-local newspaper in a quiet seaside town is celebrating 25 years in print with the publication of its 300th edition.

Grange Now covers the area in and around the seaside retreat of Grange over Sands on the southern tip of the Cartmel peninsula, between the mountains and the sea some seven miles from Windermere.

The popular monthly has written well over 10,000 stories directly related to the immediate area and delivered over 1.5 million copies of the paper; that’s roughly 36 million pages. “There has been drama, good news, bad news, some big stories and many smaller ones, but all with three things in common: they were hyper local and related to this area, they were delivered to the readers for free, and they were supported by local businesses through their paid adverts,” says editor Chris Plumb.

Editor Chris Plumb

Chris Plumb

Since Plumb took over as editor/publisher in 2013 the parent company has developed two new papers, Windermere Now in 2014, and Ulverston Now earlier this year, and currently prints 27,000 papers a month across the three titles. The August issues between them account for almost 1 million pages of print, and the area of coverage for all three titles now includes the majority of homes in the South Lakes outside Kendal.

Grange is a pretty resort with an Edwardian flavour and a mild climate, on the shores of Morecambe Bay where, from the 13th Century until the 1850s, the major route from Lancaster was across the sands. In 1887, the opening of the Furness Railway led to the growth of Grange from a small hamlet to a flourishing town, as wealthy industrialists from Lancashire and Yorkshire built large houses there.

“The pages of Grange Now have been used to celebrate volunteers, to promote events, applaud local heroes, celebrate artists of all ages, congratulate high achievers and tackle a huge range of issues,” said Plumb.

“We are proving that print is not dead. Readers want hyper-local news and we are delivering that to them in a very successful format.”

The paper was founded in 1991 by Mary Ann Best and Robin Williamson. When Plumb took over as editor he had just two part time staff. There’s now more than a dozen people involved across the three papers.

Plumb said: “Now is the moment to say thank you to all our readers for their involvement, comments, letters, society, school and church reports; to everyone who has worked on the paper and helped to deliver it, and a huge thank you to all the local businesses who have given loyal support. Indeed there are eight advertisers who have been in almost every issue of Grange Now dating back to 1991.”

He added: “As we celebrate 25 years of Grange Now in this 300th edition, it is interesting to think about what makes it such a great paper to work on. The answer for me is the people who do little things in the community, often unnoticed, but which make such a difference. Small acts of kindness, keeping an eye out, helping with the look of the area or volunteering in some way or other. When you come across those types of stories in the office it makes all the staff smile and spurs us all on.”

Links to the latest August issues including issue 300 of Grange Now.


Ulverston Now 5

Windermere Now 20


Tribute to the team who make Sports happen – and a legend steps down

An army of volunteers has been in action this week to stage the Lake District’s oldest and most traditional sporting event.

Ambleside Sports is held today (Thursday) at Rydal Park with events starting at noon. But planning began 12 months ago, and the field has been transformed in the past seven days. The most complex task is the marking out and setting of the 300m track which hosts cycle and running races.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

“This has to come first, and the rest of the arena is developed around the track,” said chairman Jak Hirst.  “Though even before that, we have to clear the entire field of sheep droppings; that’s a massive task and we are really grateful to everyone who turns up to help on Shovel Sunday, before the event.

“The organisers set out to stage a fantastic festival of traditional sports. They aim to do this at affordable prices, enabling the whole community to enjoy the event, whether they are spectators or participants.”

His committee of around 40 helpers have to transport all the equipment from the store at Ambleside Rugby Club, install portable toilets, and build fences.  Grass has to be mown and  the various tents used on the day have to be erected and decorated. Contractors then deliver and build the huge marquees which house craft stalls, trade stands, refreshments, and the bar. On the day volunteers from two Rotary clubs, the Lions Club, Round Table  and many other local organisations  are on duty as marshals, stewards, and parking attendants.

committee breaks for lunch

Volunteers break for lunch in one of the newly erected marquees

The Sports, celebrating 130 years this summer, features hound trailing, Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling, grass track cycling and running.  Additionally there are two fell races, the short and steep Guides Races, and the nine-mile Rydal Round which follows the route of the Fairfield Horseshoe. The first ever world championship in the Ladies Wrestling will also be taking place.

All the events are sponsored by local companies, who provide the cash prizes and trophies. “It is a fantastic community effort,” said Mr Hirst. “I think it is the involvement and interaction of so many sections of our community which makes our model work.”

He added: “Of course it is imperative that we have the continued support of the tenant  farmer, Chris Hodgson, and the Le Fleming family, who allow us to use the land”.

But one loyal supporter will be playing a role for the last time this yePETEBLANDar. Sports retailer and former fell-racing champion Pete Bland, pictured here, is stepping down as race director for the Rydal Round after 32 years in the post.




Time Regained: an exhibition of work by the painter Linda Ryle

An exhibition of work by the distinctive and unusual artist Linda Ryle is now open in the Lake District.

Linda Ryle was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. She trained at Goldsmiths’ School of Art, London in the 1960s, and now lives in Cockermouth and is married to the painter Julian Cooper.

Linda Ryle in her studio. 2 copy 2

The exhibition,  at the Heaton Cooper Studio in Grasmere tomorrow, brings together work from the 1970s to present day. Some of the pieces on show are samples of the painted leather belts which Linda designed and produced for the shop Ace on Chelsea’s Kings Road (and later at Covent Garden market). The clientele of Ace included singers, actors and celebrities such as Elton John, Lulu, Bianca Jagger and Brit Ekland, who all bought her belts.

These covered the period from 1974 to 1983. The work was mostly sold in London, but also in New York and the South of France.

In 1983 Linda returned to painting. Her main subject matter was animals, in particular cats, but often farm animals too. It was also around this time that Linda began to publish cards of some of the paintings, which over the years amounted to 26 subjects and two prints.

Mickey. copy

All the animal paintings were signed as Linda Cooper, but by 1984 she was making paintings which did not fit into that category. There was, for example, a series of small canvasses based on dreams, after she had become immersed in the ideas of Carl Jung, the analytical psychologist.

By the end of the 1980s some paintings involved figures and these could be seen as a bridge between the animal paintings and the work that was to follow

Linda’s first solo show as Linda Ryle was in 2004 at the Percy House Gallery in Cockermouth where Julian and Linda were then living, having moved from Ambleside in 2002. The paintings of trees, river and beck had begun in the late 1990s, inspired by the sound and movement of wind through leaves and branches, sunlight on pebbles, the drag and flow of reeds.

The house in Cockermouth, built in 1712, has many old features – beams, spice cupboards, worn cellar steps. These became a new source of inspiration which Linda has been developing over the last 10 years, using objects – often ancient – in carefully chosen settings to capture fleeting moments in time where they are transformed by light and shadow.

Last year Linda exhibited 16 of these paintings at The Association of Jungian Analysts in London.

Enduring Tree. copy 2

She says: “I take great delight in making an image which creates an illusion of space and different surfaces. I work mainly from photographs and sometimes from life, but never with the aim to produce something photographic.”

Linda has gone on to paint other spaces. The blue rope that was there and perfect, waiting to be painted, another niche painted as she found it – empty. But several months later, having purchased an ancient Egyptian Offering Cup – 3000 years old, she knew it had to go in the empty niche painting. Linda felt that something else was needed, and just knowing that meant her unconscious did the rest: on a walk, a rose hip caught her eye, and proved to be the tiny touch of extra colour.

Director of the Heaton Cooper Studio, Becky Heaton Cooper said: “This will be a very exciting departure for us. It is completely removed from anything that’s usually on show here in the gallery.”

Time Regained: an exhibition of past and present work by the painter Linda Ryle runs at the Heaton Cooper Studio, Grasmere,  until the end of October. Details:

Running masterclass returns to Lake District

A weekend workshop for runners is to be held in Ambleside in September.

The event is being staged by fitness expert Paul Tierney who is the UK master coach for a natural running technique, and Irish international runner, Sarah McCormack.

It follows the success of an early summer “bulletproof runner” course which attracted athletes from across the UK.

Paul, who is also a sports therapist in Ambleside, is one of 11 Born to Run coaches in the UK, and of those he is the Master coach.

He also runs a weekly fitness class in Rothay Park in Ambleside where grown-ups – ranging in age from 18 to not far short of 80 – run, jump, crawl and climb like children, re-learning how their bodies ought to be used, so that they can better enjoy their sport – or life in general. And he also has running classes in Kendal and Ambleside.


The weekend workshop is designed to “give you the tools to improve your running technique – helping you increase efficiency, improve performance and avoid injury,” says Paul. It’s likely to appeal to physios and sports therapists as well as runners looking for the tools to training pain-free and unlocking their full potential for speed and endurance.

Each participant will be screened for injury susceptibility, and there will be video analysis of running technique, how to apply the appropriate drills to address individual issues, and learning the best neuromuscular drills to increase elasticity, speed and performance. There will also be sessions in how to structure training, lifestyle and diet for maximum recovery and gains in performance; and the most common causes of pain when running and how to prevent and address them.

paul tierney in action, pic by Steve Ashworth

“Once the fundamental skill and theory has been mastered, we then develop the runner’s physiological capacity for running further and faster by developing elasticity, reactive ability and metabolic conditioning,” says Paul.

“If you spend all day sitting down, doing something high intensity for half an hour is just adding another physiological stress.  There is no easy way around it. You have to move a lot.”

Paul, a former top-level Irish hurling player, is soon to defend his title in the  Lakeland 100 (mile) race, which he won last year. Known as the ‘Ultra Tour of the Lake District’ this is the most spectacular long distance trail race in the UK, a  circular route around the Lakeland fells on public bridleways and footpaths, with 6300m of climbing.

Paul and Sarah, who represented Ireland recently in the European Mountain Running Championships in Italy, run the Missing Link fitness business.

David McGuigan, who attended the June workshop, said: “Paul and Sarah’s courses provide so much opportunity for anyone who wants to improve as a runner. They perfectly blend scientific theory, practical application and the millions of years of human evolution that made us ‘born to run’. A month on I’m improving by the day and have never enjoyed my running more.”

Details of the course on September 3-4 can be found at!running-workshops/cz8m

Award-winning hoteliers head for the red carpet in London

Popular Windermere hoteliers Caroline and Jonathan Kaye are heading for the red carpet of the hospitality world this week.

The owners of the Cedar Manor Hotel and Restaurant (pictured here at last week’s Cumbria Tourism Awards) will be in London for the finals of the Cateys – the Caterer and Hotelkeeper awards – at the Grosvenor House Hotel.

heading for the red carpet

Considered the Oscars of the hotel world, the Cateys showcase the industry’s highest flyers, strongest performers and hottest brands, and the Cedar Manor is one of just three to reach the finals of the Independent Hotel of the Year category. They are up against the Longueville Manor at St Saviour on the island of Jersey, and  Yorebridge House, Bainbridge, Yorkshire, in the group sponsored by Sky.

“It’s a real achievement to have reached the finals and we are very excited about the award ceremony,” said Jonathan. It is great to see a Lake District hotel acknowledged among the best in Britain.”

How Ambleside’s Ursula took on the world’s toughest race


 Imagine you have just completed a two mile open-water swim, followed by a 112 mile cycle on one of the most demanding routes which requires optimum endurance and perseverance. Reaching the finish line, you then have to find the fortitude to clamber off your bike, to run 26 miles up the highest peak in England, Scafell Pike. Even those in the upper echelons of athletics would grimace at the thought. Now imagine this is your first ever triathlon and until 12 months ago, you didn’t even own a road-bike?

“Triathlon X was one of the best things I’ve ever done and although I probably won’t do it again, I can now use my experience to teach other people”

This was the position 50-year-old fitness instructor Ursula Brendling found herself in as she prepared to compete in Triathlon X. Brendling, who is from Ambleside, had completed the Great North Swim a month earlier and done plenty of road and trail races. But nothing like this.

urusla banner

“I’m a fitness instructor, so I had a basic level of physical fitness but I only got a road bike last year and until January, I’d only ever swum a few lengths in a swimming pool”, Brendling said. “I took up swimming lessons and managed to get in to a routine where I would go for a cycle-ride three mornings a week. I’d done a couple of half marathons but never anything of this magnitude”.

Ursula, who seems to be the epitome of the word buoyant, constantly refers to her first triathlon experience as “brilliant” and “fantastic”, but as the conversation turns to regrets and adversities, the positive attitude fails to waver.

“It was a shame I was full of a cold, but it was brilliant, I absolutely loved it and the weather was fantastic. I knew how hard it was going to be and I knew I was going to be one of the last to finish, but I just found the whole experience exhilarating”.

sets off on run

Due to time restrictions, she couldn’t complete the final eight miles of the run, something Ursula views as the most frustrating element of the event. “Not finishing it was disappointing. I knew I could finish, it was whether I could complete it inside the designated time allocation. That makes it even more frustrating.”

Describing the swim as “the most challenging experience” due to difficult conditions created by the dense fog, I pose the question about a possible return next year. “I don’t think so, but I viewed Triathlon X as an event in isolation anyway. I probably wouldn’t get the support or the coverage like I had this time; it felt like a one off where everyone was behind you. It would be difficult to recreate that.”

Ursula cannot hide her delight for the constant support she has received from her many good friends. “The support was incredible and at times it kept me going. I am truly grateful for everyone who came out and supported me and hopefully I did them proud.”

So now Ursula is pondering how she can use this experience to help other people.

“The brilliant thing I can get out of this is passing my experiences on to other people. There is little point preaching about how to prepare for something when you haven’t had experience doing it yourself. Now I feel like I can share my knowledge with everyone else.”

Top triathletes triumph in world’s toughest race

Strenuous and physically demanding, attracting the elite from across the globe and it comes with picturesque scenery – Triathlon X is a truly a remarkable sporting event. JAMES MADDEN reports


 Nearly 150 triathletes from around the globe gathered in Ambleside in the Lake District to take part in Triathlon X.

Andrew Drobeck from Montana, USA, was the first to the finish line, in what is deemed by many the most challenging sporting event of its kind.

The event started at 4.30am with a two mile swim across Windermere from Waterhead to Seamew Crag Island and back –  twice. Competitors then took to their bikes to complete a 112 mile ride on the Fred Whitton route over all the Lakeland passes. The triathletes completed the arduous challenge with a 26 mile run to the top of Scafell Pike and back.

Drobeck, who is a fireman and a professional triathlete, finished the race in a staggering 12 hours 38 minutes, on what was his first ever trip to the UK. The 34-year-old said after the race: “It’s way tougher than anything I’ve ever done back in the States. It was the sheer steepness of the various gradients which were the ultimate test.”

drobeck with rupert

Winner Andy Drobeck with one of the race sponsors, Rupert Bonington from Real Mountain Fuel

The American, who described the course “as good as you could have hoped for”, finished over an hour ahead of the pack and received a cheque of £1000 from sponsors Lakeland UK for his comprehensive victory. Gareth Huxley, Darren Jones, Stan Gruncell and Ian Fothergill were the others to finish in the top five.

Daisy Baggs, a member of the Newcastle Triathlon Team, was the first lady home. Holiday cottage company, Heart of the Lakes, presented a further £1000 for her first prize.

daisy baggs

Daisy Baggs: first woman

Peter Jackson, who owns the business with his wife Sue, said of Baggs’s achievement: “Daisy is a worthy winner. It’s an incredibly tough event, but it’s something we are more than happy to be a part of, as it supports valuable, charitable causes.” A percentage of all the entries was donated to the YHA bursary fund for disadvantaged children, Breaks for Kids.

As well as individuals venturing from different parts of the world, there were notable local participants who were raising money for good causes. Dr Paul Davies, who is a GP in Ambleside, completed the race to raise funds for St Mary’s Hospice.

Ambleside fitness instructor, Ursula Brendling, who did her preparation alongside Davies, took part in her first ever triathlon to celebrate her 50th birthday. Although Brendling didn’t manage to complete the last eight miles of the race due to timing restrictions, her effort was thoroughly commendable in what is a gruelling, physical challenge.

There were prizes and merchandise donated from Hawkshead Relish, and competitors’ goody-bags with items from Willow Water, Romneys Kendal Mint Cake, Blue Seventy wetsuits and Mountain Fuel.

Triathletes paid tribute to the organisers, and race director Mark Blackburn said: “It was a great day and well done to everyone who took part. Our winner, who has raced all over the world, said it was the toughest thing he’s done. Finally, a special thank you to our amazing helpers and everyone who came to support the event.”

Photos by STEVE ASHWORTH,  Lake District Images