Monthly Archives: August 2016

Map lovers head for the Lakes, but where is Windermere?

A rare limited edition map of the Lake District on which Windermere doesn’t appear is proving a popular attraction at one of the top hotels in the Lake District.

The map was created in 1843 before the building of the railway, and with no station, there was no town of Windermere at the time. Copies are now on sale at the award-winning Cedar Manor Hotel to raise funds for the Calvert Trust.

The original linen-backed map, once folded but later framed, is a family heirloom belonging to Windermere resident Stewart Greaves. Hoping to have a wider audience for the fascinating piece of local history, he had the original scanned and copied to a very high specification.

jonathan and the map

“It is a marvellous piece of map-making,” said Jonathan Kaye, owner of the Cedar Manor. “It was created before the railway came to the Lakes, so there is no Windermere town, where we are now, just the lake and the village of Bowness.”

Jonathan said that the map was proving popular with their guests but also map enthusiasts who were calling in. “Our visitors, especially the ones from America, are absolutely fascinated in the history of the Lake District,” he said. “This is particularly interesting for us because our town doesn’t appear. In fact, our hotel wasn’t built until 11 years later, in 1854.”

The 10 mile long railway line from Oxenholme which opened on 20 April 1847 was originally built as the Kendal and Windermere Railway and at its southern end connected into the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway. The town of Windermere developed around the station.

An American print and online news magazine recently listed the Cedar Manor in its top ten of “adorable English inns and cottages”.

Sales of the map will benefit the Lake District Calvert Trust which runs challenging outdoor adventure breaks for those with disabilities. Jonathan Kaye and his wife Caroline are long-time supporters of the Trust; Caroline ran the London Marathon in April to raise funds for them. They also host one of the 61 painted Go-Herdwick fantasy sheep which stands under their eponymous Cedar tree at the entrance to the hotel. Named Beatrix, she was painted by Kendal artist Thuline de Cock.

A spokesman for the Lake District Calvert Trust said: “We are delighted to have the continued support of Caroline and Jonathon at Cedar Manor. The Calvert Trust works with over 3000 disabled children and adults each year. To enable us to keep the centre running we need to fundraise around £450,000 every year. Please be assured that if you purchase one of these maps, your donation will be helping to change lives.”

Art package prize to help Lakes charity

A bumper package of artists’ materials is the prize offered in a charity raffle at the Heaton Cooper studio in Grasmere.

raffle prize pic

The prize includes an easel, watercolour paints, pencils and special paper. Tickets are £3 and the proceeds are going to Ambleside-based Brathay Trust who work to improve the life chances of children, young people and families by inspiring them to engage positively in their communities.

The raffle is part of the Brathay 70 challenge marking 70 years of the Trust’s work. Heaton Cooper studio director Becky Heaton Cooper said: “We are so impressed with the work that the Brathay Trust does, especially using the landscape of the Lake District as a base. This is our contribution to their anniversary efforts.”

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The Heaton Cooper studio in Grasmere: the gallery currently features an exhibition of the painter Linda Ryle

The return of the Swallow

First published in Cumbria magazine, 2012

It was a day when the worlds of fiction and reality overlapped and became somewhat confused. A small girl, looking very like one of the children in a famous story, paddled in the harbour of a tiny island as a brown-sailed dinghy was steered between the walls of rock. “Is it really Swallow?” she asked, watching that iconic flag at the top of the mast, and then found dreams coming true as she was invited on board.

Eve Hankin and her family from Lancaster, and lots of other families who had kayaked or canoed on a warm and sunny autumn day, were picnicking on Wild Cat island. What if the map makers, and those with no romance in their souls, know it as Peel Island? This rocky haven, lying close to the shore at the southern end of Coniston water, has been a place of pilgrimage for generations of the young, and young at heart, for whom Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons is more than just a jolly good tale.

capt flint and kids

Dave Thewlis, aka Captain Flint, and young fans in the harbour

And it was indeed the “real” Swallow which was sailed across to the island after being launched from Brown Howe on the western shore that day. The boat which was used in the 1974 film version, that is. And it’s been acknowledged that the film-makers stayed true to Ransome’s own, fictional, descriptions of the two dinghies in which the Walker and Blackett children sailed to the island for a summer of adventures.

The Amazon of Ransome’s imagination was a real boat, originally named the Mavis, and is now display at the Ruskin Museum in Coniston. The restoration of this boat in 1989 led to the creation of the Arthur Ransome Society. Ransome’s Swallow did exist but no one is sure if she’s still around.

Who knows what happened to the boat that played the role of Amazon in the film? But the film Swallow was taken to a Thames boatyard, where other film props were moored. And she stayed there, for more than 30 years, until she appeared as one of the lots coming up for auction.

Ransome fans the world over – literally – were galvanised into action by Guildford-based Magnus Smith, who used the internet to raise interest, and funds, to buy the historic craft. A consortium was formed, of 83 fanatics, who raised the necessary £5,500 auction price. Among them were Kendal district councillor Rob Boden, and an IT consultant from Humboldt County in California, Dave Thewlis, who first came to the Lake District in 1985 to seek out real locations in the Ransome books. Dave, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Captain Flint, with the addition of whiskers, joined the Arthur Ransome society, created the original AR website, and has run other Ransome-related online sites. He also hosts an online research facility, All Things Ransome.

Dave has researched extensively the places and the props in the stories. There was a Swallow, he says, “but we don’t know if she exists or not, although the chances are pretty high she doesn’t.  Swallow was originally owned by Ernest Altounyan (a friend of Ransome, and father of children on whom some of the characters were based) if I remember correctly, and Ransome acquired her when the Altounyans returned to Syria.

“He owned her for some years and ultimately sold her in the mid to late 1930s.  She was owned for some time by a young man named Roger Fothergill, who then sold her, and she passed out of sight.  No one has found her, so no one can actually say for certain whether or not she still exists.  The problem with whether or not Swallow still exists is that the trail is lost after Roger Fothergill sold her, and no one has found anyone who can say for certain what happened to her eventually one way or the other.”

But the “film star” was real enough, and Dave, Rob and other members of the group had Swallow restored, beautifully, at Pattersons boatyard in Hawkshead. She’s since been to the London Boat Show, was launched on Coniston last spring, and spent the late summer taking out Ransome-ites for sailing experiences on Ullswater from the Glenridding Sailing Centre. (Which happens to be the home base of another member of the consortium, Barry Healas, of the Old Gaffers Association, a “gaffer” being a boat with a gaff rig, where the main sail has four sides rather than the triangles you see on most modern boats.)

That’s where I met the crew, having booked for an hour’s sail in Swallow, taking my turn after the Hunter family from Tebay whose daughters, Molly and Ella, have yet to read the stories, but are keen fans of the film. Mine was the final booking, and learning that Rob and Dave were then taking Swallow over to Coniston, to sail her back to Wild Cat Island for the first time in 38 years, I recalled the words of Commander Walker, the father of the “Swallows” children: “Grab a chance and you won’t be sorry for a might-have-been.”  Please, I asked them, can I come?

And that’s how I came to be sailing into the harbour of Wild Cat Island. In truth, we didn’t so much sail as drift, for the wind had dropped pitifully. But it was nevertheless a notable and very special occasion, made all the more celebratory because everyone on the island that day recognised the Swallow and reacted with great excitement. Grown men who admired her varnished planking. Mothers who were probably Nancy Blackett at some point in their development. And children of the Harry Potter generation for whom John, Susan, Titty and Roger were as familiar as their friends from school.

“It does prove how enduring the stories are,” said Rob, as he set off with Dave for a tour of the island, to see the camping place, and the beach where the children first landed. In fact, Ransome played around with the geography of the Lake District, and there are elements of both Coniston and Windermere in his descriptions. The film-makers went a step further and also used Derwentwater, which does highlight that overlap between reality and fiction: why can we see Catbells when the dinghies are sailing down to the island?

There is a new film version in the offing, and there are hopes that this Swallow will be used as a prop again. But she was to spend the winter in Kendal, and was not heading south to the Vaudeville Theatre, where the musical version of Swallows and Amazons opened in the West End.

It had premiered the previous Christmas to critical acclaim at the Bristol Old Vic, written by Helen Edmundson with songs by Neil Hannon, of the pop group, The Divine Comedy. This season it ran for five weeks in London, prior to a national tour. The audience response, like that of the kayakers on Wild Cat Island, proved that Ransome’s storytelling truly has an enduring appeal. Is it any wonder: an “exotic adventure to encounter savages, capture dastardly pirates and defeat mortal enemies,” and “a story of an idyllic era, of endless summer evenings and the beauty of youthful imagination”, as the theatre critics raved. Who could resist?



One night stand as new Wordsworth portrait heads to Japan

A new portrait of William Wordsworth was unveiled for just one night in the Lake District before heading for a major exhibition in Japan.

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Hideyuki Sobue and Christopher Wordsworth with the new painting

The painting of Wordsworth with the Japanese poet Matsuo Basho is the work of Hideyuki Sobue, who now lives in Cumbria, and was commissioned by the Kakimori Bunko Museum in Japan. It will be on show there from next month as part of an exhibition, Walking Poets, which assembles some of the original manuscripts of the poets: Wordsworth in England and Basho in Japan, alongside artworks created by over 20 contemporary artists from the UK and Japan.

The one-night showing was at Wordsworth’s former home at Rydal Mount near Ambleside where the curators, Peter and Marian Elkington, held a reception and poetry recital by Christopher Wordsworth Andrew, the poet’s great great great great grandson. Sobue also read from Basho’s work.

It was, said Peter Elkington, truly a one night stand: “In three days this painting will be shipped to Japan and it’s so good it’s bound to be bought there. It will never be shown in England again.”

Hideyuki reads Basho

Hideyuki reads Basho

The new exhibition will celebrate the worldwide influence of two of the greatest writers ever. Bashō (1644-1694) was a traveller who wandered throughout Japan, heading west, east, and far into the northern wilderness to gain inspiration for his writing. His poems were influenced by his firsthand experience of the world around him, often encapsulating the feeling of a scene in a few simple elements.

Wordsworth (1770-1850) was one of the most influential of England’s Romantic poets. As a poet of nature, Wordsworth stands supreme. He was a devotee of nature and often spent holidays on walking tours, visiting places famous for the beauty of their landscape.

Wordsworth is the best-known English Romantic poet in Japan, but the Japanese have never before had an opportunity to see his original manuscripts, which are being released for the first time by the Wordsworth Trust.

Kakimori Bunko museum owns the most important of Basho’s original manuscripts. The exhibition there will be open to public from September 17 until November 3, with workshops, symposia and music and poetry recitals.

Sobue last year produced a completely new portrait of Wordsworth, one of a series of works on the theme of I wandered, to mark the 200th anniversary of Wordsworth’s Daffodils, said to be the world’s most famous poem.

He based that portrait on the life mask of Wordsworth, created coincidentally in 1815, the year that Daffodils was published. It forms a diptych – two separate paintings – with a stark picture of a sea of daffodils stretching back to infinity. It was exhibited throughout last summer at Rydal Mount.

Based in the Lake District, after graduating from Osaka University of Arts in Japan, Sobue was elected as a member of the Lake Artists Society in 2008. His work has been shown at a number of major exhibitions in London and throughout the UK.

Over the past decade Sobue has developed an original brush hatching technique, using Japanese sumi ink and acrylic, which is inspired by the concept of disegno – a term from the Florentine Renaissance derived from the Italian word for drawing or design.

For Walking Poets, Sobue has created a polyptych work using four aluminium plates, representing a Japanese traditional fusuma-e (sliding door painting). He has portrayed Wordsworth and Basho facing each other across time and space, culture and language and highlighted the two poets’ humble and naturalistic lifestyles, which were reflected in their poetry.

As a way of visually linking the two poets he has depicted a maple tree. The maple appears in poems composed by Basho and it was a tree loved by Wordsworth too; he planted Japanese maple trees in his garden at Rydal Mount.

At the reception, Christopher Wordsworth said: “It has been a privilege to learn about Basho’s work, about which I knew precious little until now. He stands as Wordsworth’s equal, or even greater, in global literature.”

Guests listened to the poetry recital and were treated to canapes created by Kevin Tickle, head chef at the new Forest Side hotel in Grasmere.

The idea for Walking Poets came originally from a collaboration between the Wordsworth Trust and WALK, the University of Sunderland’s Walking, Art, Landskip and Knowledge research group.

Rosette for top Lancashire hotel restaurant

Lancashire’s leading country house hotel Bartle Hall has been awarded a coveted AA Rosette for its new restaurant, Nest.

They join the top ten per cent of restaurants nationwide judged to be of a standard that is worthy of One Rosette and above.

Bartle Hall, a former mansion set in 16 acres of grounds and gardens just five miles from the centre of Preston, has been long known as a favourite wedding and short-break venue.

But since the appointment of executive head chef Craig Brown, the restaurant has risen to new heights and is now the venue of choice for lunches and dinners by food lovers across the county and beyond. It’s also become renowned for excellent afternoon teas, using locally produced and sourced items.

Craig joined Bartle Hall from Lytham’s Coast restaurant at the Glendower Hotel, where he also won an AA Rosette. His arrival coincided with the re-launch of Nest with new décor and a completely new and exciting menu.

A fan of American celebrity chef Thomas Keller, who has run Michelin star restaurants in California and New York, as well as creating the French Laundry cookbook, Craig’s cooking is classic British with an imaginative twist.

His signature dishes include a new take on a favourite starter, Morecambe Bay shrimp ravioli with tomato essence and baby basil.

Among his main courses you might find locally sourced Goosnargh duck breast with curly kale, butternut squash, and roast beetroot. And for dessert, there might be poached pear with brown Parkin and black liquorice ice cream.

“We are absolutely thrilled with this award,” said Nicola Haworth who runs Bartle Hall with her husband Andrew. “We know that this is a huge achievement, and not to be underestimated.”


Nicola is pleased that the award recognises the quality of the entire kitchen team as head chef Craig was on leave when the AA inspector made a surprise visit. It was sous chef Rowan Simmons who was on duty that day. “So we are assured that Craig’s influence has made a big impact on the whole team, and that all of our restaurant and kitchen staff can rise to the occasion.”

The long-established Rosette scheme recognises successful cooking at different levels across the UK. Success or failure in achieving Rosettes is based on one or more visits by an AA inspector; the visit is a snapshot, whereby the entire meal is assessed, and the award is not influenced by outside reports or reviews.

The relaxed yet luxurious Nest, decorated with Zoffany wallpapers and a Victorian tiled floor, is proving to be a midweek choice for business meetings, networking events, ladies that lunch and celebrations, as well as discerning diners from Manchester, Liverpool and Preston.

Nicola and Andrew’s family, with his parents Peter and Pat Haworth, took over the hotel in 1991 and the intervening 25 years have been a labour of love to turn the former country mansion, set in 16 acres of garden and woodland, into one of the county’s most appealing and idyllic venues.

The hotel and restaurant also have a name now for networking events during the week. Busy folk in Preston, and even in the Greater Manchester area, are finding that the Hall’s atmosphere and facilities can give staff and clients a sense of complete escape from the city – but with a fraction of the travelling time to the Lakes or Dales.

Charterhouse club to host bullet-proof runner workshop

Two of the UK’s leading endurance athletes are bringing a running skills workshop to Surrey.

Paul Tierney and Sarah McCormack will lead the weekend “bullet-proof runner” event at the Charterhouse Club in Godalming in October.

Tierney, a former top flight Irish hurling player, is an ultra mountain runner with a host of successes to his name including the Lakeland 100 mile race. He has twice represented his country at the World Ultra Trail Championships. McCormack is an Irish international cross-country runner, twice winner of the Snowdon fell race, and a member of the medal winning team at the World Mountain Running championships.

paul tierney in action, pic by Steve Ashworth

Tierney is  the UK’s head coach of the Born to Run technique, and he and McCormack will introduce runners of all abilities to the skills involved in running more naturally and efficiently. The sessions are likely to appeal to road and trail runners and triathletes, and they stress that beginners and runners of all abilities will benefit.

The weekend workshop will involve screening for injury susceptibility, video analysis of running technique and how to apply the appropriate drills to address individual issues, learning the best neuromuscular drills to increase elasticity, speed and performance, and how to structure training, lifestyle and diet for maximum recovery and gains in performance.

The Born to Run coaching model was developed by world-leading running technique coach Lee Saxby, after years of studying the biomechanics of natural human populations.  “Born to Run coaching is about reconnecting human beings with their innate running skills,” says Tierney.

“By adjusting the three fundamentals of posture, rhythm and relaxation we can dramatically influence the ‘macro-skill’ of running. We can create a better runner by improving the biomechanics associated with greater efficiency and reduced risk of injury.”

For details of the workshop and how to book, see


Open day this Saturday in Windermere

Security systems? Integrated lighting? Music? Home cinema? Come and see what Epixx can do for you, this Saturday (Nov 12)  from 12 noon at Special Spaces, Woodlands Road, Windermere (opposite the fire station). Refreshments. All welcome.


A young company based in the North West has hit its five year target in just two years.

Matt Holmes (34) and Ben Tomlinson (28) set up Epixx in 2014 to supply top of the range audio-visual systems, home cinema, and lighting systems.


They now have a staff of six, with a customer base and a tripled turnover they never imagined would happen till at least 2020.

In two years they have kitted out some of the most impressive homes, hotels and restaurants in Cumbria and Greater Manchester. They installed sound and lighting systems for the Church Suites at the Cranleigh Hotel, Bowness; and the entire electrical, sound, lighting, music, TV and security systems for the new Fizzy Tarte champagne bar in Bowness.


They are now the main AV contractor for the NW Design Centre in Manchester, the industry leaders for interior fit out and refurbishment projects, who design and manufacture innovative  furniture to bars, restaurants and hotels throughout the UK and Europe, and for whose showroom Epixx installed all the AV systems. And they have a new deal to install sound systems in VIP boxes at Leicester Tigers rugby ground.

Epixx operate sustainably, providing options that not only monitor energy usage, but are intelligent enough to adjust the heating or air conditioning to focus on rooms in use and significantly reduce wasted energy.

They work with architects and designers to create lighting and AV systems, controlled automatically allocating light to rooms in use, for energy efficiency, controlled from a single touch screen, remotely using an app, or automated using timers.

They install wirelessly streamed sound systems and TV/ home cinema systems, and install intelligent lighting systems which allow you to set the mood; one setting for watching television, another for reading, another for entertaining, tailored to individual needs.

Their showroom at Special Spaces in Windermere has a revolutionary 3D cinematic sound system demonstrated along with Ultra high definition projection systems. Epixx also install their own security systems which, in addition to being a deterrent against intruders, creates opportunities for smart home integration.

Matt, who is from Bolton le Sands, teamed up Ben, originally from Bentham, who was working on electrical and AV jobs. “I was selling the kit that he was fitting,” says Matt. They then collaborated  with Lakeland Fells Furniture, who design and build the surrounding furniture for some of their installations.

“We have different skills but seem to work very well together,” says Ben. “We have worked very hard, but I think we’re both surprised at how successful the business has proved.”

Says Matt: “We are aware that we’re working  with technology which is constantly changing, so we create good quality systems which will last a long time, but can be updated.”

They echo the mission statement of Steve Jobs, the personal computer pioneer: “Design is not just what it looks and feels like, design is how it works. All the rooms we create – homes, hotels, offices – look beautiful and everything will operate in harmony.”North West