Monthly Archives: June 2017

Full circle as leading mountain artist returns to his Lakeland roots

The last in a trio of exhibitions of the work of Britain’s foremost living mountain artist will open in Grasmere next month (July 7).

Full Circle is a major retrospective of paintings by Julian Cooper who is returning to home territory at the Heaton Cooper Studio.

It was in the new studio there in 1969 that his father, the painter William Heaton Cooper, put on the first exhibition of work by Julian who had just graduated from Goldsmiths Art College.

Great Gable

Almost 50 years later, his work will be the first to be shown at the re-opening of the Archive Gallery at the Grasmere studio.

It follows two other big events which have marked the artist’s 70th birthday this year. A  London exhibition, Upstream, ran at  Art Space Gallery in the spring, devoted to new paintings on the theme of going upstream from Cockermouth, Cooper’s home town.

In Kendal, the Abbot Hall Art Gallery has been showing over 30 monumental paintings from Cooper’s extensive output over 45 years and reflecting the artist’s travels. While some are of the Lake District, others were inspired by journeys to South America, the Alps, the Himalayas and the quarries of Tasmania and Carrara.

The Grasmere exhibition, which will run throughout the summer, includes previously unseen work covering a range of time and subjects, will combine some urban scenes set in different European cities from the 1970’s and ’80’s, a Cumbrian landscape with figure from the 1990’s and some of the recent paintings from his London ‘Upstream’ exhibition.

Cooper’s father,  William Heaton Cooper (1903-1995) was a successful painter of the Lake District, as was his grandfather, Alfred Heaton Cooper (1863-1929), and his mother was the sculptor Ophelia Gordon Bell (1915-1975).

He studied Fine Art at Goldsmith’s College School of Art in the late 1960s. In a career spanning three decades, his work has ranged from narrative paintings based on Malcom Lowry’s novel Under the Volcano to a series of paintings about the assassination of the Brazilian union leader and environmentalist Chico Mendes in Amazonia, in 1989.

His more recent work has been concerned with finding a relevant contemporary language for painting mountains and rock. In 2001 his Mind has Mountains exhibition at the Wordsworth Trust and in London showed paintings made after an expedition to the Kanchenjunga region of Nepal; noticeable was an absence of sky and a concentration on selected areas of terrain.

His solo exhibition Cliffs of Fall in 2004 at Art Space Gallery  showed work based on a comparative study of the North Face of the Eiger in Switzerland and the Honister Slate Mine in the English Lake District.





Tribute to Mathilde as new cafe opens in the Lake District

She was the young country girl from Norway who fell in love with an English painter and together they founded a dynasty of great landscape artists.

Now Mathilde Heaton Cooper is to be remembered in a new project at the family art studio in Grasmere in the Lake District.

Mathilde’s is the name of the new café which opens this summer, offering an extra dimension of hospitality to one of the Lakes’ most popular tourist destinations.

It’s a fitting tribute to the woman who played a quietly supportive role in the life of Alfred Heaton Cooper, and gave birth to their son, William. The father and son became known as the most famous of the English landscape artists of their respective generations. Her grandson, Julian Cooper, is now Britain’s foremost painter of mountain scenes and is about to open his third exhibition of the year.

“She was the love of his life,” says Becky Heaton Cooper, director of the studio and Mathilde’s great grand-daughter. “It really was a love match. Alfred was the centre of her world, and we think it’s wonderful to have her name here now at the centre of our new expansion project.”

The café, an ongoing project itself, is part of a major re-development at the Grasmere studio which will also offer extended exhibition space, and places for artists to work and study.

Alfred Heaton Cooper, born in Lancashire, had travelled to Norway after studying art in London. He became fascinated by the rural lifestyle of the Sogne region – which influenced his work subsequently – where he eventually set up a studio beside the fjord at Balestrand.

It was there that he met Mathilde Valentsin, and it was love at first sight. Inspired by her, he made a series of sketches of Norwegian women in traditional costume, or dancing or skating.

But it would be several years before they could afford to marry; Alfred proposed in a letter written when he had returned to England to work and save. They were eventually married in Norway in 1894. To reach the church, the bride and groom and guests had to row across the Ese Fjord (in traditional costume).

The couple came to live in England, arriving in Newcastle on November 5 – bonfire night. Hearing the fireworks, Mathilde reportedly said to Alfred: “Isn’t it kind of the English to give us such a grand welcome.” She spoke no English at the time.

Alfred and Mathilde lived in several homes around the north west, including Bolton and Southport. Their first child, Sverre, died as a baby. They then had a daughter, Alice Ellide, and a son, Frithjof, before William was born in 1903. Their last child, Una, was born when they were living in Ulverston.

It was Alfred who “imported” the log house studio from Norway which was rebuilt first in Coniston, and then in Ambleside, where it remains today as a restaurant. William, himself by then an eminent artist, moved the studio and family business to Grasmere after his father’s death.

Mathilde outlived Alfred by almost 30 years, living long enough to be Grasmere’s oldest resident, and died at the age of 90 in 1953.

“It is such a pleasure that the new project has given us the impetus to look more closely at this aspect of the family history,” says Becky Heaton Cooper. “We hope that the new café will become the heart and soul of Grasmere for visitors from all over the world who love art.”

Lakes’ farm invitation to The Archers

A lake-shore business in Cumbria is offering the opportunity for the most famous fictional agricultural community in Britain to come and experience the reality of farming today.

Shayla and Jonathon Batty, who run Bank Ground Farm at Coniston, sent an invitation to the editor of BBC Radio 4’s daily soap opera The Archers.

“We know it’s a tough life in farming these days and we thought we could share our experiences with folk in Ambridge,” said Shayla.

In The Archers Ambridge, home to the Archer clan, features a number of farming issues, from Brian and Jennifer’s large scale operation at Home Farm, to Pat and Tony’s organic Bridge Farm.

That family is currently arguing about an offer to buy some of their land from an entrepreneur.

At Bank Ground Farm in the Lake District, the family have diversified in a number of exciting ways, to keep the business growing and profitable. Along with Aberdeen Angus Cattle, Jacob sheep, and a family of alpacas to guard the lambs, there’s also a guest house, holiday cottages, a tea room and restaurant, a small shop selling homemade crafts, and boats and bicycles for hire. Everything is managed in the most sustainable way possible.

Shayla and Jonathon Batty: real life farming


There’s also occasional events such as lakeside regattas, poetry workshops, and cycle sportives. The farm is used to dealing with fiction as well as real life; it was the location for Arthur Ransome’s “Holly Howe” in the classic children’s story Swallows and Amazons.

“We have expanded and diversified the farm business, which has been a great learning experience,” said Shayla. “We would be delighted if any of the production team – or the cast – wanted to come and visit to see how we do things at Bank Ground Farm.

“Our ethos is to farm in a sensible and sustainable manner so whilst not organically certified we farm a low input system that is mainly organic in character allowing us to develop the highest possible quality grass finished beef and lamb.”

And the response from Ambridge? “Thank you for your invitation and if we’re ever in the Lakes (how lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the country) we’ll pop in,” replied The Archers’ editor Huw Kennair-Jones.

The search for a new view of Windermere

The most unusual photograph of Windermere is being sought by one of the leading hotels in the Lake District.

The Cedar Manor Hotel, which is a few minutes’ walk from the shore of England’s largest lake, has launched a competition to find the best shot from the most distinctive angle.

Owners Jonathan and Caroline Kaye watch many of their guests setting off with cameras. “But we seldom see the results,” said Jonathan.

“We have our own favourite views, from the top of Orrest Head, a small but perfectly formed hill not far from our hotel.

“Both online and in magazines we see so many shots of the Langdale Pikes across the head of the lake, for example. We want to see something different, unusual, quirky.”

The idea for a competition came when they couple noticed that the most recent lake-view photos on their own website were actually of Wastwater and Coniston, not their own local lake, just half a mile from the hotel. Some of the rooms have views of the fells across the lake.

Entries should be submitted digitally to  with the entry form available here Closing date is July 27.

The prize is a two-night midweek stay for two people, out of season, subject to availability.

Jonathan said that it would be interesting to see pictures of the lake taken on dull or misty days. “Not that we have many of those,” he added.

The Cedar Manor is a luxury boutique hotel and restaurant which has won a string of awards in recent years, including best small hotel in Cumbria, and recently the Best Hotel in the UK in the boutique hotel awards.


Windermere sunset

Invitation to see a new future for retirement planning

Residents of Cumbria and the Lake District thinking about retirement are invited to a stately home which could be the key to their future.

The new owners of Scalesceugh Hall, at Carleton near Carlisle, are building a development of luxury state of the art homes for the over 50s in the grounds of the Edwardian mansion.

And the hall itself will be theirs to use – with a library, coffee lounge, and rooms for a range of fitness activities.

It’s all part of the plan by Dr Anita Herdeiro and her husband Bruno to create a new approach to retirement, with an emphasis on well being and a healthy lifestyle.

anitaphoto (1)


“We are offering a new perspective on retirement. People talk about growing old with dignity or with grace. To me that’s all about staying healthy and active in mind and body, keeping connected to friends and family and being part of a vibrant community,” said Anita, a doctor with a long career in healthcare for the elderly.

The multi-million pound development is modeled on schemes in Northern Europe and Australia but is believed to be the first of its kind in the UK. Buyers will have access to facilities in the hall, including an elegant library, coffee lounge and activity room for yoga and other classes. A children’s playground in the gardens will encourage grandchildren to visit and stay.

The houses, in acres of gardens and parkland, are a mix of semi-detached and terraced “cottages” with two bedrooms, and some with a study. All are built to the highest eco-friendly specifications, with an emphasis on sustainability, natural daylight and modern convenience.


Said Anita: “We know that what people want from retirement is about enjoying the fruits of all their hard work, and the freedom to live life to the full.  But we also know that it can be unpredictable. Our approach is to let people plan for the very best with the reassurance of help close by if they ever need it.”

The open days are 29th of July and 12th of August . Book your place now and further information can be found at

artists impression


The estate, while in the heart of the Cumbrian countryside, is only five miles from the centre of Carlisle, and the nearest GP surgery is five minutes by car – or bus. The M6 is just two miles away.


Call for poets to enter Lakes competition

A new competition for poets is being launched at a Lake District farm with a strong literary heritage.

The owners of Bank Ground Farm, on the eastern shore of Coniston, are asking poets to write about their visit – or about Swallows and Amazons, the children’s classic story which is set in the area.

S&A tearoom

The entries will be judged by American poet and author David Whyte who is visiting this summer to run a residential school. Whyte, the Anglo-Irish poet now living in the USA, is the author of eight books of poetry and four books of prose. With a degree in Marine Zoology, he has traveled widely, including living and working as a naturalist guide in the Galapagos Islands and leading anthropological and natural history expeditions in the Andes, Amazon and Himalaya.

Swallows and Amazons, loved by generations of children – and adults – opens at a farm called Holly Howe where the children are waiting for a telegram from their father with permission to camp on an island in the lake. Bank Ground Farm was the model for Holly Howe, and was also used as a location in the 1974 film version of the story.

“We are very proud of our literary heritage, and we enjoy David coming here with his poetry school,” said Shayla Batty. Her husband Jonathon’s family have run the farm for generations. Now they offer accommodation, a tea room and evening restaurant, and a host of adventure activities including sailing and cycling, alongside the traditional sheep and cattle farming.

The poems for the competition must be about Bank Ground Farm or Swallows and Amazons, and should be typed in 16-point font on one sheet of A4 (as the top 3 winning poems will be framed and hung on the wall). The prize for the best is a mid-week break at Bank Ground. Deadline is July 1. Please email your poem to

farm and lake

A new venture down on the farm in the Lakes

Poets from around the world will gather on the shores of Coniston this summer to read and write and ramble at an iconic venue.

Led by David Whyte, American based Irish poet, the group will be based at a farmhouse with a strong literary heritage.

Looking down to the lake

Bank Ground Farm, on the eastern shore of the lake, was the model for “Holly Howe” in Arthur Ransome’s classic children’s story Swallows and Amazons. Ransome stayed there himself while visiting literary friends who formed a remarkable creative community at Coniston, and the farmhouse and grounds were used as locations in the 1974 film version of the story.

Now the visiting poets are among an eclectic range of visitors who make their way to this family run farm.  Companies bring staff here for team-building or wind-down time.  Mountain bikers stage events here, thanks to its close proximity to Grizedale forest. Open water swimming and boating events frequently take place thanks to the farm’s lake frontage and iconic boat houses which make it the perfect iconic venue.

All are hosted by the young family who are maintaining a heritage of both farming and hospitality. Jonathon Batty and his wife Shayla run a guest house where tradition meets modern styling and convenience. There are spacious holiday cottages in converted farm buildings, and the menu (breakfast, lunch and dinner) feature beef and lamb which once roamed Bank Ground Farm’s fields.

It’s the ultimate combination of diversity and sustainability. Local produce is used – and meat from the farm is sold in the farm shop. Pictures on the walls are by local artists – Thuline De Cock, Nick Leigh, Jackie Hadwin – and the recently-carved tree stump at the entrance is the work of another local, Andy Levy.

Afternoon teas are served in the Swallows and Amazons tea rooms; cakes and bread are baked in the farmhouse kitchen, and herbs are grown in the garden, where there’s now a children’s play den made of willow and dubbed the Wigloo. Boats and mountain bikes can be hired by visitors.

afternoon tea

“We aim to provide a homely base with all the important luxuries and facilities so that our guests can relax and unwind, we provide the venue, meals, and even activities; walkers and cyclists and sailors love being able to leave their car for the week and disconnect,” says Shayla, who is originally from Palma de Mallorca. Husband Jonathon is the grandson of the legendary matriarch Lucy Batty who welcomed generations of walkers and sailors to the guesthouse. He says:  “There’s been a tradition of both farming and hospitality here for well over 100 years.”


*Budding poets can enter a competition organised by Bank Ground Farm and have their work judged by David Whyte. The poems must be about Bank Ground Farm or Swallows and Amazons, and should be typed in 16-point font on one sheet of A4 (as the top 3 winning poems will be framed and hung on the wall). The prize for the best is a mid-week break at Bank Ground. Deadline is July 1. Please email your poem to