Monthly Archives: August 2017

Curtain rises on theatrical dinners in Grasmere

Theatre goers in the Lake District visiting the world’s first pop-up-and-plug-in theatre will have a chance to dine at an exciting new venue in Grasmere.

Mathilde’s at the Heaton Cooper Studio launched this summer and is usually open just in the daytime.

Mathilde at Heaton Cooper studio

But for three nights when Roundabout Theatre sets up in the village next month, dinners will be served before the curtain goes up.

Roundabout will pitch a giant tent on the village green directly opposite Mathilde’s from Thursday September 14. The shows are curated by Paines Plough, the team regarded as the national theatre of new writing, producing work from UK’s best and brightest young writers and performers.

Director of the Heaton Cooper Studio, Becky Heaton Cooper said: “We were really excited to learn that this great theatre company is setting up in what’s almost our front garden.”

rob the chef

Chef Rob McGill

She added: “We opened Mathilde’s this summer and have a brilliant kitchen team led by head chef Rob McGill. We thought it would give theatre-goers a total experience on their visit to Grasmere.”

Tables must be booked in advance, and meals pre-ordered.  There will be two sittings each evening, at 5.30 and 7.30.

Black Mountain, a tense psychological thriller about betrayal and forgiveness by winner of the Harold Pinter Commission, Brad Birch, will launch the programme with a performance on the Thursday evening, as well as appearances on the Saturday and Sunday.

Also appearing on the opening night will be award-winning stand-up comedian Alun Cochrane, who is a regular on TV panel shows 8 Out of 10 Cats and Mock The Week, as well as at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Friday 15th sees the first performance of Sarah McDonald-Hughes’ family-friendly play, How to Be a Kid – which has four showings throughout the event – and Elinor Cook’s tale of friendship and rivalry, Out of Love, which appears twice more on the programme.

In the evening, Henry Normal – co-writer of The Royle Family and producer of Gavin and Stacey and Alan Partridge – will be reading from his new collection of poems, Travelling Second Class Through Hope.

The Saturday evening guest is the popular TV and radio host Stuart Maconie, presenting his latest book about The Jarrow Marchers, with each of the three plays returning on the Saturday and Sunday.


Stuart Maconie

For full details of the programme and theatre bookings see

To ask for a menu and book dinner at Mathilde’s call 015394 35280

Cumbria’s top artists gather for a weekend of workshops

Some of Cumbria’s leading artists will gather for a weekend of workshops designed to highlight the importance of the arts for a healthy lifestyle this autumn.

Leading tango teacher  Francesca Halfacree  will be joined by a host of talent at Scalesceugh Hall near Carlisle for a celebration titled The Art of Being.

There will also be classes in tai chi, yoga and other dance forms, along with creative classes from some of the county’s top visual artists.

They include Alex Jakob Whitworth who will run workshops on drawing, painting and textiles alongside cartoonist and life drawing teacher Gavin Pollock: Ceri Allan will offer her expertise in painting; Christine Hurford, is a ceramicist and installation artist; and glass artist and printmaker Janis Young joins the team.

Also on site will be Irene Sanderson, the Penrith-based painter, illustrator, printmaker and calligrapher; and poet and writer Nick Pemberton will be among many others running workshops for visitors to the Hall.

The Art of Being is organised by Dr Anita Herdeiro and her husband Bruno, experts in challenging traditional approaches to ageing.  “We will be showcasing arts and activities which can contribute to health and well-being,” said Dr Herdeiro. “We want to show doing things that are fun, and being mindful of whatever we interact with, contributes positively to our health in mind and body. There is research to support how art can contribute to our physical and mental well-being, which will be discussed at the event.

“Using the ‘arts’ in all forms – words, music, painting and movement – offers the opportunity to enhance and deepen the sense of well-being. These workshops are the beginning of an encouraging and respectful re-evaluation of ageing and the real needs of older people.”


Learn to tango: an opportunity for creativity and self-expression

Scalesceugh Hall is the centre of a revolutionary project which tackles traditional attitudes towards ageing, beginning with the building of several luxury retirement villas within its grounds. These new homes are being sold privately, with carers on site to ensure residents can live there for as long as possible, where the services will be provided as a non for profit enterprise. The Herdeiros hope that concepts used at the Hall will be a catalyst for change across the system .

“We need to tear up the rule book and start again, focusing on individuals not demographics,” said Dr Herdeiro. “If people feel happier and more fulfilled, and more motivated to stay well, it makes them less prone to ill health, and reduces the pressure on overstretched health and care services. Just because someone has retired, doesn’t mean they should give up on their aspirations, or lose their meaning and purpose.”

The Art of Being festival aims to show the way that the arts can help a healthier lifestyle. Dance, for example, can support people living with Parkinson’s disease to develop confidence and strength, says Dr Herdeiro. “It can provide opportunity for creativity and self-expression, while also temporarily relieving some participants of symptoms in everyday life.”

Dr Herdeiro, a GP and health-care expert, has spent many years working with older people and researching into the impact of keeping fit and healthy in later life, and her principles are based on philosophies now being adopted in Scandinavia and Australia.

Visitors to the Art of Being will also have a chance to see the new retirement homes, and the Hall itself, which will have rooms available for the use of buyers – including rooms for fitness classes. Light snacks and drinks will be available.

Further information about the event will be posted on the website:

The event is Saturday and Sunday October 7 and 8. Scalesceugh Hall is at Carleton on the A6 five miles south of Carlisle, near to junction 43 of the M6.





Food stalls available at Festival street market

A street market of food stalls will be a feature of the Festival of the Fells in Ambleside next month.

And the organisers have a few spaces left for local traders who want to join in the festivities.

The second Festival of the Fells will see a host of big names in the outdoor world gathering for talks, lectures, films and music, and a host of organised outdoor activities.

The Festival will be held over four days from September 21-24, and will include a series of film highlights from the Kendal Mountain Festival at Zeffirellis Cinema.

The food stalls will keep visitors fed for two of the four days, and traders who use or sell local produce are invited to apply for a space, for just £25 for the two days. Anyone interested should contact Wendy Rainer of the organisers Ambleside Together on 015394 32636.

Top holiday cottage company Heart of the Lakes has joined forces with Ambleside Together as headline sponsor for the event, and leading mountaineer Alan Hinkes is patron once again and will be delivering a keynote lecture.

Speakers include the internationally acclaimed photographer Ashley Cooper who will present an evening at the festival to talk about his ground-breaking book Images from a Warming Planet.

Also lined up is writer Mark Richards, well-known for his various walking guides, largely published by Cicerone. He now has a further new publisher based in Yorkshire with whom he is about to launch four Cumbrian walking guides. And fell-running legend Wendy Dodds will talk about her exploits during an evening at the Golden Rule.

In the water Ambleside is taking the plunge with a series of wild swimming adventures at the Festival. Open water specialists Swim the Lakes will take swimmers out in the lakes and rivers, including a night swim in Windermere which was featured on BBC television.

Sessions can be booked now on the Swim the Lakes website, and include wild swimming taster sessions, and a swim down the River Brathay described as “down the river without a paddle”.

Swim the Lakes director Pete Kelly said the moonlit swim, which was featured in Secret Britain on TV, when presenter Ellie Harrison swam in the dark, was likely to be the most popular.

Full details can be found at

The printed festival programme will be available at local shops at the end of this month.




New gallery slot for leading artist

By Ruth Egerton

One of Cumbria’s best loved and most quirky artists is opening a new gallery and studio in the heart of the Lake District at Windermere.

Thuline De Cock, known for her huge faces of Friesian cattle, Herdwick sheep and other animals, is retaining her original studio in Kendal alongside the new gallery on Main Road, not far from Windermere station.

Belgian-born Thuline, whose work is featured in many iconic Lakes venues including the Jumble Room in Grasmere, Sizergh Barn and the Sun Inn at Crook, has recently ventured into a new range of landscape art, featuring the hills and stone walls of her adopted home landscape.

thuline new shop

She was also one of the artists chosen to paint a fantasy sheep for the Go Herdwick charity project and her offering – Beatrix – spent a summer outside the Cedar Manor Hotel at Windemere before being sold for £5000 at a charity auction.

“I’m very excited about the new studio,” said Thuline, whose work is sold throughout the UK. “It will be on the tourist trail in one of the busiest towns in the Lakes.” Thuline exhibits in a number of galleries throughout the UK and Ireland, and she has work in private collections in Britain and overseas. She’s had solo exhibitions in the north, including Percyhouse at Cockermouth, Gallery15 in Penrith, Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake, the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal, and Liverpool’s Blue Coat Chambers.

She’s also had her work on show at other exhibition venues including the NEC in Birmingham, the Untitled Artist Fair in Chelsea, Stockbridge Gallery in Hampshire, and art fairs in London, Edinburgh, Bristol and Antwerp. Thuline is regularly commissioned to create paintings by clients and visitors.

Thuline is married to another artist, D C Hill, whose work will also be on show in the new studio.

Said Thuline:  “The great thing about the new space, apart from the big walls, is that I will be able to run small workshops, with up to six people at a time, in the gallery’s second room.”

For more details and commissions see

thulines animal paintings

Westminster invitation as Ashley wins green award

The Lake District-based campaigning photographer Ashley Cooper has won a Green Apple Environment Award in the international campaign to find the greenest companies, councils and communities.

Ashley, who spent 13 years travelling the world to document the impact of climate change, competed against more than 500 other nominations in the Green Apple Awards for Environmental Best Practice. He will be presented with a trophy and certificate at a glittering presentation ceremony in the Houses of Parliament, London on November 6.

ash with the book

Ashley’s book, Images from a warming planet, containing more than 500 startling photographs of climate change devastation, was published last year and has been hailed as a critical call to action by leading environmentalists.

As a result of the Green Apple Award success, he has been invited to have a synopsis of his work published in The Green Book, the leading international work of reference on environmental best practice, so that others around the world can follow their example and learn from their achievement.

He could also progress to represent the UK in the Green World Awards 2018 and have 100 trees planted in his name as part of the United Nations Billion Trees initiative.

The Green Apple Awards began in 1994 and have become established as the country’s major recognition for environmental endeavour among companies, councils, communities and countries.

The awards are organised by The Green Organisation – an international, independent, non-political, non-profit environment group dedicated to recognising, rewarding and promoting environmental best practice around the world.

The Green Apple Awards are supported by the Environment Agency, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, the Chartered Institution for Wastes Management and other independent bodies.

Ashley said: “I am very pleased that my work has been recognised, and that there will now be a further opportunity to highlight the impact that climate change is having in our country and in every country around the world. It is more important than ever that we take action to save our planet.”

Hostel date for Swallows and Amazons actress

The actress who starred in the children’s classic film Swallows and Amazons (1974) is to return to one of her favourite locations in the Lake District.

Sophie Neville, who played the imaginative Titty Walker, able-seaman of the Swallow, will stay at Elterwater Hostel as a guest of the staff. She’s returning to the Lakes to take part in a marathon day-long reading of the Arthur Ransome story on the shore of Coniston next month. When she mentioned on social media that Elterwater was the scene of her favourite day’s filming in the Lake District, the staff at the hostel sent her an invitation.

“Of all the days we spent filming Swallows and Amazons, the fishing scene, shot in a reedy bay on Elterwater, was the one I enjoyed the most,” Sophie recalls. The youngest character, Roger, caught a giant pike which he thought was a shark. A local fisherman had brought along a number of perch – and a pike – which the set crew had to keep safe until they were needed.

Fishing scene from the film studio canal

Fishing in Elterwater: a scene from the 1974 film  (thanks to StudioCanal Films)

Sophie, whose book The Making of Swallows and Amazons, has just been republished by The Lutterworth Press, will join a host of actors, writers and Ransome fans for the marathon reading session on Sunday September 3, before heading to Elterwater for the night.

“We’re delighted that Sophie is coming back to a location she loved so much,” said the hostel’s Charlie Spiller. “The small lake of Elterwater is only a short walk from our hostel but we had no idea it had been a film location, even though I’m a great fan of the story.”

hostel 3

Elterwater is a small independent hostel, formerly part of the YHA. Book here:

The marathon reading of Swallows and Amazons is being organised by the University of Liverpool in association with the Lake District National Park.


Ambleside as it really is: The Gruff Guide

Locals don’t usually read, or need, a guidebook to their home town. But here’s a very unusual, factually fascinating and hugely entertaining book which will be loved by Ambleside residents and visitors alike.

Ambleside: The Gruff Guide to a Unique Community in the Lake District is the work of Paul Renouf, who’s lived there long enough to fall somewhere between several of the categories he described, neither purely local but surely more established than offcomer. What’s beyond doubt is that he knows the place, the people, the pub, the paths intimately, and is able to bring them all to life on the unusual “handwritten” pages.

In this he’s assisted by artist and cartoonist Sarah Waterhouse whose burger-van illustration features badger bake and chips, and squirrel stew; and by local GP and tri-athlete Paul Davies who adds statistics and insights to the picture of the town today.

Renouf tackles the myths and the legends; here you will find the REAL history of the Bridge House, and some home truths about famous residents. He recognises conflicts of interest but doesn’t resort to making a drama out of them: “If you own a hotel, guest house or cafe, there are not enough tourists. If you are retired, or a farmer, or a street cleaner, there are too many. In many ways these opposing views result in a kind of uneasy balance, enabling the town to retain its identity as a community rather than letting it degenerate entirely into a soulless marketable resort facility.”

Ultimately you have to love the tourists, because they are the lifeblood of the town, and ask wonderful questions such as: “Is this the ferry to the Isle of Man?” and “Where is Peter Rabbit’s grave?” They also have a tendency to want to know exactly how far they’ve walked, given that the hills add such a lot of time to their efforts, and here Renouf obliges: the Fairfield Horseshoe, at 10.1 miles, with a total ascent of 3100 feet, is equivalent to the distance of 16.4 miles. Even Wainwright didn’t work that out.

But Wainwright didn’t include the delightful lower-level walks which Renouf describes here, though he’s scathing about one of my favourite training runs, Under Loughrigg and Rydal Park: “This is a really soft walk with virtually no ascent. It is ideally suited to those recuperating from heart attacks, violent hangovers or loss of a leg.”

What’s really gratifying is the tribute he pays to our most successful independent entrepreneur, Derek Hook: “His stylish enterprises, including Zeffirelli’s five cinema screens, his restaurants, and latterly his guest house Ambleside Manor, have surely done more to popularise Ambleside as a visitor destination than any amount of public money poured into official promotions. And yet this modest man seeks no limelight, no recognition, no power or influence.”

By way of recommendation, I quote the author’s own epilogue: “If you already know Ambleside we hope you have found new things here. If you haven’t been to Ambleside, we hope you will have been tempted to visit us. If the book has completely killed any desire you may have had to come here, you wouldn’t have liked it anyway.”

Ambleside: The Gruff Guide is available from, £9.99 and from Fred’s Ambleside Bookshop