I hate snow. No news there, everyone knows that I want to hibernate from October to March. But this year is so desperately awful all round that a few flakes of the horrid white stuff don’t make much difference one way or the other. And I have to go out every day or go mad, so it’s time to embrace it. Perhaps not literally.
So, today, it snowed, and I set off for a walk. Oh, that it were so simple! I put on so many layers that I could barely move towards the front door where I fitted the new Yaktrax to my boots, stepped outside, and decided that, perhaps, I didn’t actually need them, so stepped back inside, took them off, put in a dry bag, packed them away in rucksack, then re-fit the previously-unworn gaiters that I’d found in the cupboard.
Left house, decided to go back for walking poles, returned to house. Set off again and before reaching the front gate my nose was running, so I took off mittens to find a hanky, dropped mittens in the slush, returned to the house to find the elastic clip things with which to attach mittens to cuffs of coat.
Left house, realised it was impossible to hold walking poles in mittens, returned to house to exchange mittens for thick gloves, which involved unclipping said mittens and re-clipping said gloves. Left house, thinking longingly of summer when you go to the front door, put on trainers, tie a windproof round your middle, and set off. Just like that.
At the bottom of the road, I was feeling like a wally for walking with poles on the pavement, especially as it had stopped snowing by now. And realised that the gaiters were slipping round, as I’d removed their straps to accommodate the Yaktrax which I was no longer wearing. Stopped to adjust gaiters, which involved removing gloves, dropped poles in the slush, swore quietly.
Met friend as arranged and apologised for being late, and noted that she was wearing Yaktrax, but not gloves or a hat. Life would be dull if we were all the same. We walked to the head of the lake and decided to do some birdwatching, which involved removing rucksack to find binoculars. Now – and this is NOT a rhetorical question – what do you do with walking poles when you need both hands to get something out of a rucksack? Answers on a plain postcard please…
Mine had, meanwhile, dropped into the mud, from where I retrieved them with bare hands. Swore loudly. Same bare hands also seemed necessary to focus the binoculars (YOU try it, with thick gloves on.) We tried to walk across some frozen mud to the lake-shore, but it wasn’t QUITE frozen enough. So let’s just call it mud.
We saw a golden eye, perhaps, and a little grebe, maybe, and then walked up the hill to visit our owl who, sensibly, was hunkered down asleep in his tree hole. That’s why they call them wise owls.
It was, nevertheless, a very pleasant walk with very good company, and took slightly longer than the time spent getting ready to leave the house. Though maybe not, when added to the time spent unpeeling all the layers back at home, and wondering where to store the muddy poles, and Yaktrax and gaiters and overtrousers and gloves and unworn mittens and hat and puffer jacket, and it is precisely 51 days, 8 hours and 35 minutes till the first day of spring.
In the age of digital photography and instant pictures, there’s something a little magical about watching an image slowly appear before your eyes.
And when the colour of that image can be altered by using kitchen ingredients such as tea, coffee – and red wine – there’s an element of fun as well as magic.
Chris Routledge, an award-winning conceptual and documentary landscape photographer, who lives at Ormskirk, has developed an expertise in the process known as cyanotype and is now finding an appreciative audience for his beautiful and unusual prints.
“Having a print on the wall, or looking at them in a book is entirely different from seeing them online. In print you get to know a piece of work, to think about it, and enjoy it more deeply,” he says.
A writer and former lecturer in English, Chris has enjoyed taking pictures since he was given a Kodak Instamatic camera as a child.
But photography really began to “get a grip on me” in 2002, when he and his wife Siobhan went on an extended trip to California, where she was researching a book. “The day before we set off our old camera jammed, and I replaced it in a hurry with an early a digital camera. It was terrible by today’s standards, but very exciting at the time.”
Chris started photographing everything, “and it became even more of an obsession in 2004 when our daughter Caitlin was born.” He bought a more advanced camera “seven megapixels!”, and had some of his photographs published in Lancashire Life to accompany an article about Liverpool’s Cain’s brewery (which he was writing a book about at the time). “By then I was also starting to see the creative possibilities of photography beyond the camera.”
Chris started using film again in 2008 when he realised that excellent old cameras with interesting lenses were available for very little money: “People were giving them away in fact. And so I was able to experiment with equipment from the previous 100 years of photography. This was the point at which picture making as a form of expression separated itself from simply taking pictures.”
He collaborated with the poet Rebecca Goss (their book Carousel won the Michael Marks Award for Illustration in 2019), and began exhibiting his work, notably at the Portico Library in Manchester. His commercial work includes book covers and photograhs for books and magazines, including National Geographic Books, and the Inward Eye Film Festival at Zeffirellis in Ambleside.
In December 2015 Chris was at Rydal in the Lake District when Storm Desmond hit, and immediately began photographing a short stretch of the River Rothay in the aftermath. This work eventually became a book Indeterminate Land, and an exhibition at the Heaton Cooper Gallery in Grasmere in 2019.
He’d been invited to run a series of cyanotype workshops at Rydal Mount, the home of William Wordsworth, when the pandemic forced lockdown. Instead, Chris used the time to develop his website, selling work made from negatives printed onto overhead projector transparencies. These large negatives, placed on top of sensitised paper, are exposed to ultraviolet light (the sun) to make a cyanotype “contact print”.
“I like experimenting with different papers, all of which produce different textures and effects. I fell in love with the process as a way of making unique, tactile art works from my photographs.”
The prints have a delicate ethereal quality, at times ghostly; some see a portal into fairyland. There’s Winter Ash, a photo taken on Loughrigg fell, with a sideways light that caught the grey branches of the tree. The picture is printed on hand-made cotton rag paper.
Then there’s the old stone boat-house on the shores of Grasmere, a picture taken on a cold February day when fog blotted out everything except the outline of a wintry tree.
Chris says: “For me photography is an opportunity to experiment with composition, light, ideas, and emotion. This is more important to me than pixel-perfect images. “
It led him first to pinhole cameras, and then to cyanotype printing, which is a method of making images discovered by Sir John Herschel in 1841. Anna Atkins soon began using it to make scientific illustrations of lichen and algae, and produced the first ever photobooks with it in 1843. Cyanotype prints are blue, and the best-known use of the process was in copying technical drawings and plans, which became known as “blueprints”.
Making a cyanotype print is very simple, says Chris. Paper is coated with a mixture of two chemicals, ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide. “Despite their alarming names, these are relatively safe to use if you take basic precautions.”
Once dried, the paper is sensitive to UV light. It should be stored in the dark, but can be handled in subdued light indoors, though flourescent light should be avoided.
To make a cyanotype “photogram” place feathers, pressed flowers, or anything you like on the paper, put a piece of glass on top to keep it flat, and put it outside in the sun for a while. Once the paper has changed colour, rinse the paper in water, and an image should appear.
“Different levels of sunlight affect how long the exposure you will need (around 10-15 minutes on a sunny day in Lancashire), but experimenting is part of the pleasure.
“If you want to go a little further, you can experiment with bleaching the print, toning it to alter the blue colour, or change it altogether, using things from the kitchen such as tea, coffee, red wine, vinegar, and so on. After a while you learn to get the effects you want, or just relax and give in to chance.”
Prints and printing have become more important to him, says Chris, especially under lockdown conditions, when going out to take new photographs has not been easy.
He was also involved in another lockdown project, a marathon reading of the story The Picts and the Martyrs by Arthur Ransome. He’s previously staged events on the shores of Coniston water, and at the Coppermines youth hostel, where fans of Ransome – actors, writers, enthusiasts old and young – gathered to read aloud Swallows and Amazons, and Pigeon Post.
This time, the readers recorded their allocated chapters at home, then uploaded them for release on social media. There’s a dedicated website for the project, https://ifnotduffers.org
A virtual marathon is to be staged for runners disappointed that the flagship London event is for elite athletes only this year.
The Lon-dun Marathon is being organised by the Kendal-based Jogging Pals team, and invites runners to take part by completing 26.2 miles over seven days.
Running a virtual marathon
The actual race, which normally attracts 40,000 runners – many of them fundraising for charity – was due to be held in April, and was then postponed to October 4 due to the pandemic.
Organisers last week announced that the event would be for elite men, women and wheelchair athletes, on an enclosed looped course in St James’s Park in a contained safe environment, and their times would be eligible for Olympic qualification.
Jogging Pals director Wayne Singleton, a UK Athletics Coach whose athletes and customers were among those due to run at London, said that he shared the disappointment of the many thousands but entirely understood the decision.
“It was the only safe way to proceed in the circumstances. But we want runners anywhere in the country to be able to experience the excitement of the event, and to put their training to good use,” said Wayne.
The Lon-dun virtual event allows those who might not be able to complete the full 26.2 mile distance in one go to achieve their own personal targets by taking up to seven days to run their own marathon.
Said Wayne: “We’re also aware that a great many charities depend on the sponsorship raised by fun runners and club athletes at the London marathon. By organising a virtual event like this, those runners can still approach their friends and colleagues to raise money for the charity of their choice.”
The Lon-dun Virtual Marathon can take place over the seven-day period from Monday September 28, to Sunday October 4. Entrants can run on as many days as they wish to clock up their 26.2 miles, and they can run on any terrain – road, trail or fell.
To qualify for a certificate, commemorative token and a runners’ buff, they must record their distances and times on Strava or Garmin and submit to Jogging Pals by the end of the following week (Sunday Oct 11).
Runners have kept their passion for events in the Lake District in spite of lockdown, according to a new survey.
They have been training hard and planning for the time when races and fun runs can start again.
The survey was carried out by Kendal-based Jogging Pals who have been coaching and inspiring everyone from beginners to ultra runners for a number of years.
When lockdown forced the cancellation of trail races and other events planned for the spring and summer, Jogging Pals director Wayne Singleton took the opportunity to find out what runners really wanted in the future.
The survey, published via social media, attracted hundreds of responses from around the country. “It proved that there’s great enthusiasm for the Lakes as a centre for all kinds of running, not just the ultra-endurance efforts we’ve seen this summer,” said Wayne, a UK Athletics coach.
As a result, his team is working on plans for some unusual running events, which will include sailing some of the most iconic Lakes as well – and taking a ride on a steam train. RunSteamRun will launch next month and the date will be announced shortly.
Wayne also found a lot of affection for the Lake District among the parkrunning community; Cumbria has a dozen regular parkruns which attract runners of all abilities.
“Our runners want us to provide real Lakeland experiences for them, not just races,” said Wayne. “And they show a real spirit of adventure too – many of them would like us to organise trips to running events throughout Europe.”
One who took part in the survey was the lucky winner of a £100 voucher to spend at running specialists Pete Bland Sports. The winning name was pulled out of a hat – literally – by Wayne when the survey closed.
“We are really pleased to see that runners have found the motivation to carry on training,” Wayne said. “Now we are listening to their requests and will organise some special events as soon as we are allowed.”
A medal is on its way to New York after an American runner took part in a virtual race near Kendal.
Paul d’Elisa, a New York real estate manager with 18 marathons under his belt, signed up for the Stainton Aqueduct 10k organised by Kendal-based Jogging Pals when lockdown forced the cancellation of the actual event.
Organisers wanted to keep runners active by running 10k along the Lancaster to Kendal canal…or anywhere. They offered a commemorative token to runners who emailed proof of the distance…and New Yorker Paul was one of more than 60 runners who took up the challenge.
“I was looking for a virtual event that was specifically for trail, as I live near the route of a trail race here that had to be cancelled,” said Paul, who’s been running since high school cross country races in 1979.
He has been doing more running since mid-March when the global pandemic meant he had to work from home rather than do a four-hour round trip commute to work in New York city every day.
Paul has completed more than 1000 events from 5k to marathon distance, including the New York marathon, the Country Music Marathon, and trail races at Paumanok (Long Island), Brookhaven and Sunken Meadow state park. And he took part in the Serpentine 5k race on a visit to the UK in 2006.
Jogging Pals director Wayne Singleton said that runners from around the UK, who would have been unlikely entries in the real event, had signed up for the virtual race.
Scenic route: Lancaster canal
“We are here to encourage runners at all levels of ability, and we were determined to help them keep motivated even while events have been cancelled,” he said. “It was a great surprise to get an entry from New York.” A percentage of the entry fee will be going to to the Lancaster Canal Regeneration Partnership.
Jogging Pals organise couch to 5k programmes, along with run coaching for longer distances and events, from the Community Mile to Lakeland running breaks and holidays. They hope to resume some of their events in the near future. https://www.joggingpals.co.uk/
You can check on this site to find out which public toilets are open, too. Remember that some attractions which are opening their gardens and outdoor spaces might not have loos available yet.
The biggest attraction in the South Lakes, Windermere Cruises, will have self drive boats available, and is making plans for how and when to start operating cruises.
Grasmere’s Heaton Cooper Studio and Gallery will be opening during the week beginning July 6. This is the leading gallery of landscape art in the Lake District, showing the work of generations of the same family of artists along with visiting exhibitors. https://www.heatoncooper.co.uk/
The gardens at Muncaster Castle are open daily, but tickets must be bought online in advance and numbers will be limited.
Zeffirellis café and restaurant in Ambleside is opening , along with two of their five cinema screens. Seating will be limited, with spaces between seats and staggered patterns of seating so that there will be no one directly in front or behind another. https://www.zeffirellis.com/
Beatrix Potter’s house at Hill Top is closed. Likewise, for this month at least, the World of Beatrix Potter attraction in Bowness. Ullswater Steamers is hoping to re-open July 6.
Hayes Garden World is open weekdays only, 10-4, with a very strict safety social distancing and queuing regime.
It seems sad that we should have to remind visitors to the Lakes to respect the Countryside Code, to take their litter home, and not to light barbecues or fires. The responsibility lies with everyone to plan ahead and make the correct preparations to support safe, considerate tourism.
Businesses and organisations like the Lake District National Park Authority, Cumbria Police, Cumbria County Council and other local authorities are working hard behind the scenes to put in place all the necessary measures to enable visitors to enjoy safe and responsible visits to the county.
Here’s a further list of some attractions you might want to visit.
Holker Hall: https://www.holker.co.uk Gardens are open with advance booking recommended. The Hall remains closed until further notice
Honister Slate Mine & Via Ferrata:https://honister.com Slate mine will be open from 1st July with capacity restrictions in place. Via Ferrata and Infinity Bridge open for private trips of up to 5 people.
Muncaster Castle: https://www.muncaster.co.uk Gardens are open daily from 10.30 – 5pm. Book online prior to arrival, limited numbers are available
“I’d like to welcome you all to Brathay Church Bridge parkrun. Do we have any tourists? Any first timers?” A sheep in the next field raises its head momentarily. My friend Jo doesn’t even raise her eyebrows any longer. I let her be RD one week, though we take it in turns to be tailwalker.
It’s Saturday, it’s 9am, and it would take more than a global pandemic to stop me turning up for parkrun. The first week of lockdown, I ran solo, doing 2.5k each way out and back from the front door.
Then Jo had a better idea. Initially meeting accidentally, and always running or walking at a respectable distance, we started our series of not-parkruns from bridges, a different one each week. Thirteen so far, and all but one within warm-up distance from home. A dozen have been out and back; one, a challenging and hilly route starting on the lower slopes of Wansfell, was a circuit that included the Billy Goats Gruff Bridge.
We are lucky (my most-often-used three words over the last three months) to live where we do, in the heart of the Lake District where there are not only lakes, but also many rivers and becks with bridges over them.
Jo has standards. An older, stone bridge will take precedence in route selection over a more modern wooden or metal structure. Which is why we were starting today from the footbridge to Brathay church rather than the nearby Bronwen Nixon Memorial Bridge (mainly wood, on a metal girder base) which will have to be chosen eventually when we run out of more substantial edifices.
The route of not-parkrun number six
There have been two from Rydal. The Rydal Grotto bridge route took us across the road, through the woods and along the lake shore, while the Rydal tea-room bridge followed a steeper trail along the Coffin Route in the direction of Grasmere. Steeper still was the ascent of Skelghyll woods from our starting point at the Bridge House in Ambleside.
The town now has its own real parkrun, in nearby Rothay Park, one of the infants of the parkrun family with only six events held before lockdown. We wouldn’t run round there on a Saturday, of course, in keeping with HQ requests, but we can report that the local council has created a new path linking Miller Field to the main gate, which means the volunteers will no longer have to lay the artificial “path of doom”.
But we have done a not-parkrun from the far side of the park, from Miller Bridge (out to Waterhead and back). Fastest route? Pelter Bridge to Clappersgate and back, all on tarmac. Most enjoyable? Probably Skelwith Bridge, out and back towards Elterwater. (There’s another bridge near Skelwith waterfalls we can use for a subsequent starting point.)
The search for new ones comes naturally to this tourist (104 different events to date). And the routine has been almost as priceless as the regularity of human company; anyone living alone will recognise the limitations of conversational responses when talking to the teapot.
It’s familiar. It’s what I’ve done every Saturday for the past ten years, and what I’ve missed more than anything else during these crazy times. And, yes, of course I wear my apricot tee-shirt and my barcode wristband (fastened around the wrist on Friday night, so that when I wake in the morning I’ll know it’s Saturday). And yes, we go for a (take-away) coffee afterwards. Virtual parkruns concentrate on recording times, and mine have been enfeebled by injury. Zoom chats with the core team at Fell Foot, my home parkrun, have only made me long even more achingly for the real thing.
Longing for the real thing
So we carry on, with the ritual weekly briefings. So far we’ve had no dogs, no under-11s to be kept on a short lead, no milestones to celebrate. Jo’s birthday is coming up soon-ish, but that’s on a Sunday. The proper celebrations will happen when we can all get together for the real thing. Who cares if July 4 is the date we can go in pubs or to cinemas or dine out? That’s officially New Zealand parkrun-envy day.
An award-winning photographer from Cumbria has launched a million-pound appeal for a national memorial to all NHS staff and carers who have died from Covid-19.
Ashley Cooper, a photographer and environmental campaigner, believes the country should have a permanent memorial to those who die “in the line of duty”.
Ashley Cooper: honour NHS victims
He has started a crowd-funding campaign for a place where all affected families can go to grieve and to feel ultimate pride in the sacrifice that their loved ones made.
Ashley, who lives in Ambleside, is the son of a nurse and has two sisters working for the NHS. “So I care that we value the sacrifices our NHS staff and carers are making,” he says.
“As a child of the early 1960’s I grew up listening to tales of heroism and bravery of those who fought in the Battle of Britain. People who were prepared to put their own lives on the line to protect our people and country. At the end of the war, memorials were erected and every year we go to them to remember them and to pay our respects.
“We are still in the middle of this awful crisis and sadly many more will die yet. I do not want them to be forgotten. I want the country to erect a fitting, national memorial to all those who died from the virus in the line of duty. Please join me in raising the funds so that when this is all over we can erect a memorial to make our heroes proud.”
Ashley is no stranger to tackling large-scale campaigns. He spent many years touring every continent taking photographs to document the impacts of climate change, and his subsequent book, Images from a Warming Planet, has become a bible for environmental campaigners.
The book won awards, and Ashley was granted the status of Green World ambassador.
So far the book has reached a wide audience, helping to communicate the urgency of the climate change message, copies now owned by Pope Francis, Prince Charles, Al Gore, Bill McKibben, Sir Tim Smit, Emma Thompson, Chris Packham, Vivienne Westwood, Chris Bonington, Levi Roots and many more.
He says: “Today we face a different kind of crisis. Our doctors, nurses, carers and all staff in the NHS bravely go into work each day, knowing they are potentially endangering their own lives. Often they are forced to treat Covid patients with inadequate PPE. They work in horrendous conditions for long hours with the utmost care for their patients. Tragically many of them have paid the ultimate sacrifice and died from this dreadful virus.
“They could have stayed at home, but they chose instead to put themselves willingly on the front line to care for and protect our loved ones.”
The organisers of a new fell race in the Lake District which was due to be trialled tonight have promised it will be staged next year.
It was hoped that, if successful, the Wansfell Two-Step would become a regular fixture on the fellrunning calendar.
The three-mile race up 1600 ft Wansfell Pike from Ambleside was being organised by Wayne Singleton whose Jogging Pals team run coaching sessions and running holidays.
And in the spirit of longer – and longer established – races on the fixture list, such as the Old Counties Tops, Haworth Hobble, and Hodgson Brothers Relay, competitors were to run in pairs.
“But we are aware there have been issues at these events with one runner running faster than the other, and not reaching checkpoints at the same time,” said Wayne. “Runners have even been disqualified as it’s in the rules that they stay together.”
So to overcome the problem, runners in this race would have their legs strapped together. “In effect, it will be a three-legged race,” said Wayne. “ It will be a whole new challenge for fell runners.
“We hope to try again once the current crisis has passed. At the moment, the last thing we want is people running close together.”
Wayne (6ft 6 ins) was due to take part strapped to diminutive ultra runner, Ambleside AC’s Jo Kilkenny (5ft 1), who was in training for the now-postponed Celtman triathlon.
Jo and Wayne training earlier this year before social distancing measures were introduced
“It would have been convenient as my coach had me down to do hill reps that night,” said Jo. “This would have done very nicely instead. And it would be fun to be tied to a man. I’m looking forward to racing this eventually.”
World mountain running champion Sarah McCormack was also due to take part. “I was really looking forward to running with a faster man for a change,” she said. “Now, following government advice, my only permitted training partner is Paul Tierney*.”
The event was to be sponsored by The Climbers’ Shop in Ambleside. Executive Events Director, Cathy Casey, said they were thrilled to be involved in the exciting new venture. “We’re confident that three legged ultra is a great new sector to trail running and have been working with our suppliers to ensure we can have the best running equipment, three-legged run pants, available to them to buy for next year.”
Businesses that are paying more than lip service to environmental issues should be shouting about their efforts.
That’s the advice to firms in Cumbria from the team that’s leading the way in advice and help for a sustainable business future.
Now the ERDF-funded Eco-Innovation programme in Cumbria is to stage a free workshop to show just how eco-values can be communicated to customers, and the wider business community.
“Environmentally aware consumers are increasingly influenced by the effects that their purchase decisions have on the environment,” says Eco-Innovation Cumbria project manager Glyn Griffiths.
“This, in turn, is driving businesses to consider their own products, services and behaviour from an environmental as well as a sustainability perspective.
“Effective marketing is core to the future success of any company’s eco-strategy. Our workshop will show you how to apply the marketing principles to the challenges of developing successful marketing campaigns for sustainable products and businesses.”
To be staged at the North Lakes Hotel on Thursday March 26, the interactive session will provide delegates with new networks as well as new understanding of the challenges and modern marketing best practice in a sustainable economy.
The workshop is being delivered by Gillian Brown and Alister Minty from Entrepreneur Business School (EBS). EBS is a network of successful business leaders, each of whom has started and grown one or more new technology businesses, raised equity investment or venture capital and led their company through a significant corporate event.
They are all still active in their own companies, across diverse industries and global markets and use their experience, knowledge and expertise to bring competitive advantage to projects and companies.