Like a duck takes to water

Ducks will take to the water in Ambleside again this year as part of the Festival of the Fells.

The charity duck race, organised by Ambleside Kirkstone Rotary club in the river in Rothay Park, will be one of the highlights of the final day of the festival in September.


On your marks, get set…..

The organisers will once again be raising money for Alzheimers Research, for whom they netted a mammoth £2000 last year. They are hoping that local businesses might sponsor the event this time.

Tickets will be on sale at a stall in the Market Cross on the Friday and Saturday of the Festival, which is being staged for the second time, organised by Ambleside Together.

This year’s event is supported by a new headline sponsor, Heart of the Lakes, the leading holiday cottage company which has been based in the town for more than 40 years, and has more than 150 properties in and around Ambleside on its list of 300 holiday homes.

A number of events have already been added to the calendar including open water swimming sessions, and talks including a lecture by the festival’s patron, top mountaineer

Alan Hinkes.

Veteran fellrunner Wendy Dodds will also be giving a talk about her long-distance running exploits, at the Golden Rule.

The festival will be staged from Sept 21-24. Every business in the town has been invited to take part,  after an independent survey showed that almost £250,000 extra income was generated for the town over the four days last year.

Drama takes to the stage at YHA

There’s drama afoot in the world of youth hostelling…and where better to tell the story than in one of the country’s most spectacularly sited hostels.

A new play, Best Foot Forward, will be staged at Ambleside YHA in May, bringing music and humour to the tale of a fictional hostel, Pearling Manor.

The Manor has been threatened with closure  to make way for a new golf club, and the warden is determined to rally the troops and fight the plans.

Best Foot Forward is a production from the Yorkshire-based Mikron theatre company who spend some of their time touring the canals and waterways of England in a narrowboat, “reaching audiences that other companies cannot”.

So they are used to performing in unusual venues and director Marianne McNamara will be taking this show to church halls and pubs as well as the YHA.

Best Foot Forward is written by Maeve Larkin who spent her younger days happily hostelling, so she’s brought some of her own experience of the YHA into the drama.


“We know that movements have to evolve to survive,” she says. “Our hero warden Connie has a heart as big as her rucksack and takes us on a journey through the YHA’s past in the hope of securing its future.”

As Connie says:

“Through thickets and thin we’ve managed to keep

Our promise of somewhere cheap to sleep

If that’s threatened we must defend it

Looking to the past in order to transcend it”

Ambleside YHA manager Damian Parker said: “This is a very funny and delightful story, and we know that it will be loved by our guests staying here. But the play is open to everyone….just turn up on the night for a very entertaining show.”

Best Foot Forward is at Ambleside YHA on Thursday May 11. There’s no need to book; a pay-what-you-will collection will be taken after the show.

For more information contact YHA Ambleside on 015394 32304

rainbowyha smaller

Ambleside YHA: photo by Steve Ashworth, Lake District Images

Good neighbours needed to help emergency planning in Ambleside

Would you be ready to keep an eye on your neighbours when there’s a flood or other disaster?

In Ambleside they’re looking for volunteers who are prepared to watch out for others in their street or neighbourhood.

The Ambleside Community Emergency Planning and Response Group is building a list of names and phone numbers who can be contacted when something serious happens locally. The aim is for volunteers to cascade information…by phoning the next person on the list … and by stepping outside their own front doors to see where help might be needed.

The group is run by volunteers with help from the Environment Agency…and they hope they’ll never be needed.

“But we know that flooding is likely to be more than a once every hundred years occurrence now,” says co-ordinator Andy Caple. “We also want people to be on standby for other  situations..adverse weather, power outages.

“The people on our list need to look out for just their immediate neighbours, and to ring others on the list. The more volunteers we have, the smaller the area that each will need to cover.”

Andy makes it clear that no one is being asked to take on the roles which will be undertaken by the emergency services and by the mountain rescue teams. “It’s more about passing on information, perhaps alerting older people and others in their street.”

Anyone who can help or wants more information should call Andy on  07747 024691 /

Dreaming of a camp-fire as sponsor backs Swallows and Amazons marathon

The Swallows and Amazons marathon at Coniston this summer is to be sponsored by a team who will keep the kettle boiling for the readers.

Tom Harvey of kitchen appliance firm Clocktower has come on board to make sure that there’s a constant supply of tea and coffee for the team of readers and visitors to the lakeside event.

But fans of the story might be disappointed to learn that there won’t be a billy-can kettle over an open camp fire.

“That’s the way I’d love to do it,” said Tom, who has enjoyed re-reading the classic story since he was a child. “But we wouldn’t be able to keep up with demand. There will be more than 30 readers and a great many visitors, so we will have to use modern electric kettles.”

Tom reads S&A

His Milnthorpe-based company will also provide an endless supply of teabags. Readers might recall that the children camping on the island put tea-leaves into their kettle, a practice frowned on by Mr Harvey. “I suspect the taste would have been a very stewed tea.”

The event, to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of the author, Arthur Ransome, will take place at Coniston on Sunday September 3.

A number of celebrity readers have already signed up to take part including actors from two film versions, the screenplay writer, and a descendant of the poet William Wordsworth. It’s expected that the book’s 31 chapters will take around nine hours to read.

The event is being organised by Dr Chris Routledge who is head of Continuing Education, English Language and Literature, at Liverpool University, in association with the Lake District National Park and the Arthur Ransome Trust. Also supporting the reading are Stephen and Janine Sykes who live at Hill Top, Ransome’s last home in the Lake District.

It will mark the end of a summer-long exhibition at the Ruskin Museum in Coniston about Ransome, Russia and storytelling.

susan and the kettle

Kettle on the camp fire: Suzanna Hamilton as Susan in the 1974 film of  Swallows and Amazons

Dr Routledge, a great fan of Arthur Ransome, previously organised a marathon reading of Moby Dick at the Merseyside Maritime Museum; a much longer novel, that event took three days.

“It seems an appropriate way to celebrate the life and work of Ransome,” he said. “We are delighted that the Lake District National Park  has offered their site at the Coniston Boating Centre on the lake shore. And our partners at the Arthur Ransome Trust are providing marquees to keep our readers and visitors under canvas, in true Swallows and Amazons fashion.”

Dr Routledge’s 13 year old daughter Caitlin will be one of the younger readers, along with Elizabeth Kaye, the 11 year old daughter of Jonathan and Caroline Kaye, owners of Windermere’s Cedar Manor Hotel, who are avid fans of the Ransome stories.

Other readers who have signed up include 14 year old actor Hannah Jayne Thorp, who played the part of Peggy in last year’s film version of Swallows and Amazons. The screenplay writer of that film, Andrea Gibb, will also read a chapter, along with Christopher Wordsworth, great great great great grandson of the famous poet.

The event is part of the LakesCulture calendar

Web guru joins university team of experts

South Lakes web guru Alan Jewitt has joined a select group of business advisors at Lancaster University.

Mr Jewitt, managing director of Kendal-based SYPO, is spending  three days as an entrepreneur in residence at the university’s Department of Entrepreneurship, Strategy and Innovation.

jewitt pic

He joins a team of experts from businesses across the North West discussing current programmes with the academic staff, enhancing the experience of students through activities and career guidance, and helping to foster business ideas and contribute to a variety of classroom activities.

He was interviewed by researchers about his own entrepreneurial experience: motivations, key moments and key people that helped him, ambitions for the future. He also helped develop ideas to produce teaching material to be used in class.

Mr Jewitt founded SYPO – Sell Your Products Online – some 10 years ago, and his company is now a leader in web development and payment and checkout systems for more than 200 businesses of all sizes across the UK.

He said: “This was both an honour and a really exciting opportunity. So many young people are now considering working for themselves, or setting up their own businesses. Those of us with experience of the advantages – and the pitfalls – have an excellent opportunity to advise the next generation.”

The university runs undergraduate study in Entrepreneurship helping students to develop entrepreneurial skills paving the way for a successful career or new business venture.


Runners to get help from top coaches

New series of circuit training for runners are to be launched in both Kendal and Ambleside by two of the country’s top coaches.

Paul Tierney and Sarah McCormack, who run Missing Link Coaching, will lead the six-week blocks of classes for runners of all abilities.

Designed to improve strength and fitness, the sessions will include warm up and mobility drills,  running specific strength and conditioning drills in a circuit style format, and technique drills to improve running form.

paul and sarah

“The main aim of the class is to reduce risk of injuries, improve runners’ strength endurance and consequently their running performance,” said Paul. A Running and movement coach and Sports Massage Therapist, Paul has represented Ireland twice at the World Ultra Trail Championships and was the 2015 Lakeland 100 Mile Race Winner.

He said: “My interest in coaching stemmed from the frustration caused by frequent running-related injuries.  I was certain that by improving running technique and skill it is possible to run pain-free and get the most from your training.  Eventually this led to me wanting to pass on what I learned to others to help them reduce their injury risk and improve performance.”

He added: “I’m passionate about helping others improve their movement because I’ve seen the difference it can make to the success, enjoyment, and general well-being of those I coach.”

Dr Sarah McCormack has won the  European Cross Country Championships team gold medal (2012), Scottish 5000m title (2012, 2013), Scottish 10k title (2012), Irish Inter-Clubs Cross Country  title (2014), and Snowdon International Mountain Race (2014, 2015) as well as secured two top-ten finishes in the World Mountain Running Championships (2013, 2015).  Sarah is a Doctor of Biogeochemistry and a running coach.

She said: “I enjoy being able to combine my background in science with my experience in training and racing to help others get more from their running while also improving health and well-being.”

The classes start on April 3 at Rothay Park, Ambleside, and April 6 at Kendal Green in Kendal, each at 7pm. Participants sign up for the whole course, which costs £50, though to facilitate those on holidays over Easter, the team is running 7 classes for the price of 6 “so even if you are away for a week, you should still be able to attend 6 classes”.

For further details :

Leading actress backs climate change campaign

“Disastrous decisions in the US will impact upon us all”

Actress Emma Thompson has joined a growing list of environmental activists backing the high-impact book of pictures by photographer Ashley Cooper, Images from a Warming Planet.

Ms Thompson, star of many popular films including Love Actually and Saving Mr Banks, who won an Oscar and a BAFTA for Best Actress in Howard’s End, is also an outspoken campaigner on climate change and environmental issues.

After reading the book she wrote to Mr Cooper: “Sometimes pictures are more powerful than any words and at the beginning of a year that presages some disastrous decisions in the US that will impact upon us all, this book has become essential reading.”


The book of more than 500 images, which documents the impact of climate change around the world, was published last year, the result of a 13 year global journey by the top photographer who is based in the Lake District.

Mr Cooper took thousands of photographs in key locations which illustrate the havoc being brought upon the natural world, and amassed the world’s largest collection of pictures documenting climate change on every continent, from the Inuit communities of the Arctic to the coral atoll islands of the Pacific Ocean, showing the damage caused by dependence on fossil fuels:  flooding, glacial erosion, and deforestation.

The book was endorsed by Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, who said: “This book is far more than just a collection of impressive photographs – it documents a massively important and concerning phenomenon that will affect us all. These images vividly show the effect which climate change is having on our planet, and serves as a wake-up call for us all to act before it is too late.”

And leading environmentalist Jonathan Porritt wrote in the book’s foreword: “This is a book about change. About the way the climate is already changing, and the way in which it will change even more dramatically in the future. About changes in peoples’ lives as they seek to make sense of weather systems that seem to have slipped those reassuring bounds of normality and predictability. About changes in our understanding of what’s going on around us, in our world views, in our orientation both to our current reality and to the future.”




Cash prize doubles for young poets in Wordsworth competition

Prize money for the best young poet in Cumbria has been doubled this year to mark the fifth anniversary of a popular competition.

The annual Rydal Mount Wordsworth prize for young poets is organised by the descendants of William Wordsworth, and is open to students at all schools in the county.

This year the author of the winning poem will receive a cash prize of £100, plus a personal trophy, and the poem will be framed and displayed alongside the work of the famous poet in the popular tourist attraction near Ambleside.

The theme for this year’s competition is “A walk on the wild side”, was chosen by the poet’s great great great grand-daughter, Susan. She and other descendants of William will judge the poems, and the winner will be announced at an award ceremony at Rydal Mount on April 27.

Peter Elkington, the curator of Rydal Mount, who is organising the contest on behalf of the Wordsworth family, said: “We decided to double the prize money this year in celebration of our fifth event. The competition has attracted some wonderful work from young people over the years, and we are looking forward to seeing what this year’s entries surprise us with.

“It’s also a chance for a young poet to see his or her work immortalised alongside the poems of Wordsworth himself in his former home, and read by thousands of visitors.”


There are book prizes for the poets judged as highly commended in the primary and secondary school categories. Each entrant also receives a certificate signed by the descendants of William Wordsworth.

Last year’s winner was a 14 year old Jacob Currie, (right) a pupil at Furness Academy, who took the title with his poem The Gap in Life after members of the Wordsworth family judged more than 150 entries from Cumbrian schools. His poem has been framed and is displayed at Rydal Mount for visitors to read.

The closing date for entries is Monday March 20, and the Wordsworths report that entries are already coming in.

Entry forms can be found at

or via the Cumbria education department schools’ information portal.



New painting of the house where Swallows and Amazons writer lived

A special painting by popular Lakes artist Nick Leigh has been commissioned to mark the 50th anniversary of the writer Arthur Ransome.

The painting shows the house, Hill Top, at Ealinghearth near Haverthwaite, where Ransome – the author of the children’s classic story Swallows and Amazons – spent his final years.

It was commissioned by Stephen and Janine Sykes who bought the house five years ago, and have since converted an adjoining barn into a luxury holiday cottage.


But parts of the house, including the entrance hall with its range fireplace, are almost unchanged since Ransome lived there with his Russian-born wife Evgenia.

The former farmhouse dates back to 1680 and lies in two acres of gardens and woodland overlooking the Rusland valley to the Coniston fells, where many of Ransome’s fictional adventures were set.

“We are great admirers of Nick’s work and so we were thrilled when he agreed to paint a picture of the house,” said Stephen.

Arthur Ransome died in June 1967 at Cheadle Royal Hospital, Cheshire after he became ill and Evegenia was unable to look after him.

Stephen and Janine, who have carried out considerable research into Ransome’s life and times at Hill Top, are supporting another Swallows and Amazons event this summer, the marathon reading of the story at Coniston in September, part of Visit England’s year of literary heroes programme, which is also included in the Lakes Culture calendar.

Nick’s painting has also been printed onto a limited edition set of mugs which Stephen and Janine are giving to their cottage guests as a souvenir.

Kendal-based  Nick is foremost a landscape painter, whose work is inspired by the Cumbrian fells and other mountain areas, and  by 1930s vinatge posters. He’s a keen climber, fell-runner and traveller.

You can stay at Hill Top cottage


A classic show returns to Grasmere

A highlight of the year for motor fans, the Lakes Charity Classic Vehicle Show is coming again this summer to be staged at the sports field in Grasmere in the heart of the Lakeland fells.

Among the many classic cars and other vehicles on display will be the wonderful surprise Christmas present bought for the chair of the organising committee, Anthony Harrison, by his wife Christine. What do you buy for the man who has everything – including a classic Mini pick-up? Why, a classic motorbike, of course.

And so Anthony was a very happy man on Christmas Day when Christine presented him with a log book. Outside in the car park was the bike of his dreams, a 1954 AJS 350cc motorcycle.

“Classic indeed,” smiles Anthony. “It’s just six months younger than me. It was a fabulous surprise.”

The Lakes show has become a very popular event on the calendar, attracting more than 300 vehicles from all over the UK. Among the regular visitors is a group who call themselves “the Grumpy Old Men” who bring their cars – including an MGYB – over from Yorkshire.


But there will be a great range of classic vehicles taking part, of course, including those from the BMW, Triumph and Morris Minor owners clubs. Last year a rare Brough Superior car made an appearance; yes, they are better known for motor bikes. This time you’re likely to spot a 1914 truck and perhaps a steam-powered bus.

The event is organised each year for charity by the Windermere and Ambleside Lions Club, a small but dynamic team of volunteers whose efforts are appreciated by the entire community in Cumbria.

Last year’s  show made more than £7,000 for South Lakes Young Carers and the Jigsaw children’s hospice trust; it’s always local charities which benefit.  Over the year they have raised over £35,000, helping 10 local charities. This time the chosen charities are Blood Bikes Cumbria, and LAMRT.

Blood bikes groups are run by volunteers to provide an emergency medical service in the United Kingdom and Ireland, with  motorcycle courier services to hospitals and other healthcare providers, to help with the transport of urgent blood, tissue and organs. Last year nationwide they answered 39,000 calls from hospitals.

The Langdale and Ambleside Mountain Rescue Team  (LAMRT) operates in part of the central Lake District, Britain’s busiest mountain area. Again, run entirely by volunteers, they deal with more than 100 incidents each year, rescuing those who are lost or injured in the hills. A self-funding dedicated team of ‘professional volunteers’ coming from all walks of life, they are united in their love of mountains and their wish to help their fellow mountaineers in trouble.

“We always want to help local charities, and we know that these two both provide a vital service here in the Lake District,” said Anthony.

He and Christine run a guest house in nearby Ambleside, and they are both involved with planning and organising the car show all year round. “As soon as one show has ended, we start work planning the next,” said Anthony, a long-standing member of the local Lions.

Lions Clubs International is the world’s largest service club organisation with 1.3 million members in some 45,000 clubs in 205 countries, and this year marks its centenary.

Lions are men and women who volunteer their time for humanitarian causes. Founded in 1917 by Melvin Jones, their motto is “We Serve”, and they exist to empower volunteers to serve their communities, meet humanitarian needs, encourage peace and promote international understanding through Lions clubs.

The classic car show is their flagship event in the Lakes. It’s a popular day out for families, with an entry fee of just £5 (£12 for a family) and plenty of entertainment all day long. There will be tombola stalls, live music, Scalextric races, a car pull contest, and a competition to identify unusual motor parts.

There’s also a bar, and a number of different food outlets, and the organisers will welcome bookings from auto-jumble dealers. “We would like to try and encourage more motorbikes, trucks and other vehicles,” said Anthony.

They are also looking for young blood to become members of the organising committee and helped make the show bigger and better again in the future.

For more information see

The Lakes Charity Classic Vehicle Show will be on Sunday June 18 at the Grasmere sports ground just off the A591, postcode LA22 9SL.