One of Britain’s top crime writers will be a guest at the Bowness on Windermere book club in April.
Martin Edwards has written many crime novels and short stories including several set in the Lake District. He’s a member of the Murder Squad collective of crime writers, and was a long-serving chair of the Crime Writers’ Association. He has won the CWA Diamond Dagger, the highest honour in UK crime writing. And in 2015 he was elected eighth President of the Detection Club; his predecessors include G.K. Chesterton, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Agatha Christie.
Mr Edwards, who is also a solicitor, will give a talk on Wednesday April 19 at the book club at the Burn How Garden House Hotel. The speaker at the inaugural event last month was the romantic novelist Suzanne Snow.
Hotel proprietor Michael Robinson said: “We are thrilled that Martin Edwards has accepted our invitation. His books are very popular indeed, especially in the Lakes, and we look forward to an insight into the murderous mind of a top crime writer.”
In the Lake District mysteries, the central characters are DCI Hannah Scarlett and historian Daniel Kind. Set around Ambleside and Coniston, the books include The Cipher Garden, The Arsenic Labyrinth and The Coffin Trail.
The book club will meet at the hotel on Wednesday April 19 at 7pm. It’s free, and there’s no requirement to read a particular book. “The first event was a great success,” said Michael. “We have a whole series of meetings planned and hope that they will attract a regular following among locals, as well as visitors.”
Martin Edwards also runs an online course in crime writing fiction: https://craftingcrime.com/
THERE’S a race called The Spine which runs along the entire 268-mile Pennine Way. In January. It’s in winter, so most of the race is spent in the dark, while floods, ice, snow and absurdly strong winds are all common. This year’s winner, ultra-marathon veteran Damien Hall, says: “Potentially fatal hypothermia is a regular did-not-finish cause. Grown men cry. Bones get broken. Some ‘Spiners’ have discovered trench foot isn’t just something that happened in France during World War I.”
But there was a bit of an outcry, a polite one but loud nevertheless, when it was declared that Damien had set a new record for the race this year. In fact, his time of three days, 12-hours, 36 minutes and 24 seconds, did beat the previous men’s record set by John Kelly. But the overall record remains that established by a woman, Jasmin Paris, in 2019: three days, 11hours, 12mins and 23 seconds.
Yet just a generation ago, women were barred from taking part in in hill and fell races, or at least, the longer ones. Race organisers were still labouring under the viewpoint of Baron de Coubertin, the founder of the International Olympic Committee: “Allowing women in sports would harm their feminine charm and degrade the sport in which they participated.”
This myth of female frailty was an unproven medical belief that strenuous sport would damage a woman’s body and make her infertile, says running historian and writer Steve Chilton. “It was even seriously considered by some, with extreme views, that women were born with a finite amount of energy and if they used it up on active sports, they would not have energy to give birth.”
So it’s entirely appropriate that Jasmin Paris, who actually has two children, and had given birth just 14 months before her record-breaking Spine run (during which she stopped to express milk for her baby)should write the foreword to Chilton’s latest book, Voices from the hills: Pioneering women fell and mountain runners(Sandstone Press). Building on his previous books, Chilton combines meticulous research with personal interviews to highlight those who paved the way for the gender quality we enjoy today, from the record breaking champions to those who played a quieter but equally important role behind the scenes.
Says Jasmin: “I’m immensely grateful to the women who paved the way for my generation to compete in fell races as equals with our male counterparts, free to run the same courses neck and neck, sharing the highs an lows, and ultimately the joy that time spent in the mountains brings.”
These are not high-profile, highly-sponsored athletes. Jasmin Paris works as a small animal vet specialising in Internal Medicine, in the teaching hospital at the University of Edinburgh, doing a mixture of clinical and research work. Time again again through these chapters, we read of women who could only train on their days off, or after long days at work. Vanessa Peacock, a formidable runner in her time, and hero of mine when I joined Clayton le Moors Harriers, says that she didn’t want to get too involved with competing for the British championship. “Fitting in ten races was a big commitment and I wouldn’t always get the time off work (she was a radiographer) to race. Generally it was nine to five work, but we had on-call and late shifts sometimes.”
The same applies to the men on the fells, of course, but the difference, back then, was recognition. Kathleen Connochie, who was the first woman to try and enter the Ben Nevis race in 1955, trained in secret, and her plan was almost scuppered by bureaucracy. At the last minute she was allowed to run – but had to set off two minutes after the other runners. “I still have the ladies’ washbag I was given as a prize. It is a treasured possession,” she says.
As one who was once awarded a box of bath cubes for coming second lady (we were ladies back then) in a fell race, my most treasured possession is a rather beautiful ceramic teapot for finishing first in the Haworth Hobble with my running partner Judy Sharples. The winning men were awarded a sculpted boot; that was a rare instance of gender balance tipping our way, aesthetically. As Carol Campbell, another of the pioneers, explains: “In the early days it was all about equal opportunities. What gives men, the race organisers, the right to say that women are not able to to participate in these events. We were more than capable. It was the same in teaching PE. If girls could run 1.5 miles cross country in the winter, why were they only allowed to run 800m and not 1500m on the track?”
Carol was described as a runner’s girlfriend when she came second in the Welsh 1000m race, behind Joan Glass, “the wife of Llanberis YH warden Dennis Glass. The wife/girlfriend tag is a form of downplaying or trivialising female performances,” says Chilton. And some 20 years after Kathleen Connochie’s run, Joan Glass was not allowed to take part in the official Ben Nevis race, but was the solo female setting off after the men. Another of the pioneers, Anne-Marie Grindley, the second woman to complete the Bob Graham Round, says that shorter races were organised alongside Lakeland classics “to pacify the women”. Though she notes that some race organisers “took the view that if you just put your initials on the entry form, they didn’t know if you were male or female.”
The first official women’s race under AAA laws was at Pendle Hill in 1977, but the race report was notable for some casual sexism: “On the ascent, pretty 18-year-old Kathryn Binns began to establish a good lead”. Other women were leading the way in demanding entry to the longer races, among them Ros Evans and Pauline Stuart, and Jean Lochhead who won the first Three Peaks race for women in 1979, and subsequently ran it several times “for fun”. She recalls: “One time, while crossing a deep bog between Pen-y-Gent and Whernside, I thought, I’ve not noticed that boulder there before, and leapt onto it, and my foot went through a dead sheep.” Female frailty?
It was Veronique Marot, who went on to be a London marathon winner, who broke the rules and opened the floodgates when she entered the 23 mile Ennerdale horsehoe race unofficially in 1979. “It wasn’t a feminist, striking a blow for women, kind of action. I was more doing it because someone had to start the ball rolling. Even at Ennerdale in 1979 some female athletes wanted to stop me running the full course.” She’s not shown in the results for that race, of course, but reckons her time was about five hours.
Chilton’s book is full of facts and stories and memories, of heroic running and exceptional determination. But perhaps the most memorable line in the whole narrative comes from Ruth Pickvance (who won a set of heated hair curlers when she came first in the Wasdale fell race), who went on to be British champion and to run, and win, races all around the world. “It’s been fascinating to look back over a lifetime of running – most importantly, I always feel that if you lose the poetry in it all you’ve lost the sense and point. It’s a bit like life, really. Running and life…don’t lose the poetry.”
Voices from the Hills is published by Sandstone on April 20
An illustrious group of fellwalkers climbed Helm Crag near Grasmere for a very special event. The walking party was to record the 100th episode of the popular podcast Countrystride which features the landscape, history and heritage of Cumbria and the Lake District.
Pictured here are writer Harriet Fraser and photographer Rob Fraser of Somewhere-nowhere, the environmental art and research project; eminent climber and writer Bill Birkett; Countrystride presenters Mark Richards and Dave Felton; veteran hiker and former mountain rescuer Gordon Bambrough from Caldbeck who recently celebrated his 90th birthday by climbing Scafell Pike; and Elaine Nelson from Sam Read’s bookshop in Grasmere. The 100th episode is due to be released next month.
Countrystride has been winning audiences since 2020 with tales from the fells, from the people of Cumbria, and stories from the past and present. They have talked to Cumbrian celebrities including the fell-running legend Joss Naylor, writer and farmer James Rebanks, broadcaster Eric Robson who lives in Wasdale and was for many years chair of BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time; and John Dunning, founder of Westmorland Motorway Services. But they also chat with walkers they meet on their hikes and rambles, and the 100th episode of Countrystride will invite listeners to say what makes the Lake District special for them. And they are planning to hold their first ever Countrystride Live event in October, featuring a range of walks, talks and music, at a venue in the South Lakes.
A popular podcast celebrating the life of the Lake District is about to reach its 100th edition.
Countrystride has been winning audiences since 2020 with tales from the fells, from the people of Cumbria, and stories from the past and present.
Three years ago Dave Felton and Mark Richards set off from Wasdale Head to climb Scafell Pike. They planned to record a handful of podcasts to celebrate their love of Lakeland, but enthusiasm from listeners carried them on. Now Countrystride will reach its 100th episode, broadcasting to more than 10,000 a month all over the world.
Felton and Richards
The Podcast celebrates the landscapes, culture, heritage and people of Cumbria and the Lake District through a blend of immersive field recordings, inspiring commentary and interviews, all shaped into a single walk presented by author, illustrator and ex-farmer Richards and produced by Felton, who is also a book publisher.
Richards was strongly influenced by his mother’s roots in the Yorkshire Dales, and from his youth he’s adored the hills and dales of northern England. He was encouraged to direct his passions for pen and ink drawing and walking into writing and illustrating walking guides from Alfred Wainwright, with whom he spent many weekends in the 1970s. The author of many guidebooks, including his seminal eight-volume Lakeland Fellranger series, he lives at the northern tip of the Pennines.
Together their podcasts have covered a diverse and eclectic range of subjects, from Dentdale and the Dales High Way to the Vikings, Cumbrian dialect, dry-stone walling, fell ponies, Cumbrian ghosts, and of course Beatrix Potter. There have been walks and talks in the footsteps of Wainwright, of course, and interviews with people who are helping to shape the future of the landscape.
Mark with Joss Naylor and photographer Vivienne Crow
They have talked to Cumbrian celebrities including the fell-running legend Joss Naylor, writer and farmer James Rebanks, broadcaster Eric Robson who lives in Wasdale and was for many years chair of BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time; and John Dunning, founder of Westmorland Motorway Services.
But they also chat with walkers they meet on their hikes and rambles, and the 100th episode of Countrystride invites listeners to say what makes the Lake District special for them. And they are planning to hold their first ever Countrystride Live event in October, featuring a range of walks, talks and music, at a venue in the South Lakes.
The 100th episode will be recorded on the ascent of Helm Crag near Grasmere, with writer and climber Bill Birkett, and retired mountain rescuer Gordon Bambrough who recently celebrated his 90th birthday by climbing Scafell Pike.
Countrystride also publish a range of guidebooks featuring the podcast’s mix of Lakeland walks alongside heritage, culture and landscape commentary.
CHILDREN in South Lakes schools are being given the chance to paint or draw their way into literary history with a new competition.
The Burn How Garden House Hotel at Bowness is asking youngsters to paint or draw their own vision of the characters from the children’s classic Swallows and Amazons, still a favourite more than 90 years after it was published.
The story, along with several sequels, was set in and around the Windermere area by the author Arthur Ransome and features two families of children who are allowed to sail to an island in a lake and camp there.
The Burn How team are organising a special weekend for fans of Swallows and Amazons, with tours of locations thought to be the settings in the book. Guests will also be taken to the Old Laundry Theatre at Bowness where a new stage production of another of Ransome’s books, Winter Holiday, is being performed.
“We know that every generation brings new fans to read the stories that Ransome set here in the Lakes,” said hotel proprietor Michael Robinson. “Here where we are based, Bowness is referred to as Rio by the characters in the books, and when a film version was made, locations here and at Coniston were chosen.
“So we decided to see how today’s children picture the Swallows and the Amazons in their adventures on the lake and on the island.”
Paintings or drawings should be delivered to the hotel no later than Friday March 3, when guests will arrive for the special weekend. Each should be clearly marked with the child’s name, age and school, and a prize – a giant Easter egg and a book token – will be awarded to the best one. The competition is open to all pupils in South Lakes primary and secondary schools.
Meanwhile, a marathon reading of another Ransome book featuring the Swallows and the Amazons, Swallowdale, will take place at the Windermere Jetty Museum on the weekend of June 24/25.
Getting back in touch with nature is the theme of a new series of well-being breaks at a luxury Lake District hotel.
The Burn How Garden House Hotel at Bowness is offering a complete escape from routine and stress with the short holidays which can include forest bathing and lake swimming.
Guests can also choose to try Pilates or yoga, have a massage, hire a bike, take a guided walk …or just sit in the garden and do nothing for a few days.
“When visitors come for just a few days, they don’t always have the time to find out what’s available if they want to be pampered or take some exercise,” says proprietor Michael Robinson.
“We have wonderful hills to walk in, and we are the nearest independent hotel to Bowness pier, from where you can explore Windermere, England’s largest lake, by boat. But today, guests want something more, and something different, and that’s where we can help.”
The hotel is set in beautiful grounds, surrounded by mature trees, and most of the accommodation is in garden rooms, each with its own outside space or balcony. In the main building is the breakfast dining room, a well stocked bar, and comfortable lounge areas where guests are offered complimentary tea or coffee and cake every afternoon.
It’s also just a few minutes’ walk into the centre of Bowness where there are now more than 50 restaurants to choose from for dinner.
The team works with experts who can take visitors on local walks, or go swimming in Windermere or Rydal, or hire a bike to explore the bridleways and quieter roads. Pilates and yoga teachers will arrange sessions on request, and there’s the chance to book a luxury massage in the comfort of your own suite with therapist Penny Irvine.*
“The Lake District is a very special place, and here at the Burn How our guests enjoy a very special experience,” says Michael. “It’s a unique opportunity to enjoy peace and tranquility in the heart of this tourist hot-spot in the most beautiful corner of England, close to the landing stage for cruises on the lake, close to cafes and bars, and the town’s individual shops, but set apart in its own lovely, private grounds and our prize-winning gardens.”
*Penny Irvine holds a VTCT qualification in Swedish Massage and Sports Massage Therapy, and also offers No Hands Massage. She is fully insured with the FHT (Federation of Holistic Therapists. Treatments Include:
Swedish Massage: Back Neck and shoulders/full body massage
Deep Tissue Massage – aimed at the deeper tissues of the muscles
Aromatherapy Massage – blending essential oils to suit the client
A SPECIAL weekend dedicated to the Swallows and Amazons world of Arthur Ransome is to be staged in Bowness this spring.
The Burn How Garden House Hotel will welcome fans of the timeless classic children’s stories written by Ransome and set in the Lake District.
Visitors for the weekend will be taken on a bus tour of some of the sites on which Ransome based his locations in the stories. This will take them past Wild Cat Island, otherwise known as Coniston’s Peel Island, and the farmhouse which was the model for Holly Howe in the novels, as well as glimpses of the ‘North Pole’ and ‘Kangchenjunga’.
The hotel has also arranged for visitors to attend a new stage production of Ransome’s Winter Holiday, which is being performed that weekend at the Old Laundry Theatre in Bowness.
“We know that the stories are still very popular with new generations of readers,” said hotel proprietor Michael Robinson. “We are based in the heart of Bowness which was re-named ‘Rio’ by the children in the books. And we have experts who will lead the guided tour around our lovely Lake District which was Ransome’s inspiration.”
First published in 1930, Swallows and Amazons tells of two families of children who sail to an island in a lake and have many adventures. It was followed by others set in the Lakes: Swallowdale, Pigeon Post, Winter Holiday, and The Picts and the Martyrs. The first story has been made into a film (twice), a TV series, and there have been stage and musical productions.
THE record has been tumbling this month for a fell-running challenge based at a Lake District hostel.
The route known as 23 Before Tea starts and finishes at the Elterwater Independent Hostel and already this month there have been at least six attempts, with the record falling twice in three days.
Taking in 23 of the Wainwright fell-tops, the route has 4109m (13,481ft) of climbing in the 56k/35 miles.
First completed in 2020, the record stood at 11 hours 23 minutes, set by Pete Faulkner in October, until Sunday (Dec 11) when Penrith’s Jack Oliver ran round in 10hrs10 mins. “I just fancied a long day in the mountains to see if all my training was paying off. This ticked the boxes,” he said.
Three days later on Dec 14, that record was smashed when Kendal’s Josh Wade galloped round in 7hrs 43. “It was the best day out in the Lakes ever,” he said at the finish. “Conditions and visibility were perfect. There were 35mph winds forecast, but it was only about 15.” The temperature on the summits was around minus 6C, but the ground was frozen solid so there were no bogs to negotiate. Josh also included a rock climb up Middlefell Buttress as the shortest way to the summit of Loft Crag in the Langdale Pikes; the challenge lets runners chart their own path between the peaks.
A day later (Dec 15) Ambleside’s Gavin Dale made an attempt on the record, and finished in an amazing 8hrs 28: “Had a great first half but ran out of food and suffered massively in the second half, pace went out the window. Most importantly – a beautiful day out in sublime surroundings.”
Meanwhile, on Dec 2, Angela Wilson and her husband Paul established what was to be a short-lived winter record of 11hrs 52, with Angela becoming the first woman to complete. Just four days later, Carol Morgan running with Steve Rhodes bettered that by four minutes (11hrs 48).
Angela Wilson, first woman to complete the round
The challenge developed in the aftermath of Paul Tierney’s record-breaking run around all 214 Wainwright tops in 2019, and hostel owner Christine Thomas wondered how they might pay tribute to his achievement. A friend who was a member of Paul’s support team, Eileen Jones, had a large scale map of his entire route on her wall. “Eileen took a close-up photo of the map, with Elterwater at its centre, and then counted the number of summits within the frame of that picture. There were 23.”
Christine’s son Adrian then made the first attempt at completing all 23 within a day, but injury proved a barrier – along with the fact that those particular 23 involved four valley-floor-to-summit ascents and descents. The route was then modified by Dave Cumins, known to everyone in the running world as Little Dave. An altered and more efficient route, with a slightly different list of 23 tops, was researched during 2020 when Dave couldn’t get to the Lakes (he lives in Brighton). He and James Harris tested that route in September 2020, and got back in time for a rather late tea in 14 hours 50. “I’m not the fastest of runners, and I didn’t have the distance, or the climbing, in my legs after a six-month lay-off from the mountains. But I did reckon decent Lakes runners could do it in eight hours.”
Lakeland sunset, pic by Jack Oliver
The route has been modified again since, with some fells taken off the list and others added, to create a more coherent circuit. “We’re thrilled that this is taking off now,” Christine said. “Everyone who has a go tells us what a terrific route it is. It took a little while to capture the imagination of the running world, but now it’s really exciting to see so many enjoying it.”
Josh Wade, who is also an experienced rock climber, was this year’s winner of the 100k Ultra Trail Snowdonia race, and was first in the 100 mile Spine Challenger event. He has raced throughout Europe including the Ultra Tour of Mont Blanc, and the 100k La Palma island ultra-marathon.
The hostel team also hope that walkers and “mere mortal” runners might tackle the route over two days, two slices of cake, as Christine calls it.
Three Northern blokes are pulling on their walking boots this Christmas Day to raise funds for Maggie’s Manchester – and they’d like you to join them.
Colin, Dan and Gabe are a Dad and Sons combo who like to be in the great outdoors whenever possible – and particularly on a day when the alternative might involve a turkey, some cracker-pulling and possibly standing-to-attention for a King’s Speech.
The trio are heading to Malham in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales on December 25 and are hoping that lots of people will join them on their walk, and help raise funds for Maggie’s.
Maggie’s offers the best possible support free to anyone with cancer, and their families, who walk through their doors. Their amazing centres are based alongside NHS hospitals and they also support online.
On our patch we are very lucky to have Maggie’s Centres in Manchester, Newcastle, Oldham, Wirral and Yorkshire. The support that teams at each of these centres provide for anyone experiencing cancer is second-to-none. But Maggie’s does so much more, and they do it in a way that has had a positive impact on many thousands of lives.
Colin said : “This time of year of year can be wonderful, but it can also be difficult for lots of people. We’re aware that if you don’t have a network of friends or family, a Christmas Day alone, watching TV might not be appealing, so we’re ready to welcome anyone to get outdoors with us. Absolutely anyone: single people, families, groups – and if you don’t celebrate Christmas, that’s cool too.”
At this stage the boys don’t want to put an upper limit on numbers, so there is definitely a place for you. Led by an experienced Mountain Leader and with lots of stops for seasonal foodstuffs (but no turkey) you can be part of something very special and toast Christmas in limestone country with the trio’s famous Mag North Boozy Hot Chocolate.
Gabe explained why they’d chosen the location: “We love Malham, and it’s right in the heart of the country, about an hour-and-a-half from York and the same from Manchester. Malhamdale has some of the most amazing scenery in the North, and our walk is set to take in special places like Janet’s Foss, Gordale Scar and Malham Cove.”
The planned circular route is 6km, but there is also an option to take part in a shorter 3.5km route if preferred. Both walks start and finish at the National Park Centre in the village.
So: if you’re keen to do something different this Christmas Day – and you love being outdoors – this could be just the thing for you. To enjoy TheMaggie’s Christmas Day Bimble, a suggested donation of £20 (made via Just Giving) will secure your place and provide you with all the seasonal snacks and hot chocolate you can manage – together with a Tote bag of goodies at the end which holds a Maggie’s T Shirt, even more food and some extra treats to say a big THANK YOU.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to Walk The Walk for Maggie’s this Christmas Day and still get home in time for the Strictly Christmas Special.
For further information please email email@example.com or contact them on Twitter @magnorthmag or Instagram @magnorthmag.
WHEN there’s a murder on the Lakeland fells, guests at a Lake District hotel will be stepping in to solve it. But this isn’t the plot of a new thriller. And there are no actors or ilm cameras involved.
Guests at the Rydal Lodge County House B&B near Ambleside will be taking part in an action-packed murder mystery weekend, and they will be playing character parts for the entire weekend until the murderer is revealed on the Sunday.
Helena Tendall, who runs Rydal Lodge with husband Mark, has created the themed weekends with a gruesome plot where the fictional owner of a Bowness guest house is found dead in a septic tank.
“No one is above suspicion as dark secrets emerge,” says Helena. “Illicit affairs, fraud, suspect sausages, plots for revenge and drug addiction are all intertwined in the life and death of our victim.”
It’s an elaborate plot in the Weekend to Die For, but Helena has form; she used to run a business called To Die For…Murder Mystery, writing her own plots, and providing every guest with a separate booklet with their script for each scene.
A member of Ambleside Players and a woman of great imagination, Helena’s previous “murders” have included entire days with ramblers searching for clues in the countryside, a poisonous blowfish dropped into a coffee cup, words written in blood on the floor, riddles that provide clues, and a top chef imprisoned for poisoning wedding guests at the Ritz.
This time, along with clue hunts in the countryside around Rydal, there will also be a pub lunch included, a wine tasting game on arrival, and dinner at Rydal Lodge during which subsequent acts will be revealed,
“It’s great escapist fun, and we have a fantastic location here for our guests to do some sleuthing in the countryside,” says Helena.