Fell-running writer Steve to appear at Lakes festival

The writer who has chronicled British fell running over the years will be a guest speaker at a Cumbrian festival this summer.

Steve Chilton will appear on the Inspiration Stage at the Eden Escape festival in the northern Lake District.

Steve Chilton

Steve is the author of a number of books including It’s a Hill,Get Over it;  All or Nothing at All (the life of fell-runner Bill Bland); and Running Hard, the story of the rivalry between running champions John Wild and Kenny Stuart. He’s currently working on a book about women runners. Steve is an experienced public speaker, with spots at the Keswick Festival, Sheffield Adventure Film Festival and Buxton Adventure Festival.

A committed runner and qualified athletics coach with considerable experience of fell running and a marathon personal best of 2-34-53, Steve is a long-time member of the Fell Runners Association and has run in many of the classic fell races, as well as mountain marathons, and has completed the Cuillin Traverse. He worked for many years at Middlesex University where he was a Cartographer and a Lead Academic Developer. Steve’s work has been published extensively, particularly in his roles as Chair of the Society of Cartographers and Chair of the ICA Commission in Neocartography.

Tom Williams

He will join other inspirational speakers at the festival at Mains Farm near Kirkoswald. They are Tom Williams, the global chief operating officer at parkrun, and Ross Brannigan, the Scottish adventurer whose first book first book Running Adventures Scotland will be published soon.

Ross Brannigan

Eden Escape is an unusual event which combines camping, music and good food with lots of fitness activities and adventures for all ages. There will be running and swimming sessions, yoga and Zumba dancing, massage therapies, and lots of children’s activities, along with a series of films from the Kendal Mountain Festival.

Wiz Lees, one of the organisers, said: “It’s great news that Steve Chilton is joining our line-up of inspiring speakers. Our festival is all about being happy, healthy and fit in the great outdoors, and having adventures great and small. We’re looking forward to hearing about the amazing characters he has met on the fells.”

Eden Escape festival will be staged at Mains Farm from May 27-29. Full details, and booking forms, can be found here: https://www.edenescapefest.co.uk/


Adventurer Ross heads to Lakes festival

The Scottish runner, writer and environmentalist with a passion for adventures in wild places, Ross Brannigan is heading to a festival in the Lakes this spring.

Ross will be one of the inspirational speakers at the Eden Escape Festival at the end of May.

Ross Brannigan

Eden Escape is an unusual event which combines camping, music and good food with lots of fitness activities and adventures for all ages. There will be running and swimming sessions, yoga and Zumba dancing, massage therapies, and lots of children’s activities.

And along with a series of films from the Kendal Mountain Festival, top names from the outdoors world will be on the Inspiration stage. Ross headlines with Tom Williams, the global chief operating office from parkrun UK.

Tom Williams

Also in May, Ross’s first book Running Adventures Scotland will be published, which features 25 inspiring running routes through some of Scotland’s awe-inspiring landscapes. From thrilling ridge lines and high summits to wandering trails through beautiful glens, the book is designed to be the adventure runner’s companion to exploring the best Scotland has to offer. Running Adventures Scotland will be released by Vertebrate Publishing in time for the festival.

One of the organisers, Wiz Lees, said: “We are thrilled that Ross has accepted our invitation to come and speak at the festival. We are very keen to show that adventures can be enjoyed without having to trek half way across the world, and while our own festival adventures will be at a local level, it will be wonderful to hear all about Ross’s exploits north of the border.”

Eden Escape festival will be staged at Mains Farm from May 27-29. Full details, and booking forms, can be found here: https://www.edenescapefest.co.uk/

Zumba and yoga meet 80s music at festival

The Cumbrian festival with fitness at its heart has signed up a leading Zumba teacher for the weekend.

Eden Escape Festival will feature sessions led by Kelly McClelland of the Eden Dance School and Live Yoga Life.  Kelly will be offering Zumba suitable for all ages and Kundalini Yoga, a style of yoga that focuses on mantras, repetitive movements, breath and music.

Kelly McClelland

The festival, on the last weekend in May, will be held on the banks of the River Eden at Mains Farm near Kirkoswald. There will be a range of classes and sessions offered, including trail running, river swimming, and massage therapies. There will also be a programme of inspirational speakers, led by parkrun Global Operating Officer Tom Williams.

The Zumba and Yoga sessions are part of the festival’s ethos of health, fitness and adventure, as well as having a chilled camping experience with great music and food in a beautiful setting.

Keeping visitors dancing on the Saturday night will be 80s tribute band Under Neon who will headline in the big barn.

Under Neon

One of the organisers, Wiz Lees, said: “Visitors to our first festival will remember Kelly as the most enthusiastic teacher going. If Zumba may be a new experience for you, there’s no one better to help you get moving and having fun.”

Kelly says: “I absolutely love teaching Zumba classes. The reason is simple: every class feels like a party! We take the ‘work’ out of workout, by mixing low-intensity and high-intensity moves for an interval-style, calorie-burning dance fitness party. Once the Latin and World rhythms take over, you’ll see why Zumba Fitness classes are often called exercise in disguise.”

Tickets for the festival, and more details, can be found at: https://www.edenescapefest.co.uk/

  • Based in the Heart of Cumbria, the Eden Valley, Eden Dance aims to offer high quality dance training to youngsters and grown ups regardless of their rural location, in a variety of styles for fun or as a progressive route to a career in dance.
  • Yoga For Real Life – Kundalini Yoga –  is sometimes called the Mother of all Yogas or the Yoga of awareness. It is a powerful blend of postures, breath work or Pranayama, mantras and meditation that teaches deep relaxation and physical and emotional release, to awaken your inner potential.

parkrun legend Tom Williams to “headline” at Cumbrian festival

A leading figure in the parkrun world, Tom Williams, will be a keynote speaker at the Eden Escape festival in May.

Tom, who is Global Chief Operating Officer at parkrun, will appear at the family-friendly weekend festival in Cumbria which has fitness and adventure at its heart. There’s also camping and music, running and swimming sessions, yoga and adventure films, and children’s activities.

Tom, whose wife Helen presents the Free Weekly Timed parkrun podcast with broadcaster Vassos Alexander, supports more than 2,000 parkrun events across 23 countries. With a BSc in Human Biology, Exercise and Health, and an MSc in Sport and Exercise Science, he spent four years in the academic sport science department at the University of Leeds then started working full time for parkrun in 2011.

Tom and son Aston on parkrun volunteer duty

In 2010 he started the Marathon Talk running podcast, which ran for 600 episodes over 12 years and throughout that time was the most-downloaded UK running podcast. He’s completed 25 marathons (with a PB of 2:49) and seven Ironman triathlons (with a PB of 9:24).

The Eden Escape Festival will be held at Mains Farm, Kirkoswald, on the banks of River Eden in the northern Lake District at the end of May. It’s organised by Wiz Lees and Leigh-Ann Newburn, from Shap, and Keswick-based wild-swimming guru Ali Phillips. Wiz is a personal trainer and fitness instructor, and Leigh Ann teaches yoga, and together they created Fox Red Events to organise the festival, which had a small-scale launch in 2019. After two years hit by the pandemic, they’re planning to offer adventures on a local level and a staycation experience for the whole family. Ali, a well known blogger for Girl About the Lake District, will be bringing her expertise to the river-swimming side of the adventures.

Staged at the farm camp site, the festival promises a real escape from the ordinary, a time to get away from it all, spend time together outdoors, getting active and enjoying great company and great food.

Wiz Lees said: “We are delighted that the inspirational Tom Williams will be joining us. He represents the parkrun ethos, to make the world a healthier and happier place through their free, weekly 5k events. That fits perfectly with our aim here, to offer open-air adventures at a local and sustainable level. We all know the benefits that come with exercise, especially when it comes to mental health. In today’s work-obsessed world, more people are finding it difficult to manage stress, and live in constant worry about something or the other.”

She added: “It’s possible to have a really exciting time, and have mini-adventures, here on the banks of the River Eden, without having to travel too far. We know that Tom will be an informative and entertaining speaker for everyone, even if they haven’t done a parkrun yet.”

More guest speakers will be announced shortly. The festival will stage music events, including a 1980s night on the Saturday featuring tribute band Under Neon, and films from Kendal Mountain Festival. Massage therapies will be available, and there will be a market area in the former milking parlour where locally-made crafts, clothes, toiletries, candles and much more will be on sale. There’ll be plenty of good food available, with lots of vegetarian and vegan choices, but also chicken and chips and pizza. Says Wiz: “We know what families want when they go away for a weekend, and we know it means catering for everyone.”

The festival is on May 27-29. For more information and to book tickets see https://www.edenescapefest.co.uk/

  • A number of parkruns can be reached from the festival site including Penrith (20 minutes), Talkin Tarn (25 mins), Carlisle (30 mins), Keswick (45 mins), Whinlatter (50 mins) and Tyne Green (65 mins).

Family friendly show at Theatre by the Lake

Stuff and Nonsense Theatre Company bring their brand new family-friendly show, Pinocchio, to Theatre by the Lake for February half term. Following sell-out shows of The Gingerbread Man and The Elves and the Shoemaker, this unswervingly energetic and humorous company returns with their latest production.
 Using the classic elements of this tale – a poor woodcarver, the tell-tale growing nose, the dream of becoming a real boy – S&N add their hallmark hilarity, cleverness, puppetry, music, fantastic staging, outstanding performers and extraordinary physical tricks, in their most ambitious production to date.  Three very funny men seek refuge in a grand but abandoned old house, where they gather around an extraordinary dining table that becomes their playground. Grandfather, Father and Son tell tales of growing up; one of them used to be Pinocchio and it turns out he’s had quite a life!…
“Take a child (by which I mean, anyone from 3 to 103) to a show by Stuff and Nonsense; watch how, within a minute or two their smile begins to widen, their mind starts to expand – then notice their expressions of delight and wonder…Stuff and Nonsense make the world a better place.”Chris Chibnall, Executive Producer, Doctor Who and TV Writer (Broadchurch, Doctor Who, Torchwood)

Lake District treat for parkrun tourists

A new service for parkrunners visiting the Lake District has been launched this week.

The Running Concierge team, led by Wayne Singleton, is offering a tailor-made package for runners to experience the best of the Lakes in just one weekend.

Whinlatter parkrun

Visitors will be met at Oxenholme station and carried by Mountain Goat bus to their hotel on a Friday evening.

On Saturday morning the bus will take them to do a parkrun at Fell Foot, Rothay (Ambleside), Keswick or Whinlatter, followed by a sightseeing tour on a lake steamer. And on Sunday the group will be taken on a guided trail or fell run, before returning by Mountain Goat to the train station at Oxenholme.

Fell Foot parkrun

Wayne, who is a qualified Athletics Coach, set up the Running Concierge service for busy runners who wanted to test the fells and trails in the Lakes but didn’t know where to start – and didn’t have the time to plan an ideal itinerary.

This service has now been extended to create a series of bespoke weekends for parkrunners. “We know that parkrun tourism is hugely popular, with people travelling around the country – and the world – to run in different events. We decided to arrange it all for them, and at the same time, give them a taste of the Lake District with all our local knowledge and expertise.

The tunnel: Keswick parkrun

“They save so much time, especially if they’ve not visited the Lakes before. And it makes for a much more relaxing weekend, to have all the stress of driving and organising handed over to someone else.”

Hotel accommodation will be in or near Bowness and Windermere, including the scheme’s flagship hotel the Burn How Garden House.

The parkrun service was launched at the National Running Show at the NEC in Birmingham where the Running Concierge stand had a busy weekend.

“People are desperate to start doing things again, and wanting to take part in events with others,” said Wayne, who was a member of the relay team that launched a book about parkrun last year. “We absolutely love parkrun. When I met the founder, Paul Sinton-Hewitt, and told him about our plans, he thought it was a great idea. And we absolutely love the Lake District, and want to show it off to visitors in our own special way.”

Rothay parkrun in Ambleside

The first parkrun weekend will be April 8-10, and further details and bookings can be made via email to wayne@runningconcierge.co.uk or on Whatsapp 07793 532830. Follow the Running Concierge on Facebook for updates.

Marathon readers hoping that the lake will freeze

Fans of the Swallows and Amazons writer Arthur Ransome will gather at the Windermere Jetty Museum in the new year to celebrate another of his children’s classic stories.

A group of around 30 people will take part in the marathon reading of Winter Holiday, an adventure tale in which the children skate and sledge on the frozen lake and plan an expedition to the “North Pole”.

The event has been organised by the team that previously held marathon readings of Swallows and Amazons on the shore of Coniston, and Pigeon Post at the YHA Coppermines hostel.

During lockdown last year they created an online marathon reading of another Ransome story, The Picts and the Martyrs.

Reading Swallows and Amazons

The Jetty Museum holds a number of exhibits relating to Ransome’s work, including the steamship Esperance, currently under renovation, which was the author’s inspiration for Captain Flint’s houseboat in the stories.

“It’s an ideal location for the reading of this story,” said organiser Chris Routledge. “We couldn’t get any closer to the shore of the lake where the story is set and we are really grateful to Lakeland Arts for hosting us here. Though it’s probably unlikely that Windermere will freeze over to provide the perfect setting.”

Windermere Jetty Museum

He added: “This is a wonderful tale of frozen wastes, icebound ships, seals and explorers. The Swallows, the Amazons, and the D’s plan to set out for the North Pole, in the footsteps of Nansen and Peary. Of course nothing goes quite as planned, but as always turns out better than expected.”

Previous marathons have attracted readers who included actors from both film versions of Swallows and Amazons, writers, broadcasters, and Ransome fans of all ages. There’s still a few chapters to be allocated so if you’d like to take part, fill in the form at https://ifnotduffers.org/winter-holiday/  The event, supported by the Arthur Ransome Society,  takes place on Sunday January 30.

Adventure time in the garden of Eden

A family-friendly weekend festival of music, activities and adventure returns to the banks of the River Eden next summer.

The Eden Escape Festival will be held at Mains Farm, Kirkoswald, in the northern Lake District at the end of May.

Staged at a farm camp site which already has pods, tipis and bunk rooms for hire, the festival promises a real escape from the ordinary, a time to get away from it all, spend time together outdoors, getting active and enjoying great company and great food.

There’s lots of activities on offer including fitness classes for all levels and abilities, yoga workshops, massage therapies, adventure films, music, campfires, swimming in the river, street food and a market-place.

There’s a big barn for music, and films to be shown by Kendal Mountain Festival as well as inspirational speakers, a host of skills workshops such as night navigation  and map reading , Nordic walking, and a lots of activities for children.

Accommodation can be booked in the pods, tipis and bunk-rooms, but visitors can also bring their own tents and campervans and there are plenty of hot showers. Onsite catering is provided by local food outlets, and there’s a bar.

As well as a weekend full of outdoor activities the organisers, Fox Red events, also promise a chance to get your dancing shoes on with a 80’s theme party on Saturday night.

“We want to show that you can have an adventure without doing something extreme, like going off to climb Kilimanjaro,” said co-organiser Wiz Lees, who is a personal trainer and fitness instructor. ‘’We want to give you a taster of some of the awesome things that are available to you, right on your doorstep’’.  She and Leigh-Ann Newburn staged the festival initially in 2019, but had to cancel last summer because of the pandemic. 

“Making an adventure can be something you can do without having to travel far. This is beautiful countryside, with the chance to have mini-adventures, learn something new – or just chill out for the whole weekend.”

The dates are May 27-29 and bookings can be made now at https://www.edenescapefest.co.uk/

The perfect Christmas present for a parkrunner

Stuck for ideas? There’s a book out this year that will be the perfect gift for everyone who’s ever done a parkrun. Or even better, for those who have thought about it, and might even have signed up for it, but not actually been and done a parkrun yet.

Fairytale for a story book: a wedding at a parkrun

How parkrun changed our lives * is a story book, a book of stories about people, their triumphs and sorrows, and how parkrun has had an impact on who they are and what they have become. And it emphasises the message that parkrun is about MUCH more than just running.

The “lovely Jaz” Bangerh

Here you’ll meet “the lovely Jaz” who’s not only head of volunteer management at parkrun HQ, but was also the first British Indian woman to complete 500 parkruns. You’ll meet Conrad and Jose who ran parkrun together on the day of their diamond wedding anniversary and crossed the finish line holding hands. At the other end of the age range are the delightful Pout twins, Hugo and Rory, who are popular on the parkrun buggy-scene; and Dexter who was the first ten-year old to complete 250 parkruns.

Jose and Conrad

You’ll meet the people who got married during a parkrun, the crazy guy who runs it backwards, the blind man who found a new life through parkrun, and the woman who wouldn’t have cope otherwise after her husband died.

The Pout family

There are the volunteers who talk about the sheer joy of being there every week to do the timekeeping or marshalling. There’s the doctors who literally prescribe parkrun for a range of physical and mental health problems.

Run briefing? Or morning prayers? Is parkrun a new religion?

You’ll meet some running reverends who discuss if parkrun is a new religion, and – of course – you’ll meet PSH, the founder, the man who came up with this great idea for a free timed run every Saturday that now happens in 22 countries around the world.

The author with Paul Sinton-Hewitt, parkrun founder, when a team of 105 runners in relay from the Lake District to London delivered the first copy of the book to him in Bushy Park, where it all started

*How parkrun changed our lives by Eileen Jones. Gritstone, £9.99. Signed copies available from: https://gritstonecoop.co.uk/product/how-parkrun-changed-our-lives/

** Eileen Jones, a member of the Gritstone Publishing co-op, is a journalist and PR working in the Lake District. She’s head witch at parkrun and will turn into a toad anyone who spells parkrun with a capital P.

The mischievous Arthur Ransome


Once upon a time, as they say in the best fairy stories, Arthur Ransome’s name was just THE byword for the top children’s adventure tales. Swallows and Amazons, which is both a dated and yet strangely timeless piece of fiction, continues to enchant new generations of readers, young and old. The Lake District setting provides a considerable part of the charm, along with the engaging characters with whom most of us have been able to identify at some point in our lives. Not a lot actually happens in that book: children camp on an island, go fishing, annoy a man living on a houseboat, get told off for sailing at night.

The real adventures come later: the wreck of the boat in Swallowdale, the secret hiding place of Picts and Martyrs, and best of all, the search for gold, entrapment in a mine, and a fellside fire in Pigeon Post.

Ransome recorded his own life in an autobiography, Hugh Brogan led the field with the first of the major biographies, Christina Hardyment enchanted us all further with her exploration of Ransome’s real and fictional worlds, and Roland Chambers expanded on the theory than Ransome was actually a secret agent, not just a chess-playing journalist covering the Russian revolution.

Now Alan Kennedy takes us into the world of what he calls The Other Arthur Ransome, in A Thoroughly Mischievous Person (Lutterworth Press). He’s at pains to stress that this is not another biography: there are already many of those. Instead he says: “The questions I wish to explore are more psychological than literary.” Ransome, according to Kennedy, was a complicated and secretive man who “deliberately set out to baffle those who sought to make sense of his life.” So we’ve all been looking in the wrong place?

Ransome deceived us with the story of his own life, says Kennedy, an autobiography which was “entertaining, wonderfully vivid but psychologically opaque…To read it is to discover an author hell-bent on giving nothing away.”

Maybe we should be looking to the psychological, says Kennedy. “What if, far from being some passing fancy, Ransome’s early commitment to symbolism endured and came to flower in stories for children which owe more to fairy tale than to the concerns of his contemporaries?….Powerful autobiographical themes can be glimpsed throughout Ransome’s fiction, albeit always slightly out of reach, fading like the pearls the Swallows left to dry on the margin of their lake.”

His characters, for certain, are of his imagination, and Kennedy highlights the “otherwise sober critics” who railed against John, Susan, Titty and Roger for their want of authenticity, “for their being too middle class, too much a part of a lost world of cooks, nannies and Great Aunts….Idle to point out that the complaint is as pointless as regretting the absence of bicycles in The Hobbit.”

In his argument, Kennedy concentrates much on the character of Titty and the estrangement of Ransome’s own daughter, Tabitha: “Like many a fairy-tale father, he easily convinced himself he would, one day, recover his lost girl. Perhaps he believed that, in Titty’s heroic deeds on Wild Cat Island, his daughter would find reasons to forgive him.” This much will be accepted, absorbed, by the many fans of Ransome, and the members of his appreciation societies.

It’s gets trickier thanks to sex, which is – of course – at the heart of much psychological discourse and theory, and the reactions to Kennedy’s take on the the work of John in creating the new mast after the wrecking of Swallow, for example, will do more than raise a few eyebrows. And from then on, from being a fascinating hypothesis about words and their meanings in so many contexts quite apart from the Ransome connection, some might find this too far-fetched. Sexual allusion and mythological realism are beginning to shroud what were, otherwise, jolly good stories. And in many minds, they should be left alone as such.

This is, nevertheless, a fascinating and very well researched (and referenced) narrative, bringing a new approach to the study of a series of children’s classics. But ultimately one wonders if the author is being deliberately provocative, that the “thoroughly mischievous person” is in fact Kennedy himself.


Alan Kennedy is Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the university of Dundee. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, an Honorary Member of the Experimental Psychology Society, and a Member of the Society of Authors. He has published several articles in the journal of The Arthur Ransome Society.