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 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  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

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:

** 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.

The power of parkrun


IMAGINE going for your first ever trail run in the Lake District. Now imagine that you’re going for your first ever trail run, and you can’t see anything.

Dave Williams, a parkrunner and marathon runner, is blind, and has just experienced trail running for the first time, on the slopes of the Old Man of Coniston.

This is a story of determination, of overcoming life’s challenges, and believing that you can do something, and it’s here for the telling thanks to parkrun.

Dave, who lives in Worcester, has done 60 parkruns at 20 different venues, but hasn’t seen any of them. Dave was born with Leber Congenital Amaurosis, which causes sight loss at birth. I heard about him when researching my book about parkrun*; his father, Gwilym, is a member of my club, Clayton le Moors Harriers, now living in Austria, and a close friend of the husband of my running buddy, Judy Sharples.

I heard Dave’s story, and wrote about it, loving his enthusiasm and self-deprecation (his regular guide runner, Bex, is dyspraxic and can’t always tell right from left “so between us, we manage somehow!”) and when the book came out Dave bought a copy for his family. But he couldn’t read it himself, of course, and asked if there was an audio version.

That was something I’d not considered, but contacted the RNIB (Royal National Institute for Blind People), where Dave works, and arranged for a friend, Wayne Singleton – who has the know-how and access to the technical kit  – to read the book, record it, and supply the audio files to the RNIB library. From where Dave has recently borrowed it and listened to the whole book.

Then Dave said that he and his family were coming on holiday to Coniston and he asked if we could meet, and also asked if I knew anybody who could take him for a guided run as he’d always wanted to try trail-running. The multi-talented Wayne (who also has a business, The Running Concierge**, arranging trail and fell-running mini-breaks and holidays in the Lakes) is also a qualified running coach, and has experience of guide-running.

And that’s how, on a baking hot morning, Dave Williams had a taste of trail-running in the heart of Lakeland mountain country, with the man who had read the parkrun book to him. He and Wayne ran (and, wisely, sometimes walked) up the side of Church Beck, past the Coppermines Youth Hostel, and into the wilderness of Boulder Valley.

He saw nothing of it, of course, but heard the beck and the waterfalls and the cry of the buzzard overhead. He heard – from the best of all guides – the history of copper-mining in the area, and how in recent times water-power has been harnessed to create electricity, and how the top fell-runners come tumbling down these hillsides at break-neck speed.

For Dave it was a morning he’ll never forget. “I’m a road runner, I’m used to listening out for traffic, and being told where there’s a pavement step. I thought the hardest part would be the heat, and the steepness of the hills, but it was the terrain under foot that was the toughest.”

Dave told Wayne: “‘You can take what you’re given, and survive, and be happy with that, or you can work at it. There are blind lawyers and doctors. Don’t let it be a barrier.”

For Wayne it was a humbling experience. “It’s amazing to be trusted to guide someone with a visual impairment, and presents all sorts of challenges that I wouldn’t normally think of. There’s a constant commentary to ensure that Dave didn’t trip or stumble, as well as making sure he didn’t get branches in his face. It’s awesome to be able to try and describe our scenery to someone, in an appropriate richness, to enable them to ‘see’ through words. It’s also interesting to learn about vertigo from the perception of a person who can’t see the drop. It presented me with equal amounts of joy, terror and glee to have the responsibility of guiding Dave today, and it was topped off by being introduced to his family, and sharing a paddle in Coniston after our run.”

And for this experience, for this meeting, for this connection: the power of parkrun. It really does change lives.

*How parkrun changed our lives (


Welcome to the Running Concierge

A new service for city-based runners to have a taste of Lakeland trails is launching in Cumbria.

The Running Concierge is a new concept in the UK, offering busy people with demanding jobs the chance to have a running weekend in the Lakes organised entirely for them.

It’s being led by UK Athletics coach Wayne Singleton who has just hosted his first visitors on a bespoke run-centred visit to the Lakes.

“If you’ve watched running coach and social media star Ben Parkes in action, you’ll know the feeling,” says Wayne. “Ben’s a fit guy with a marathon best time of 2.25 but in one of his videos, he’s racing in the Alps and recognising that as a Londoner he doesn’t have the climbing – or descending – in his legs.

Wayne Singleton

“We know there are runners who long to experience the trails and fells here, but don’t have the time to plan, and don’t know where to start.”

The Running Concierge arranges everything, meeting the train from London Euston or elsewhere to Oxenholme, taking guests to a hotel booked for them, and taking them on guided runs in the South Lakes area, including an ascent of Loughrigg fell.

There’s also the chance to add a cultural dimension to the weekend with a visit to Rydal Mount, home of the poet William Wordsworth. The Concierge recommends restaurants near where the visitors are staying, and can even book tables for dinner, if it’s not provided at their hotel.

The running concierge concept exists elsewhere but on a smaller scale. Hotels in Chicago and Moscow, for example, offer running tours of the city for their guests. And at the Ritz-Carlton, Vienna “guests can enjoy a smooth run throughout the area, with the hotel’s Running Concierge, who is not only a brilliant jogging partner, but also a fantastic guide to the Imperial city, with incredible insight and stories to tell.”

Wayne says: “We’ve taken that idea and developed it into an entire weekend break with trail or fell-running at its heart. We can take runners of all abilities and levels of fitness, and we can tailor route choices and distances to suit our visitors.”

A weekend break might start with a run or walk up Orrest Head on the Friday night; Saturday might be a combined run and sail on one of the steamers on Windermere or Ullswater; and Sunday could be a fell-run taster, followed by cream tea at Rydal Mount. Hotels range from the Burn How at Bowness to b&bs in the Windermere and Ambleside areas. “Our visitors will be in the heart of the Lakes and because we are local experts, not a moment of their weekend will be wasted,” says Wayne.

Richard Askwith, who wrote the best-selling book about his attempts to complete the Bob Graham round, Feet in the Clouds, was based in London throughout his time training for that. He says: “It’s certainly a challenge training for the fells when you’re based in London. But it can be done. I did it for years, and I even got quite good at it for a while. There really aren’t many better ways of motivating yourself than thinking about your next run in the Lake District.”

The Running Concierge with Mathew and Tayler on the summit of Loughrigg

Mathew and Tayler Carver spent three days on their first-ever visit to the Lakes organised by The Running Concierge. The couple, who run a chain of cheese restaurants, the Cheese Bar and the Cheese Barge, and a cheese shop London, stayed in Windermere and were taken on guided trail and fell runs, fell walks, and a swim in the lake with Wayne.

“It was really relaxing to have everything taken care of,” said Mathew. “If you are time-pressured as we are, it’s difficult to make plans about where to go and where to stay.”

Tayler said: “We could have come here on our own but not known where to go and wasted time on such a short visit. It was good to have expert advice and local knowledge, so we’ve learned much more about the Lake District.”

For more details:

Winding down after their run: Mathew and Tayler visiting Wordsworth’s house at Rydal Mount

Contest to find the best CAKE in the Lake District

A summer fair in Windermere will stage a competition to find the best cake in the Lake District.

The Lakeland Cake of the Year Championship will be the highlight of the fair in the grounds of St Martin and St Mary’s CE primary school on Prince’s Road on Sunday August 8.

It’s a charity event with all funds raised going to the Teenage Cancer Trust.

Stalls will be available for hire – the fee being to bring along a cake, – and there will be food & refreshments from Yardies Jamaican Street Food.

Previous winner

The cake contest is being revived by Jen Braithwaite and Eileen Jones of JB Cumbria, who met when organising the original event ten years ago at the Briery Wood Hotel. It included themes of the Olympic Games, and Lakes and Rivers, and attracted some remarkable creations from amateur and professional bakers. They raised money then for Alice’s Escapes, the charity set up to provide respite holidays for families with sick children, founded by Ulverston’s Alice Pyne; a teenager with terminal cancer whose bucket-list of things to do gained her thousands of social media followers. Alice died at the age of 17 in 2013, and this provided the catalyst for Jen and her involvement with Teenage Cancer Trust – since then, she has organised and worked on several events for the charity in the North-West.

Winning cake from the contest in Olympic year 2012. Recognise Sir Bradley Wiggins in icing?

Said Jen: “Every day, seven young people in the UK aged 13 to 24 hear the words ‘you have cancer’.  Teenage Cancer Trust puts young people in the best possible place, physically, mentally and emotionally, for their cancer treatment and beyond. They do it through their expert nurses, support teams, and hospital units – and they’re the only UK charity dedicated to providing this specialised nursing care and support.”

The theme of the contest is “Joy”, which can be interpreted any way that a cake maker wishes. Cakes should be brought to the event on the day, and they will be auctioned during the afternoon. The buyers will then take them home and provide feedback to determine an overall winner.

“We know that everyone has struggled over the past year and wanted to organise a community event that would truly bring some joy back into all of our lives,” said Jen. “And everyone loves cake!”

Winning cake: a replica of Ambleside’s Bridge House

The fair, from 2pm till 4pm, will be held in a marquee on the school field. Anyone wanting to book a stall should contact Jen on It’s a free event though donations to the charity are encouraged.

JB Cumbria is a partnership between Jen Braithwaite of JB Consulting and Eileen Jones of Cumbria PR.

Teenage Cancer Trust is a registered charity: 1062559 (England & Wales), SC039757 

For more information regarding Teenage Cancer Trust – please contact:

Vernon and Laura’s walk of love for Kathryn

The husband and daughter of an Ambleside woman who died earlier this year have completed a marathon walk in her memory.

Kathryn Rigg died at home in March after a battle with cancer. Vernon Rigg and his daughter Laura Swainson aimed to walk 10 miles a day for 10 consecutive days to raise money for St John’s Hospice, Lancaster.

Laura and Vernon at Derwentwater

But they went several steps further, totalling a massive 144 miles over the 10 days, and raising so far £8528 for the charity. Add to that the 150 miles they walked in training, and their tally is close to 300 miles. The longest walk was 18.5 miles. “We had wind and rain in our faces all day but still had a smile on our faces,” said Laura.

Joined on different days by members of the family, especially son Daniel, Vernon and Laura tackled routes around Ambleside, over Loughrigg, Wansfell, and Alcock Tarn, as well as a walk around Derwentwater, and Kathryn’s favourite, at Arnside and Silverdale.

Vernon with Laura and Daniel at Troutbeck

“We had a mixture of weather over the 10 days but two days in particular were very wet,” said Laura. “The longest walk we did was on one of these wet days where my brother Daniel joined us, and we walked from Ambleside to Hawkshead then onto Esthwaite water back to Ambleside.

“Our favourites were the last day with Daniel, which was from Ambleside over Jenkins Crag up to Troutbeck then over Wansfell back to Ambleside via Rydal (13.5 miles); and round Rydal up to the caves, round Grasmere, up to Alcock tarn, then back to Ambleside via the coffin route, which was also 13.5 miles.”

Vernon and Laura at Grasmere

Vernon and Laura are thrilled with the amount raised so far, and hope to carry on collecting more money for the hospice. “Thank you again for all the donations for such an amazing cause close to our hearts. The treatment mum had from the hospice, and support for us as a family, was second to none.

“We have had the best 10 days doing the walks. It has been a big focus for us.”

 You can donate via  or give cash/cheques to Vernon Rigg.