Tag Archives: Lake District

The power of parkrun

By EILEEN JONES

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 (https://gritstonecoop.co.uk/product/how-parkrun-changed-our-lives/)

** https://www.runningconcierge.co.uk/

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: https://www.runningconcierge.co.uk/

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

Full steam ahead for Lakes runners

Runners have kept their passion for events in the Lake District in spite of lockdown, according to a new survey.

They have been training hard and planning for the time when races and fun runs can start again.

The survey was carried out by Kendal-based Jogging Pals who have been coaching and inspiring everyone from beginners to ultra runners for a number of years.

When lockdown forced the cancellation of trail races and other events planned for the spring and summer, Jogging Pals director Wayne Singleton took the opportunity to find out what runners really wanted in the future.

The survey, published via social media, attracted hundreds of responses from around the country. “It proved that there’s great enthusiasm for the Lakes as a centre for all kinds of running, not just the ultra-endurance efforts we’ve seen this summer,” said Wayne, a UK Athletics coach.

As a result, his team is working on plans for some unusual running events, which will include sailing some of the most iconic Lakes as well – and taking a ride on a steam train. RunSteamRun will launch next month and the date will be announced shortly.

lakeshore runners

Wayne also found a lot of affection for the Lake District among the parkrunning community; Cumbria has a dozen regular parkruns which attract runners of all abilities.

“Our runners want us to provide real Lakeland experiences for them, not just races,” said Wayne. “And they show a real spirit of adventure too – many of them would like us to organise trips to running events throughout Europe.”

One who took part in the survey was the lucky winner of a £100 voucher to spend at running specialists Pete Bland Sports. The winning name was pulled out of a hat – literally – by Wayne when the survey closed.

Wayne draws the winning ticket

“We are really pleased to see that runners have found the motivation to carry on training,” Wayne said. “Now we are listening to their requests and will organise some special events as soon as we are allowed.”

 

Lakes hotelier joins the national judges

Windermere hotelier Jonathan Kaye joined the judging panel for the hospitality industry’s top award event in London.

Jonathan was invited to be a judge at the Hotel Catey Awards at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge hotel in London. The presentation dinner was attended by 750 guests, representing the best of the British hotel industry. Jonathan was there with his wife, Caroline.

The Cedar Manor has regularly featured in the finals, and last year was judged to be the UK’s top hotel in the sustainability category.

Since they started in 1984 the Cateys have become established as a celebration of UK hospitality, showcasing innovative brands and trail-blazing individuals who are nominated, selected and rewarded by their peers.

Jonathan and Caroline Kaye

Jonathan and Caroline Kaye

Jonathan said: “It was a great honour to be asked to join the judging panel after Caroline and I have attended many ceremonies as finalists and guests. The UK has the best hotels in all the world, and our association with the Cateys has helped us develop and improve our own hotel to be a world class establishment in the Lake District.”

 

Bottom bunk club for Lakes visitors

A Lake District hostel has launched the Bottom Bunk Club for groups who want to stay without climbing a ladder to bed.

Elterwater Independent Hostel, in the heart of the Langdale valley, says it’s not an age related offer, but “we know that life can get a bit more challenging as you get older. And when they need to get up in the night to go to the loo (maybe a little more often than in your youth), the climb back to the top bunk can be more challenging, than it once was.”

The Bottom Bunk Club is aimed at those groups who are happy to share a room but fight to avoid the bed ladder. And they are happy to welcome groups who want to stay indoors and read or play parlour games, as well as those who can head straight out onto the hills from the door.

“We find that the young at heart, of all ages, love coming to stay here for our location, for the great home cooking, and a few days of companionship in a beautiful location,” said manager Nick Owen.

“Our dormitories are small ones, so it’s just three to share at most. There are good hot showers and a great drying room if you do choose to spend a day on the hills.”

Which is why we’ve launched the Bottom Bunk Club.”

The deal is for a group of at least ten people, who can then have the whole hostel to themselves for a mid-week break (Monday to Thursday) in November or December.

You need to book a minimum of two nights, but it’s only £80 per person for two nights bed, breakfast and dinner.

For dinner you might be offered homemade steak pie or mushroom stroganoff, followed by Nick’s fabulous sticky toffee pudding; and the next morning there will be a full Cumbrian cooked breakfast available.

Book the Bottom Bunk Club by calling  01539437245 or email bookings@elterwaterhostel.co.uk for more details.

A winning haven for guests in Ambleside

An Ambleside guest house has won the coveted Visit England ROSE Award in just the second year under new management.

Haven Cottage was taken over by Allie and Chris Hodgson in spring last year, and they are thrilled to be one of just 100 recipients across the country – and just three in Cumbria.

allie an chris

The ROSE Awards – Recognition of Service Excellence – put the spotlight on those accommodation providers who give visitors the warmest of welcomes.  They recognise the owners, management and employees of establishments that go above and beyond, making customers’ experiences extra special, irrespective of star rating, style or accommodation type.

Suite 8 balcony & seating

Haven Cottage, which has three double bedrooms and two luxury suites, holds four-star gold accreditation from Visit England. With a reputation for excellent breakfasts, for which they have also received an award, the guest house is currently number one in Ambleside in the Trip Advisor ratings.

Breakfast Special

Visit England Director Patricia Yates said that the ROSE awards recognised outstanding accommodation providers. “It is the human touch that these people provide that make visitors’ experiences memorable, ensuring repeat business and helping the industry thrive. The awards celebrate the teams and owners whose efforts surpass expectations.”

Allie and Chris moved back to the UK after running ski-chalet accommodation in the French Alps, in Morzine and then Samoens, and now run Haven Cottage with the help of housekeeper Cristina Dumitrascu. They make a point of using local suppliers in and around the Ambleside area.  Chris is a member of Ambleside AC and was one of the organisers of the recent British Fell Relay races at Grasmere.

Allie said: “We are delighted to receive this award. It is all the more rewarding because it’s based on visitors’ experiences and confidential nomination. We do go out of our way to ensure guests are having a great stay. What’s the point in having all this knowledge and love for the lakes if we don’t share it with our guests? t’s a lovely surprise to be recognised this way.”

Haven cottage

Festival discount for Windermere guests

The Lake District’s top musical festival has teamed up with a luxury B&B in Windermere  whose guests will be able to buy discounted tickets.

Visitors booking at 1 Park Road in Windermere will have access to the offer for the Lake District Summer Music Festival.

Eblana string trio. Photo: Ian Dingle

Eblana string trio. Photo: Ian Dingle

The biggest event of its kind, the Festival has chamber music at its heart and hosts over 40 events in different locations across the South Lakes. Venues include historic churches and halls found across the region, including Kendal, Windermere, Ambleside and Ulverston.

The owner of 1 Park Road, Philip Burton, is a trained classical pianist whose guests are encouraged to play the piano in the lounge. He and his wife Mary also run special music-themed breaks in the Lakes.

“The Festival is a significant event on the music scene in the Lakes and we want to make sure that our summer visitors know what’s happening, and have access to this wonderful programme,” said Philip.

This year the Festival features more than 40 separate events, of works from 87 different composers, with some artists appearing at LDSM for the first time, not least the young musicians giving nine Festival Début Concerts.

“We add a distinct and compelling musical focus to Cumbria’s rich cultural heritage of painting and literature in the Lake District,” said Festival general manager Kim Sargeant. “Our aim is to develop this musical focus, to fulfil a major role in the provision of music regionally, to be welcomed by local communities and sought by musicians, music-lovers, young and old, around the world.”

Guests at 1 Park Road will have to book in advance as the discounts cannot be applied at the door. When making their reservations at the B&B, they will be given the discount code to book tickets for concerts.

Full details of the programme can be found at http://www.ldsm.org.uk/international-festival.

To book to stay at 1 Park Road, see the website

Philip has written about the music he loves…and what pleases his guests https://1parkroad.co.uk/if-music-be-the-food-of-breakfasts/

 

Top backgammon players head to the Lakes

backgammon board

Top backgammon players from across the UK will head to Windermere at the weekend for the annual Lake District championship.

The Lakes event is being staged for the fifth time at the Cedar Manor Hotel, with the backing of the UK Backgammon Federation and the British Isles Backgammon Association. It will bring together 16 of the most experienced and award-winning players from far and wide for what promises to be a nail-biting series of matches on Sunday.

Lounge & Bar

Last year’s winner was Bradford’s Steve Lee who claimed victory after a final 7-3 win over Pol Lapidakis from Newcastle.

One of the world’s oldest board games, combining skill and chance, backgammon is played in cafés across the Mediterranean and in the most exclusive of London clubs, with world championships staged in exotic locations.

The championship is organised by Cedar Manor owner Jonathan Kaye who learned to play backgammon when he was manager of Raffles nightclub in London. His dream is to see backgammon established as part of the café culture of the Lake District, as it is in Mediterranean countries, and he hosts a regular local backgammon club.

“We are now recognised as one of the major tournaments on the UK calendar,” he said.

“But while we attract the top players, we also welcome people of all abilities at our regular monthly club event. We will be very pleased to hear from any local players who want to take part.”

The winner gets a cash prize and a voucher to stay at the hotel.

 

 

Pianists who head for the Lakes

While most visitors to the Lake District head out onto the fells for fresh air and exercise, at one guest house they’re encouraged to stay indoors  – and play the piano.

The sound of music can be heard from the sitting room at 1 Park Road in Windermere, where the host  – who dishes up an acclaimed eggs benedict for breakfast – is also a trained classical pianist.

And Philip Burton, piano teacher as well as hotelier, wants to encourage guests to play during their stay, whatever their musical standard.

philip at piano

“We had a family who came here one half term holiday specifically so that their daughter could practise for her forthcoming music exams,” said Philip. He and his wife Mary now offer a special musical short break package for guests who want to play their Broadwood piano while in the Lakes.

A music teacher at the Lakes School who also gives private lessons, Philip is currently the accompanist for Kendal Choral Society. He studied music at Liverpool University and the Royal Northern College of Music, and dreamed of being a concert pianist. “I tried to pursue it professionally in London, but I came to realise that only a minority make it as a career.”

Instead he, and Mary, worked in the health service for many years until they moved to Windermere to run the guest house. Over the years he’s been director of music for a number of choirs and choral societies, with a reputation for the unusual, such as staging experimental versions of Mozart’s Requiem and Handel’s Messiah.

And he was given a very special gift by a museum curator in Diessen, the twin town of Windermere, where the composer Carl Orff was born, after Philip conducted Staveley Choral Society in Orff’s Carmina Burana at The Lakes School. It is a bound facsimile of the entire score of the piece, one of the world’s most famous choral works.

Also in pride of place at the guest house, this time on the dining room walls, is a series of framed cartoons. Look closely, and you’ll see Philip in each one, featuring comic highlights of his time as a choirmaster in Buckinghamshire and created specially for him by a member of the choir.

And his own favourite composers? Scarlatti, Beethoven, Bach, Haydn, Debussy and Bartok.

They run a two or three day piano package for all abilities, where pianists are promised great fun, and that they will leave playing a piece. Call 015394 42107

marking music cartoon

Detail from one of the cartoons

Classic and vintage cars heading for Lakes this summer

One of Cumbria’s most entertaining charity fundraising days returns to Grasmere this summer.

The Lakes Charity Classic Vehicle Show is organised by Windermere and Ambleside Lions to raise funds for local charities while bringing hundreds of classic and vintage vehicles from all over the country.

Last year’s event saw around 300 cars, vans, buses and motorbikes heading for the showground in the village, and raised over £10,000.

sports cars rally

The show attracts specialists and fanatics who are fascinated by the vehicles of a bygone day. Among the regular visitors is a group who call themselves “the Grumpy Old Men” who bring their cars – including an MGYB – over from Yorkshire. There is range of classic cars such as those from the BMW, Triumph and Morris Minor owners’ clubs, and a rare Brough Superior car made an appearance last year. The organisers are hoping for a visit from a 1950s double-decker Ribble bus this year.

But there’s also live music, food stalls, a beer tent and activities such as a Scalextric challenge, making the day a family highlight on the Lakes’ calendar.

This year the organisers will be supporting the Westmorland and South Lakes Group of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the Sandgate Hydrotherapy Pool in Kendal.

Multiple Sclerosis affects around 100,000 people in the UK, most being diagnosed between the ages of 20 and their late 60s. MS is a neurological condition which affects the nerves and is caused when the immune system isn’t working properly. The local society aims to help people with MS in the area by offering support and understanding. They currently have 165 members, 150 of whom are MS sufferers, with the remainder as committee members and helpers.

The Sandgate Hydrotherapy Pool was built in 1977 with donations received through public subscription for the children and adults in the community who have mental and physical health problems. The fundraising was led by members of Westmorland Mencap, who have continued their support for the Pool ever since, more latterly through the Trustees of South Lakeland Hydrotherapy Trust.

The pool offers a unique service to the population of Cumbria, as the benefits of hydrotherapy have been well known for many years, and the Kendal pool offers these benefits to swimmers and non-swimmers alike in a supportive, non-competitive environment that affords privacy.

The Lions are an international organisation with 46,000 local clubs comprising 1.4 million men and women who believe that “kindness matters”.

“Lions are changing the world one community at a time, by addressing needs at home and around the globe. And when we work together, we can achieve bigger goals,” said president Philip Fell.

“We are a vibrant and committed group of local volunteers that are always looking to meet new people, help to fundraise in their local community and most of all to have fun.”

As well as the classic car show they organise other events including the Windermere Festival, and the Jingle Bell Jog. They can often be found at local events with their bouncy castle, and helping out to fundraise for local, national and international causes.

Said Mr Fell: “The show is on Fathers’ Day this year so it will be a great way to treat your dad.”

Entries are now being taken for this year’s show which is on Sunday June 17. For more details see: http://lakesclassiccarshow.org.uk/