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General

General

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Dymond Guide summer sale

Here’s something to brighten up your visit to the Lake District and Cumbria.

Dymond Guides is offering 15% off the recommended retail price of this book, a comprehensive guide to one of Britain’s most beautiful areas. It’s got 302 pages and more than 300 photographs.

All you have to do is click 'Add to cart' and use discount code BLOG15.

It’s as simple as that and the 15% discount is yours!

Thursday, 25 August 2016

The Heaton Cooper Studio, Grasmere

What with Grasmere’s association with William Wordsworth and the Lake Poets, you might think that this famous Lakeland village is defined solely by its literary luminaries. Not so. Every year the Lake Artists Society holds its annual exhibition in the village hall here - ending this year on September 7 - while several generations of a renowned family of artists are represented at the Heaton Cooper Studio, opposite the village green.

The first of this creative dynasty was Bolton-born Alfred Heaton Cooper who after being trained in London in the 1880s travelled to Norway with the intention of selling landscape paintings to European tourists. Things didn’t quite work out so he returned to England with his Norwegian wife, shipping back a log cabin to act as a studio in Coniston. He later moved the wooden building to Ambleside where it’s now a restaurant called The Log House. His painting of the Langdale Pikes is pictured.

His son William inherited Alfred's artistic talents - his picture of Derwentwater is left - and their original paintings and prints are sold in the different galleries along with work - sculpture and ceramics included - from other members of the family. It was William who built the Heaton Cooper Studio in 1938.

His marriage to sculptor Ophelia Gordon Bell produced four children, one of whom (John) runs the studio while another (Julian), is an artist in his own right, well known for his mountain paintings.

Julian’s wife Linda Ryle is also an artist - an exhibition of her past and present paintings Time Regained is showing at the studio until the end of October - and so is John’s daughter, Rebecca, working in mixed media and collage.

What also draws people here is the range of artists’ materials for sale: paints, pastels, pens, pencils, brushes, easels, inks, paper, sketchbooks and more. That makes it a perfect destination for all those who want to capture the beauty of the Lake District as artists have been doing for over 300 years.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Peter Hall & Son

Every time I drop off my guide books at Peter Hall & Son in Windermere - that’s grandson Will reading one in the picture - I can’t help but covet the beautiful furniture which is on display here. If you wanted proof that the tradition of fine furniture making is in safe hands, this is the place to head for, or the firm’s workshop in Staveley.

Staveley is where the dining tables, chairs, sofas, sideboards, dressers, wardrobes and bookcases are all made and where in 1972 Peter Hall set up the business. A New Zealander by birth, he had just finished working for De Havilland in Hatfield, having acquired a degree in aeronautical engineering just after the war.

It was EF Schumacher’s book Small is Beautiful that persuaded him to go into furniture making, and being married to the daughter of a Hawkshead vicar, this part of England seemed an obvious place in which to settle. By coincidence, the old county of Cumberland was where the De Havilland-manufactured Blue Streak rocket had been test-fired in the 1960s.

Today Peter Hall & Son - son Jeremy came into the business via Leeds College of Art and West Dean College, Chichester - are not only bespoke furniture designers and makers but woodturners, antique restorers and interior designers, the ethic and inspiration drawn from the Arts and Crafts movement.

English hardwoods like oak, ash, sycamore, elm, yew and walnut are their staple, with the very thickest of planks being air dried for up to eight years. The moisture content is then reduced further in a dryer.

Last year saw the opening of the boutique and interior design studio in Windermere which also sells the work of other artists and makers. Staveley has a small viewing gallery so you can watch the furniture being made or, as the picture shows, woodturning in action.

One of the more recent projects was the carving of a new serpent figurehead - called Sid - for the National Trust’s boat Gondola on Coniston Water. Gondola was Visitor Attraction of the Year in the Cumbria Tourism Awards 2016.

Bearing in mind John Ruskin’s influence on the Arts and Crafts movement and the influence of the Arts and Crafts on Peter Hall, it was a perfect commission. Ruskin spent the last 29 years of his life at Brantwood on Coniston Water, the lake much in the news recently because of the new film of Swallows and Amazons.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Sunshine and crowds in Lakeland

I can’t remember now when I first came across the work of photographer Nina Claridge but I do know she took some wonderful pictures for both the 2015 and 2016 editions of the Dymond Guide to the Lake District and Cumbria.

We’ve emailed and chatted on the phone over the last three years but, strangely enough, never actually met. Until yesterday when - totally by chance - we bumped into each other at Yew Tree Barn near Low Newton, home to a brilliant range of architectural antiques.

Nina was taking promotion photographs for Harry’s Café Bar there (pic), I was delivering copies of the guide book for the shop to sell. It was a big surprise but a great start to the day, one which saw Lakeland at its sunniest best.

After Yew Tree Barn it was the two beautiful self-catering cottages at Howe Foot, ten minutes from the south end of Coniston Water. Owner Sue Hawkard kindly buys my guide books to give to longer-staying guests, so they can discover more about the area. Incidentally her Garden Cottage is now on the Sally Cottages website and the other one, Otley Beck, is coming soon.

Back to Newby Bridge, we headed for the Lyth and Winster valleys (photograph on the left by Nina, from my guide book), passing four well known pubs along the way: the Masons Arms, at Strawberry Bank, the Hare and Hounds at Bowland Bridge, the Punch Bowl Inn at Crosthwaite and the Brown Horse Inn at Winster.

There were more stops for photographs and then a guide book delivery at Blackwell, the Arts and Crafts House overlooking Windermere. I love the shop here, with its ceramics, jewellery, textiles, ironwork, wooden boxes, glassware and art books, and the house itself is magnificent.

As everyone knows, this part of the world took a real hammering from the weather in December and January, so it was very encouraging to see so many visitors lapping up the beauty of lake and fell.

One of those places hit by the heavy rain was The Forest Side at Grasmere where the extensive kitchen garden was pretty well washed away, and this around the time of the new hotel’s opening. But look at it now - a credit to the owners, gardeners and kitchen team.

Head chef is Kevin Tickle, a keen forager who used to work at L’Enclume in Cartmel. And that’s where the day came full circle because the operations manager at L’Enclume is Sam Ward and he’s married to......Nina Claridge, the photographer whom I'd finally come face to face with in the morning. Cumbria’s a big county but, as Nina says, it’s a small world....full of very pleasant surprises.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Cumbria’s country shows

One of the great unsung attractions of Cumbria are its many agricultural and country shows which take place every year between May and October. If you’ve not been to one before I certainly recommend them because they give you a real insight into the farming and rural life of this part of the world.

The shows are very much part of local communities and were originally established to promote different breeds of cattle, sheep and heavy horse, and the crops which the farmers grew. Showing and judging livestock is at the heart of most of the days but there are plenty of other attractions as well.

You might see food tents selling Cumbrian produce, show jumping, farm machinery, poultry tents, trade stands, gundogs, terrier racing, fell ponies, working hunters, shows of light and heavy horses and Cumberland Westmorland wrestling. Not all of these things, however, are at every show.

There are often competitions for floral art, handicrafts, stickmaking, flowers, vegetables, baking and cake making. Four raspberry buns, three squares of gingerbread or a dish of rum butter might be three of the classes. And for children there could be a prize for the best farm on a biscuit tin lid or a creature made from fruit and vegetables. One show has a trophy for the dog with the waggiest tale.

Personally I like seeing the shows of livestock - heaps of work goes into making sure the animals look their best - and the poultry area, if there is one. But I usually make a beeline too for the local produce tent and what’s called the industrial tent where home baking and creativity are on display.

We’ve just had the Lowther Show but amongst those still to come are the Brough Show on Thursday, Rusland Show, Gosforth Show and Ravenstonedale Show this Saturday, the Lakeland Country Fair at Torver near Coniston on Sunday, Hawkshead Show next Tuesday (23rd), Dufton Show, Millom and Broughton Agricultural Show and Patterdale Dog Day on Saturday, August 27.

Grasmere Lakeland Sports and Show takes place on Sunday, August 28, Black Combe Country Fair the day after that, and then there are plenty more in September, including the impressive Westmorland Show near Kendal on September 8.

I might just add that ioomi, the company which designed this website, have also developed a ‘dedicated events management piece of software’, aimed at agricultural and county shows. It’s 21st century technology managing centuries old tradition.

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