Words by the Water, June 2024

This popular festival of words and ideas returns to Theatre by the Lake in Keswick from 5th to 9th June.  Over 55 events have been confirmed ranging from talks, discussions and debates to live music and theatre.  There are a number of local celebrities in the line-up including farmer Helen Rebanks, crime writer MW Craven, poet Polly Atkin and fundraiser Kerry Irving.  Internationally known guests include journalist Polly Toynbee, broadcaster Melvyn Bragg, radio DJ Stuart Maconie and best-selling author Alexander McCall Smith.

Cumbrian Artists at 60th Venice Biennale, May 2024

A collection of work by Cumbrian artists has been unveiled at the Palazzo Bembo overlooking the Grand Canal in Venice.  The Venice Biennale is one of the world’s most famed international art festivals and this year's 60th Anniversary has drawn a number of acclaimed artists including Yoko Ono.  Carlisle artist, Daniel Ibbotson, invited other local artists to join the Proseed Collective project, with each submitting a 50cm square piece of art inspired by the exhibition's official theme of 'Foreigners Everywhere'.  Daniel started Proseed in 2020 during the pandemic to promote creativity and to help local artists to continue displaying their work.  This is their first international exhibition and there are plans to present their Venice piece at an exhibition in Cumbria once it returns.

Cumbria Tourism 50th Anniversary, April 2024

The original ‘Cumbria Tourist Board’ was created in April 1974, so in 2024, Cumbria Tourism marks 50 years attracting visitors to the Lake District and supporting the county’s vibrant visitor economy.  The organisation's mission is to provide a world class visitor experience through effective marketing, sustainable tourism development and relevant industry services.

As part of the 50th anniversary celebrations, Cumbria Tourism has launched a new 50th Anniversary Charitable Fund to support young people to stay within the county and to help kickstart their training and careers in tourism and hospitality.  Administered by Cumbria Community Foundation, it will help people aged 16+ break down barriers and access opportunities by providing financial support for specialist equipment, training, study materials, travel costs, and more.  Donations to the fund can be made online at cumbriatourism.org/charitablefund.  In addition, a range of special edition 50th Anniversary products is being released in partnership with a number of local Cumbrian producers.



Bluebird to Return to Lakes, March 2024

Donald Campbell's recording-breaking Bluebird K7 is set to return to Coniston this month.  The iconic jet engine hydroplane crashed on the lake in 1967 when it flipped and disintegrated at nearly 300mph, killing Mr Campbell as he attempted to set a new water speed world record.

It was raised from the bottom of Coniston in 2001 by engineer Bill Smith, who agreed to restore it.  It was later gifted to The Ruskin Museum in Coniston by Mr Campbell's daughter, Gina.  Following a long-running disagreement and legal dispute over its ownership, the craft is finally due to be handed over to the museum on 9th March before being displayed to the public alongside the original engine and other memorabilia in the Bluebird Wing.

Cumbria Success at Michelin Awards, February 2024

Two Cumbrian restaurants have been newly awarded Michelin stars for 2024; Cedar Tree by Hrishikesh Desai at Farlam Hall in Brampton, and Lake Road Kitchen in Ambleside.  This means that Cumbria now has 12 one Michelin star restaurants and one three Michelin star restaurant,  holding onto the record for having the most starred restaurants outside of London.  In addition, Valentin Mouillard, who has worked for seven years at three star L’Enclume in Cartmel, won the Michelin Sommelier Award, one of five Special Awards highlighting exceptional individuals and remarkable teams who have impressed the Michelin Inspectors over the past year.

Cedar Tree's new star comes after a successful first year for the hall, with chef patron Hrishikesh Desai bringing a refined approach to fine dining, influenced both by his Indian heritage and his French training.

Lake Road Kitchen's Chef-Owner James Cross was praised by judges for his tasting menu which "flows with ease from one skilful dish to the next, with each one demonstrating balance, restraint and harmonious flavour combinations".

New Years Day Dip, January 2024

Nearly 300 Cumbrians had an exhilarating start to 2024 with the Lake District Calvert Trust’s second annual New Year’s Day Dip.  The dip took place in Derwentwater near Keswick where the average water temperature in January is just 5 degrees!  Swimmers were encouraged to wear fancy dress, support staff were on hand for safety, and local businesses donated cakes and hot drinks to help swimmers warm up afterwards.  The local charity provides residential breaks to help people with a range of disabilities experience all the beauty that the Lake District has to offer in a safe and supportive way.  Swimmers were invited to make a voluntary donation to support the charity and help ensure that people with disabilities continue to benefit from the great outdoors.  More information about the charity and ways to donate can be found on the Lake District Calvert Trust website www.calvertlakes.org.uk

UKs Most Eye-Catching Bus Journey, December 2023

Crowned as the most scenic bus journey in the UK, the 599 runs from Bowness to Grasmere and provides stunning views of the lakes and mountains along the route.  Following a blizzard at the start of the month, an image of two friends riding the open-top double-decker bus has gone viral on the internet.  Braving sub-zero temperatures and twelve inches of snow, the pair managed to enjoy a snowball fight on their journey before the road became impassable.  Unprecedented amounts of snowfall in southern parts of the Lake District left over 7000 homes and businesses without electricity and hundreds of motorists stranded, with Cumbria Police declaring a major incident.

Cumbria Dark Skies Festival, November 2023

Cumbria has some of the darkest skies in the UK and is one of the few places in the country where the Milky Way can still be seen. Dark skies not only reveal the natural wonder of the stars but they are also critical for the health of nocturnal wildlife. Sadly, light pollution is increasing every year, obscuring our beautiful night skyscapes and threatening the well being of animals.

The Dark Skies Festival is organised by a collaboration of partners, including Friends of the Lake District who have been leading the charge on 'Dark Skies Cumbria': a campaign to reduce light pollution in the Lakes, celebrate the wonders of the night sky and secure Dark Skies Status for the region.  This year's Festival includes everything from starlit swimming in Ullswater and night-time canoeing on Coniston Water, to night-sky photography workshops, expert astronomy talks, starry sky art sessions, night-time wildlife walks and bushcraft cookery under the stars.


Just Giving Awards, October 2023

13-year-old Cumbrian, Gabriel Clark, has won the Teen Fundraiser of the Year at the prestigious JustGiving Awards. Gabriel has managed to raise an impressive £278,000 by crafting wooden bowls for auction to support the international charity, Save the Children. His first ‘Bowl for Ukraine’ fundraiser saw him raise over £250,000 towards the charity’s Ukraine Appeal. After such success, he carved another 'Hope Bowl' which he made from three different types of wood to represent conflict, food and education, raising further money to help children globally.

Another Cumbrian, Gary McKee, won the Endurance Fundraiser of the Year for his 365 marathons in 365 days (see April 2022 entry below).

The Farmers Wife by Helen Rebanks, September 2023

Helen Rebanks is a farmer, conservationist, businesswoman, teacher, accomplished cook, mother and wife to James Rebanks, whose first book The Shepherd's Life was a bestseller. Between them they have 4 children, 6 sheepdogs, 2 ponies, 20 chickens, 50 cattle and 500 sheep to care for. In this memoir, structured around a day at their Lake District farm, Helen shares the other side of farming life inspired by the untold lives of farm women.  She also shares some of her favourite recipes and this central theme of food allows her to highlight the pressures faced by modern farmers and how we are all implicated in making informed, beneficial decisions about what we eat and our responsibility when we shop to support good farming practices.

Local Cockermouth Hero, August 2023

Led by captain Ben Stokes, England has won the fifth and final test at The Oval, drawing the Ashes series with Australia 2-2.

Although born in New Zealand, Ben Stoke’s cricketing skills were sharpened in Cockermouth, the Cumbrian town he now calls home.  Cockermouth Cricket Club benefitted from Ben’s all-round talent where he got his first taste of sporting success at the age of 15 when they won the North Lancashire and Cumbria Cricket League Premier Division Title.

Stokes was awarded an OBE in the 2020 New Years Honours for services to cricket and is currently Wisden's Leading Cricketer in the World.


    Britains Greatest National Park, July 2023

    Assessing everything from natural wonders, peace and quiet to history, culture and luxury, the Daily Telegraph has voted the Lake District as Britain's greatest national park.  With its cascading waterfalls, whitewashed cottages, craggy fells and a collection of stunning lakes, it is British countryside at its most heavenly.  It also offers a visitor experience unlike anywhere else in the country and the pull is irresistible.  As Wordsworth wrote in 1810, it is "a sort of national property, in which every man has a right and interest who has an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy". 

    Save Windermere - Say No To Sewage, June 2023

    Comedians Steve Coogan, Paul Whitehouse and Lee Mack have called sewage pollution a "national scandal" as they joined campaigners to protest against the pollution of Windermere, England's largest lake.  They recently appeared at a rally calling for an end to all treated and untreated sewage discharge into the lake.

    Save Windermere is a registered not-for-profit Community Interest Company that is on a mission to return the lake to its natural state.  They claim that excessively high nutrient levels are destroying Windermere; the single largest input of phosphorous into the lake is sewage discharges from United Utilities.  High phosphorus levels from this sewage are leading to a rapid increase in potentially toxic algae blooms, which damage the wildlife and ecosystem.

    More information on how you can get involved is available on their website www.savewindermere.com

    Ten Thousand Daffodils, May 2023

    A unique installation of over ten thousand ceramic daffodils has opened in the gardens of Lowther Castle.  Inspired by the poetry of William Wordsworth and his celebration of daffodils on the shores of Ullswater, local ceramic artist Helen Ratcliffe initiated and managed the project to raise funds for six deserving charities.  The aim was to support smaller charities who don’t currently receive significant exposure or funds and they were chosen to reflect the overall aims of the project by covering all aspects of social needs, environment, history and arts.

    The project has also brought the local community together.  More than 500 volunteers, including many from local businesses and schools, have spent three months making the ceramic daffodils and planting them in the grounds of the historic castle near Penrith.  Each daffodil is being sold for £25 and can be bought via www.tenthousanddaffodils.org/shop

    Cumbria County Council Abolished, April 2023

    In the biggest local government restructure since 1974, two new unitary authorities, Cumberland (in the east of the County) and Westmorland and Furness (in the west of the County), will replace Cumbria County Council and the six existing district councils on 1st April.  While the historic counties of Cumberland and Westmorland have been reintroduced, the original boundaries dating back to the 12th Century have changed.  Pre-1974, Glenridding was part of Cumberland, with Ullswater providing a natural divide between the two original counties.  Glenridding is now part of the new Westmorland and Furness council.

    Lake District Ski Club, March 2023

    With cold conditions returning to the UK this month, the Lake District Ski Club has been open for business.

    The club was founded in 1936 by a group of enthusiastic skiers who were looking for a place to ski in the Lake District. Raise, a fell on the main spine of the Helvellyn range, between Ullswater and Thirlmere, was chosen because it provided consistently good snow conditions - and still does!  The club, run entirely by volunteers, operates a 360 metre button tow on Raise, with up to nine distinct, ungroomed pistes available, depending on prevailing conditions; the longest piste is almost a mile along. When conditions are right, Raise offers some serious skiing with incredible views over the surrounding fells for an average of 60 days each winter season.


    Unearthed at Blackwell, February 2023

    Designed by architect Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott, Blackwell is a Grade I listed building that is one of the UK’s finest examples of Arts & Crafts architecture, offering a perfectly preserved snapshot of early 20th-century living.

    Unearthed is a new installation of intricate wildflower sculptures by Kendal-based visual artist Amy Williams that celebrates the significant contribution of extraordinary women throughout Cumbria’s history who have often remained hidden, over-looked or unrecorded.  The installation takes visual reference from the flora and fauna found within Blackwell’s historic Arts & Crafts interiors, while paying homage to each of the women, including the activist Winifred Langton, who tirelessly campaigned for social justice, and Arts & Crafts designer Annie Garnett, whose Windermere based weaving workshop, The Spinnery, created well paid jobs for the region’s working class.

    Cumbrian Sports Personality of the Year, January 2023

    England Lioness, Georgia Stanway, has been named as Cumbria Sport's Personality of the Year.  Originating from Barrow, Georgia became the all-time top goal scorer at Manchester City, before recently moving to Germany to take up a new challenge with giants Bayern Munich.

    She played a vital part in the England Lionesses victory in this summer's European Championships. She started every game and scored the winning goal in the Quarter Final victory over Spain, with the squad making history as the first senior national football team to win a major championship since the World Cup in 1966.

    Virtual Cumbrian Christmas Market, December 2022

    Cumbria Tourism has launched a Virtual Christmas Market to promote homegrown festive gifts and provide an alternative to impersonal global online retailers. Packed with great gift ideas ranging from local produce to vouchers for fun days out, the market helps to support local artisan businesses, while giving buyers a little piece of the Lake District delivered directly to their door.  Buying local has so many benefits – not only are you helping to support livelihoods and local communities through these challenging times, but you often get more unique and personalised gifts.  Visit the market at www.visitlakedistrict.com and happy shopping!

    Forty Farms by Amy Bateman, November 2022

    British Life Photographer of the Year, Amy Bateman, has just released her new book, Forty Farms: Conversations about change in the landscapes of Cumbria.  The book offers a unique insight into the everyday lives, fears and hopes of 40 extraordinary farmers and reflects the enormous diversity in farming across Cumbria.  From the Herdwick-grazed Lake District commons to the big-sky Solway marshes; from isolated farmsteads unchanged in generations to businesses at the cutting-edge of innovation; from world-class sheep breeders to award-winning cheese-makers, Forty Farms is a visual record of farming at a period of profound change.

    The Lakes with Simon Reeve, October 2022

    Back on BBC2 this month is Simon Reeve's popular series about the Lake District National Park and the county of Cumbria, looking at the changes that are sweeping through the ancient landscape.  It was filmed in the summer of 2020, when British holidaymakers were pouring back into the Lake District as lockdown restrictions eased.  Reeve delves behind the popular tourist destinations to explore the tensions between the land, the people who live on it and the people who visit it.

    Wings Over Windermere, September 2022

    On 25 November 1911, at Windermere, Waterbird became the first aeroplane to successfully take off from and alight on water in the UK.  After years of painstaking work, The Lakes Flying Company has successfully created an exact replica of the UK's first seaplane, albeit with a modern engine.  The new Waterbird will take to the air for two public demonstration flights on 22nd and 23rd September.  In recognition of the heritage connections with Windermere, special permission has been granted for these flights to take place, 111 years after Waterbird flew for the first time, and 28 years since any seaplane has flown at Windermere.  During each sequence, Waterbird will take off from the water, fly at up to 100 feet in a straight line along the lake and then land on the water, demonstrating the incredible capabilities of this early aeroplane and giving spectators a chance to step back in history to the earliest days of aviation.

    Matisse at Rheged, August 2022

    Rheged is a gallery, café, cinema, shopping venue, workplace and creative space on the edge of the Northern Lakes near Penrith.

    It has curated and is currently exhibiting its first Paper Art Exhibition. This includes Matisse: Drawing with Scissors, his late works 1950-1954, a Hayward Gallery Touring Exhibition, which features 35 lithographic prints of the famous cut-outs produced by Henri Matisse in the last four years of his life. Alongside this, visitors can see 200 artworks by leading British Paper Artists including animation, origami, fashion, collage, 3-D sculpture and paper cuts, many of which are for sale.

    The commission for the centrepiece of the exhibition was won by Amy Williams, a visual artist living in Kendal.  Her idea was to explore Cumbria’s identity and heritage through a series of paper wigs and headwear, with each one reflecting an industry for which the region is well-known.

    60th Lord Birkett Memorial Trophy, July 2022

    Ullswater Yacht Club will be celebrating the 60th Lord Birkett Memorial Trophy this month.  Lord Norman Birkett is fondly referred to as the 'Saviour of Ullswater' after making a successful speech in the House of Lords which prevented Ullswater from becoming a reservoir.  230 boats are expected to enter the seven mile race down the lake, with the dramatic mass start stretching across the full width of the lake.  It is rated as one of the top sailing regattas in the world by Yachts & Yachting magazine and provides an amazing spectacle for anyone watching.

    Hadrian Wall Jubilee Beacon, June 2022

    This year celebrates 1,900 years since the building of Hadrian's Wall.  Much of the 73 mile fortification passes through Cumbria, ending at Bowness-on-Solway in the West.  To celebrate the Queen's Platinum Jubilee on 2 June, beacons will be lit across the full span of the Wall, forming the longest chain of beacons in the UK.  Special dispensation was given for them to be lit 15 minutes later than the rest of the country, in recognition of the scale and importance of the anniversary of the Wall.

    A Lake District Farm Shop, May 2022

    Series 2 of this popular documentary is back on Channel 4, following the farm shop at Tebay Services in the run up to their 50th birthday celebrations.  The family-owned service station close to J38 of the M6, is well worth a stop off whether you are looking for a delicious home-cooked meal or browsing the farmshop that sells craft produce from more than 70 farmers, growers and makers within a 30 miles radius.

    100th Marathon Milestone, April 2022

    This month, local fundraising hero Gary Mckee will complete his 100th marathon of the year.  Gary has set himself the challenge of running a marathon every day for the whole year and hopes to raise a staggering £1million for two charities close to his heart, Hospice at Home West Cumbria and Macmillan Cancer Support.
    You can follow his journey on the ‘365 Marathon Man’ Facebook page and show your support by visiting his JustGiving page

     www.justgiving.com/fundraising/threesixfive


    LEnclume, March 2022

    Simon Rogan's L’Enclume, in the South Lakes village of Cartmel, has become the first restaurant in the north of England to win three Michelin stars, nine years after being awarded its second and 20 years after it opened. The Michelin Guide cites it as being a restaurant that is at the top of its game and somewhere that could rightfully take its place among the best in the world. The restaurant is immersed in the Lake District and follows a very strong sustainability ethos. Fruits, vegetables and herbs, as well as chickens, ducks, pigs and cattle all come from Simon’s 12-acre farm just a few miles away and it is this reliable source of top quality, seasonal ingredients that drives its menu.

    Grizedale Forest Earth Photo Exhibition, February 2022

    In addition to its permanent sculpture collection, this spring Grizedale Forest plays host to a stunning selection of the shortlisted images from Earth Photo 2021.  The international photography project developed jointly by Forestry England and the Royal Geographical Society, with categories including People, Place, Nature, Changing Forests and A Climate of Change, aims to stimulate conversations about the world, its inhabitants and our treatment of both.

    Patterdale Mountain Rescue Boat Appeal, January 2022

    An appeal has been launched to replace the current boat used by Patterdale Mountain Rescue Team for rescuing people in difficulties on Ullswater.  It is primarily used for rapidly transporting people and equipment to emergencies on the remote eastern side of Ullswater.  However, there have also been a significant increase in call-outs for incidents on the lake, largely due to the growing popularity of sports such as wild swimming, paddle-boarding and canoeing.  The vessel has also proved invaluable during floods, especially in the aftermath of Storm Desmond. 

    Lake Nights has pledged to donate 10% of income from all stays at Hawkhow Estate during January to the appeal.

    Dorothy Wordsworths 250th Anniversary, December 2021

    Christmas Day 2021 marks the 250th birthday of Dorothy Wordsworth.  Although best known as the sister of poet William Wordsworth, Dorothy was a writer, friend, pioneering walker, local philanthropist, inspiring gardener and author of the Grasmere journal.  William often used this journal as inspiration for his poems, most notably 'I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud' (better known to many as 'Daffodils') based on Dorothy's entry of a walk they took together around Ullswater when they came upon a large swathe of daffodils at Glencoyne Bay.  Wordsworth Grasmere is celebrating Dorothy's legacy with an exhibition dedicated to her story told in her own words from her original manuscripts.

    Windermere Jetty Museum, November 2021

    One of just six buildings nominated, Windermere Jetty Museum was runner-up in the 2021 RIBA Stirling Prize.  The jury concluded that the museum should be celebrated for having a "restrained and simple beauty that is boldly confident in its design and delivery."  It is the first contemporary building on the lakeshore for over 50 years, formed of a cluster of buildings that frame and connect views to boats, to water and the landscape, with large, cantilevered canopies providing shelter for visitors and boats alike.

    Open daily, the museum is a vibrant, family-friendly destination dedicated to the boats, people and rich history of Windermere, England’s largest natural lake.  200 years of boating history are brought to life through a fascinating collection of boats, equipment and curiosities.

    Theatre By The Lake, October 2021

    The stage is set for audiences to take their seats at this popular Lakes venue for the first time since the pandemic began.  

    The first on-stage season in nearly two years is being launched with a modern comedy, 'Home, I'm Darling', with performances throughout October. Ironically, this is set in the confines of one home and follows the 1950s-obsessed couple, Judy and Johnny, who appear to be living in perfect domestic bliss until things being to unravel and gender roles are put to the 21st Century test.  Are they living the perfect life or a perfect lie?

    The Old Stamp House, September 2021

    The Old Stamp House in Ambleside has been named the Best Fine Dining Restaurant in the World in Tripadvisor's 2021 Travellers' Choice Awards.

    The restaurant is housed in the former office of William Wordsworth and seats just 28 customers at a time.  It was launched in 2014 by brothers Ryan and Craig Blackburn, head chef and restaurant manager respectively.  It was awarded a Michelin star in 2019, has been named Cumbria Life Restaurant of the Year, and been awarded three AA rosettes.  The menu is inspired by Cumbrian heritage and its produce is sourced from local farmers, fishermen and other producers.

    The Further Adventures of Doctor Dolittle, August 2021

    On Thursday 12th August, Lowther Castle & Gardens are hosting this family friendly outdoor performance in aid of the Calvert Trust.  The Lake District charity welcomes guests with disabilities to its dedicated centre near Bassenthwaite where they can enjoy the benefits of outdoor activities in a safe and accessible, yet challenging environment.

    The play is packed with larger-than-life characters and laughs galore – perfect summer fun for all the family. The event includes a brief charity auction with exciting ‘Lots’ to bid on and tickets include free afternoon entry to Lowther Castle & Adventure Playground.

      Supernova, July 2021

      The Lake District provides the stunning backdrop for this film starring Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci as a middle-aged couple coming to terms with a diagnosis of early-onset dementia.  After receiving the heart-breaking news, the couple set off on a driving holiday to visit family, friends and places from their past, taking in the beauty of the Lake District from their old campervan.  

      Supernova is showing on various dates in July at local cinemas including Zeffirelli's Ambleside, Rheged Centre and Alhambra Penrith.

      Marmalade Awards, June 2021


      At just nine years old, Flora Rider became the youngest ever winner of the Best-in-Show Award for her Seville Orange and Orange Blossom Marmalade in the 2021 Homemade Marmalade Awards. She beat entries from over 30 countries around the world with what she describes as her 'little pot of sunshine'.

      The Awards are judged at Dalemain Mansion, a beautiful stately mansion with historic gardens at the northern end of Ullswater.  Flora's winning marmalade can be purchased from Dalemain's Teamrooms, with 50p from the proceeds of each jar being donated to Hospice at Home.