Category Archives: Events

Ja Windermere!

Dave and I haven’t been particularly well lately – all kinds of winter bugs at work – but last Saturday we shuffled up the hill to Windermere town centre to see the “German” Christmas market.

Ja Windermere is a brand new venture which has never been run before.  And it was very sweet.  Hardly in the same league as Birmingham’s famous Frankfurt Christmas Market, but it featured around 40 stalls selling food, drink and gifts, and was large enough to have closed two of the roads in the town centre (with parking for reindeer behind the Tourist Information Centre!).

The main difference to other Christmas markets is that it was only German in name and style, not in content.  There were a couple of stalls selling gluhwein, and one doing Frankfurters and German sausages, but apart from that all the produce was local, and the whole event was sponsored by Made In Cumbria, a local trade cooperative organisation.

Even so, it was great fun and had really drawn in the crowds.  We spent an enjoyable 20 minutes strolling round the stalls, bought a handful of bits and bobs (including some Herdwick cards to frame) and then shuffled home again.

I’ve since read in the local papers that it was a roaring success, so hopefully we can expect a bigger and better Ja Windermere here next year.

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For some reason we’ve kept missing all the good firework displays the last few years.  Either we’ve been travelling, or we’ve been double-booked to do something else, or we’ve missed seeing that they were on.

So we were really pleased on Saturday to be in the right place at the right time to head to Windermere rugby club for their annual display, which has a reputation for being good.  And boy, good it certainly was.  We arrived just after 6.30 pm (along with half the rest of south Cumbria by the looks of it) to find a huge bonfire blazing merrily in one corner of the site, as well as stalls doing food, hot drinks, sparklers, and plastic flashy things for the kids.

Dave had hoped to sneak a sausage from the barbecue but the queue was half way round the pitch (and never did seem to go down) so as we’d already eaten he showed great fortitude and managed without.

The fireworks were due to start at 7 pm but there was quite a lengthy delay, possibly because they were still trying to let people in through the main gate.  We reckon there could easily have been several thousand attending – quite amazing for a small rugby club in a very small town.  It was worth the wait, though, because the display was spectacular.  Not quite Madeira at New Year, perhaps, but then few places are.  And we more than got our money’s worth with fifteen to twenty minutes of colour, light, and above all noise.  Definitely better than scurrying around trying to light Roman Candles and Catherine Wheels one by one with a taper in the back yard!

The only slight fly in the evening’s entertainment was getting back out again.  Several thousand people converged on the main gate at once, and the lane outside was completely unlit and partly blocked with cars.  One lass had already tripped up and hurt herself, and the scene had all the makings of a nasty stampede.  Luckily we got through with nothing worse than a few accidental bruises, but we’re hoping they sort that out for next year because it would be a shame to see such an enjoyable event cancelled as so many others have been.

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Borderlines on the border

Carlisle is a lovely little city – about as far north as you can go in north-west England without sticking your toe over the Scottish border – which is rapidly turning into something of a literary venue.  Just a few months ago I went to a crime writing weekend there with a bunch of friends, and on Saturday it was the turn of the annual ‘Borderlines‘ literary festival.

This is much more varied than the crime weekend and involved writers, poets, historians and even a shepherd, all giving workshops or talking about their books.  Speakers included tv historian Kate Williams, Terry Waite, shepherd James Rebanks who wrote a stonkingly popular autobiography about his life with the famous Lakeland Herdwick sheep, and many, many more.

I chose a couple of talks that were about as far removed from each other as possible, while still being on the subject of books.  The first, by Jenny Uglow and Steve Matthews, was about the nearby Wreay Church, which was built in the 1840s and most unusually for that time, designed wholly by a woman.  The woman in question was Sarah Losh, the daughter of a local land-owner, who was staggeringly well-educated, had been on the ‘Grand Tour’ to Italy, and decided to build a church for her local community when her beloved younger sister died. Not only was this exceptional for a woman back then, but she chose to build in a simple Romanesque style rather than the much more fashionable Gothick, and included various symbols of life and re-birth which are still being discussed today.

The talk would have benefited from a few slides, as I’ve never visited the church and would have loved to be able to picture the architecture that was being described, but it was still a fascinating dip into a subject I’d heard nothing about.  I feel a visit to Wreay coming on very soon!

In the afternoon, after a pleasant lunch with a couple of writer friends, I went to a talk by two writers of conspiracy thrillers, Tom Harper and Simon Toyne, who described how they chose their particular settings (the Amazon and the Arizona desert, respectively) and what elements go to make a book a conspiracy thriller.

Throw in catching up with another writer friend who I discovered sitting right behind me, plus a spectacular train ride skirting the Lakeland fells, and it made for a really enjoyable day out.  Hats off to Carlisle for organising the whole thing; I’ll be back next year for sure.

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Cars in the Park

Nope, not a car park!  This was a classic car rally held in the grounds of Hutton-in-the-Forest, a stately home to the north east of Penrith.

We’d read about the event in the local press but almost decided not to go given the poor weather yesterday morning – mist, low cloud, and frequent heavy showers.  However, we thought ‘oh, it can’t be that bad all day’ and breezed up the M6, arriving at Hutton just before eleven.

Of course, the minute we got out of the car it started to throw it down, and we spent a soggy half hour or so wandering up and down a field full of sheep poo in the pouring rain!  However, the old cars – everything from Austin 7s from the 1920s to surprisingly modern ‘cult cars’ via the usual assemblage of Rover 2000s, Triumph Stags and Ford Capris – were interesting enough to take our mind off wet or sheepy feet.

After a coffee in the ‘Cloisters’ tea room the rain seemed to have eased off so we pottered round the beautiful gardens – wild meadow, streams, a lake, and a fabulous walled garden which is one of the best I’ve ever seen – then bought a ticket for a tour of the house.  This was fascinating.  The earliest part dates back to around 1250, when the Houghton family were made rangers of Ingleby forest, an area of ‘wild wood’ stretching from Penrith right across to the west coast.  They built a peel tower to keep off the “marauding Scots”, and the building has been added to steadily over the centuries – Tudor wing, Carolean hall, Victorian gothick portion – to create a wonderful jumble of styles and dates, but all with the same wealth of history and homely atmosphere.

By this stage the rain had stopped, the clouds blown away and the sky turned an unusual shade – blue – so we had another wander round the cars before getting back in our own and heading for home.  All in all a very enjoyable day out, and one we’re glad we persevered with!

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Borderlines Book Festival


Carlisle is rapidly turning itself into something of a ‘book town’.  Last year saw the first (as far as I’m aware) Borderlines Book Festival, and earlier this year they added the Crime Writing Weekend to the mix.  Now Borderlines is back, in early September, with a packed itinerary including workshops, author talks, and even a murder mystery night!

They’ve got some big names coming along, which even I recognise.  Amongst many others: Kate Williams, Owen Jones, and the Cumbrian shepherd James Rebanks who has written a stonkingly successful book about his farming life in the Lake District.

You can find more details about the venues, events, and how to book tickets at the Borderlines website.  I’ll almost certainly be going to something.  Hope to see you there!

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