Keswick’s best kept secret

IMG_2305 Barrow? You’re probably thinking of shipbuilding and submarines, but up here in Keswick – for those in the know at any rate – it’s the name of a wonderful fell top (455 metres high). Climbing there gives you a taste of upland meadows, high rugged tops, ancient field patterns of the valley bottoms and stunning views of Bassenthwaite and Derwentwater, the area’s largest lakes – all in just a short walk of 1½ - 2 hours.

Yesterday at the height of the holiday season I was passing High Coledale at 8 o’clock with only the sheep and birds as companions. On a blustery morning with bright sunshine, riffs of colour and shade played on the brackened fellside as the clouds bustled and billowed above. Magical. No wonder our niece, Claire insisted on climbing Barrow on her wedding morning.

Don’t tell everyone about it – or it will get ‘super-model’ attention and no quiet mornings – but make sure you get up there before you leave. Full details and an accompanying slide show of photos are on the website’s walking section under The Barrow Round – high tops and valley bottoms.


Colour, tents and street art

Sorting out old books today, I came across a small 1930s brochure praising the delights of Keswick on Derwentwater. The author Hugh Walpole’s foreword got me thinking: ”We love this place because it is a land of perpetual change. Rain it may but even at its most savage the change in sky and colour is perpetual. Colour? No small square of ground anywhere in the world holds such vivid colour..”

It reminded me of Coleridge’s wonderment as he wrote to a friend in 1800 about his view from Greta Hall, where he was living in Keswick:

“Here I am, with Skiddaw behind my back; on my left, and stretching far away into the fantastic mountains of Borrowdale, the Lake of Derwent-water; straight before me a whole camp of giants’ tents,— or is it an ocean rushing in, in billows that .. reach halfway to heaven?”

Both their comments over a century apart struck a chord with me that ripples wider. Changing colours and shapes – Coleridge’s tents were Barrow, Catbells and Causey Pike – feast the eye and imagination. This certainly is the tonic for me as I walk the hills, but these same characteristics apply elsewhere and in other contexts too. Just recently I shot a series of photos (below) of street art in Valencia, both old and new; and got the same buzz from its energy, colour, zany humour and vibrant engagement.

What’s more the artists recycle existing resources – walls, doorways, corrugated iron – for their canvasses, so there’s an environmental advantage too! Photo No 1 is of Neptune surrounded by maidens and pigeon. No 4 shows the lively face of a young woman on an 18th century dish at the National Ceramics Museum.

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Story time beside the Tyne

IMG_2250 This last week we’ve been to visit Seven Stories in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The brainchild of an old friend of ours Elizabeth Hammill, the National Centre for Children’s Books is housed in a 7 storeys high 19th century warehouse on the river Ouse beside the Tyne. Refurbished for over £6 million, the building is a stunner.

IMG_2252 This unique Centre is fast becoming a museum and showcase for the original scripts and artwork of many of the best children’s books of the last 70 years. It makes a magical day for children and adults alike as they move from floor to floor through different areas and changing exhibits (See photo left of the storyteller’s throne).

IMG_2262 It’s not only encouraging youngsters into reading, but in the process is introducing them to questions about relationships, friendship, travel, climate change (Photo opp), the environment and much else. It was exciting to see children’s response to the little fancy-full ship moored outside (Photo above), made entirely of recycled material. There’s a superb bookshop too, where we bought for The Larches a children’s book, Love your world, which can be used with our Children’s Wildlife Quiz.

Make a date to go the Centre – you won’t be disappointed.

Manchester and climate change

SHIP_CANAL1902e A cartoonist in 1882 chose to depict (opposite) the city of Manchester transformed in 20 years’ time by the proposed ship canal into a seaside resort with donkeys and bathers on the yellow sands – with the smoky factory chimneys in the far background. This week a report published by The Guardian acknowledges more accurately that this first industrial city in the world can be seen as the originator of man-made global warming.

The Manchester Report is a fascinating collection of expert views and solutions for reducing CO² emissions. Based on a City Commission hearing of experts, chaired by Lord Tom Bingham, former Lord Chief Justice, the twenty proposals are essential reading for anyone interested in how we can tackle this pressing issue in a timely and effective way. Will any of these proposals be reflected in the White Paper on Climate Change due to be published today?

Further details can be found in the Guardian 13 July 2009; and you can get a full copy of the report by sending a SAE to: The Manchester Report, King’s Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU

Room with a view

Not every one can say they can see their bedroom from the top of Cumbria’s finest mountain walk, but you can if you stay at The Larches. I’ve just been completing the first five local walks for the website’s Eco-Friendly section adding descriptions and pictures; and the proof of the assertion can just be seen with the Back of Skiddaw circular walk (Photo No 4)!


Of all the tops I’ve covered so far, the most underrated for my money, is 518 metres high Carsleddam (Walk No 4), its shapely form nestling below Skiddaw Little Man (Photo opp). W A Poucher, a veteran photographer of the Lakes, who lived his last years in Thornthwaite, never mentions it and Wainwright refers only to it en passant in his Guide to the Northern Fells. It’s got great views and is higher than Catbells (439 metres). Trouble is it’s hard to reach and on the way to somewhere else.