Derwentwater

Derwentwater – Celebrated in Poetry and Photographs

Derwentwater is the crowning glory of the Lake District town of Keswick.

Derwentwater – home to the famous Derwent Island (and the odd goose or two). Photograph by Sarah Wilkinson.

3 miles long, a mile wide and bordered by fells and woodland, it’s a place of stunning natural beauty from any angle. At the south end, it is surrounded by the impressive Borrowdale Valley.

Derwentwater and its snow-topped neighbours. Photograph by Sarah Wilkinson.

It also holds literary significance, inspiring writers such as William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter, who spent her summer holidays at both the Lingholme and Fawe Park estates on the north side of Derwentwater.

Catbells, Robinson and Causey Pike overlooking Derwentwater. Photograph by Sarah Wilkinson

 

I think London poet Letitia Elizabeth Landon (1802 – 1838) captures the picturesque beauty of the lake in her poem, Derwent Water, perfectly. Or, as she puts it, ‘that fairy scene’:

Derwent Water by Letitia Elizabeth Landon

I knew her—though she used to make
Her dwelling by that lonely lake.
A little while she came to show
How lovely distant flowers can go.
The influence of that fairy scene
Made beautiful her face and mien.
I have seen faces far more fair,
But none that had such meaning there.
For to her downcast eyes were given
The azure of an April heaven;
The softening of those sunny hours,
By passing shadows, and by showers.

O’er her cheek the wandering red,
By the first wild rose was shed.
Evanescent, pure, and clear,
Just the warm heart’s atmosphere.
Like the sweet and inner world,
In that early rosebud furled.
All whose rich revealings glow
Round the lovelier world below.
Light her step was, and her voice
Said unto the air, rejoice;
And her light laugh’s silvery breaking
Sounded like the lark’s first waking.

Return to that fair lake, return,
On whose green heathlands grows the fern;
And mountain heights of dark gray stone,
Are bright with lichens overgrown.
Thou art too fay-like and too fair
For our more common clouded air.
Beauty such as thine belongs
To a world of dreams and songs;
Let thy image with us dwell,
Lending music to farewell.

Derwentwater shrouded in mist. Photograph by Sarah Wilkinson.

The photographs in this post were taken by Sarah Wilkinson. Sarah lives in Keswick and photography is her hobby; her Instagram page has some of the most beautiful and clever pictures of the Lake District I have ever seen, check it out! https://www.instagram.com/_sarahwilks

Photograph by Sarah Wilkinson

Borderlines 2016 – Cumbria’s Festival for Book Lovers

Great writers seem to be drawn to Cumbria!

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Borderlines has something for everyone

Carlisle hosts its third Borderlines book festival during 7-9 October, 2016, and it returns bigger than ever. Not only are there top names – such as legendary crime writer Val McDermid, screen-writing stalwart Jimmy McGovern, expert linguist David Crystal and his son Ben, and fiction favourite Alexander McCall Smith – there are also some great local names such as award-winning writer Sarah Hall, and Hunter Davies – one of the country’s top biographers.

Sarah Hall, who will be talking about her latest book, The Wolf Border, at Borderlines.

Sarah Hall, who will be talking about her latest book, The Wolf Border, at Borderlines.

As well as the return of the popular writer’s workshops, 2016 will feature live music in the form of the fantastically original Bookshop Band!

There’s something for everyone in this lineup, pop over to www.borderlinescarlisle.co.uk to see the full programme and to book tickets.

Personal recommendation? Joanna Cannon on Saturday 8th October,  who’s debut The Trouble with Goats and Sheep is a superb read.

See you there!

Indigo’s Dragon – A Children’s Fantasy Inspired by the Borrowdale Valley

Borrowdale by Craig Hyde

Borrowdale Valley – Copyright Craig Hyde

The more I write, the more I realise that inspiration comes from everywhere; it is all around, in your past, your present, your surroundings, the people you meet, and the stories you read – Sofi Croft, author of Indigo’s Dragon

The Lake District has long been a source of inspiration for writers and artists, and this is also the case for children’s author Sofi Croft, who has drawn on the mythical qualities of the mountains and valleys for her latest children’s fantasy novel, Indigo’s Dragon.  The story follows 13-year-old Indigo, a boy who loves to explore his surroundings in his Lake District home of Underthwaite. Indigo’s story takes a very surreal turn when he receives a bizarre and unexplained package from his Polish grandfather, the enigmatic Opi. The package, containing a book of mythical beasts and a first aid kit, is stolen by a cockatrice, “the most beautifully ugly thing Indigo had ever seen.” Indigo encounters an array of enchanting beasts, including an injured griffin-esque magpie-cat, and, of course, a dragon, “a living, breathing fossil.” The disappearance of Opi marks a shift in setting to the equally majestic Polish mountains, as Indigo and his mother – the beguiling Emerald – embark on a quest to locate him.

Borrowdale - copyright Craig Hyde

Sofi Croft was inspired by the scenery of Borrowdale – Copyright Craig Hyde

Sofi, who lives in the Borrowdale valley with her husband and children, had not thought about writing fiction until she moved to the Lake District. Previously a science teacher and contributor to science revision guides, her new surroundings sparked the creative impulse that eventually led to Indigo’s Dragon: “Everything started to give me ideas for stories; the mountains, the lakes, the wildlife, the local history and legends, and my children…Spending time with my children in such a beautiful setting is when my writing journey really began.” Sofi has two sequels in the pipeline, Indigo’s Demons and Indigo’s Deep, the latter containing a few sea monsters that were inspired by her family visits to the Lake District Coast Aquarium!

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Fast-paced and mythical, this story will appeal to young readers (aged 9+) who enjoy fantasy or adventure novels, particularly fans of How to Train your DragonHarry Potter and Percy Jackson.

Indigo’s Dragon by Sofi Croft is available from www.BooksCumbria.com, or instore at Bookends Carlisle and Bookends Keswick.

For more information about Sofi Croft’s visit: www.soficroft.com

Photos of Borrowdale captured by Craig Hyde at Pure Photos. See more of his work here.

Panoramic of Borrowdale- Copyright Craig Hyde

Panoramic of Borrowdale- Copyright Craig Hyde

Theatre by the Lake’s ‘Elektra’ – A High-Action Revenge Tale

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According to the LA Post, Electra of Sophocles is unique among the tradition of Greek tragedies for its emphasis on action. From the opening, a plot is put into place by Orestes in order to dismantle the corrupt reign of his mother Clytemnestra, the woman responsible for murdering Agamemnon – the king and Orestes father.

Director Mary Papadima certainly summons the action in The Theatre by the Lake’s adaption of Elektra, emphasizing the drama through bold physical movement. Joanna Simpkins’s Elektra tears onto the stage in a energetically executed dance. Consumed by grief for her father and seeking revenge, the rapid power in her movements tell us she means business. Simpkins’ performance is captivating; obsessive but never neurotic, there is a real power in her delivery and she remains incredibly focused. Elizabeth Marsh’s Queen Klytaimestra, nemesis to Elektra, is played with wicked vigor; a villain consumed by power, yet one that offers a glimpse of conflicting vulnerability on the news of her son’s ‘death’.  Helen Macfarlane (Chrysothemis) and Alex Phelps (Orestes) put in solid, spirited performances that work brilliantly during their exchanges with Simpkins. The chorus are enchanting, amplifying the drama at key points through dialogue and physical movement.

This adaption of a well-known myth (translated by Anne Carson) feels modern without straying too far from the foundations of the Greek tragedy. The contemporary sound and movement serve to emphasize the ‘tragic’ elements, accentuating the myriad of emotions such as grief, obsession and love.

Elektra is showing at the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick until 2nd November. Tickets available at www.theatrebythelake.com 

 

Catherine Hokin’s Margaret of Anjou – “A Kick-Ass, Modern Medieval”

Royal 15 E VI f. 2v Presentation scene

“I am alone but I am winning”

So says medieval French queen Margaret of Anjou in her uncharacteristically favourable portrayal in Catherine Hokin’s debut novel, Blood and Roses. Catherine, who was born in Keswick and now lives in Glasgow, re-interprets the story of Margaret of Anjou as a feminist re-telling of one of the bloodiest periods of English history. In a powerful revision of a woman frequently imagined only as the shadowy figure demonised by Shakespeare, Blood and Roses examines Margaret as a French Queen in a hostile country, born to rule but refused the right, as a wife trapped in marriage to a man born to be a saint and as a mother whose son meets a terrible fate she has set in motion.

A key issue for historians has been the relationship between Margaret of Anjou and her husband Henry IV (who suffered from what has been described as narcolepsy, resulting in long periods of what is best described as coma) and the paternity of her son, born 8 years into what was a seemingly barren marriage. Blood and Roses offers a solution to the paternity question rooted in Margaret’s political acumen and her relationship with Jacquetta Woodville – a friendship which ended in a betrayal that has never been fully explored.

Lakes Book Blog is pleased to announce that Catherine will be speaking and answering questions about her novel in her home town of Keswick!

When: Thursday 16th June at 7pm.

Where: Mrs F’s Fine Food Emporium, Main Street, Keswick.

Tickets are £12.99 and include a copy of Blood and Roses.  Available from Bookends, Main Street, Keswick (017687 75277 or email bookendskeswick@aol.com).

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We are really looking forward to hearing Catherine talk about her book and what inspired her to write about the Queen she describes as “totally kick-ass” and a “Modern Medieval”. In Catherine’s view, Margaret of Anjou has been given a rough time in historical depictions, feeling that, actually, she should be among “Women celebrated for their strengths, refusing to bow to their detractors, women with a voice: there should be a little of Margaret in all of us.”

Find out more about Catherine below:

Website: https://www.catherinehokin.com/
Blog: http://catherinehokin.blogspot.co.uk/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cathokin/
Twitter: @cathokin

 

Catbells

Catbells – Poem of the Month by Dave Cryer

Catbells

Owing to its modest height, easy accessibility and spectacular views of Derwentwater, Catbells is one of the most popular fells in the Lakes for walkers. There is some doubt surrounding the origin of its unusual name, but one theory is that it comes from a distortion of “Cat Bields”, meaning shelter of the wild cat.

This month’s guest poem is by Dave Cryer (@cavedryer), a writer from Keswick who runs drama and literary workshops. He also pens clever haikus online – covering anything from the fells, to Black Friday, to tomato soup!

Catbells

By Dave Cryer

Across that strip of water she reclines,
Her beauty clear and close, her swirls and swerves.
You dwell by Derwentwater’s liquid lines
And yearn to rise upon her crested curves.

It’s sure and simple, step aboard the launch
Or skirt round Portinscale and through the woods
And soon you’ll be below her handfill haunch
And pausing to survey her goodly goods.

Now climb, clandestine, wrapped in full sweet smile
And press upon the powdered peak – just stop –
The softness of the spine, the next half mile –
Now smooth across, then take her towered top.

Sublime. You’re there. She’s with you. Here to tell
Of soft-blown synergy of folk and fell.

 

A Poetic Landscape – Wainwrights in Verse by John Phoenix Hutchinson

Rannerdale Knotts. Photography by Craig Hyde at Pure Photos.

Rannerdale Knotts. Photography by Craig Hyde at Pure Photos.

Alfred Wainwright’s popularity shows no sign of slowing down. Nearly 25 years after his death, his guide books continue to sell in vast quantities as walkers follow in his footsteps to become ‘Wainwright baggers.’

Seen as we’ve got a fairly decent reputation for producing poetry in the Lakes, what better way to epitomise these celebrated hills than with a collection of poems?

John Phoenix Hutchinson, a poet and fell walker from the Lake District, has released a collection of poetry called Wainwrights in Verse covering all 214 Wainwright fells. It is described as a ‘poetical guide to the Lake District Fells.’ Below are two poems for your enjoyment: ‘Rannerdale Knotts’ and ‘Red Pike’. The accompanying photos are by talented Cumbrian photographer Craig Hyde at Pure Photos; you can see more of his work on his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/purephotos.  Craig also takes some stunning photos of wildlife, check them out!

Wainwrights in Verse (£8.99) is available from www.bookscumbria.com and from the Carlisle and Keswick branches of Bookends.

Rannerdale Knotts

Region: North West Height: 1,165 ft Grid Ref: NY167182

The springtime hue is a stunning sea of blue,

Best visited when the dawning sunshine hits the dew.

Green the oasis where the medieval blood once flowed,

Killing Norman invaders with victory bestowed,

Springing surprise, ambush! Revenge begot,

Here on short sweet mountain, Rannerdale Knotts.

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Photography by Craig Hyde at Pure Photos

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Photography by Craig Hyde at Pure Photos.

Red Pike (Buttermere)

Region: West Height: 2,477 ft Grid Ref: NY160154

A Most popular Buttermere valley hike,

The route of rock up buttressed pike,

Here the stone is rich bloody red,

As the syenite runs through the soil bed.

The view’s a classic with many lakes seen,

And the mountain itself in Adam’s Ale teems,

For water here is the star attraction,

Varying in type with pleasant reactions.

The cascading course flows of Sour Milk Gill,

To the beautiful falls of Scale Force thrill,

And not forgetting the hidden volcano yarn,

In the deep dark depths of Bleaberry Tarn.

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High Stile and Red Pike, Buttermere. Photo by Craig Hyde at Pure Photos

Dilemmas and Consequences in the South Lakes – ‘The Mistake I Made’ by Paula Daly

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Is the ‘immoral’ choice sometimes the best choice? What lengths would you go to in order to keep your head above water?

Cumbrian author Paula Daly returns with her third novel, The Mistake I Made. As with her previous two novels, the highly-popular Just What Kind of Mother Are You? and Keep Your Friends Close, her latest offering is a psychological thriller set in the Lake District. This is a story that causes you to ask yourself: “What would I do in this situation?” It’s not always comfortable, it’ll get under your skin, and you’ll be glad you don’t have to provide an answer for real.

The central character of the story is Roz, a physiotherapist and single mother whose debt situation has left her with no furniture and facing eviction from her home. However, an introduction to Scott, a wealthy married friend of Roz’s sister, leads to an offer that could absolve her of all financial burden and give her and her son a fresh start. The offer, while suggested in as agreeably a fashion as possible by the amiable Scott, is somewhat uncouth. Think Indecent Proposal, in Hawkshead. But, as Roz’s situation worsens, she finds herself wrestling with her conscience and her need to provide a stable life for her son:

‘No one was going to come and rescue me from my financial situation in which I found myself. I either lay down and surrendered, conceded defeat, or I found a way to keep going.’

Roz’s narrative voice is trademark Paula Daly: honest, unpretentious and darkly funny – I smiled when I probably shouldn’t have! Roz exuberates a sense of deadpan humour, particularly when dealing with overbearing, amorous patients (Daly herself used to be a physiotherapist – I wonder if Roz’s experiences are inspired by her own?!). Though at times Roz is frustrating, she is an endearing protagonist and it is difficult not to root for her as she faces the dire consequences of her decisions.

As in Daly’s previous novels, this is a multi-layered story with unexpected twists and revelations about the characters. And, not uncommon of a psychological thriller, there are hints along the way (Daly is masterfully subtle in doing this), but even the most astute reader will be susceptible to an unexpected ‘Oh!’ moment at several points. A major point about Paula: she enjoys stripping away at facades layer-by-layer, and there is no such thing as a perfect family, marriage or person.

Residents and visitors of the Bowness and Windermere area will recognise the setting in which Roz lives and works, commuting daily on the ferry across Lake Windermere surrounded by ‘pretty mansions’, ‘slate-topped fells’ and of course eager ‘tourists taking photos of each other.’ She also captures Tarn Hows perfectly, ‘pretty cobalt’ or ‘inky black’ depending on the weather, but always picturesque.

Tarn Hows Lake District National Park blue sky

Tarn Hows, Coniston

Paula Daly will be talking at Borderlines Book Festival in Carlisle this Sunday, September 6th. I’m looking forward to this one!

Tickets and information here: www.borderlinescarlisle.co.uk/paula-daly/

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Working and Writing the Landscape: The Shepherd’s Life by James Rebanks

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The world of farming has come under the spotlight recently.

Currently, ITV are airing Flockstars – a series in which celebrities compete against each other in sheepdog trials. Although the light-entertainment, celebrity aspect is not to everyone’s taste, its current prime time slot is evidence of the rising interest in all things agricultural.  More seriously, the media has been reporting on the current scrutiny on supermarkets to provide dairy farmers with a fairer price for milk.  Positively, online polls show that there is a strong public backing for dairy farmers and that shoppers are willing to pay extra for their milk in order to support them.

And now, with the prevalence of social media such as Twitter, public figures from the farming world are giving us a glimpse into their working year, day-by-day. Two prominent figures are Amanda Owen, ‘The Yorkshire Shepherdess’, and James Rebanks, ‘The Herdwick Shepherd’, both of whom have amassed a large Twitter following and who have had recent book success. The last year in tweets from Rebanks, who lives in Matterdale, has seen an eclectic combination of herding, stunning shots of Cumbrian scenery, live sheepdog births, opinions (see above) and pony photobombs. His memoir, The Shepherd’s Life, has achieved commercial and critical success and was recently serialised on Radio 4.

So what is it about The Shepherd’s Life that has captivated readers?

The answer is in the writing. Rebanks’ prose is so engaging that, regardless of whether you are interested in the subject of farming, you want to read on and learn about his way of life and that of those before him. The descriptions are beautifully lyrical, yet don’t fall into the trap of over-sentimentality, and Rebanks expresses a sense of affection towards his fellow land workers, their work, and the traditions that surround them. The book is arranged by seasons, from Summer (sheep-clipping) and ending with Spring (lambing). We learn about the day-to-day running of the farm, such as the gathering of sheep on the fells, a scene in which Rebanks draws comparisons to the film Zulu, except instead of native warriors there are ‘willing mongrels’ and ‘farmers in sun hats that won’t win any fashion prizes.’ These insightful and often humorous accounts are interwoven with folklore, local history and the author’s own past experiences. For instance, the vivid childhood memory of helping his father with the clipping (‘cruel work for men’), and the harrowing account of the foot-and-mouth outbreak (he describes the fields around his village as looking like ‘something out of a war movie’). Not forgetting the sheep themselves; it’s no mean feat to make this notoriously docile woolly animal compelling. But it is difficult not to be endeared by the descriptions of the Herdwick lambs, ‘Dark-brown fleeced, with sturdy white legs, a touch of the teddy bear about them.’

An interesting point in the book comes when James earns a place at Oxford University. He later acknowledges that his decision to study there was to ‘prove a point’, not only to himself, but perhaps also to other people. One of these people, a teacher, appears at the beginning of the book in a childhood recollection. Her embodiment of the snobbish attitude farm workers faced sets the precedent for what follows. Rebanks’ tale consistently proves that his way of life is neither ‘lowly’ nor for ‘idiots’, as he alludes to the type of intelligence that can only be picked up from years of working the land, such as his father’s ‘encyclopaedic knowledge of landscape’.

James returns to farming after university, and never really looks back. It goes to prove that he does the work not because he has to, but because he wants to. His feelings are clear as he returns from Oxford: ‘As the Lake District fells rose up in front of us, I felt that I was home. I could feel those fells encircling me like friends, and I punched my fist and shouted “I AM HOME.”’

James Rebanks will be speaking at the Borderlines Festival in Carlisle on Saturday September 5th. Tickets available here: www.borderlinescarlisle.co.uk