A celebration of the landscapes, culture, heritage and people of Cumbria and the Lake District.
Countrystride #113: Why we Run - Fell and trail running in the Lake District
...in which we embark on one of our all-time favourite walks – up the Glendereterra valley – to ask why runners head into the toughest of fell landscapes on journeys of adventure, endurance, technical challenge and self-discovery. As we delve into the Back o' Skidda', we hear from Keswick born-and-bred Jacob Tonkin about the heritage of fell-running passed to him by his grandparents, and his support efforts on the Bob Graham Round. Returning below Lonscale Fell, we follow Chloe Thwaites' journey from near-paralysis on an A&E ward to a reconnected love with northern landscapes. Finally, we speak with Danielle Ledbury, author of new book Why we Run, about the 28 extraordinary runners she has photographed in the Lakeland fells; about trauma and recovery; about grief and joy; about vulnerability and community; and about that elusive flow...
Why we Run can be ordered from Dave's publishing house, Inspired by Lakeland.
Countrystride #112: Melvyn Bragg - Back in the Day
...in which we return to post-war Cumbria in the company of author, broadcaster and parliamentarian, Melvyn Bragg, to reflect on his early years in the market town of Wigton. Evoking a close-knit community on the threshold of change, Melvyn describes daily life in the Black-a-Moor inn – the Bragg family home for a decade – and celebrates the rich diversity of small-town working class culture: of hound dog trailing; dances; and Youth Hostel trips to the Lakes. Following a breakdown aged 13, Melvyn explains the role education and reading played in his recovery, and the fork in the road that tore him from the community he loved. Finally, we learn why “Wigton men just fight for the love of fighting”, why walking is the best way of understanding a place, why Binsey is best, and why it’s time to rebuild Hadrian's Wall... around the whole of Cumbria…
You can buy Back in the Day from all good bookshops, including bookscumbria.com/product/cumbrian-books/arts-and-literature/fiction/melvyn-bragg/back-in-the-day-2/
Countrystride #111: The Herdwick, with Will Rawling
...in which we head to misty Ennerdale in search of the Lake District's iconic sheep breed: the Herdwick. In the company of Will Rawling, Chairman of the Herdwick Sheep Breeders Association – whose family have farmed the far-western fells for 500 years – we take a whistle-stop tour through the breed's long history, from its likely Norse roots through the days of the great wool wealth of Abbeys to its integral place on the family farm. Pausing a moment to chat dialogue – 'herd-wyke', Grike and Sampson's Bratfull – Will describes the perfect Herdwick and offers a theory about its remarkable tone-changing fleece. Descending to Matty Benn's Bridge, we consider the three-way relationship between farm, common and sheep and ask what happens when it breaks down. Taking a wander down memory lane – recalling April evenings in lambing fields; grazed knees on cobbled yards; farm-talk in the pub – we ask what future there is for the breed, and for those who care for it, in a fast-changing world.
The Herdwick Sheep Breeders Association can be found at herdwick-sheep.com
Will is featured in Amy Bateman's Forty Farms, edited and published by Dave's Inspired by Lakeland imprint.
Countrystride #110: Eliza Lynn Linton and The Lake Country
...in which we visit Crosthwaite to shine a light on one of Lakeland's most neglected historic figures – remarkable Eliza Lynn Linton, the first female salaried journalist in England. In the company of author Philippa Harrison, Keswick Museum curator Nicola Lawson and academic Sue Wilkinson, we learn about Eliza's traumatic childhood and the self-education that allowed her to escape the family home and embark on a writing career among the literary elite of her day. Reflecting on the passionate attachments Eliza formed with both men and women, we turn to Eliza's beautiful The Lake Country, a 'love book' to Cumbria that inspired Alfred Wainwright, and which Rawnsley thought would never be bettered. As we make our way to the overgrown Lynn family grave, we consider the contradictions of a contrary life; of Eliza's complex views on sexuality; of the great U-turn that saw her abandon her one-time progressive feminist ideals; and of the curious fact that this once infamous writer – and her superlative guidebook – are now barely acknowledged, even in the margins of Cumbrian history.
Philippa's book, A Mountain Republic: Crosthwaite Parish and the Eighteen Men, can be found at all local bookshops.
Sue can be found on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sue_wilkinson
For more on Keswick Museum see https://keswickmuseum.org.uk
Countrystride #109: Aira Force - Lakeland pleasure ground
...in which we take a timeless tour of Aira Force – one of Lakeland's enduring honeypots – to uncover a history that takes in Victorian tourists, Colonial tree collectors and Baronial money and power. Treading paths trod for generations, we set out from the Pinetum glade in the company of National Trust Cultural Heritage Curator Harvey Wilkinson and consider Aira Force's early days, when oaks dominated the gorge and deer swept the fells. Entering woodland, we discuss the one-time estate's transition to pleasure ground in the age of the nouveau riche Merchant Princes of northern England. With diversions to talk Potter, politics and poetry, we reach the mighty Force itself, where we consider the sublime power that still draws crowds in their hundred-thousand, and the management challenges that face the Trust in an era of heavy footfall and increasingly extreme weather.
For more details on Aira Force and Gowbarrow Park, see ationaltrust.org.uk/visit/lake-district/aira-force-and-gowbarrow-park
Countrystride #108: To the Lakes! The early days of tourism
...in which we journey back 200 years to the early days of Lake District tourism in the company of Jeff Cowton MBE, principal curator at Wordsworth Grasmere. Tracing the footsteps of the first well-to-do visitors, we ascend the pastures of Latrigg, midway between the perennial honeypot of Keswick and long-climbed slopes of Skiddaw. As we walk, we consider tourism's roots in the continental Grand Tour, and the events that shifted 'strangers'' eyes to the-once 'frightful' backwaters of Cumbria. Influenced by concepts like 'the sublime' and 'the picturesque', we note key figures in the development of both tourism and the aesthetic appreciation of landscape, from Jean-Jacques Rousseau to Father Thomas West. Arriving at one of Lakeland's great viewpoints, we reflect on the characters that embraced the early tourist boom, including polymath eccentric Peter Crosthwaite and co-founder of Derwent Water's remarkable regatta, Joseph Pocklington, before advancing in time to the arrival of Wordsworth, Coleridge... and the railways.
For more about the early days of tourism in the Lake District, the ‘To the Lakes!’ exhibition at Wordsworth Grasmere runs for the remainder of 2023 and through much of 2024.
Wordsworth Grasmere is also hosting two events that celebrate the journeys of early tourists, specifically: Ann Radcliffe's Ascent of Skiddaw, 1794 – Thursday 28 September 2023 and Historical Meal and Walk – Saturday 9 September 2023 that recreates the experience of a 1792 tourist with a historical meal and guided walk up Helm Crag.
For more information see: wordsworth.org.uk/blog/events/to-the-lakes-historical-meal-and-walk/
Touching, interesting, funny and full of wonderful sentiment.
An excellent podcast!
Love this podcast
This is a nice gentle interesting podcast full of history, walks and characters of Cumbria.
Escaping to a place I’d rather be!
I’ve been listening to these podcasts over and over for years. Whilst working in and around London this my escapism. Thank you … they are truly wonderful, peaceful and calming.