What cyclists love most of all

More people than ever are taking to two wheels in the Lake District. And there’s nothing a cyclist likes better than a good pot of tea and a substantial piece of cake.

We’ve been welcoming cyclists here at Mathilde’s ever since we opened the café, and now as we look ahead to a busy summer in Grasmere, we’ll be saying hello to old friends and new.

Mountain biking
Mountain biking in the Lakes. Photo: Dougie Watson

Grasmere is a perfect hub for cyclists. If you want to potter about on the quieter roads you can head over the hill to Elterwater, to Skelwith Bridge or to Great Langdale. And of course, from there, head further onto bigger challenges.

Or if you want to head off road, there are wonderful mountain bike routes from our village. Our favourite has to be the circuit of Loughrigg, described lovingly by the experts at https://pedalnorth.com/grasmere-and-loughrigg/. They say that this is a great introduction to mountain biking in the Lakes, a route of 20 miles with 3150 feet of ascent.

To many cyclists, though, the ultimate challenge is the Fred Whitton cycling sportive which this year will be staged in September – starting and finishing right here in Grasmere. This 113 mile route takes in the passes of Kirkstone, Honister, Newlands, Whinlatter, Hard Knott, Wrynose and Blea Tarn. Oh, and the 30% gradient of Hard Knott comes at the 94 mile point. https://www.fredwhittonchallenge.co.uk/route/

We will be here to welcome riders and spectators, but we’re open all year round, and have great facilities for cyclists. There are racks where you can safely leave your bike, in view of our glass-fronted café, or you can sit outside on the terrace or in the garden where we have new picnic tables.

We know you like a good pot of tea or coffee, and perhaps a bacon sandwich, though we always have vegetarian options, and gluten-free offerings from our amazing range of home-made cakes. And yes, of course, we will refill your water bottle before you continue on your adventure.

So call in for a break on your journey; we’re doing take-aways with garden seating at the moment, and then from May 17 the café itself will be open with indoor seating. We look forward to seeing you here!

The terrace at Mathilde’s

Paintings, pencils…and pastry

It’s been a really busy summer, with visitors loving our exhibition Inherited Landscapes, and then calling in for coffee, cake, lunch – or even breakfast – at Mathildes.

Mathildes has been open for just over a year now, along with our new layout which connects with the archive gallery. It feels as though we’ve always had this space, as the memories of all the building work fade.

But for our visitors, there are new surprises in store, especially for those who visit the Lakes only occasionally. So we thought we would share with you a few comments from our recent customers.

These are obviously regulars: We always pay this family run gallery and shop a visit…and usually spend far too much on lovely artists’ materials( but never regret it!) It’s unusual to have a gallery that has passed through generations of artists as a viable concern. It’s always inspiring to see the Heaton-Cooper’s generational art work on display and be able to look closely at technique and detail on originals in the place they were painted.

And here’s someone who has undergone a change of heart, or mind: We haven’t been in here for a long time and it’s been brightened up and extended with a cafe. I wasn’t a fan of Heaton Cooper but this visit changed my mind. Was it me or the smarter presentation, but we’ve decided to buy one mail order as we were walking and couldn’t carry it. There’s a wide range of prints and some originals, framed or unframed and in different sizes. The paintings are a mixture with some looking traditional and others looking very up to date in style and colour. The frames are more modern than we recall as well. The prices for prints and framed versions seemed very reasonable.

It is always gratifying to hear from artists who visit us: I visited to look for art materials and was pleasantly surprised to find a lot more to engage my attention. The selection of art materials was pretty good and I was able to buy one item that I had been unable to find in a number of Paris and London art shops, so that was a good start. The gallery featured a good number of technically very competent watercolour landscapes of the Lake District. Great to see a good art shop diversifying and making a go of things off the beaten track.

Likewise this one: Really lovely art shop – made me wish I lived in the village to be able to go in there regularly for all my art supplies.

Here’s one that sums up all our efforts rather succinctly: The Heaton Cooper Studio is more than just a gallery – it tells the history of the Heaton Cooper artistic dynasty in the Lakes. In one sense (apart from the excellent new cafe) it is a timeless archive for the area. It makes all the artworks, original and prints accessible to the wide audience they deserve.

And someone who truly appreciates Mathildes: There’s a modern cafe with excellent service and if you are fed up with the steamy, cheek-by-jowl variety for your afternoon treats, then this is certainly the place for you.

Thank you for all your lovely comments, and thanks for coming back to visit us time and time again. Do say hello next time you’re in Grasmere.