Stepping back in time

THE village has been so quiet this spring, no tourists, very few cars on the road. Like every other business in Grasmere, we had to close the studio and gallery when the country went into lockdown. The pace of life slowed down right away. It gave us all more time to think, and it made me wonder if this was what life was like in Grasmere in my grandfather’s time.

My grandfather was the artist William Heaton Cooper and he bought the land opposite the village green in 1937 to build the studio where we are based today. (The original studio had been established by his father, Alfred Heaton Cooper, who was also a landscape artist.)

William Heaton Cooper

Back in the 1940s when he was painting scenes of Rydal water there would have been no crowds swimming from the beach, and while he was out on Loughrigg there would have been very few fellwalkers on the paths. In fact, Loughrigg was where he went to “play out”, as he recalled in his book, The Hills of Lakeland:

“For many years my father had a small hut just below the summit where we would go and camp for days on end, living like savages, cooking on a trench oven, swimming in the tarns and falling off rocks – the very best holiday education for youngsters. We would sleep out on the dry turf in the heat of summer and wake up with dew on our faces.”

Grasmere boathouse and Loughrigg by William Heaton Cooper

So with the schools closed, my children – Alfie and Ophelia – have been learning at home. They’ve been doing lessons set for them by their teachers at Grasmere school, but they’ve also had time to learn outside. They’ve learned about the flowers and the birds around them. They found a nest of baby owls at the side of a footpath. They’ve seen baby blue tits, and yellow meadow ants. And they’ve not only been swimming in Loughrigg tarn, but they’ve also been doing their own experiments there, testing to see how deep it is, using nets to identify damselfly nymphs and water fleas and tadpoles.

Alfie and Ophelia (family names, after my great grandfather, and after William’s wife, my grandmother Ophelia Gordon Bell) wrote articles about these things in their own newspaper, the Loughrigg Times. Great-grandfather William would be delighted!

We know how lucky we are to be living here, even though our business is closed. It was good to enjoy the beautiful spring, which we often miss because we’re so busy. We know it’s been a time of great sadness that has affected us all, but we didn’t want the children to feel anxious so we tried to concentrate on the positives and use the time to be creative.

We’ve been very grateful here that you stayed away, to avoid further strain on our local medical services, and our local mountain rescue team, but now we’re ready to welcome you all back. We’ll be open from Wednesday to Sunday, 10-4, initially, both the studio and Mathildes café. It will be great to see you! And if you can’t get here yet, you can always visit our online shop or give us a call.

Becky Heaton Cooper

What happened to our river Rothay: a new exhibition

An exhibition which records the violent impact of Storm Desmond on the Lake District landscape will open here next month.

Indeterminate Land is a collection of photos by Chris Routledge showing the impact of the storm’s aftermath on the Rothay river valley near Rydal.

It will open at the Heaton Cooper Studio archive gallery on October 10.

The photos, in black and white, illustrate the “many strange and beautiful changes” that took place after the storm in December 2015 which smashed rainfall records and caused widespread flooding in Cumbria.

Chris, who has a house near the river, began photographing a short section of the Rothay during the storm, and in the months that followed, and the exhibition will include around 30 pieces of work looking at changes made to the landscape by the storm, and severe flooding.

The project, he says, explores our relationship with the landscape, and the subtle ways in which it changes at the edge of what we see.

“Working with various approaches to image making, including pinhole photography, I also tried to explore the feelings of shock, and to some extent trauma, that followed from the storm, and to think about how the much-mythologised landscape of the Romantic poets and painters manages to defy myth making.”

A freelance writer as well as photographer, Chris has worked on many different kinds of non-fiction writing projects, including blogs, books and journalism. He describes himself as a serial shed builder, rides a tandem, and is a regular podcaster at the Ormskirk Baron beer reviews blog.

In 2017 Chris organised If Not Duffers, a marathon reading of Swallows and Amazons, which took place on the shore of Coniston Water in the English Lake District, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Arthur Ransome’s death.

He is currently organising a similar reading of Ransome’s Pigeon Post, to be staged at Coniston Coppermines at the end of September.

The artist Julian Cooper, who is curating the exhibition here, said: “This new book and exhibition is a deep and closely observed study of the stretch of the river Rothay as it passes through Rydal. These quietly powerful black and white photos show the fragility and resilience of this Romantic landscape during and after the floods of Storm Desmond in 2015.”

Indeterminate Land will run from Oct 10 to November 3. The limited edition book of the same title will be published and can be pre-ordered here

Photo by C.E. Routledge

 

The quest for a king’s crown

Mathilde walks

A series of walks that give you the chance to stop for coffee, cake, lunch or brunch at Mathilde’s at the Heaton Cooper Studio, the Lake District’s centre for mountain art. All the walks are free to everyone, connecting visitors with the natural surroundings of our unique landscape in this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Today we go in search of a legend, to find the resting place of a mythical king’s crown, and to see the slopes where an acclaimed Lakeland sculptor learned to ski. We are walking to Grisedale Tarn.

There are several Grisedales (or Grizedale) in the Lakes, meaning valley of the wild boar, but none so majestic as the tarn at the head of this valley, a tarn which lies at almost 2000ft up in the mountains, and is one of Lakeland’s deepest.

Grisedale Tarn by W Heaton Cooper

Our walk is from Grasmere, where you might have had breakfast at Mathildes; a strong recommendation, for while this walk doesn’t reach any mountain summits, it is nevertheless a substantial mountain climb. The start is about half a mile north of the village, just beyond the Travellers’ Rest inn on the main road to Keswick, and there’s a big parking area on the left just before the inn is reached.

Head north around the bend from the inn, then take the path on the right signposted to Patterdale. This climbs between stone walls to a wooden gate, and then the path itself becomes more stony until a second gate is reached. Here cross the beck, by stepping stones or footbridge, and walk straight on ahead; don’t turn right to cross the second wooden bridge.

Tongue Ghyll will be down on your right, with the massif arm of the Fairfield horseshoe, Great Rigg, rising above it. The bulky fell on your left is Seat Sandal. It’s a stiff climb at first, but pleasant and grassy underfoot. Eventually you reach rockier territory, and a few ups and downs before you get to Hause Moss.

You might want to call this the Valley of False Hope. Expectation is that the tarn will be here in this depression but no, it’s a flat reedy plateau, probably the dry bed of an old tarn. There’s some more climbing to do yet before you pass through a gap in a low stone wall and suddenly there is the magnificent and kingly Grisedale Tarn.

There’s nothing pretty about this view. It has a savage beauty, with mountain slopes dropping directly into its deep waters. And here you have options. You can continue on the pass and head down Grisedale itself into Patterdale. You could climb the zig-zag path to the north onto the deliciously-named Dollywaggon Pike and the Helvellyn ridge. You could head north east onto St Sunday Crag, east up Fairfield, or west onto Seat Sandal.

Or you could search for the crown of King Dunmail. It’s why we called this tarn majestic, for legend tells us that when Dunmail, the King of Cumbria, was killed in battle (a cairn on Dunmail Raise is said to mark the spot) his soldiers carried his crown up here into the hills and threw it into the tarn.

William Heaton Cooper, the second generation of the artistic dynasty, loved this place. He said that “being half Norwegian and half English, I find that many semi conscious ties of heredity bind me…to Grisedale, one of the most lovely of Lakeland valleys to walk down”.

In The Tarns of Lakeland he wrote: “The tarn is one of the windiest of them all, for it has wide open windows to the south, the west and the north east. A strong north-easter will sometimes blow the powdered snow from the area of the tarn right over the col into the head of Tongue Gill, providing the skier with magnificent runs off Fairfield.”

And here, it seems, is where his wife, the sculptor Ophelia Gordon Bell, “gained her first experiences of ski-running on a pair of skis we had made the night before from two ash planks.”

William also recalled that he swam in Grisedale Tarn in summer after walking over Fairfield and Helvellyn. If you’re inspired to do likewise, take the greatest care.

The walk back to Grasmere follows the other side of Tongue Ghyll, taking the left path at the bifurcation (a good word beloved by the guidebook writer Wainwright). It’s been improved in recent years with steps to ease the erosion, and brings you eventually to the bridge at the sheepfold and little reservoir building.

This route is only about 4.5 miles round trip from the main road, but the climb alone will take a strong walker an hour and a half, so allow three hours in all. And maybe take a spare bag in case you find that crown and want to carry it back!

Then it’s down to Mathilde’s where you have most certainly earned lunch or afternoon tea. Or even both.

Challenging the notion of picturesque

An exhibition which challenges some traditional notions of landscape art will open here in Grasmere next week.

Unpicturesque at our Heaton Cooper Archive gallery features the work of seven eminent painters and photographers – Martin Greenland, Alan Stones, Rebecca Scott, Alan Thompson, Julian Cooper and John and Rosamund Macfarlane – who all live and work in Cumbria and the Lake District. It aims to extend and complement the inherited notion of the picturesque in both art and landscape.

Torver Quarry, Julian Cooper

The exhibition is being curated by Julian Cooper who is bringing artists together in a critical stand against the “picturesque” view of the Lakes, in the gallery founded by his artist-grandfather.

The term originated in Italy in the 16th century and referred to non-classical subjects in painting, with the French painter Claude Lorraine in particular embodying the picturesque ideal in landscape painting. The Lake District assumed its own identity as a distinct region after becoming a vehicle for ideas of the picturesque imported into English cultural debate by William Gilpin in the 18th century. For tourists the landscape was to be enjoyed as a series of leisurely ‘views’ from particular standpoints, preferably seen through a Claude glass.

“This way of viewing the Lake District survives largely intact through contemporary paintings, film, photographs, and publicity material promoting the tourist industry,” says Julian Cooper, the Cumbria Life visual artist of the year,  whose father William Heaton Cooper, and grandfather Alfred Heaton Cooper, both painted more traditional scenes of the Lakes.

“How we see profoundly affects the way we think, and seeing this and other landscapes as beyond ‘scenery’ and more as a dynamic layering of natural and human systems, all connecting to each other, may help in adjusting our attitudes to the benefit of all who live and visit here, whether they be human or non-human.”

Julian Cooper’s two works on show will include his earlier paintings of abandoned slate quarries, a subject which was part of his exploration of mountains and rock-faces. They were a rich source of possibilities in both form and colour, as well as an exploration of the interaction of natural and man-made worlds. In Torver Quarry the wall of sun-dappled rock leads down to the dark entrance of a cave, with band of coloured iron oxide running across the bedding layer, suggesting fracture and instability. The painting Overhangs, Hodge Close Quarry tries to convey the subtle abstract conjunctions of form and colour of rough and smooth slate typical of old Lakeland quarry walls.

There are three paintings of Setmurthy Forest near Cockermouth by Martin Greenland which are all done from memory.

They show the feeling and experience of walking slowly and quietly along the edge of the forest in fading light at dusk. In Setmurthy Forest Memory – Deeper, More Silent, Very Late, the little path runs alongside the forest on the left, with open fields on the right, leading to the Elva Plain – the site of an ancient stone circle. Beyond the Trees depicts the shock of suddenly seeing a light through the trees and not understanding that its source is a half-hidden farmhouse beyond.

The work by Alan Stones is a fine charcoal drawing, Field, which conjures up a corner of an ordinary field with a row of ancient thorn trees and celebrates the modern type of barn that’s typical everywhere, including the Lakes, but which remains ‘unseen’ in comparison with its picturesque old stone-built equivalent.

Two paintings by Rebecca Scott have a conceptual boldness and painterliness that makes them both successful and disturbing. There’s a rhyming consistency between the shapes and patterns of both meat and the landscape from which it originates. Her paintings Crescent Moon and Red in Tooth and Claw were both referenced from picture-postcards and supermarket catalogues, adding another layer of irony by seeing both the meat and the landscape as consumable products.

Alan Thompson’s extraordinary painting Lakeland Gathering becomes more believable the further in one goes. On the far edge of the invented Lakeland landscape the clothed figures are witnessing a party gathering of some sort, but as one gets nearer the front, it becomes an artificial world of posed nudes arranged in a tight composition.

Nicky Below Great Gable convinces because one doesn’t really believe Nicky is lying on that rock ledge, bracing herself from falling downwards – however, the painting wants us to believe it, and we do. She is somehow held back by the looming bulk of Great Gable behind, which acts not so much as a background but as another character in the painting.

In Alan and Kathryn on a Rock two figures are engaging in a sort of static dance, held in place by the interaction of shapes between each other’s limbs and the shapes in the landscape, each affecting the other.

John Macfarlane’s recent photographs reveal a hidden world just beneath the surface of typical Lakeland becks and streams. Rock changes its nature when it continues downwards under the water – from pitted and gnarled in the air, it becomes smooth and sinuous underwater, worn down by and echoing the shapes of constant water currents. Light becomes magical as if seen through an extra lens, the under-surface of the water becomes a roof, creating a claustrophobic landscape in the most shallow of streams. These photographs take us both physically and imaginatively right into the landscape.

John Macfarlane in Black Moss Pot

Rosamund and John Macfarlane’s series of photographs taken in the air from a Gyrocopter give an exhilarating release from the ground and an overview of how the various different parts of this landscape fit together – both man-made and natural. They show parallel paths of road, river and wall running up Honister Pass, a quarry road snaking its way up even higher, the delicate edging of Holme Wood as it meets Loweswater, and a sweeping view from within the heart of the Lake District, looking outwards over West Cumbria and over the Solway Firth and on to Scotland.

Their son is Robert Macfarlane, the internationally bestselling, prize-winning author of Landmarks, The Lost Words and The Old Ways and whose latest work, Underland, has just been published.

The exhibition, which is free, will run from the 13th of May until 30th September. www.heatoncooper.co.uk

World Art Day

World Art Day is held on April 15th, each year, a date chosen by the International Association of Art to mark the birthday of Leonardo da Vinci’s birthday.

Da Vinci was chosen as a symbol world peace, freedom of expression, tolerance, brotherhood and multiculturalism. The overall idea is to emphasize the importance of art in the lives of everyone, but why celebrate art for just one day?

The Heaton Cooper Studio’s Archive Gallery shines a spotlight on the creative endeavours of mountain artists the world over… our aim is to encourage you to stop and appreciate the wonderful creativity that surrounds you… the creativity of nature, which generations of artists in the Heaton Cooper family have strived to capture…

Blea Tarn by William Heaton Cooper

Why have the artists in the family focussed on mountains? Quite simply humans throughout time have a deep-seated affinity with these leviathans in the landscape – mountains have in essence always been part of a commonly held system of ancestor worship since the dawn of time. We have immortalized fallen brethren in their edifice, we see them as sites of revelation and inspiration part of an ever-present quest to purify the spirit and find renewal.

Wastwater by William Heaton Cooper

Artists themselves are no different, depicting mountain landscapes seeking to reconcile the objective, visual, geological truth of mountains with the subjective, mental, emotional experience of mountain scenery. Some simply wish to represent or replicate their obvious beauty, whilst others opt to study and explore various aesthetic elements, like light, colour, and texture and some use mountain scenes to tell a story, illustrate an idea, or conceptualize a metaphor.

Whatever the artists’ reasoning the inextricable link between the worship of the ancestors and mountains is largely inseparable, it forms an interconnected web between history, landscape, and culture, one that has been formed over millennia, a web that to this day connects us to mountain landscapes…

Ullswater & Grisedale by William Heaton Cooper

And we at the Heaton Cooper Studio are proud to show this connection…

As part of the celebration of World Art Day 2019 we are honoured to be able to show a remarkable piece of Lake District mountain history. A bronze plaque listing all 20 names of the members of the Fell and Rock-Climbing Club who served and died in the First World War – a plaque that was for many years set into the summit of Great Gable, the seventh highest mountain in the Lake District.

We Remember – Fell & Rock Climbing Club

It’s accompanied by the Fell & Rock journals from 1914-1919, photographs of the dedication ceremony on Gable in 1924, a poem “We Bought Them a Mountain”, by Max Biden, photographs and crag drawings of Gable, and Fell & Rock guidebooks illustrated by William Heaton Cooper.

The exhibition marks the centenary of a campaign to buy Great Gable for the nation as a memorial to the 20 climbers who died in that Great War…This most vivid of memorials to the fallen, it could be argued is a very tangible link between ancestors, the act of remembrance and mountain landscapes…

It has been said art is the most genuine expression of the human soul… an expression that describes the story of humanity.

Home a loan as painting returns to Grasmere

An extra work of art has been added to an historic exhibition in Grasmere.

A painting by William Heaton Cooper of The Langdale Pikes seen from Lingmoor is back on home territory as part of a display the Heaton Cooper archive gallery.

It’s been added to the exhibition of mountaineering history which includes a bronze plaque listing all 20 names of the members of the Fell and Rock Climbing Club who served – and died – in the First World War.

The painting is owned by the FRCC and is on loan to the gallery, from its usual home at the club’s climbing hut in Wasdale.

William Heaton Cooper, like his father Alfred before him, and his son Julian Cooper, was a notable painter of Lakeland landscapes. He also provided the illustrations for many of the early guidebooks published by the FRCC.

William Heaton Cooper sketching among the crags

The memorial plaque was, for many years, set into the summit cairn on Great Gable, the seventh highest mountain in the Lakes.

The exhibition is to mark the centenary of a campaign to buy Great Gable for the nation as a memorial to the 20 climbers who died in the conflict. FRCC member Herbert Cain said publicly: “Let’s buy a fell.’’

The FRCC subsequently raised the funds to buy 3,000 acres of fell land and gave it to the National Trust. The memorial plaque was unveiled on Whit Sunday, 1924, and remained on the summit until July 2013 when members of the Royal Engineers brought it down for re-casting, and put a new one in its place.

The plaque commemorates the 20 FRCC members who went to war and who were all killed in action. They included Seigfried Herford who’s known for one of the most outstanding achievements in British rock climbing, the first ascent of Central Buttress on Scafell.

William Heaton Cooper’s exquisite drawings of the Lakeland crags were used in the FRCC guides for 50 years from the 1930s onwards. The books were definitive guides for the climbing community, showing new routes as they were developed, drawn on site and working closely with the climbers at the crag face.

The exhibition, which is free, is open daily here at the gallery in Grasmere and runs until May.

The plaque

 

Mountain history is on display

A remarkable piece of Lake District history is on display here at the Heaton Cooper archive gallery in Grasmere.

A bronze plaque listing all 20 names of the members of the Fell and Rock Climbing Club who served in the First World War is the centrepiece of an exhibition. For many years it was set into the summit cairn on Great Gable, the seventh highest mountain in the Lakes.

It’s accompanied by the Fell & Rock journals from 1914-1919, photographs of the dedication ceremony on Gable in 1924, a poem “We Bought Them a Mountain”, by Max Biden, photographs and crag drawings of Gable, and Fell & Rock guidebooks illustrated by William Heaton Cooper.

The exhibition is to mark the centenary of a campaign to buy Great Gable for the nation as a memorial to the 20 climbers who died in the conflict. FRCC member Herbert Cain said publicly: “Let’s buy a fell.’’

The FRCC subsequently raised the funds to buy 3,000 acres of fell land and gave it to the National Trust. The memorial plaque was unveiled on Whit Sunday, 1924, and remained on the summit until July 2013 when members of the Royal Engineers brought it down for re-casting, and put a new one in its place.

The original has done a tour of Cumbria museums including the Eden in Penrith and the Armitt in Ambleside.

The plaque commemorates the 20 FRCC members who went to war and who were all killed in action. They included Seigfried Herford who’s known for one of the most outstanding achievements in British rock climbing, the first ascent of Central Buttress on Scafell.

William Heaton Cooper’s exquisite drawings of the Lakeland crags were used in the FRCC guides for 50 years from the 1930s onwards. The books were definitive guides for the climbing community, showing new routes as they were developed, drawn on site and working closely with the climbers at the crag face.

Julian Cooper, William’s son, and Britain’s foremost mountain painter, said: “It was a amazingly bold and generous act by the Fell & Rock Club to donate so much of the high fells to the National Trust, and such a fitting memorial to those who lost their lives”

The plaque will be on display at the gallery until May.

A walk from the shores of Swan Lake

Mathilde walks

A series of walks that give you the chance to stop for coffee, cake, lunch or brunch at Mathilde’s at the Heaton Cooper Studio, the Lake District’s centre for mountain art. All the walks are free to everyone, connecting visitors with the natural surroundings of our unique landscape in this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

Elterwater
Elterwater, and the Langdale Pikes, by William Heaton Cooper

A lovely village with a lovely small lake of the same name, and that name means Swan Lake. We’re talking about Elterwater, one of the prettiest places in the whole of the Lake District, even if you’re not likely to see any swans now.

It holds a special place in our family heritage, loved by both Alfred and William Heaton Cooper. Alfred would take all four children with him when he went painting there, and William recalled: “I remember going to Elterwater Common because my father sat there for hours and hours and we knew that we were free to just enjoy ourselves, and we footled round exploring the little streams and pools, and finding creatures, water beetles and things….We were never allowed to interrupt father to show him the things we had found. He would forget all about us – absolutely right of course!”*

Our walk today starts at the village and is a circular tour with a stop for brunch, lunch or afternoon tea at Mathilde’s in Grasmere at the halfway stage. Elterwater is a delight, a picture postcard village dominated by the famous Britannia Inn, but also the home of our favourite independent hostel, if you and your family are looking for great budget accommodation.

You can park free in a small quarry by turning north at the crossroads, and from here, walk a little way up the steep and winding road, past the Wayside Pulpit, before cutting up to your left on a well trodden path that leads past the High Close electricity switch station….it looks like a sheepfold from a distance.

The path is quite steep, and when we last went up here, it was a mini-stream after the torrential rainfall of Storm Callum. Otherwise, just a couple of days later, all was calm and bright; the Lake District is a very forgiving landscape.

Head towards a gate in a wall from where you will have a wonderful view of Stone Arthur, Great Rigg and Seat Sandal, the fells across the valley. Don’t go through the gate but follow the path that hugs the wall, to a kissing gate; go through that and follow the path that contours downwards to a gate in a barbed wire fence.

Almost immediately, there’s a sharp left turn down a grassy path which brings you to the road at the 25% gradient sign. But don’t use the road; take a very sharp turn left on a signed footpath which leads into Red Bank wood.

Red Bank Wood

The path meanders through beautiful woodland, past a small wooden bench with a gorgeous view across the lake below you. Eventually you go through a metal gate and bear right downhill, first on a stony track which becomes a tarmac lane at a house called Hunting Stile. This meets the main road down which you will walk to the village centre in time for coffee, cake or lunch at Mathilde’s.

The return starts back up this same hill, Red Bank Road, and it’s possible just to retrace your steps. But a lovely alternative goes via the arboretum at High Close; even so, take the footpath back through Red Bank wood rather than walking all the way on the road.

You’ll return to the road at the gradient warning sign. Shortly after, the road forks, and immediately beyond the lower fork is a footpath on your right into the arboretum grounds. This is a stunning 11 acre estate full of trees and shrubs imported from all over the world.

Originally planted in 1866 by Edward Wheatley-Balme, a Yorkshire merchant and philanthropist, High Close was designed in the fashion of the day using many of the recently discovered ‘exotic’ conifers and evergreen shrubs coming into Britain from America.

The exposed location of the garden meant that some of the larger trees were lost in winter storms of 1973 and 1983, but there are still many fine specimens including Douglas firs, sitka spruce and redwoods.

A number of paths lead through the trees; a lower path will take you through Low Wood, a higher one close to the YHA hostel at High Close. All bring you back on the winding road back down to Elterwater.

 

*Jane Renouf: Alfred Heaton Cooper, Painter of Landscape

There and back again

Mathilde walks

A series of walks that give you the chance to stop for coffee, cake, lunch or brunch at Mathilde’s at the Heaton Cooper Studio, the Lake District’s centre for mountain art. All the walks are free to everyone, connecting visitors with the natural surroundings of our unique landscape in this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

There are many wonderful circular and horseshoe walks in the Lake District, but no disgrace in going out and back the same way. The route covered might be the same, but turning around is to head into an entirely new world, with views that are completely different.

And nowhere in the Lakes illustrates this better than on the charming and atmospheric climb to Easedale Tarn. This dramatic sheet of water lies in a glacial corrie, overshadowed by higher fells but well worth a pilgrimage of its own.

The way up is dominated by the striking white gash of Sour Milk Gill cutting through the hillside; the return offers a panorama of exquisite loveliness, the valley dropping below Helm Crag to the vale and village of Grasmere.

It was a particular favourite of William Heaton Cooper who wrote that “the tarn and its combe look best on days of hazy sunshine, when the atmosphere can give a feeling of distance to the surrounding crags that, on a clear day, seem to enclose and almost overpower this mountain corrie.”

 

The tarn itself is shaped rather like a figure 8, and William describes it in detail: ““Besides the numerous bogs that drain into it, the tarn has four inlet streams, the main one coming down from below the great bands of rock that form the south wall of High Raise…this is the stream in the foreground of my painting.”

It’s now favoured by adventure swimmers who are sometimes seen heading up the valley for a sunrise dip, but in William’s time there were many fish in the tarn: “The standing rock at the end of a promontory is a distinctive feature, where sometimes a cormorant will settle between its meals of trout, perch or eels.

“How did the fish get there….? As a boy I remember seeing Fred Gould, the postmaster at Waterhead, going along on his tall green bicycle that carried, in its frame, a canvas bag in which were canisters full of baby trout.”*

To get to this fabled tarn, walk up the narrow road at the side of the Heaton Cooper Studio, past the youth hostels until you reach a signpost (just before the Lancrigg Hotel). Cross two stone bridges and then take the meticulously engineered path, through a gate and over another, wide, stone bridge, then take the left fork. The beck, and eventually the waterfall, will be on your right.

The route climbs gently at first, with only a few steeper sections, and a sense of mounting anticipation as several plateaus prove to be dry, before finally reaching the tarn itself. Those with a thirst for further adventure can climb on, to Tarn Crag or Sergeant Man. Otherwise, it’s time to turn round and see that other world of the return journey.

There IS another path on the opposite side of the waterfall, reached by some stepping stones at the end of the tarn, and it does lead back to the valley eventually, but it can be very muddy and boggy in places. Go ahead, if you don’t mind wet feet, or just turn round and retrace your steps, enjoying the outline of the high fells and, in particular, an unusual view of the “lion and lamb” rocks on the summit of Helm Crag.

The walk is about 9k from the centre of Grasmere, and will take between two and three hours, depending on how many times you stop to take photos. A perfect morning followed by lunch at Mathildes, of course.

* William Heaton Cooper, The Tarns of Lakeland

Easedale Tarn by William Heaton Cooper

 

 

Through the enchanted wood to Alcock Tarn

 

Mathilde walks

A series of walks that give you the chance to stop for coffee, cake, lunch or brunch at Mathilde’s at the Heaton Cooper Studio, the Lake District’s centre for mountain art. All the walks are free to everyone, connecting visitors with the natural surroundings of our unique landscape in this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Small is beautiful, and while the Lake District boasts the longest and deepest waters in the country, there are some exquisitely beautiful tiny tarns hidden in the hills.

One that was a particular favourite of William Heaton Cooper is Alcock Tarn, reached by a short but steep climb out of Grasmere village on one of the most enchanting routes you will ever walk. It takes you to a small sheet of water, held onto a shelf by glacial debris, which was dammed at the end of the 19th century by a Mr Alcock, who stocked it with brown and rainbow trout.

Alcock Tarn by William Heaton Cooper

And WH Cooper enjoyed it for more than just the fish and the views. He wrote, in The Tarns of Lakeland: “After a few days of hard frost without wind this tarn, being shallow and above the thousand foot level, gives some of the earliest skating of the winter in a very pleasant setting.”

So how to get there? Leave the village along Stock Lane and cross the main road at the roundabout by Dove Cottage. Walk up the back road behind the cottage. Ignore the first footpath sign on the left, go 100 yards further to much more prominent junction and large signpost, with White Moss and Ambleside to the right, and Alcock Tarn up left. (No through road for motor vehicles after half a mile). After that you’ll find series of signposts; take the one pointing left to Alcock Tarn.

We advise: this is a long mile and a quarter! Allow a good hour for the ascent, if you want to take advantage of the views.

A lovely shingle path heads up through the woodland after going through the gate at Brackenfell. Early autumn sees wonderful colours, and you will be able to see more of the lake below as the leaves fall. Pass a small pond on right, then the path gets steeper and rougher; this is definitely not a pushchair friendly route. But anyone with reasonable fitness and stout shoes will manage happily.

A bench on the right commemorates the life of someone with the initials NAH, but the view is obscured by newer tall larches. But as you climb, you can see the shapely summit of Helm Crag, another favourite subject of the Heaton Cooper artists. A second bench above the trees gives a magnificent view down across the lake…and shows the sprawling extent of the village of Grasmere.

The last time we were there, we entered the mist before we reached the tarn, and so it came as a surprise, appearing suddenly, flanked by ghostly crags; the tarn is hidden behind Grey Crag until the last moment. A man from Manchester, reliving his childhood, had taken off his boots and was paddling in the shallows. “We used to swim in there 50 years ago,” his friend said.

On the way back you’ll notice the green swathe path dropping steeply down to the valley. It’s the route of the Butter Crags fell race at the annual Grasmere Sports. Don’t be tempted; it’s on private land. But there is an alternative path down once you reach the yellow and white arrow signs; take the white track on the permissive path which brings you out further north on the main road.

 

Take the road back into the village for well-deserved lunch or afternoon tea at Mathilde’s, at the Heaton Cooper Studio opposite the village green. The café, shop and gallery are open every day from 9am, and along with coffee, cakes, soup, salads and Scandinavian-style open sandwiches, you can find fine-art prints of the views you had along the way.

A walk to make everyone happy

 Mathilde Walks: The first in a series of walks that give you the chance to stop for coffee, cake, lunch or brunch at Mathilde’s at the Heaton Cooper Studio, the Lake District’s centre for mountain art. All the walks are free to everyone, connecting visitors with the natural surroundings of our unique landscape in this UNESCO World Heritage Site. And every walk connects to a painting by one of the Heaton Cooper artists. Today: Grasmere, by William Heaton Cooper

SOMETIMES you have to use a bit of persuasion when planning a walk. It’s not just reluctant children, but diffident adults too, who present the excuses: It’s too hot, it’s too far, it’s too cold, it’s too steep, I’m hungry.

So here’s a walk that deals with every possible excuse. If the weather is hot, there’s a lot of shade under the trees. It’s not far, but you get some of the best views in the whole of Lakeland. If it’s cold, this one presents no dangers even if there’s snow on the ground. Steep? There’s  just a couple of tiny uphills, and apart from a few manageable steps it’s good going for pushchairs.

Throw in a perfect beach where you can swim, paddle or skim stones and your team will be racing on ahead. And as for being hungry? Wait and see what’s in store along the way.

This walk starts at the White Moss car park on the A591 between Rydal and Grasmere, grid ref. NY 351065. Follow the path through the wood to the River Rothay but stay on the north side, rather than crossing the bridge, with its industrial-style accessible design built onto old stone foundations, functional rather than beautiful.

Walk along with the river on your left, passing through three gates, and a short, winding uphill stretch, (take the left fork at a bifurcation in the path) before crossing the new wooden footbridge. No one used the word bifurcation until Wainwright wrote his guidebooks, we think.

Once over the bridge, turn right to pass the weir that marks the boundary between Grasmere and Rydal, then follow the Grasmere lake shore through Penny Rock Wood and its delightful beach. Why Penny Rock? The story goes that when the road to Grasmere was first being built, workers had to blast out the rock on the corner by the lake, and the cost of this added a penny to everyone’s rates.

The trees, many of them splendid old specimens, fringe the lake shore and rise into Deerbolts Wood, though you’d have to make the walk very early in the morning  to see any deer or red squirrels. Concentrate instead on the view ahead, Helm Crag in the distance or, close by, a dilapidated old stone boathouse with a lichen-covered slate roof. There’s also a wonderful hollow tree where generations of children have played.

The path opens out, with sheep in a field on the left, then climbs briefly to meet the road from where it’s only a short walk down into Grasmere village. Spot the Victorian letterbox set into the wall of a cottage on your right. After passing the boat-landings, the road takes a sharp right turn, and then shortly you’ll turn left at Tweedies hotel to head for your coffee break.

Mathilde’s is at the Heaton Cooper Studio opposite the village green. The café, shop and gallery are open every day from 9am, and along with coffee, cakes, soup, salads and Scandinavian-style open sandwiches, you can find fine-art prints of the views you had along the way. In fact, if you do too much shopping (is there such a thing?) or too much eating, it’s possible to catch the bus back to White Moss, from the stop just across the road.

Otherwise there are two options: go back the way you came along the lake shore, or walk through the village and across the main road to take a quiet back road behind Dove Cottage. Even with this alternative, the total walk won’t be more than 10k (6 miles).

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.

Home is where the art is

A TV series took artist Julian Cooper into the heart of the Lake District landscape to show him painting on the shore of Crummock Water.

The episode of The Yorkshire Dales and the Lakes, broadcast on More 4 (Tuesday August 7) was the second TV appearance for Julian in a month this summer.

He was previously interviewed by Paul Rose while painting the Bowder Stone in Borrowdale in a BBC series which will be repeated in the autumn.

The latest programme dedicated considerable time to Julian’s place in the Heaton Cooper family of artists and to his relationship with the landscape of the Lakes, in a feature which was both lyrical in description and beautifully filmed.

Julian told narrator Ian McMillan: “The home country of the Lakes is in my head; the rocks, trees, becks are in me, in my blood, in my family tradition.”

He showed McMillan the house near Grasmere where he grew up, and from where he roamed freely on the fells. “It was here that I became interested in painting the components of the landscape.”

But first he felt the need to travel: Europe, the USA, South America, Asia. “Then the Lakes drew me back, and I realised it’s just as exotic here as Tibet or the Amazon jungle. It’s here, what I’ve taken for granted all these years.”

Julian took the film team into the archives at the Heaton Cooper studio where he was choosing paintings for the current exhibition there, Inherited Landscapes. This also features the work of his grandfather Alfred Heaton Cooper (1863-1929), and his father William Heaton Cooper (1863-1929) showing how Julian has continued the family tradition. Just four paintings by each artist are on display.

“This family has been around for three generations dealing with the same landscape,” he said. “But our way of looking at it has changed over time, and with different temperaments and differing attitudes to painting which influence how we see the natural world.  I’ve chosen paintings which show the more wild and rocky aspects of the Lake District, and one can see that there are both continuities and differences between us. The more similar the subject, the more it highlights the differences between us.”

The final scenes of the programme were filmed by Crummock Water – a family favourite picnic spot – where Julian was painting the dramatic Rannerdale Knott which appears to plunge straight into the lake. “The Lake District for me isn’t so much the lakes as the mountains. They are home in a very deep way.”

Concluded McMillan: “Home is where the heart – and the art – is.”

Inherited Landscapes runs until the end of October. The Heaton Cooper Studio is open daily from 9-5. More information: https://www.heatoncooper.co.uk/