How to experience The Lakes

As a major new documentary series is about to launch on TV, it’s time to think about the Lake District experience.

Let’s get down to some biological basics. ‘Experience’ is driven by the five senses: sight, taste, smell, hearing and touch.  And when we have happy experiences, we release those endorphins and feel good.

Back in the early 1990s I was involved in a number of projects that Cumbria Tourism supported through a scheme called ‘Better than the Best’ using EU match funding. The hospitality offering back in those days was often on a par with Fawlty Towers and the Lakes Hospitality Association even had a Basil Fawlty look-a-like at one of their annual shows.

The new approach was to highlight the importance of investment in design, image and brand. The Lakes took off, more money was invested, and the scheme was a huge success. The understanding of investing in good design and the return on investment is now deeply engrained.

At the same time there was a growing awareness that  the Lakes has a landscape – in some areas – ideal for growing and harvesting local produce. This became a natural area of growth and the idea of foraging from the land became eco-fashionable.

Foraging a natural harvest

Foraging a natural harvest

The ‘Taste District’ was born and has flourished, with visitors senses tantalised by wonderfully creative chefs using local produce and winning national acclaim with supremely artistic presentations on a plate, slate slab, or chunk of wood.

But then there’s the Lakes’ experience that’s completely free…and easily accessible. Walking, swimming, watching birds and badgers, just breathing the finest quality air: all appeal to our senses. And that’s where the new TV series scores.

sailing

Derwentwater, differently. From The Lakes with Paul Rose

The Lakes (BBC1, starting Friday July 20) is presented by Paul Rose, our neighbour in Windermere, but a man who has explored the whole world – and comes back to the very best, on home territory. It was a pleasure to be invited to the preview in Kendal at the Brewery Arts Centre.

This is a series with immense integrity, as well as appeals to all of our senses, and will motivate every viewer to get out there and experience our wonderful landscape. Paul Rose doesn’t trivialise the Lake District, as some recent shows have done, but he still manages to be both highly entertaining as well as knowledgeable.

paul rose

Presenter Paul Rose

He’ll take you up into the high fells, and out onto the water, and he’ll introduce you to some of the characters whose lives, history, tradition and artistry enhance the Lakes’ experience.

More than that, we’re not saying. You’ll have to watch and see for yourselves. Then get out there and let the Lakes hit all your senses.

 

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Fidget’s Alison makes the news

We’re thrilled to see this news story and make no apologies for reprinting it here.

Top designer Alison Tordoff has reached the finals of a major business award scheme.

Alison, who runs Windermere-based Fidget Design, is in the line-up for the Enterprise Vision Awards which recognise women in business from across the North West.

AllyTordoff2018

Recognised as dynamic and inspiring interior architect, Alison set up Fidget Design in 1997, and has earned a reputation as one of the most creative and innovative designers in the UK. She has worked on a wide variety of prestigious projects with top brands including Jaguar, Aston Martin, The Samling, Langdale Leisure Club and award winning Serenity Spa at Seaham.

Her designs for the Cedar Manor Hotel won Best International Hotel interior at the Bloomberg Hotel Awards. She has since created a distinctive Welcome Lounge at the hotel which helped them win a string of regional, national and international awards.

She pioneered a new range, The Love District, home furnishings based on the landscape, history and traditions of the Lake District, including cushions embroidered with the outlines of the fells, and a Lakeland bookends wallpaper.

Alison has recently been working with universities and design organisations and publishes a regular and highly regarded blog about design issues. And she is involved in a major Cumbria-based interactive project involving artificial intelligence, robotics and human machine learning.

Alison said: “This is a great honour. The North West is packed with amazing women running businesses in many different fields, and it is wonderful to be listed among them.”

 

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The theatre of hospitality

Ever since food became a TV spectacle as well as a sensory experience, ornamentation has come to be as important as taste.

And decoration isn’t confined only to cakes. Take a look at the artistry in this version of meat and two veg at the Cedar Manor Hotel and Restaurant.

meat and two veg cedar manor

We are now taking our seats in the theatre of hospitality and when the curtain goes up, nothing is quite what it seems.

This theme dominated the recent Clerkenwell Design Week where thought leaders gathered, and I was inspired by Seymour Powell in a lecture about Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck restaurant at Bray. Theatre doesn’t have to mean “arena”; look at the intimate small space at the Fat Duck which is nevertheless a shrine to theatricality as well as Britain’s holy temple of ‘culinary alchemy’.

Nothing is what it appears, at the Fat Duck, as this video shows.

Seymour Powell is a multidisciplinary group of design researchers, strategists, brand experts, designers and makers. Their track record of imagining and then creating award winning designs and world-first innovations stretches back over 30 years, and includes, among much else, industrial design and transport design, as well as restaurants.

We were taken – in the lecture, that is – to The Mandarin Oriental Hotel where Blumenthal is also hosting ‘Dinner’.  Here the floors are uncarpeted hardwood (dramatically raised a few feet to improve the view of the park) and there’s a very un-hotel-like absence of curtains. Jelly moulds adorn the walls – specially designed Bernardaud Limoges jelly moulds, of course – and in the symmetrical, open kitchen, a collection of blue-glass apothecary jars pay homage to the alchemy.

The food? There’s a Mandarin signature dish, obviously, a small and perfectly formed mandarin orange, with a few fresh green leaves still attached to the twig. So simple, so classy.

But what’s important about the theatre of hospitality is that the substance must be as good as the style. It’s vital to have top quality ingredients, a top quality chef, and top quality levels of service, otherwise all the ornamentation in the world will fall flat as a deflated balloon.

Take a look here inside the Fat Duck and you’ll see the master raising the curtain on his latest performance.

Hospitality now is all about customer experience and expectation. As a reaction to the high tech world we seek to immerse ourselves in wonderful experiences, creating fabulous memories, enriching our lives, giving us positive thoughts and things to enthuse about. And recording and sharing on social media, of course. (Though at Grasmere’s Michelin-starred Forest Side restaurant they will frown very severely if you try to Instagram your plate.)

Top class theatre need not be prohibitively expensive, and you won’t need a seat up in the gods to experience the latest show in town, in the Lakes, where Ryan Blackburn has opened a second food palace in Ambleside. Now, alongside the award-winning Old Stamp House, comes Kysty, a daytime café and take-away with a very strong emphasis on both style and sustainability. And look at their  chocolate fudge for true theatricality.

chocolate fudge at Ryan Blackburn's new daytime cafe Kysty in Ambs

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Art is all around us in the Lakes

Artists have been recording their reactions to the landscape of the Lake District for centuries. The early tourists were so over-awed by what they saw as a terrifying vista of hills and peaks that they wouldn’t look at them directly, and used mirrors, looking over their shoulders at the reflection as it was slightly less fearsome.

The pictures they painted subsequently were over-dramatised, the fells looking Alpine in height and shape. Later artists, such as the Heaton Coopers, faced the landscape head-on and produced work which more accurately reflected the shapes of the hills. (William Heaton Cooper really did face it head on, perching on ledges on rock faces to make drawings for the climbing guides to the area.)

Paintings, and later photographs, of the Lakes found their way onto picture postcards sent to family and friends. There will be many armchair mountaineers who have never climbed a hill but would recognise Striding Edge from a holiday postcard. (Will they survive the new world of communication? Is the Facebook generation still going to buy and send postcards, I wonder?)

striding edge by marilyn tordoff

Striding Edge from the summit of Helvellyn, by Marilyn Tordoff

Poets, from Wordsworth onwards, found their own voices to say what the landscape of the Lake District did for them. And now, in Keswick, an exhibition called ‘A Love Letter to the Lakeland Fells’ focuses on Alfred Wainwright, his drawing and mapping methods, and his passion for the unique atmosphere and scenery of the Lakes.

Raised in the Lake District and introduced at an early age to walking on the fells, I’ve always shared that passion. Even when I was studying and working in London, and later travelling around the world, I could still envisage the outlines of the fells. I saw them as Wainwright sketched them in his guidebooks, showing what could be seen on the horizon from the top of each hill.

I’ve put some outlines of those fells into my own designs, notably on cushions in the Love District range. Others are doing likewise, bringing together art and the landscape of the Lakes. Windermere-based painter, Marilyn Tordoff, is a good example. She’s an artist whose landscapes decorate the walls of many hotels around the region, as well as homes throughout the country, bought by people on holiday here.

It’s important to place and frame a picture in the correct manor. A single painting can be just as powerful as a collection of paintings, if it’s allowed to breathe, with the correct space and proportion of wall around it. The mount should never be mean, giving the painting proportion and plenty of focus on the art itself.

The wall colour that it sits on could be linked with the painting and turn the whole wall into a dramatic piece of art. The frame needs to reflect the required interior styling, i.e. minimal slim aluminium which virtually recedes into the background, or wide -even ‘over-wide’ –  and possibly carved, to add grandeur and texture. This doesn’t have to be old and stuffy. With a lick of coloured paints that suit the interior scheme, this can make for refreshing new take on an old favourite.

And here’s my own latest work, in creation and completion:

https://www.facebook.com/fidgetdesign/videos/1738108856308492/

alis big painting

 

 

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