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The woes of winter

The gales, the rain and the generally miserable winter weather have definitely been a test of this rider’s cycling resolve. Saturday’s outing over Warnell Fell, near Caldbeck, was one of the worst so far.

It’s a fifty or so mile loop that seems to have become my default Saturday jaunt. In fairness, the forecast predicted everything that came to pass. The rain started on cue, the wind duly increased and by the top of Warnell the hail was driving in. Like being pebble dashed in a freezer. This was the middle of the day, but visibility was none existent. Oh, and the battery in the bright, flashing newly acquired rear light chose this moment to pack in. Plus, I’d flatted at Welton. Punctures have been a regular feature of winter rides, so it didn’t take long to change, but in the downpour with fumbling fingers inside sodden gloves (waterproof? …having a laugh!!) it did nothing to improve my mood.

The long downhill to Wigton, normally a well-earned joy, brought the challenge of crosswinds and, by now, despite a wearing a baselayer, winter jacket and a rainshell, I was shivering like crazy. Fortunately the rain eased at this point and the return leg through the Solway villages of Kirkbride , Glasson Dumburgh and the like was, if not a pleasure, more bearable. The average speed was pitiful, but this was a day when just completing a decent length ride was cause for some satisfaction.

To my surprise, I encountered more fellow two-wheeled sufferers than on many a better day. A wave and a nod. We’re all in this together, you know. A glance ahead to next weekend’s forecast shows little improvement. The aching winter bones and complaining, groaning, shockingly ill-maintained, winter bike will doubtless set out on another ordeal. Though I must vary the route!

When the weather does, eventually, improve and all the other riders come out like bright brand new daffodils in springtime, I’ll have that smug inner glow as I wonder: “And where were you in darkest January?” The answer is, probably, that they have more sense or at least a turbo-trainer (still the work of the devil, to my mind….but I am beginning to toy with a little temptation). For me, riding a bike is all about outside and exercise, the experience, encountering nature up close. It isn’t always a pleasure. It can be a pain. It is a personal challenge, even if that is just overcoming the desire to sit in a warm armchair. But, by goodness, you know you’ve done it. There’s no time for the cares of the week, just focus on the road and plough on. It’s a particular satisfaction and I can well understand it’s not for everyone, but I knew I’d earned my Saturday night bottle of beer and slept most exceeding well.

Today, Sunday, just a dozen or so miles for the heck of it. But the rain is pouring and the wind is even stronger – see, I chose the least evil day for the “big ride”, I’m not daft – but it’ll feel like double that.* And may just earn me a fireside snooze to top off the afternoon.

*PS It did feel like double that – in part because of two more punctures…in the rain. My own fault, it’s a new “puncture protection” tyre, but it’s a very tight fit, hence two pinch punctures when resorting to tyre leavers. Anyone with a sure fire tip to beat these?

Cumbrian Sixth Former wins £1,000 Essay Prize

The winner of the inaugural Hunter Davies Award for Young Writers for Cumbrian sixth formers is seventeen year old Hannah Sowerby, of Appleby Grammar School.

The £1,000 prize, administered by Cumbria Community Foundation is for a piece of personal reportage – nonfiction as opposed to fiction, a true story about something which has happened to them, big or small. The title of the first essay was “What I did in my Hols”

“Yes, a deliberately corny, childlike title,” says Hunter Davies, “but the idea was they could do with it what they liked, write about staying in bed all summer, digging their granddad’s allotment or going abroad. We were looking for good reporters, feature writers of the future, but also people with a literary turn, a sense of humour, able to handle conversation, narrative and most of all able to shape their own 1,500 words of personal experience so that you want to read on to the end.

Hannah will receive £500 personally to spend wildly as she wills, with the other £500 going to her school library.

The three judges were Hunter Davies, Richard Eccles and Stephen Matthews.

Richard Eccles, who is the editor of Cumbria Life, is publishing Hannah’s winning essay in the February edition of Cumbria Life.

Stephen Matthews is an author, publisher and owner of Bookcase in Carlisle. He was formerly head of English at Wigton Nelson Tomlinson School.

“Hannah engages the reader from the off,” says Stephen. “Her essay is peppered with humour, but never forced, just lively, natural and apparently off-the cuff, but actually quite polished.”

On hearing the news that she had won, Hannah’s first reaction was surprise. “If I’m honest, I’d forgotten all about the competition. When my teacher told me that I had won I couldn’t believe it. Of course I was overjoyed and it brightened up my day of endless coursework.

“I’m still unsure what to spend the money on, but I may spend a bit on some driving lessons. Then save the rest until I’m sure what to do with it.”

The prize is now going to be an annual event, open to any comprehensive sixth former in the county. The title for this year’s Essay will be announced at Easter – and all details will appear on the Foundation’s website.

“We got a good response for a first attempt,” says Hunter, “with some excellent entries from a range of schools all over the county, such as Ulverston High, Cockermouth School, Newman School, Carlisle, Nelson Tomlinson, Wigton, and Appleby Grammar. But we hope for even more next year.”

MP Rory Stewart to Sleep Out in the Pennines

Penrith and the Border MP Rory Stewart will spend this Saturday night sleeping in one of the highest and coldest places in England to raise awareness of Cumbria Community Foundation’s Winter Warmth Appeal.

He’ll be joined by CCF’s Chief Executive Andy Beeforth and supported by members of Penrith Mountain Rescue Team.

They’re hoping their freezing night on the fells will encourage people to sign up for a similar challenge ‘The Big Sleep’ in a field beside the Low Wood Hotel, Windermere, on Saturday 15 February.

Rory Stewart explained why he is taking on the challenge, he said:

“Cumbria has some of the highest instances of fuel poverty in the country. Our traditionally built homes are difficult to heat and frequently off the mains gas grid, which make heating them very expensive. When your income is fixed, as is the case for many retired, elderly people, rises in energy bills can quickly become unaffordable, and the only choice left in the worst cases is to endure a cold home. It is completely unacceptable that an average of 300 people in Cumbria alone will die from the cold this Winter. The Cumbria Community Foundation plays a hugely important role in helping vulnerable older people meet the costs of heating their home. I was only too happy to do anything I could to help raise awareness of the Winter Warmth Appeal and the Foundation’s fantastic fundraising efforts, and I hope that our sleep out will do just that.”

John Whittle, Penrith Mountain Rescue Team, said:

“This weekend, we’ll be ensuring the safety of these brave souls by accompanying them to England’s highest, coldest, stone-built bothy, over 2,700 feet up in the Pennines. It’s no mean feat as the temperature will be well below zero and winds have been recorded at 113mph. The exact location for this Saturday’s sleep out is a closely guarded secret as we don’t want to encourage people to head out onto the fells overnight in winter. Instead we’d say consider joining The Big Sleep – a much more civilised sleepover beside the Low Wood on February 15.”

Whatever discomfort is felt by the adventurers, it is for one night only and will highlight the ongoing struggle many elderly Cumbrians face to keep warm every night.

This year’s Winter Warmth Appeal has already raised £52,000 to help older people in Cumbria stay warm and safe this winter – this is more than last year and half way to the target of £100,000.

But, all of this money has been allocated and given out to elderly people who are facing the stark choice of heating their home or eating a meal.

Andy Beeforth, Chief Executive of Cumbria Community Foundation said:

“I’d like to say thank you to all our donors who have helped raise more than £56,000 to keep older people warm this winter. We’d like people to join us for The Big Sleep in a field beside the Low Wood Hotel, Windermere, on Saturday 15 February. If you have your own camping gear and can bear the cold for one night to help raise even more money for older people, please join us. We’ll try to keep our minds off the weather by watching a family friendly film on an outdoor cinema screen. All the information you need and the names of the people who have already signed up are on our website or speak to Dan on 01900 825760.”

People’s Postcode Trust Invites Cumbria Bids for First Round of 2014

The People’s Postcode Trust invites applications from Cumbria to support projects that address one or more of the following:

•Prevention of poverty; reduction of distress and suffering.
•Advancement of health.
•Advancement of citizenship or community development.
•Advancement of public participation in sport.
•Advancement of human rights, conflict resolution or reconciliation.
•Advancement of environmental protection or improvement.

Applications will be accepted from today until 21 February 2014 from registered charities, constituted community and voluntary groups, sports clubs, social enterprises, community interest companies and other not-for-profit organisation.

Funding is available for projects of up to 12 months in length that positively impact their local community. Projects that are creative, far-reaching and will leave a long-term impact once completed stand the best chance of being successful.

Grants of between £500 and £20,000 (up to £2,000 if not a formally registered charity) are available and the deadline is 21st February 2014.

Full details along with an application form can be found on the People’s Postcode Trust website:

Winter Warmth Appeal Raises £50,000 – But More is Needed!

Older people across Cumbria have been keeping warm thanks to Cumbria Community Foundation’s Winter Warmth Fund.

The charity has raised £50,000 so far this winter but it needs more donations to help the growing number of pensioners in need.

Its Chief Executive is calling on brave Cumbrians to join him in a chilly outdoor challenge “The Big Sleep” on Saturday 15 February in a field near the Low Wood Hotel in Windermere.

Andy Beeforth said: “We’re halfway through our Winter Warmth Appeal and it’s great to see we’re halfway towards our target of raising £100,000 to keep older people warm this winter. But, we need to raise the rest. So, I’d like anyone who thinks they can raise £100 in sponsorship to join me for The Big Sleep next month. We’ve kindly been lent a field near the Low Wood Hotel in Windermere, we’ve sorted out a screening of The Goonies and we’re going to brave the elements to raise awareness of the problems older people face in the winter and raise the rest of the money.”

The Big Sleep is an outdoor adventure in aid of Cumbria Community Foundation’s Winter Warmth Appeal. The challenge is to sling on your pyjamas and snuggle down under the stars in front of a fabulous film.

If you could brace yourself to sleep in a field overlooking Lake Windermere, where temperatures may dip as low as minus 11 degrees celsius, and raise £100 – please enter now by visiting

The following people have already pledged to sleep out:

1. Paul Fletcher, Operations Manager at AMEC, West Cumbria.
2. Rob Rimmer, Director at Energy Road Campus, West Cumbria.
3. Simon Gall, Director of Lakeland Asbestos Management, Windermere.
4. Chris and Ian Tomlinson, Langdale Walking and Adventure Holidays, Windermere.
5. Peter Martin, Divisional Director of Brewin Dolphin, Penrith.
6. Diana Matthews, Cumbria’s High Sheriff, Windermere.
7. Martyn Nicholson, Managing Director of Russell Armer.

The reason the charity runs this annual appeal is simple – every winter around 300 elderly people in Cumbria die because of the effects of the cold weather. They have to choose between heating their homes and eating a meal. The Winter Warmth Fund keeps older Cumbrians safe and warm.

Andy Beeforth added: “We can’t be complacent and hope the rest of the cash will come in. All the money allocated for South Lakeland has been spent and all other areas of the county will soon be in the same situation. I want us to keep saying yes to older people who ask for help. I don’t want them to be choosing between eating and heating this winter.”

One couple who have already benefited from the Winter Warmth Fund are Jean and Graham in Coniston. They’re both 67. Jean said: “Since Graham had his stroke two years ago, it is very important that he keeps warm because he really feels the cold now. I think the Winter Warmth Fund is wonderful. Our electricity and gas is such an expensive item and this extra money means I can buy extra wood for the woodburner. It’s really great that people donate. It’s very kind.”

How to donate
The Winter Warmth Fund is open to voluntary donations of Winter Fuel Payments, plus donations from other individuals and local businesses. You can donate to the Winter Warmth Fund in many ways:

Donate online at
Write a cheque payable to: ‘Cumbria Community Foundation’ and write ‘Winter Warmth’ on the back. Send it to: Cumbria Community Foundation, Dovenby Hall, Dovenby, Cockermouth, Cumbria, CA13 0PN.
Use your mobile phone. Simply send a text message to 70070 including our code WINT37. You can donate £2, £5 or £10. e.g. WINT37 £5 to 70070.

All of the money raised will be used to provide support to elderly people who are suffering because of fuel poverty. It will be directed to those most in need through voluntary and community groups in Cumbria who are supporting vulnerable older people. It will help older people afford to stay warm, eat well and remain mobile. It will ensure they are getting all the benefits they are entitled to, help them to access grants to improve home insulation or replace old heating systems and show them how to shop around for the best fuel rate. It will also help provide information on how to stay healthy, like getting the flu jab and staying active. And where to get extra support in local communities, such as through lunch clubs and befriending schemes.