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Cumbrian Heritage Group’s CD Builds Bonds with Future Visitors

As some businesses start to reopen after lockdown, proactive members within a group of heritage attractions, despite mostly being unable to fling open their doors, are staying in touch with prospective visitors and trying to keep their spirits high by launching their own CD.

Cumbria’s Living Heritage has created a 15-track CD – a compilation of contemporary songs from five different decades, the titles of which all communicate a feature of their offering, or the essence of the experience that can be enjoyed when passing through their gate.

The Cumbria’s Living Heritage Greatest Hits CD is the latest in a series of initiatives that have continued to engage interest in the member attractions since lockdown.  So far, the group has created Post-It Notes of positivity, each Post-It Note carrying details of something to look forward to during a future visit, a quiz that asked people to visit each member’s website to find an answer, and their very own Cumbrian Flower Show, featuring garden images shared on social media at the time of the Chelsea Flower Show.

Given that every track on their new CD has a meaning, it is well worth finding out what that is.  The CD opens with ‘A Good Year for the Roses’ by Elvis Costello, highlighting the rose garden delights that can be found at venues like Dalemain, where over 100 different varieties of rose can be appreciated both visually and through their heavenly scent, and at inspiring gardens such as volunteer-run Holehird Gardens.

Track 2 is ‘Words’ by the Bee Gees, reminding prospective visitors of the deep literary heritage running through a group that includes four former homes of the poet, William Wordsworth – Dove Cottage (Wordsworth Grasmere), Rydal Mount near Ambleside, Wordsworth House in Cockermouth and Allan Bank near Grasmere.  At Mirehouse near Keswick, there are links to many Lake Poets but also Alfred Lord Tennyson, a friend of the Spedding family and a literary figure so connected with the house that he spent his honeymoon there.  Brantwood was the home of author and philosopher, John Ruskin, whilst, at Keswick Museum, there is a display honouring Robert Southey, who gave us the story of the ‘Three Bears’, which became chlldren’s classic, ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’.

Track 3 is the classic ‘Wild Wood’ by Paul Weller, communicating that some of the heritage of Cumbria is found in its ancient forests and also that Grizedale forest has been home to amazing forest sculptures since 1977, growing in number by the decade.  These incredible sculptures can be explored by following exciting trails through the trees.

The fourth track is the legendary tune, ‘Who Let the Dogs Out’, reminding all that many Cumbria’s Living Heritage members are dog-friendly and will be delighted to welcome Fido back when they reopen.  At Hutton-in-the-Forest, it all dogs have long been rewarded with a bone when visiting – something for your four-legged friend to look forward to.

The role of heritage, enabling us to view the past and learn from its lessons, is communicated through track 5, ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’, by Oasis.  Perhaps this message has never been more profound than when used in the context of 2020.  Track six, ‘If I Could Turn Back Time,’ by Cher, supports this, but also expresses the nostalgia associated with a visit to many Cumbria’s Living Heritage members.  It is especially relevant to the group’s engaging museums – Keswick Museum, The Armitt in Ambleside, the Lakeland Motor Museum with all of its classic cars and motoring memorabilia, and the Windermere Jetty Museum, home to serene lake launches and boats from a past age.

From there, the focus turns to Cumbria’s Living Heritage members which could be considered ‘faith attractions’ – Furness Abbey, Lanercost Priory and Swarthmoor Hall, the birthplace of Quakerism.  The track bringing all of this to mind is ‘Keep the Faith’, by Bon Jovi. All three venues offer an element of peace, opportunities for mindfulness and serene spiritualism –things also to be found in the two ancient forests of Grizedale and Whinlatter.

The role of the women associated with various heritage attractions is celebrated in track 9, ‘Three Times a Lady’ by the Commodores.  Examples of strong women who have helped shaped venues are many, with examples including the Elizabethan Lady Anne Clifford, who has links to Dalemain and Brougham Castle, Dorothy Una Ratcliffe at Acorn Bank, and Beatrix Potter, a landowning transformer of the landscape, as well as author.

The Shakin’ Stevens ‘tune’, ‘This Ole House’, is one pointing potential visitors towards the great houses and homes in the Cumbria’s Living Heritage group – Levens Hall and Gardens, Holker Hall and Gardens, Brantwood, Muncaster, Mirehouse, Dalemain, Townend, Hutton-in-the-Forest, Brockhole and Blackwell – The Arts & Crafts House.  At these venues, historic figures and families have shaped the destinies of the properties that can be visited today.  Many continue to be family homes, welcoming guests and providing insights into life insider their historic walls. Added to all of these, are the Wordsworth-linked homes and Askham Hall, with its long associations to the Lowther family.

Track 11, ‘Castles in the Air’, by Don McLean, references the castles in the group – ancient Carlisle Castle, where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned, Sizergh, Muncaster, former home to jester Tom Fool, and Brougham.  Roman fort, Birdoswald, could also be considered a Roman ‘castle’.  All of these venues offer visitors exquisite glances into the life of our ancestors and how their former residents lived.

Following this comes ‘Lady Writer’ from Dire Straits, celebrating the works and life of Beatrix Potter, whose former home at Hill Top is one of the properties within Cumbria’s Living Heritage.  The group also boasts the Beatrix Potter Gallery in Hawkshead, housed in what was formerly her husband’s solicitor’s office.

The upbeat ‘Walking on Sunshine’, by Katrina and the Waves, reminds us of the fact that fantastic walks can be taken from many of the properties when they reopen, as well as in both Grizedale and Whinlatter forests and from venues like Acorn Bank and Allan Bank.  Those taking a cruise on glorious Coniston Water onboard the restored Victorian pleasure vessel, Steam Yacht Gondola, whenever restrictions lift, will also be able to enjoy a number of walks, from the lake shore to points from which amazing fell and lake views can be taken in.

From there, the CD moves to a bit of foot-tapping as the country and western anthem, Cotton-eyed Joe becomes track 14 and for very good reason. The Stott Park Bobbin Mill once produced millions of wooden bobbins for the Lancashire cotton trade and is now the only working bobbin mill left in the Lake District.

And finally, the CD concludes with ‘You’ve Got the Love’ by Florence and the Machine, a poignant reminder that the members of Cumbria’s Living Heritage have all had their toughest year on record and are dependent on Cumbrian residents, and visitors from elsewhere, showing them some love and support whenever they are allowed to re-open.  For many, that may be out of season, so any patronage, even just a visit to the tearooms of those venues that have one, will be greatly appreciated.  The group knows Cumbria has the love to see them through.

Chair of Cumbria’s Living Heritage, Peter Frost-Pennington, says: “We are staying upbeat and positive in all that we do and are continuing to communicate with local residents and prospective visitors, to strengthen our bonds with them and provide some entertainment at a time when many people are still having to stay indoors every day.

“This is not an easy time for any of us, but we are a group that draws strength from history and history tells us that positivity can win through.  Rather than shutting off all communications with heritage lovers, we are building stronger relationships with them, so that we can meet again, hopefully very soon.”

Some group members have been able to open gardens or grounds to visitors thus far, but the advice is to check on individual member websites, to get their latest news on their capacity to accept visitors and also cars. more information about  Cumbria’s Living Heritage can be found at www.cumbriaslivingheritage.co.uk

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