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August 18, 2017

Quirky Travel Review: out and about in the all-new Ford Fiesta

Quirky Travel Review: out and about in the all-new Ford Fiesta
The Ford Fiesta at Windermere Works

The Ford Fiesta at Windermere Works

“Now that is one sexy-looking car.” This was the reaction from one of my best friends to the vehicle I rocked up in to take her out. The brand new Ford Fiesta has film-star good looks, which is not something I was expecting when I agreed to test-drive it for a week. To be honest, apart from a couple of hire cars, I hadn’t driven a Ford since my bright orange Ford Escort in the 1980s. But as soon as I saw this vehicle, I was hooked. Its sleek lines, metallic finish, high-spec features and even the cycle rack on the roof, shouted ‘come try me’.

Ford Fiesta Morecambe Bay

The Ford Fiesta overlooking Morecambe Bay

Over the following week, I drove over 400 miles from Carnforth in Lancashire to Cockermouth in north Cumbria, to Sunderland Point, the quaint little peninsula on Morecambe Bay, Bowness-on-Windermere and Grasmere. The car handles really well and I fell completely in love. OK, I currently drive an old Honda Jazz so (almost) any new car is an improvement, but I do a lot of mileage in my job as a travel writer and business coach and I am fussy what I drive. My son, definitely not easily impressed, thought it was great, and was almost as sorry as I was when I had to hand it back.

New Ford Fiesta – Features

The Ford Fiesta in North Lake District

The Ford Fiesta in North Lake District

  • Active Park Assist inc Parallel and Perpendicular Parking with Side Parking Aid
  • Adaptive Cruise Control with built-in RADAR sensor
  • Lane Keeping Aid with Steering Wheel alert and Warning Light
  • Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection
  • Traffic Sign Recognition indicating Speed Limit
  • Blind Spot Information System for Wing Mirrors
  • Automatic Lights plus Auto High Beam Night aid
  • Automatic Windscreen Wiper option
  • Electric power-assisted steering (EPAS)
  • Ford SYNC 3 Voice-Control and Touch-Screen technology to control phone, music and navigation
  • Bang & Olufsen B&O PLAY 675-watt audio system with 10-speaker, woofer and subwoofer
Ford Fiesta Blackwell Arts and Crafts House overlooking Windermere

Ford Fiesta Blackwell Arts and Crafts House overlooking Windermere

There are many more features as standard and optional. I had the 1.5 litre TDCi engine which gives a very impressive performance and fuel economy. Driving along the motorway and country lanes, up fells and along the coast, I got an average of 56mpg and if I’d used the Eco-Button it would have been even more efficient. It’s got keyless ignition and when the car was idling in a queue, the Auto Start-Stop technology switched off the engine while still supplying power to essentials like the headlights, air-conditioning and the audio system. A light touch on the clutch got it going in nano-seconds. With its new six-speed manual transmission and electronic torque vectoring control (whatever that is) it gives a fast, smooth drive with tight cornering a decent turning circle.

Ford Fiesta Sunderland Point Lancashire

Ford Fiesta at Sunderland Point

My Fiesta was the 5 door model and had loads of space in the front and a larger rear seating than many similar cars. The seats are very comfortable; I have a dodgy back but the driver’s seat was easy to adjust, which isn’t always the case. My son’s 6′ 3″ and had plenty of legroom, though if you were sitting behind him you’d have a bit of a squeeze! The Fiesta is often described as a ‘Super-Mini’ but it would easily take a group of four, or five a push. There’s no compromise in the boot: it’s got depth and height so plenty of room for shopping bags, walking boots, jacket and the other paraphernalia that I manage to fill my car with. Watch this video to find out more.

5-Star Ford Fiesta

Ford Fiesta Sunderland Point

For its technological features, quality build, attractive appearance including its grey metallic finish (Magnetic), sleek lines and comfort I give the all-new Ford Fiesta 5 stars. Many thanks for Pye Motors for lending me the car. I wasn’t paid for this assignment and all views are my own. Contact them for more details on the Ford Fiesta and to arrange a test drive – hopefully you’ll love it too. Now, who wants to buy an old Honda Jazz? I’ve got my sights set on a much sexier beast …

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Quirky Travel Review - New Ford Fiesta

June 12, 2017

Quirky Travel Review: Verdant Works Jute Museum, Dundee

Quirky Travel Review: Verdant Works Jute Museum, Dundee

Verdant Works Jute Museum Dundee - image zoe dawes

The Scottish city of Dundee is said to be built on ‘Jam, Jute and Journalism’ and a visit to Verdant Works Jute Museum introduced me to the Jute industry, about which I knew nothing.  Housed in a former jute mill in the Blackness area of Dundee, it was opened in 1996 as a museum dedicated to telling the story of this aspect of the textile industry.

Verdant Works Jute Museum Dundee

Verdant Works Jute Museum

‘The jute collections cover the entire history of the jute industry. It covers topics such as manufacturing, research and development, end products, quality control, textile engineering, the industry’s Indian connections, and the lives of the workers. Objects include machinery patterns, jute and flax products, small tools, technical drawings, plans, and quality control and testing equipment.’ Wikipedia

Moisture tester Dundee Jute Museum Scotland

Black and white images of factories belching smoke, enormous machines, men, women and children dressed in drab clothing standing proud (tired?) beside this equipment flicker through the film auditorium. Until the 1857 Factory Act was introduced, limiting working days to 10 hours, it was common for young boys to toil for up to 19 hours a day. Other facts leap out; in 1863 the average life expectancy for a Dundee man was 33 years. By the end of the 19th century the production of textiles was the dominant industry in Dundee, directly employing around half the working population. Their textiles were being distributed all over the world …

Jute - Dundee and the World, Scotland

Women outnumbered men three to one in the mills, an imbalance in the labour market that gained Dundee the nickname of ‘she town’. It created a unique and tough breed of women, born out of being the main providers for the family. The mill girls were noted for their stubborn independence. “Overdressed, loud, bold-eyed girls” according to one observer and often ‘roarin’ fou’ with drink – characteristics that caused consternation among the ‘gentlefolk’ of Dundee. verdantworks.com Women continued to play a key role in Juteopolis until the well into the 20th century.

Female Jute factory worker, Dundee Scotland

It was salutory to find out how market forces were at work over a 150 years ago. In 1855 the first jute mill in India was set up, using machinery and workers from Dundee and by 1900 had taken over as the world’s leading jute producer. (I remember working with shoe-makers in Clarks factory Kendal, where the footwear manufacturer was closing down UK production as it had all been outsourced to Eastern Europe and South East Asia.) The jute museum does an excellent job of combining fascinating facts, industrial equipment, historical reconstructions and hands-on experiences.

Verdant Works Jute production Dundee

Displays include the wagons transporting raw fibrous jute, massive machinery, information boards on the complex process involved in production, colonial life in India, office managers, the daily lives of factory workers and modern-day uses of jute. It’s gives an excellent insight into one of Scotland’s most important industries. Verdant Works Jute Museum is a must-see attraction for any visitor to Dundee.

Verdant Works Jute Museum Dundee Scotland

Many thanks to Visit Scotland for hosting me in Dundee, Jennie Patterson for showing me round and sharing her passion for the city, the owners and staff at Tay Park House for their hospitality and Dundee City for a very enjoyable visit to Dundee.

More about Scotland: Delicious Food and Drink in Dundee

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Verdant Works Jute Museum Dundee Scotland

May 12, 2017

5 tasty dishes that go perfectly with Black Garlic Ketchup

5 tasty dishes that go perfectly with Black Garlic Ketchup
Black Garlic Ketchup - in Menorca

Black Garlic Ketchup – on balcony of my brother’s flat in Menorca

 

Have you tried Black Garlic Ketchup yet? Not heard of it? You soon will. Award-winning Hawkshead Relish have taken one of the latest must-have ingredients, Black Garlic, and turned it into a taste-bomb sauce that goes with a wide variety of dishes. They use only the best Spanish black garlic, made by ‘baking whole, fresh garlic bulbs for 40 days at a very low temperature creating an extraordinary flavour; rich, smooth & bursting with a balsamic sweetness.’  On a recent trip to Menorca I bought a bulb of Black Garlic; not knowing about this ‘baking’ process, I had a surprise to find its cloves a dark gooey texture.

Spanish Black Garlic - photo zoe dawes

I got my hands on a bottle of Black Garlic Ketchup a few weeks ago and have been experimenting with it ever since, including taking it out to Menorca for my brother to try. I’ve had it with a wide range of dishes, including steak – perfect, risotto – OK and pork casserole – different. All the dishes were cooked at home, although I also tried a couple on holiday. Here are my top 5 plus recipe tips (no measurements or detail) for your delectation.

5 ways with Black Garlic Ketchup

 1.  Fish and Chips

Fish and Chips with Black Garlic Ketchup - photo Zoe Dawes

Fish and Chips with Black Garlic Ketchup

The umami-taste of the ketchup really enhances the flavour of beer-battered cod and goes beautifully with home-made chips and frozen peas.  I’m not a fan of tomato ketchup and usually have mayonnaise with fish and chips, but from now on I’ll be having it with Hawkshead Relish’s Black Garlic Ketchup. Try it with different fish; it could be too overpowering for more delicate types. A glass of chilled New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc was my tipple of choice – because that’s what was in the fridge …

Cooking Tip: Perfect chips. Use a floury potato like King Edwards or Maris Piper. Cut into whatever shape and size you like. Par-boil them with their skins ON (for added fibre), pat dry then put them into very hot oil. Reduce the heat and fry for about 10 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon or basket, turn up the heat again and flash fry the chips for a minute or so to crisp them.

2.  Jerk Chicken with new potatoes and asparagus

Jerk chicken, new potatoes, asparagus and Black Garlic Ketchup - photo zoe dawes

My son really loved this combination. The slightly spicy flavour of the grilled chicken was enhanced by the ketchup and the buttery new potatoes got an extra oomph. It would also go well with Canarian Patatas Arrugudas (wrinkled potatoes)The steamed asparagus (which I have with just about everything when it’s in season!) coped well.  We also tried the ketchup with unspiced chicken which was fine, but preferred the Caribbean version.  I had it with a glass of chilled French Reserve de la Saurine white wine.

Cooking Tip: Jerk chicken. Coat chicken breasts with Jerk seasoning – buy it or make your own with dried chilli, ginger, garlic, onion, cumin, thyme. I use a tasty one from Aruba, a Caribbean island I visited last year. Heat a griddle pan until very hot and place chicken onto pan. Quickly sear one side then turn over and cook for about 3 minutes, depending on thickness of chicken. Turn over again and cook for a further few minutes. Serve immediately.

3.  Sausage and garlic mash with peas and sweetcorn

Sausage and mash with Black Garlic Ketchup - photo zoe dawes

Sausage and mash is my ultimate comfort food; I’ve loved it ever since I was a child. I prefer local Cumberland or Westmorland sausages, but any good-quality bangers will do. Hawkshead Relish, based in Cumbria, add tomatoes, spices and Anglesey seasalt to this ketchup, which may explain why it goes so well with this meal. I prefer my sausages well-grilled, not fried. My brother gave me a very special bottle of Gran Reserva Spanish Rioja 2005 which was just divine with this dinner.

Cooking Tip: Garlic mashed potatoes. Boil floury potatoes for about 20 minutes until almost falling apart. (I prefer to cook them with skins on.) Drain and put into a bowl with a little milk, butter and a few garlic cloves. You could use black garlic for a twist. Use an electric mixer (be careful not to over do it or the mash becomes gluey), a potato ricer or hand masher and mash until it’s voluptuously smooth.

4.  Black Garlic Ketchup Bolognese with Pasta

Black Garlic Ketchup Bolognese with pasta

For this dish I used Black Garlic Ketchup in my regular bolognese recipe. I also replaced the garlic I’d usually include, with black garlic cloves. THis definitely changed the flavour, adding a depth and intriguing sweetness to the sauce. I loved it but my son and his dad preferred my usual recipe so I will leave it to you to decide. Argentinean Malbec goes down a treat with this meal.

Cooking Tip: Black Garlic Bolognese Sauce. Fry the onions until golden. Remove from pan. Fry minced beef until browned all over. Drain any excess liquid and add fried onions along with a few black garlic cloves and red peppers. Stir in passata or tomato puree, a good glug of red wine (any plonk will do) and fry for a few minutes. Add some chicken stock and a hefty dollop of Black Garlic Ketchup. Cover pan and simmer for about 30 minutes. Serve with pasta and grated cheese.

5.  Spanish Omelette with salad and sourdough bread

Spanish Omelette and salad with Black Garlic Ketchup - photo zoe dawes

A marriage made in heaven; Spanish omelette, salad and fresh sourdough bread. Eating it reminds me of happy family holidays in Spain. Serving it with Black Garlic Ketchup brings together all the flavours in one deliciously harmonious plate of food. Of course, you should have it with Spanish beer, but I like Peroni from Italy. Any chilled white wine goes well too.

Cooking Tip: Spanish omelette, quirky style. Cut waxy new potatoes (skins on or off) into thick slices and fry gently in olive oil with thinly sliced onions, for about 30 minutes. Strain and return to the pan. Whisk eggs (one per person) and pour over potatoes, with salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes then, if you feel brave, turn over omelette and cook a couple more minutes. I finish it off under the grill and serve with a grating of Menorcan cheese.

Spanish omelette in frying pan

Finally, for something quite different, check out this recipe for Aubergine and Black Garlic hummus. You can buy Black Garlic Ketchup online or at their Hawkshead shop in the heart of the Lake District. Many thanks to Maria at Hawkshead Relish for giving me a sample to try; the views (and recipes) are my own.

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5 ways with Hawkshead Relish Black Garlic Ketchup

Read more food-related articles:

Tasty Fun at Kendal Food Festival

Delicious Food and Drink in Dundee

Food Photography Top Tips

May 2, 2017

Flamingos and cocktails on Renaissance Aruba Resort private island

Flamingos and cocktails on Renaissance Aruba Resort private island

Flamingo in front of Mangrove Beach Bar - Renaissance Aruba

Luxury hotels around the world vie with each other for a Unique Selling Point that differentiates them from the rest of the very luxurious herd. Well, the Renaissance Aruba Resort and Casino has an ace up its highly-coutured sleeve. Its very own private island … with its very own flock of flamingos. And Flamingo Beach on Renaissance Island is adults-only so the kiddies don’t pester the birds. I have been fortunate to stay in some of the loveliest hotels in the world but this one tops them all for sheer gorgeousness with a quirky twist.

Hotel Renaissance Aruba flamingos - photo zoe dawesThere is something delightfully bonkers about flamingos. With their spindly legs, sinuous necks, hooked beaks, salmon pink plumage and weird yellow eyes, they look like something designed by Salvador Dali. I first remember seeing a picture of a flamingo in Lewis Carrol’s surreal story, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; she had a large flamingo tucked under her arm. It was looking understandably cross as she was using it a croquet mallet. I’ve seen them in zoos but never, until a truly memorable holiday in Aruba, had I seen them in their natural habitat.

Flamingo on Renaissance Aruba island - photo zoe dawes

Well, actually it’s not really their natural habitat as they have been brought in by Renaissance Aruba to add some quirky colour to the island. There were seven of them when I visited, very tame and very fond of cocktails! They seemed especially fond of Aruba Ariba, a heady mix of local liquer Coecoei, Caribbean rum and a lot more. Visitors can buy flamingo food from the beach bar and it’s a novel experience to sit in the turquoise waters of the Caribbean sipping a cocktail and have a flamingo peck from your hand 🙂

Feeding flamingos on Renaissance Aruba Island

Renaissance Aruba has two hotels on Aruba; I stayed in the adults-only Renaissance Marina Hotel in downtown Ornajestad, the island’s capital. The Renaissance Ocean Suites across the road, has comfortable suites perfect for families or couples. Both hotels have access to Renaissance Aruba Private Island via the hotel launch which runs regularly from morning to evening. It’s a real treat to step onto the boat INSIDE the Marina Hotel lobby, emerge into the Caribbean sunshine, pootle past the millionaire’s yachts to the Ocean Suites to pick up more guests then whizz across your every own private island.

Renaissance Aruba Private Island paradise

There are two main beaches; Iguana Beach is for families and Flamingo Beach is for adults – and flamingos. Sun beds and hammocks entice visitors to relax and forget about everyday cares. Spa Cove is ideal for full-on pamper sessions and Papagayo Bar and Grill serves simple meals, including excellent wood-fired pizzas with beach waiter service.  At the Mangrove Beach Bar you can get one of those popular Ariba Aruba cocktails the flamingos are so fond of. (You can watch one necking back a cocktail in the video at the end of this article …)

Ariba Aruba Cocktail

Ariba Aruba Cocktail

Renaissance Island offers a range of water sport activities, beach-tennis courts and a fitness facility. You can even watch the planes land at Aruba Airport opposite. The 40-acre island has mangroves all around and a nature reserve at one end. I saw lots of iguanas including a bright blue bobby-dazzler and a friendly pelican perched very close to my hammock one day.

Hotel Renaissance Aruba Island pelican

However, it’s the flamingos that make the island so special and the reason I’d book to stay at the Renaissance Aruba Resort and Casino, as opposed to any of the many other excellent hotels here. There are plenty of things to do on Aruba but without doubt, my favourite was relaxing on a beach with a little flock of quirkilicious flamingos …

Watch Flamingos on Renaissance Aruba Island

Want to see the flamingos up close – and quaffing a cocktail? Here you go!

Special thanks to our host Amayra Boekhoudt, who looked after us on behalf of Aruba Tourism. If you’d like to find out more, visit Aruba website and follow their hashtags #discoveraruba and #onehappyisland on Social Media.

Find out more things to do on Aruba here

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Flamingos on Renaissance Aruba Private Island

January 14, 2017

Quirky Travel Poem: The Owl and the Pussy Cat

Quirky Travel Poem: The Owl and the Pussy Cat
The owl and the pussycat Ian beck

Oh, to go to sea in a beautiful pea-green boat … The classic children’s poem, The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear, has been a family favourite for many years; I used to read it to my son, Alex, at bedtime. It weaves its quirky magic in every line, taking us on an extraordinary journey to an imaginary land, ‘where the Bong Tree grows’. It’s got everything we could wish for in life: adventure, food and drink, money, music, dance and romance. It’s also stars two of our favourite creatures, an owl and a pussycat, plus a pig and a turkey.

A Book of Nonsense (c. 1875 James Miller edition) by Edward Lear

A Book of Nonsense (c. 1875 James Miller edition) by Edward Lear

In 1846 Lear published A Book of Nonsense, a volume of limericks. In 1871 he published Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany and Alphabets, which included his most famous nonsense song, The Owl and the Pussycat. It was either written for his patron, the Earl of Derby’s daughter OR three-year-old Janet Symonds, daughter of Lear’s friend, poet John Addington Symonds. The term runcible, used for the phrase “runcible spoon”, was invented for the poem.’ (The Owl and the PussycatWikipedia)

The Owl and the Pussycat -Edward Lear illustration

The Owl and the Pussycat – Edward Lear illustration

Many artists have illustrated the poem since it was published in 1871, including Lear himself. He was a talented artist and became an ‘ornithological draughtsman‘ getting work with the Zoological Society and then from 1832 to 1836 with the Earl of Derby, who kept a private menagerie at his estate. We have a beautifully illustrated version by Ian Beck (see above). His brightly coloured paintings bring this charming nonsense poem alive in a delightful way. (We also have anohter Ian Beck illustrated Lear poem – see The Jumblies). Read the poem and remind yourself of Lear’s literary quirkiness!

The Owl and the Pussycat - illustration by Toadbriar

The Owl and the Pussycat – illustration by Toadbriar

The Owl and the Pussycat

I

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
   In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
   Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
   And sang to a small guitar,
“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
    What a beautiful Pussy you are,
         You are,
         You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!”
II
Pussy said to the Owl, “You elegant fowl!
   How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
   But what shall we do for a ring?”
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
   To the land where the Bong-Tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
   With a ring at the end of his nose,
             His nose,
             His nose,
   With a ring at the end of his nose.
II
“Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
   Your ring?” Said the Piggy, “I will.”
So they took it away, and were married next day
   By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
   Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
   They danced by the light of the moon,
             The moon,
             The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.
Edward Lear 1812 – 1888
The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear - illustrator LoneAnimator

The Owl and the Pussycat – illustrator LoneAnimator

July 13, 2016

‘Oh, the places you’ll go!’ Life’s adventure with Dr Seuss

‘Oh, the places you’ll go!’ Life’s adventure with Dr Seuss

Dr Seuss Oh the places you'll go

Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

The opening words of ‘Oh, the places you’ll go’, a delightful little book by Dr Seuss, are positive and life-affirming. They also epitomize the philosophy of many of us who choose to set off to Great Places as often as we possibly can. These places may be real; a holiday on a sun-kissed island like Menorca, a trek through the Australian Bush, a train journey through the Swiss Alps, a boat trip to watch bears in Canada or a meander beside an English lake. But they could equally be places we go metaphorically. The word ‘journey’ is hugely overused these days, but life really is a journey, with all the attendant ups and downs that any literal journey brings …

‘Oh, the places you’ll go’ is advice to a young boy who leaves home to explore the world. He’s told that he’s in charge of his own life and can make his own decisions on what direction to his journey will take.

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own.  And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

The book, written as a poem, takes the lad through highs and lows, assuring him that, ‘You’ll be on your way up, You’ll be seeing great sights, You’ll join the high fliers who soar to the heights.’  But then there are the lows and attendant problems.

You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…

We’re all familiar with the ‘Waiting Place’ where people are just,

Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting …

Escaping from this dreary place, the boy is told he’ll escape to find the, bright places where Boom Bands are playing’ and he’ll ride high. And so he will go on, becoming successful and seeming to have everything in life until one day, whether he likes it or not, ‘Alone will be something you’ll be quite a lot.’ It’s very unusual for a children’s book, for that is what ‘Oh, the places you’ll go’ was written as, to address loneliness. Yet that is something most of us will experience at some time in our lives, and some people are lonely a lot of the time.

All Alone from Oh the places you'll go by Dr Seuss

However, in the realistic but upbeat tone of the book, Dr Seuss says he will overcome the things that scare him right out of his pants, in spite of getting mixed up with ‘strange birds’ and the ‘frightening creek’. Through it all he’s counselled to, ‘Step with great care and great tact’, and to remember that ‘Life’s a Great Balancing Act’. The story ends with these positive words,

So…

be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray

or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,

You’re off to Great Places!

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting.

So … get on your way!

Dr Seuss Oh the places you'll go - book

So, what are you waiting for? Today is YOUR day, your mountain is waiting … now get on your way 🙂

May 2, 2016

On seeing ‘Nocturnal Rainbows in the English Lakes’

On seeing ‘Nocturnal Rainbows in the English Lakes’
Seven Nocturnal Rainbows - Lakes Ignite - zoedawes

Nocturnal Rainbow on Coniston

“If a picture paints a thousand words
Then why can’t I paint you?”

David Gates, BREAD

Those were the words that came into my head as I tried to photo over 200 coloured LED lanterns slowly drifting across Coniston Water in the springtime dusk. Looming over the lake, the Old Man of Coniston, snow-freckled and shadowy, provided an impressive backdrop to this impossible-to-capture picture. I realised it was futile, put down my camera and sat back on the rocky lakeshore, to enjoy this unusual spectacle. (The blurry photos are just to give you a very vague idea of what it was like.)

Created by Charles Monkhouse, Seven Nocturnal Rainbows for the English Lakesis one of three special artworks commissioned by Lakes Culture for the Cumbria Arts Festival called Lakes Ignite 2016. Charles took his inspiration from the poets and artists of the Lake District, in particular  ‘A Shower’ by JMW Turner, showing an arcing rainbow over darkling Buttermere. I was fortunate to be invited to the launch on April 30th.

Ready for Nocturnal Rainbows over Coniston - Lakes Ignite - zoedawes

Ready for Nocturnal Rainbows over Coniston

At about 8pm we wandered down Brantwood Meadow to the edge of Coniston as the sun set and the Lakeland fells came into sharp relief. Birds choralled their evensong and a dog barked excitedly but was quickly shushed by its owner. In the distance a small boat puttered about and the first of the lights gradually appeared. Chairs were unfolded, rugs laid across laps, children hoisted onto shoulders and an air of quiet anticipation flowed through the crowd.

Watching Nocturnal Rainbows Coniston Lakes Ignite - zoedawes

Watching Nocturnal Rainbows

Red lights were slowly joined by orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet, a vivid illumination of that childhood rainbow mnemonic, Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain.’  People talked in undertones; somehow no-one wanted to disturb the mesmerising spectacle unfolding in front of us. A bat swooped across the water and a boy crouched down to peer into the pebbled shallows. Serious photographers checked lenses and adjusted tripods, hoping  to capture the nocturnal rainbows before they faded again.

Lakes Ignite Seven Nocturnal Rainbows - zoedawes

Capturing Nocturnal Rainbows

As the night turned electric blue, the gently bobbing line stretched out across the lake, sending streams of colour into its depths. Perchance the spirit of Donald Campbell was enjoying the show as much as those on the shore. Coniston village opposite twinkled; some may have seen the rainbow and wondered if water sprites were having a party …

Seven Noctural Rainbows Coniston - zoedawes

Noctural Rainbows Coniston

After half an hour or so the lights started to disappear, the violet ones going first. People slowly came back to reality, expressing pleasure at such a sensory treat. My amateurish photographs could not capture the beauty of this experience, but that is fine, for it was its gradual unfolding, transient nature that made it so special. Unlike a painting or sculpture that lasts, this is a truly unique artwork, ever-changing, dependant on its setting, the weather and the eye of the beholder. Charles Monhouse’s Nocturnal Rainbows are appearing on Coniston, Ullswater and Grasmere until May 6th. If you get the chance, take an hour or so to visit the English Lakes and enjoy them. Hopefully, Turner would greatly approve of this tribute to his art …

Lakes Ignite 2016

Lakes Ignite 2016

Lakes Ignite 2016

From April 30 to May 22nd Cumbria and the Lake District host numerous cultural events and exhibitions for Lakes Ignite 2016. Two more specially commissioned pieces are Museum of Water by Amy Shorrocks and 21st Century Landscape Art Class by digital artist Joseph Connor. Others include Rembrandt’s ‘Self Portrait at 63’ (get up close) at Abbot Hall, Kendal, Romance and Realism – Beatrix Potter; a life inspired by Nature (charming original illustrations) at the NT Hawkshead Gallery, Laura Ford ‘Seen and Unseen sculptures at Blackwell Arts and Crafts House (spookily unnerving), the Go Herdwick Art Trail (family fun finding these sheep dotted around south lakes), the Freerange Comedy Festival (still some tickets left) at the Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal, From Fjords to Fells at Heaton Cooper Studio, Grasmere (very good art shop too) and Design for Life (quirkily contemporary) at Brantwood. Find out more about Lakes Culture here.

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