Us Against Irton Pike
We left our room and made our way to the foot of Irton Pike.
We paid the landlady who was hoovering the detritus from the previous evening’s party. I happened to leave my iPad on the bar as we were saying goodbye and she was kind enough to catch us up to return it even though she was weighed down with a full head of thick curlers.
We breakfasted in a pleasant cafe along the street, guests of the landlord who, with forward vision, had realised he was not going to be able to face cooking it himself.
A good call and we had a lovely fry up, thank you very much.
We were going to need it.
The pike itself is 230 meters high and we were to push our Dolly along the road that skirts the top.
As I mentioned previously this was always going to be the section of the journey where we would need to drive some of the way. That said it was rather peculiar looking up at the tip of the pike knowing that we were discarding a perfectly healthy van at the bottom of it.
The secret to pushing a heavy wheeled theatre up a long steep rise is pace. Always stop before you need to, have plenty of water, hope for a pub at the bottom and careful on those blind bends.
We managed to make the summit with just 17 stops. Not bad at all.
Along the way we were treated to stunning views of the pike itself but also the deep woodlands either side which were carpeted with bluebells and wild flowers. We also spotted something you won’t see from a passing car or probably even a whilst cycling.
A small monument dedicated to William Malkinson a local preacher who died suddenly on this very spot February 21st 1886. We doffed our hats to a fallen fellow traveller who wandered around telling his own stories.
A footnote to the stone carving said “Be Ye Also Ready”, we exercised extreme caution from there to the summit.
Once there we took a moment to enjoy the stunning views of long lush valleys leading to steeper distant mountains, pikes and peaks.
Then slowly down. Taking our time, proud of our achievements and in the hope of a pub and pot of tea. We were rewarded at the base with just that and having spent an hour sipping tea and blogging we pushed on to Eskdale Green and our next appointment. A ride on La’al Ratty.
Ratty is a steam locamotive built in 1876 to ferry iron ore from Boot to the coast at Ravenglass. It is now run as a passenger railway and ferries tourists and local travellers along the same line. We arrived a full hour before our 2.25 departure booking and were lucky enough to check in advance with another driver heading east that our Dolly would indeed fit into her carriage reserved for wheelchair users. We gave a small performance for some fellow travellers and met with Janice who manages Headzup with me and Blez who joined us to capture some photographs for future publicity shots and archiving.
Our journey aboard Ratty lasted just half an hour or so and every inch was a joy. The countryside unrolled before us through the steam. The weeks and weeks of rain recently endured has caused the grass to explode into the deepest green and created an abundance of wild flowers of every colour. I doubt the county could ever again look as fine.
What a treat!
We detrained at Ravenglass and thanked our driver and guards before pushing on to our venue, a pretty hall on the promenade of the estuary.
The local committee presented us with a lovely picnic and we feasted on butties, home made scones and cakes with Janice and Blez.
Later our families arrived, Maxim’s wife Rosie, then George, Alfie, Ah Mam and our friend Boomdang T.
Later still other people joined us for the show. Local folk but also a few people who had received messages from friends who had seen our show previously.
Our performance went well. The begging of the second half stood out for me. In this segment we invite audience members to join us for a Mummers play. We had a particularly spirited group that evening featuring actual Mummers, a story teller and percussionist.
Our show ended as the sun began to set over the estuary through the hall windows and all to soon we were saying goodbye and packing the van at the end of the Cumbrian leg of our journey.
This is not the first time I have Vagabonded Cumbria and I already know it won’t be my last.
Thank you to our venues, our promoters and of course audiences. Thank you to everybody who tooted, waved and slowed down for us as we wandered West Cumbria. Finally a massive thank you to Bob and Caroline from Arts Out West.
Maxim and myself will next travel Yorkshire as performing for Holnfirth Festival.
Heres the news.
Come and join us at a gig if you can or please pass news onto your friends if they live local.
From Maxim, Dolly and me Thank You Cumbria
Rambling On Day 1 30th May
It’s a funny old world.
Last night I found myself in the back of a car driven by a bloke called David who alongside Hans Blix works for the United Nations as a nuclear inspector. He was there when they didn’t find anything. I was sat in the back of his motor eating pasta off a china plate with some lovely olive bread that I had been given at the close of our show.
David (One of our audience members) very kindly drove us to St Bees where we were to spend the night. Along the way we we discussed wether or not the wind turbine viewed from the right hand window was a blot on the landscape or not.
Curiously if I looked out of the left window we were in the shadow of Sellafield Nuclear reprocessing plant.
It remained unmentioned.
We had just performed our premier at a beautiful and intimate theatre called The Florence Mine near Egremont. This ex iron ore mine now boasts a thriving community of artists all gathered in various workshop spaces.
They have a gallery, a coffee shop, a bar and theatre space. Our audience gathered around small tables cabaret style, or relaxed at the back of the orchestra stalls on comfortable sofas near the bar.
Congratulations to Peter the manager and all his team who have created a vibrant Phoenix from the red dust and residue of a now lost industry.
And so to our first night.
As a showman I am at my happiest performing to audiences when offering something new.
There is a glorious mix of excitement and fear involved in premiering a new show. Audiences and artist all to soon gauge the measure of each other and both swiftly realise what kind of evening we are each heading for.
A new show can go either way.
We hope that each routine will entertain in its own right but also that our collection of stories knit together seamlessly into one long tapestry of tails.
We hope our audience are in the right mood. We hope our audience feature the perfect balance of ages and characters.
We have a lot of hope.
As time passes and our shows evolve us story tellers naturally alter the pace of our delivery and we will constantly tweak and fiddle with a show from our opening night until our final curtain.
Hopefully to its benefit.
And that first night when you stand in front of an expectant paying audience you can only hope your show is good. You never actually know this to be the truth until your on stage.
Thankfully at our premier in the Florence mine both Maxim, myself and audience were quickly able to relax. Surely enough a quarter of a way into our first show I enjoyed that familiar tingle that tells me it’s OK and our audience are engaged. Thankfully each routine worked as we had hoped and our palate of songs, stories and routines worked well together as one whole.
Later at the bar our audience shared with us there favourite bits and thankfully again most of our routines earned a mention.
Earlier we had our first shunt.
Five miles of glorious Cumbrian scenery. Up hills, along pretty avenues with lush green canopies then up hills again. We had lunch at the side of the pretty church in Haile which was opposite a large hill entirely washed with blue bells and wild flowers.
We passed babbling rivers atop ancient stone bridges.
Cumbria is indeed a beautiful and hilly part of the world. Our first push covered five miles in glorious sunshine.
Along the way Maxim enjoyed his share of puffing and panting up the big hills as much as the gentle strolling along the flat lush lanes. After a few miles we had done away with the politeness of asking whether each would care for a break from shoving and had sunk into just knowing when to stop or handover.
The secret to pushing a heavy load a long way is stop and rest before you need to. An easy enough job when you are lucky enough to tramp through glorious Cumbria, always encouraged by what delights might await our viewing at the top.
Finally down hill and into the mine complex itself, a well earned coffee, meat pie and first fit up.
Inside we met with local artists Jenni and Marie who specialise in making paints both oil and pastel from ore cut in the mine. This delivers a wonderful sandstone red hue and exhibits of work using these bespoke materials were hung proudly in the venue by myriads of artists both local and national.
During one of our routines I use pastels to illustrate one of Maxim’s stories. I know proudly use a pot of Egremont Red hematite to colour and shade with great effect.
So a grand long walk, glorious weather, beautiful landscape and a successful premier. Interesting and kind people plus a few pints of Buttcombe and the promise of a fry up in the morning.
All in all a perfect start.
We are truly on the road.
Beckermet reading rooms tonight. We have five more miles to shunt and the weather is again lovely.
All I need to do now is return the plate.
Hello everyone – welcome to the all new Headzup site.
We hope you enjoy the new layout and design. Thank you to Headzup artist Shaun Blezard for his technological wizardry.
Please have a good look around and find out more about projects touring in 2013/14.
In news coming up we have:
Up In Smoke is touring again soon – rewritten and starring the young Joe Fleming alongside Gacko, the popular show will be coming to schools in Cumbria soon.
Rambling On is our second outdoor walking adventure and you will soon be able to follow the project as it unfolds live by choosing the category Rambling On Blog.