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Thousands of visitors flock to Ambleside in pursuit of the high life

PUBLISHED: 01:16 04 July 2011 | UPDATED: 19:50 23 March 2016

Thousands of visitors flock to Ambleside in pursuit of the high life

Thousands of visitors flock to Ambleside in pursuit of the high life

They are not afraid of a challenge in Ambleside. We meet the people hitting the heights in this pretty Lakeland community. Emma Mayoh reports PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS

David Stanning, Manager, of Zeffirellis Cinema by the Park. David Stanning, Manager, of Zeffirellis Cinema by the Park.

Thousands of people flock to Ambleside each year in pursuit of adventure.

Climbers, fell runners and outdoor enthusiasts across the world use the pretty Lakeland town as a base to explore this remarkable part of England.

But there is one Ambleside man who has arguably enjoyed more adventure than most. The list of enduring physical challenges taken on by climber and explorer Dave Pritt would not look out of place lined up against some of the world’s experts.

He has scaled the world’s highest peaks and braved some of the most hostile environments. He, and instructors from his Ambleside company Adventure Peaks, have also set world records while helping other
people achieve their dreams.

Zeffirellis Cinema by the Park. Zeffirellis Cinema by the Park.

He said: ‘I’ve guided someone to set the new world record for the quickest ascent of the seven highest summits in the world.We have just guided the youngest person, at 16, to summit Everest.We held the record before that when we helped a 21-year-old and then a 19-year-old to the top.

‘I have a passion for climbing mountains. I get a real thrill out of pushing myself to the limit and exploring new places. It is very exciting for me to be able to help other people do this too.’

The 52-year-old, a former design and technology teacher at a Milnthorpe
school, has not only climbed Mount Everest - and is planning another
expedition in the next few years - he also plans to lead a trek across
Antarctica to the South Pole.

Many of his conquests were previously unclimbed peaks in Tien Shan in Asia and Kyrgyzstan. He has also regularly climbed Carstenz Pyramid in Indonesia and Australia’s highest peak. It was on a trip to scale this mountain that he discovered a new way of doing business.

Rebecca Wright with Mike, Scott and Colette Harvey from Liverpool playing bowls at the White Platts Recreation Ground. Rebecca Wright with Mike, Scott and Colette Harvey from Liverpool playing bowls at the White Platts Recreation Ground.

Before the group could attempt the gruelling climb, they had to make it
through miles of dense, impenetrable jungle. It was a task they could only do with the help of the newly discovered Dani tribe.

He said: ‘The existence of the Dani tribe was only discovered about 20 years ago and they used to be cannibals. It’s a pretty unusual situation to be in. I was led to this place and I had to negotiate with the chief how many villagers would help us.

‘This was a pretty daunting task. We were also duty bound to take stockpiles of sweet potatoes from each family. You should have seen the pile by the time negotiations had finished.

Granted, I don’t like to eat them too much anymore. But you can’t beat the feeling of achieving your ambitions and getting to the top. It is a total thrill.’

White Platts Recreation Ground. White Platts Recreation Ground.

Dave has now opened a new climbing wall in Ambleside to encourage more people into the sport. The wall, made out of resin moulded from a real crag, had to be winched into place through windows at the top of the four storey building. He’s in good company too.

Most of the staff are seasoned climbers including deputy manager, Simon
Bennett, who once worked on an education scheme devised by the
Crown Price in the United Arab Emirates to get Emirati children more active. He would spend days out in the wilderness teaching youngsters how to survive, as well as how to avoid deadly Camel spiders which are as big as your hand and are thought to lay eggs in your skin while you sleep.

‘We deal with the experts and the real climbing fanatics and now we want to get more people excited about climbing,’ said Dave. ‘It is a fantastic
thing to do and is a lot of fun.’ 

It may be a little more low key, but other people in Ambleside are taking on their own challenges or helping others overcome theirs. Take the dinner ladies at Ambleside CE Primary School. As well as feeding all the pupils they also cook dinners for a meals on wheels service and deliver to elderly members of the community.

Zeffirellis Cinema by the Park. Zeffirellis Cinema by the Park.

This month also sees the return of the popular Ambleside Sports, held annually on the last Thursday in July. The event, held at Rydal Park, sees hundreds of sports enthusiasts take part in everything from stamina-testing fell, track and cycle races to Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling, a sport believed to have been introduced by the Vikings more than 1,000 years ago.

Although, it may be done at a more genteel pace, Peter Cooper, has spent almost 30 years dedicated to his own craft. The former postman carves beautiful shepherds’ crooks. Many visitors to Ambleside will no doubt recall seeing him sitting in the front garden of his Lakeland stone cottage, in the centre of the town, delicately carving shapes out of soft hazel and blackthorn as well as from the rams’ horns donated to him by
local farmers.

It can take Peter, who learned how to make crooks from his uncle, anything from six to 30 hours to make a stick. It is something he does as a hobby, choosing to shy away from competitions. The 68-year-old, who lives with wife Sue, sees it as something to enjoy while he sits outside and takes in the sights outside his cottage door.

‘We have lived in this house for almost 40 years and we absolutely love being here,’ said Peter. ‘Things have changed a lot. But I love meeting lots of people who stop to talk to me and I get to make my crooks. It couldn’t get any better.’

St. Mary's Church. St. Mary's Church.

Where is it? Ambleside is located in the heart of the Lake District between
Windermere and Grasmere. Type LA22 9BX into your sat nav to get you there.

Where can I park? There are several pay and display car parks in Ambleside at either end of the town centre and some short stay on-street parking too.

What can I do? Take a walk to Stock Ghyll Force, a beautiful 70 foot waterfall, located just a short walk from the centre of Ambleside. Browse the many interesting shops in the town centre or watch the traditional Ambleside Rush Bearing ceremony on July 2nd or the Ambleside Sports at Rydal Park on July 28th.

Are there refreshments?
Plenty. There are quaint cafes, bars and lovely restaurants including some which look out onto the river.

Kath Teasdale, one of the meals on wheels team preparing to head off on her deliveries from Ambleside CE Primary School's kitchen.   Kath is also a School Governor. Kath Teasdale, one of the meals on wheels team preparing to head off on her deliveries from Ambleside CE Primary School's kitchen. Kath is also a School Governor.

The print version of this article appeared in the July 2011 issue of Lancashire Life 

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