Ambleside prepares for Olympic Torch visit and a brighter future
PUBLISHED: 22:27 05 June 2012 | UPDATED: 21:28 20 February 2013
The buzz is back in this Lakeland honeypot, buoyed by the return of students and home-grown visitors. Amanda Griffiths reports Photography by Kirsty Thompson
Where once there were banners and protests, more optimistic
noises are now coming from Ambleside.
The last time I wrote about the Lakelands retail heart, there were banners and posters everywhere as part of a Save our Campus campaign. This was an angry backlash to the University of Cumbrias plans to mothball their campus. Now, two years later, it seems the tide could be turning.
Liz Beaty, the pro vice-chancellor, cited severe economic conditions at the start of 2010. But the university always had the desire to redevelop the campus in a sustainable way once circumstances allowed, specifically in programmes relevant to the location and community, she says.
A turnaround of the universitys financial position in the last 18 months and changes at the Newton Rigg campus near Penrith have provided a springboard to start working on a sustainable future for further education in Ambleside.
The facilities created will offer individual and distinctive advantages for our students on courses such as outdoor studies, forestry and conservation, providing easy access to the unique geography surrounding it, adds Liz.
This exceptional location in effect becomes their classroom and we see the location of the campus in Ambleside to be crucial to these courses.
Fiona Sparrow, vice chairman of Ambleside Parish Council admits: We do miss our students. There might have been the odd complaint but were looking forward to having them back soon. Were told it could be as soon as 2013-14.
I think there is a very positive feel to the place at the moment. We had a great Easter and were seeing a lot more home grown visitors. Although all our local events are put on primarily for Ambleside residents we hope that our summer events will prove to be a draw for visitors. Were very lucky to be one of five places in the Lake District to have the Olympic Torch visit. Its due on June 21st.
Mark Blackburn from Run3 in Ambleside is the chair of the torch relay committee and he is busy planning the towns celebrations.
The Olympic torch will reach Ambleside at 6.10pm, he says. It comes to us from Grasmere and then will proceed through Ambleside to Waterhead and onto Bowness. We hope that at Waterhead it will be received by local children with a small rush-bearing service to welcome it and a regatta on the lake.
Lyndsey Hughes is the Year 5 and 6 teacher and assistant head at Ambleside CE Primary School, whose class, pictured here with their animation models they made as part of a recent school project will be involved in both the reception of the torch and the towns jubilee celebrations.
Were hoping to work with two or three other local schools in the area where the children will learn and sing 175an especially commissioned song on the Olympics theme at the torch reception at Waterhead and my class predominantly will be designing flags around a red, white and blue theme for the Queens Diamond Jubilee. They will be professionally made and we hope will decorate Amblesides streets at least for the whole of June but hopefully the whole summer.
Its part of a wider project were doing on the Queen and the Olympics this year which will also see us taking a group of children to London for three days to see the Olympic development and other sites such as Buckingham Palace.
These are events the children might only see once in their lifetime, she says. And as Ambleside Sports falls the day before the Olympic opening ceremony, Fiona says they will pull out all the stops to have a special opening ceremony themselves.
Mark adds: We hope that all these events will have a positive affect on business in the town. We have had a dip with the general recession but I think most people have seen an improvement in the last couple of months.
Ive noticed more northern European visitors in recent months. I dont know if this is because the Japanese arent coming because of the Olympics or because the German economy is a particularly strong one.
Debbie Henderson, who owns The Attic, a gift shop with stores in Ambleside, Grasmere and Windermere agrees that there have been some tough times.
In comparison to when we opened two years ago there has been a noticeable difference, but I think were no different to anyone else, it just forces you to look at what youre doing and make sure you have a good point of difference, says Debbie, who has been nominated in The Greats Awards, by a trade magazine.
We have been nominated as one of five shops in the whole of the north, stretching from Cheshire up to the Borders and into Northern Ireland. Its very exciting and a complete surprise, we didnt know we were being scrutinised by judges.
Fiona, who was born in Ambleside, sums things up. I married a diplomat and spent 40 years living away before settling back here. There have been changes, but whatever building you put up or knock down, youll never change the atmosphere and character.
Its made up of a mixture of people who were born here and an influx of people who have chosen to retire here. The two groups shouldnt work well together but they do!
How to get there: Ambleside is at the head of Windermere and can be found off the A591, from junction 36 of the M6 motorway.
Where to park? There are pay and display car parks an disc parking in the town, although be prepared to play hunt the space in the summer months.
What to do and see? As well as specialist shops there are plenty of galleries, entertainment all year long for all the family and plenty of great walking routes.
Where to eat and drink? There is a wonderful choice in Ambleside from pub grub to upmarket bistros and restaurants.
The print version of this article appeared in the June 2012 issue of Lancashire Life
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