2015/2016

2015/2016 Lectures


6th October 2015

From Kendal to Cape Town

Ian and Ellie Vermeulen

Vermeulen 02 edited In 2004 Ian and Ellie Vermeulen set off to cycle from Ellie’s home town of Kendal to Ian’s home in South Africa.  The 12,500km journey from Kendal to Cape Town took 11 months and included 13 countries across Europe and Africa.  This talk looks at the highs and lows of long distance cycling, covers what life on the road is like for the long distance cycle tourist, as well as giving accounts of the people and places they encountered along the way.  At times funny and at others scary, the journey was a real roller coaster of emotion, but having started, Ian and Ellie were determined to finish.


20th October 2015

On Top of the World

Brian Anderson

Brian Anderson 02 editedThe north pole remained unseen until 1926 when Roald Amundsen flew over it in the airship Norge.  The first man stood on top of the world in 1948, the first submarine surfaced there in 1959, but the first surface vessel, the Russian nuclear icebreaker Arktica did not reach the north pole until 1977.

Photographer and adventurer Brian Anderson recounted his June – July 2011 voyage on the world’s largest and most powerful nuclear icebreaker, ’50 Years of Victory’, as it hammered its way through Arctic Ocean ice up to 4 metres thick, towards the Geographic North Pole at latitude 90oN. This was only the 84th surface sailing to the North Pole since that first trip in 1977; the talk included images of this incredible 75,000 horsepower ship breaking ice. The ship stopped at Franz Josef Land, and Brian photographed some of the stunning wildlife found on the tundra and around the ice including guillemots, kittiwakes, fulmars, snow buntings, ivory gulls, walruses, seals, arctic foxes.  There were some very close encounters with polar bears in this Arctic wilderness.


3rd November 2015

The highs and lows of running all 214 Wainwrights

Steve Birkinshaw

birkinshaw17 editedOn 14th June 2014 local athlete Steve Birkinshaw set off to complete a continuous loop of all 214 Lake District Wainwright Fells and to attempt to get close to Joss Naylor’s record of 7 days and 1hour. After 6 days and 13 hours, 320 miles and 35,000m of ascent he returned to Keswick with a new record; an amazing achievement! Along the way he suffered badly from blisters, tendonitis and total exhaustion but the amazing support of his many running friends and the reception he received as he ran up to Keswick’s Moot Hall to finish made it all worthwhile. The talk includes photos and clips from the film Alistair Lee made of the run.


17th November 2015

Mountaineering and the end of the Great Game

John Porter

John Porter editedJohn Porter was one of the leading mountaineers of the 1970s and 1980s. An American by birth, he served his mountain apprenticeship in the Rockies and Yosemite and went on to make pioneering light weight ascents including a winter traverse of the Tatra (1976), NE Face of Bandaka (1977), the S. Buttress of Changabang (1978), S. Face Ranrapulka (1979), West Ridge of Everest in Winter (1980/81),  and the S.E Ridge Tarke Kang (1982). John has been active in the development of mountain culture projects, creating the Kendal Mountain Festival, the Mountain Heritage Trust and the British National Mountaineering Exhibition.

In this lecture John tells the story of the geopolitics of mountaineering and exploration beginning with the misadventures of the ‘Great Game’.  Starting with the first Afghan War in 1839, the talk covers the conquest of the 8000m peaks in the name of nations, the CIA nuclear monitoring device on Nanda Devi and the wars between Pakistan and India over Kashmir and the Siachen.  In his journey across the region John has found himself under arrest 3 times in various countries as a result of ongoing disputes.  He talks about his own climbing trips in Afghanistan, the Indian and Pakistan Karrikorum, and other parts of the Himalaya such as the Nanda Devi Sanctuary, and the lecture includes several major climbs – K2, Changabang,and  Chong Kundam.


1st December 2015

Adventures in the Wild

John Beatty

John Beatty editedAdventures in the Wild is a new presentation from John Beatty that will include expeditions and adventures that have taken John across the world in the last three years. These include an expedition to the Weddell Sea in Antarctica to photograph Emperor Penguins, a journey to the South Pole, and to the mountains of southern Patagonia.  In contrast to these remote regions of the world, an astonishing festival in India (held every twelve years) called the Kumbh Mela, involves vast numbers of people (30m) immersing in ritual celebrations on the Ganges river.  John frequently travels to Africa where he has recently encountered the ancient Bushmen of the Kalahari, and witnessed the spectacle of wildebeest migration in Tanzania. Journeys to the Sierras of California, rock climbs in the Italian Dolomites, Berbers in Morocco, and celebrations of the horse culture in Mongolia, are also included.  Closer to home, the Peak District has provided John with endless adventures for his whole life, a place in which to reflect and enjoy the natural world.


12th January 2016

The Biggest Twitch

Alan Davies and Ruth Miller

Alan Davies and Ruth Miller editedThis is the tale of two people who packed up their lives and lived their dream, the tale of a world record-breaking journey around the globe.  Alan Davies and Ruth Miller are keen birdwatchers, both with a love of travel, so it seemed obvious to combine these two passions in an odyssey of discovery to see the world’s birds.  As the plan developed, they soon realised that this journey could become something more: a world record breaking attempt to see more bird species in a single year than ever achieved before.  

With an itinerary covering more than twenty countries and a target bird list of over 4,000 species, it was never going to be easy.  Could they do it?  Follow the ups and downs of their birding year in this fast-paced adventure of birds, people and places.   Anyone with an interest in travel, wildlife or human relationships will be gripped by this epic tale.


26th January 2016

Faces in the Mirror

Mike Leach

Mike Leach edited
Dr Michael Leach is a full time wildlife photographer and author. He has travelled to all 7 continents and worked with many of the world’s most charismatic animals – polar bears in the arctic, gorillas in central Africa, lemurs in Madagascar, sperm whales in the mid-Atlantic, monkeys in the Amazon, penguins in the antarctic and elephants in Kenya.

Based on Michael’s best-selling book, this talk looks at the great apes, our closest relatives.  After living with gorillas, orang-utans, bonobos and chimpanzees in the wild, Michael tells how he got close enough to be groomed by these animals.  He explores some of the apes’ behaviour and shows the dangers that may destroy them before the end of this century.


9th February 2016

On foot along the mountain frontier of the Pyrenees

Angharad Thomas and Gordon Wilson

OThe Pyrenees provide mountain hiking par excellence. 129 major summits stand at over 3,000m (almost 10,000 feet) but the ultimate challenge is to trek the whole range from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Mediterranean Sea in the east. Based on Gordon’s recently published guide to the traverse, this illustrated talk describes the trek that leads over 500+ miles into fantastic scenery and wild lonely places. It also describes a journey that discovers a rich human history along this frontier between France and Spain that is sometimes tragic but often heroic and which has given the Pyrenees the accolade of ‘mountains of hope and freedom’.
Yet, despite being among high mountains, anybody of whatever age who is physically fit and experienced in British fell walking can tackle the traverse with confidence, as Gordon and Angharad have demonstrated, having completed it twice in their 50s and 60s. Both are now retired, although Gordon retains the title of Emeritus Professor in Environment and Development at the Open University. Angharad was a senior lecturer at Salford University and when not hiking devotes much of her time and energy to textiles, both researching and making them.


1st March 2016

Mountains High and Rivers Deep

Peter Knowles

Peter Knowles 01 editedPeter is one of Britain’s most experienced expedition white water kayakers and has led over 50 expeditions and first descents in many different countries.  His first big expedition was an early descent of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado in 1973 where he was run over by a huge 33ft motorised raft on one of the big rapids, and in 1981 he led the team that made an 800 mile source to ocean descent of Canada’s Fraser river.  He is the acknowledged authority on the rivers of the Himalayas, and has probably paddled more of its rivers than anyone else alive today – including the Rombuk Chhu at Everest Base Camp, 5100m.

In this talk Peter Knowles will describe two of his favourite trips – both open canoe trips to the Mackenzie Mountains in the far north of Canada.  Two renowned and committing rivers, the Mountain and Nahanni, cut through these mountains and offer 16 days of wilderness and white water.  Pete asks “are these the best wilderness white water open canoe trips in the world?”

Includes prize winning images of spectacular mountains, dramatic gorges, a little on the delights of wilderness camping, wood fires, beautiful walks, a few rapids, the odd wild life encounter and some amusing and scary stories.


8th March 2016

Glimpses of Chatsworth

Christine Robinson

Christine Robinson 02 editedChristine has been delivering lectures now for over 30 years about her experiences at Chatsworth, about aspects of her job as Housekeeper, and her time at Chatsworth since she first started work there as an undergraduate student of history in 1974.

Glimpses of Chatsworth is an illustrated talk covering all aspects of the House and Gardens, and how they are cared for; winter and summer, behind the scenes and “public”.   It will provide an insight into how the place works, and into some of the special events and parties hosted at Chatsworth over the last few years.