2017/ 2018


African Brew Ha-Ha – the search for the ultimate cup of tea

October 3 @ 7:30 pm – 8:45 pm

Alan Whelan

Tea-drinking is a ritual that binds people together. Alan Whelan was on a unique quest: to find the people at the hidden heart of Africa… and sit down for a nice cup of tea with them. On a 14,000-mile solo motorcycle journey through Morocco, Mauritania, Mali and all the way south to Cape Town across deserts and the toughest roads imaginable, he met sporting legends and ministers, peacekeepers and outlaws, and countless people who shared their last morsel of food with him.
Armed with little more than blind optimism, Alan experienced a jaw-dropping ride. Uplifting, insightful and funny, this is the story of one man’s determination through the most physically and emotionally challenging five months of his life.


Exploring Unclimbed Peaks in Kyrgyzstan

October 17 @ 7:30 pm – 8:45 pm

Chris Harling

This is my story of leading an expedition to attempt unclimbed peaks in the Tien Shan Mountains with relatively novice Alpine climbers. I will talk about exploring glaciated valleys where few people have ever been and initial investigations of potential routes up peaks with precious little information from the “map”. Discovering that client capabilities were not quite what they claimed to be during a hurried descent of a summit in a sudden thunderstorm! The sheer thrill of climbing into the unknown and standing on virgin summits. Seeing the clients eyes on stalks as we abseiled down a 200m iceface from ropes looped only round a small bollard of snow! I will also talk about the trials and tribulations of tackling Khan Tengri, the world’s most northerly 7000m peak and how I “ran out of clients” as each turned back one by one for diverse reasons! We also dramatically saved the life of a hypothermic Estonian climber who had been abandoned by him team mates on a remote 6000m summit. The talk will be accompanied by stunning photographs and video material.


The Making of the British Landscape

October 31 @ 7:30 pm – 8:45 pm

Nick Crane

How much do we know about the place we call ‘home’?  The British landscape has been continuously occupied by humans for 12,000 years, from the end of the Ice Age till the twenty-first century. It has been transformed from a European peninsula of glacier and tundra to an island of glittering cities and exquisite countryside. In this geographical journey through time, we discover the ancient relationship between people and place and the deep-rooted tensions between town and countryside. As Britain lurches from an exploitative past towards a more sustainable future, this is the story of our age.

Nicholas Crane is an English geographer, explorer, writer and broadcaster. Since 2004 he has written and presented four notable television series for BBC Two: Coast, Great British Journeys, Map Man and Town.



The Keswick Mass Trespass of 1887

November 14, 2017 @ 7:30 pm – 8:45 pm

Roy Ellis

Most people have heard of the mass trespass on Kinder Scout in 1932. Why is it, then, that so
few know of the much larger and more successful mass trespasses which occurred in Keswick 45 years earlier?

In 1883 Canon Rawnsley came to be vicar at Crosthwaite. He soon became worried that local landowners had been closing footpaths which had been used for generations, including the routes to Latrigg summit, Friars Crag, Castle Crag and Walla Crag. Rawnsley revived the Keswick and District Footpath Preservation Association which then decided to test the right of access over these paths. On Saturday 1st October two thousand people gathered in Keswick. The demonstrators marched up Latrigg singing ‘Rule Britannia’ as they went. The event was reported in the national press. Canon Rawnsley himself was absent and the trespass was led by Henry Irwin Jenkinson, who is also remembered for his role in raising the money to buy Fitz Park for the town.
The landowners, the Spedding family, issued writs for damages and the case came to court at the Carlisle Assizes. In an out of court settlement it was agreed that one footpath, passing the Speddings house at Windy Brow, would remain private but the other, Spooney Green Lane, would be open to the public. This was seen as a victory for the protestors and led to reopening of the other local footpaths.

The Kinder Scout trespass in 1932, was a smaller affair with only 500 taking part. The trespass did not achieve any change in the access to disputed land. We will consider why it is that this trespass remains in the national consciousness while the Keswick trespasses are largely forgotten.



Sir Thomas Bouch, Cumbria’s Forgotten Engineering Genius

November 28, 2017 @ 7:30 pm – 8:45 pm

John Mather

John Mather will give an illustrated talk on Sir Thomas Bouch, Cumbria’s largely forgotten engineering genius.

Born in the Ship Inn, Thursby, where his father was licensee and former captain in the merchant navy, he became one of the most celebrated bridge builders and railway engineers in Victorian Britain.

As well as designing over 300 miles of railway and large bridges throughout Scotland and northern England, his greatest achievement was building the Tay railway bridge in 1878.  This bridged the two mile wide mouth of the River Tay near Dundee.

National recognition and a knighthood followed.  However, Bouch’s good fortune did not last.  The Tay Bridge collapsed the next December, dragging a passing train and passengers into the River Tay, with tragic consequences.  His reputation lay in tatters and he remains, to this day, the main scapegoat of the disaster.

As well as telling something of Bouch’s fascinating life and times, John wants to take the opportunity to re-evaluate his career and recognise some of his other engineering achievements.  John is particularly keen to demonstrate that many of his earlier works, which feature in Cumbria, are particularly ambitious and innovative.  His talk will emphasise the design and construction of the Cockermouth, Keswick and Penrith railway line.



Family History and the Media: Who do we think we are?

January 23 @ 7:30pm – 8:45pm

Nick Barratt

Nick will investigate the way genealogy has changed, and why it is more relevant than ever, in the light of the internet and Who Do You Think You Are, going behind the scenes of the programme to explore how it’s made and why it’s shown people a different side to the past.

He has been interested in history from a very early age. Most of his life has been spent around history and he relishes every moment.

Programmes such as Who Do You Think You Are? (BBC) and Hidden House Histories (History Channel) allow him to follow his own research interests. Like all historians, he loves gathering the historical information, analysing the data and to produce great stories. Most of us love to know about our history and heritage, drawing parallels to the lives we lead. It’s a logical step to look back and investigate the past before making the decision to moving forward and at times inspirational. He is fortunate to be able to involved in this process and contribute to great factual entertainment.


Aristocrats of the Air

February 6 @ 7:30 pm – 8:45 pm

Keith Offord

Their ability to fly has enabled birds, unlike many other animals, to colonise all corners of the globe. Flight has resulted from millions of years of evolution which has produced some truly fascinating adaptations. This presentation looks at how birds
become airborne, how they travel with minimum expenditure of energy and, from vast soaring eagles to miniscule hummingbirds is illustrated with some of the most spectacular examples from around the world.

I think it all started when, aged eight, I tried to make my own Christmas cards – I needed a picture of a Robin to copy and this resulted in my first bird book.

It wasn’t long before I was drawing the other species in the book and, increasingly, watching them in the wild. In no time I was consumed by birds and other wildlife. Even through the fickle teenage years I managed to remain undeflected thanks to various fine people who inspired me along the way.

I went on to study Hen Harrier feeding behaviour at Liverpool University which was a sort of ruse I suppose for escaping to do some birdwatching on the premise of working. It also complemented the raptor conservation activity which I was then, and still am, involved with in the Welsh uplands.

The concept of making any kind of living from birds was a mere pipedream until I began taking wildlife photography more seriously and giving talks to interested clubs and societies. Little could I imagine how this would escalate and I now spend a considerable part of each year speaking to a wide range of groups. In addition, I have been a regular contributor to a range of bird publications such as Birdwatching Magazine.

Many years ago I was asked to run a birdwatching course at the Peak National Park (Losehill Hall) and these courses became a popular annual event until The Peak National Park decided that such events were no longer part of their remit. A similar fate befell Wansfell College in Essex. However, the delightful Higham Hall in Cumbria continues to flourish independently and I am there usually four times a year running both birdwatching and photography courses.

In parallel, Linda and myself also had the enjoyment of leading a number of breaks for Birdwatching Magazine where we met many people who have in many cases become regular travellers with us.

The courses naturally gave rise to more focused workshops where we explore the identification challenges posed by some of the more difficult groups of birds such as Raptors, Waders and Wildfowl and ‘Little Brown Jobs’. The fact that these run full from year to year has confirmed that these groups pose problems for most.

It was not long before we were being asked to run trips abroad and in 2004 we set up Wild Insights which encompasses all these activities and was very much aimed at the bird and wildlife enthusiast who likes to take their time and savour the species on offer rather than being driven by quantitative targets. This has proved to be a popular philosophy, self-evident from the participation in tours over the last decade.