The Exhibition – Life of a Mountain: Blencathra

“One of the grandest objects in Lakeland. And one of the best known…”

(A. Wainwright, The Northern Fells)

Detail of the Blencathra area from an OS Map laid out on the floor of exhibition.

Standing at 868 metres (2,847 feet) high, Blencathra resides in a modest 14th place on the list of Lakeland’s highest mountains. Yet, according to Cumbria Magazine, it is the 3rd most popular Cumbrian icon. These are just a couple of facts that you can learn at this year’s must-see exhibition. Put together by Terry Abraham and the Keswick Museum, it builds on the award-winning filmmaker’s 2016 film – Life of a Mountain: Blencathra, and is sure to provide thought provoking entertainment for everyone. Terry’s hugely successful documentary has already enjoyed regular outings on the BBC, and follows on from his opening spectacular about Scafell Pike. The mid-point of a Lakeland trilogy, the last instalment about Helvellyn will bring these particular explorations to an end. Whilst the exhibition shows several facets depicted in the film, there are also invaluable pieces of memorabilia and social history on display too. Most of these have been supplied from residents in the surrounding communities of Threlkeld and Mungrisdale, who worked with the Museum to share their stories about the so-called ‘People’s Mountain.’

Visitors can explore the four key themes of: The Land, Mountain, Minema and Firm Favourite as they go round. Upon entering, a special screen shaped in the Mountain’s iconic outline recounts the seasons in time-lapse followed by some of its key historical moments.

Entrance screen installation

This sets the tone for all of the other exhibits, which contain swathes of information on local traditions and ways of life, including: photographs, books, newspaper clippings, medals, trophies, original artworks, poems, and lots of priceless personal recollections from the area’s community. One such gem from the 1950’s by Ronnie Tiffin recounts playing football in typical Cumbrian conditions on a field opposite Mosedale House, “I played on that pitch when the wind was so strong, I kicked it forwards and it went backwards.” June Nanson born in 1932 from Church Row, Threlkeld recalls visiting the house of her grandfather – Joe Jackson, (the Outfitter in Threlkeld) on most weekends, “I can remember him sitting on this huge bench cross legged in his workshop sewing suits for the farmers and people round about…he was always ready for a chat…” Other displays featured are: ‘Farming the land’ and the ‘Blencathra Hunt’ (where visitors have a chance to get a selfie with a Calvert Trust Herdy & Lamb!)


Another highlight is the ‘Minema’ – a mini-cinema installation where some of Terry’s distinctive film work on Blencathra can be viewed. There are of course brief glimpses of his trademark time-lapse footage, along with a revealing behind-the-scenes commentary from scenes on ‘Sharp Edge’. In the film, this is where the comedic duo: Stuart Maconie and Ed Byrne assisted by David Powell Thompson tackle the infamous Arête. In what Terry readily admits was, ‘less than ideal windy weather!’

View of the Minema screen and Stuart Maconie’s moment of reckoning

At the end, there is also a very interesting and revealing section on the working methods involved with the editing process of his films. A word of warning though, make sure you allow a good amount of time if you want to see everything and be able to take it all in. For this is an exhibition packed with fascinating insights and fun activities for all. From families with children to those people just curious about the Lake District and Mountain environments or the countless army of devoted fell-walkers…

Open daily from 10 am until 4 pm. Last admissions 3.30 pm (until January 4th 2018).

Terry Abraham’s film – Life of a Mountain: Scafell Pike is one of many titles to feature in the 2017 Lakeland Book of the Year shortlisted book: An A-Z of Cumbria and the Lake District on Film


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