Not everyone knows, but if you’re looking for Eden  … it’s actually just off the M6 on the way to Carlisle – we do seem to have everything in Cumbria!

So, after the excitement (and exhaustion) of climbing 31 Wainwright mountains last month, I decided to be a little kinder to myself and venture to the Eden Valley in Cumbria and explore the Eden Valley Art Trail by car and capture some 360 virtual images of my visit.

However, having never been on an Art Trail in the Eden Valley before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  I therefore dutifully downloaded the trail map from the EVAN website and suddenly realised, that although mainly centred around Penrith, the trail stretched out North, beyond Castle Carrock, and also across to Cockermouth in the West.   Given that I only had an afternoon to explore, I decided to limit myself to visiting just a couple of the venues, to try to get a feel for the event and also to sample the breadth and the richness of the local art scene.

Starting at Penrith,  where apparently William Wordsworth spent some of his childhood attending Anne Birkett’s Dame School, I was struck by the somewhat faded beauty of the historic market town with its castle and its wide range of independent and historic shops, proudly displaying their bold and “fancy” advertisements.

Arnison & Sons High Class Drapers, Penrith (Credit: CreativeMakerSpace, 2020)

I’d decided to make the EVAN Gallery and Studio (1) my first stop, as it is right in the centre of Penrith and I’d discovered it contained examples of the work of most of the artists featured in the 20+ Art trail venues.  While in the Studio, thanks to my friends at 360Bench and the positivity of the gallery staff, we were able to capture a virtual experience of walking around the downstairs gallery and upstairs studios, which displayed the work of Sarah Reid, the pastel artist and the printmaker Ray Ogden.  Why not click on the trail map below and have a look for yourself at the amazing artworks on display?

Clickable image of EVAN studio to link to the virtual tour.
Link to Virtual Tour: EVAN Studio, St. Peters Church & Polly Marix Evans’ Studio
(Credit: 360bench 2020)

While in the gallery, I was delighted to be able to purchase a copy of the recently published “Through the locking glass”, compiled by David Felton, which features the artistic responses and thoughts of artists right across Cumbria to Covid 19 lockdown – hence the title of the book!  A highly recommended read – not just for its beautiful full-page images of art and poetry, but also for the very personal and poignant stories shared by each of the featured artists.   

Through the locking glass (Credit: Inspired by Lakeland)

Some of the artists featured in the book were also showing work in the gallery and I really enjoyed the opportunity to chat to them about their work and their artistic processes and inspirations. However,  given that I was visiting in a time following the initial Covid 19 lockdown, discussions in the gallery, and also afterwards during my visit to St Peter’s Church in Castle Carrock (14) and later to the printmaker Polly Marix Evans (15) in Armathwaite, naturally turned to how they had personally dealt with lockdown. Some artists had been surprised at their locked-in mental response and their resistance to explore their thoughts through their work, while others threw themselves frantically into a swirl of creativity or simply made space for contemplation and exploration of new art forms and media.  

Art in Lockdown
(Credit: Polly Marix Evans)

On leaving Penrith, “Please dance” was the surprising instruction on the village sign I saw when I drove to the village of Castle Carrock, and although I didn’t actually take up the offer during my visit, this positive message definitely made me smile.  We headed on to St Peter’s Church which was displaying the work of 7 local artists as we were keen to capture a virtual tour of both the work of the Art Trail artists as well as the church’s beautiful interior (see virtual tour).   We were met by the creative photographer, Tricia Meynell, who kindly explained her photographic “painting” technique and how she is constantly inspired by the natural forms and shapes that surround her.

Please dance” & St Peters Church (Credit: CreativeMakerSpace 2020)

Back in the car again, we headed off to Armathwaite, (a place I’ve never been to before) ready to capture a virtual tour of Polly Marix Evans’ studio (see virtual tour)).  Luckily, although already past 4pm, the September sun was still shining. When we arrived at Polly’s busy studio, we had to wait for a few minutes in her stunning outdoor “waiting room” looking over towards Blencathra mountain – which as you can see, was a real pleasure.

The Waiting Room (Credit: CreativeMakerSpace 2020)

Once inside Polly’s brightly lit studio, I was immediately impacted by the messages of empowerment that many of her images convey and happily purchased, what I considered, a very reasonably priced print of her “Where love begins” as a positive memento of my very busy, but thought-provoking day.

Where Love Begins
(Credit: Polly Marix Evans)

So, thank you artists of the EVAN art trail, I had a really enjoyable and stimulating day out. Although under Covid restrictions, I was masked, regularly hand sanitising and appropriately socially distancing, I was still amazed at the richness of your artistic creativity and the genuine warmth of the welcome you offer to passing strangers – I definitely found my own little bit of Eden!  Thank You!