Grevel Lindop

Poet, biographer, critic, essayist and writer on just about everything

Alfred Heaton Cooper: A Painter’s Journey

Just back from Grasmere, where Amanda and I went for the opening of the exhibition ‘Alfred Heaton Cooper (1863-1929): A Painter’s Journey’ at the Heaton Cooper Studio.

Julian Cooper: behind him, W. Heaton Cooper's watercolour of the Hardanger Falls

Julian Cooper: behind him, W. Heaton Cooper’s watercolour of the Hardanger Falls

A. Heaton Cooper was a fine painter in both watercolour (where his work has something in common with  Turner and Ruskin) and in oils (where he approaches Post-Impressionism). He had a wonderful sense of colour and light, and was devoted to the landscapes of both Norway and the Lake District. But he was also an excellent, lively and tender portrayer of people.

He came from a poor background in Bolton, and made his own way and supported his family entirely by his own work. And he was the found of the Heaton Cooper dynasty – including his son W. Heaton Cooper, who illustrated so many classic books about the Lakes and whose watercolour landscapes are still hugely popular (though a bit bland for my taste) and grandson Julian Cooper, the adventurous and innovative painter of mountain forms and textures in Cumbria, the Himalayas, the Andes and elsewhere.

Some of the many sketchbooks and photographs on display

Some of the many sketchbooks and photographs on display


‘A Painter’s Journey’, mounted to mark Alfred’s 150th birthday, is a splendid show: one wall is full of his Lakeland work, the other of his Norwegian paintings, and there are fascinating displays of sketchbooks and photographs. The sketchbooks are a particular delight, offering spontaneous drawings of people and turn-of-the-century landscapes, including a wonderful, graphic and rapidly-sketched panorama of a charcoal-burners’ camp in the Westmoreland woods.


We met lots of old friends there: not only Julian and his wife, painter Linda Ryle, but also Angela Locke, the Cumbrian poet and novelist with whom I’m setting up Lakeland Writing Retreats, where from next May we’ll be offering creative writing courses in the Lakes. It was good to see novelist Chris Burns there too. Altogether a very happy occasion, and the next day we managed to get a good walk up to Easedale Tarn in cool but pleasant weather.

With poet and novelist Angela Locke: together we are setting up Lakeland Writing Retreats

With poet and novelist Angela Locke: together we are setting up Lakeland Writing Retreats


If you can get to Grasmere before 3 November, when the exhibition closes, do go and see it. It’s a very intimate and inspiring display of work by an underrated artist who is also an important part of Lakeland history.

Poetry Hits Carlisle for Love Parks Week

Poet Angela Locke takes Rose and Poppy across the valley

Just back from a wonderful couple of days in Cumbria. The excuse was that Jeannie Pasley from Carlilse City Council had asked Cumbrian novelist and poet Angela Locke and me to go up and read poems for something called ‘Love Parks Week’.

I’d never heard of Love Parks Week, but apparently it happens in lots of places around the country and puts on events in parks and other green spaces to entice people to come out and enjoy them more in the summer.

Our venue was the lawn right under the vast east window of Carlisle Cathedral, but it wasn’t daunting: everyone was very friendly, there was a great PA system that actually worked with a mic you could actually adjust, and Jeannie was there to greet us and get everything set up. Amazingly, the weather was perfect – cool but dry, turning (at times) warm and sunny. And we got a wonderful audience – people drifted in and out but the maximum was up to around 40, and many people stayed for the whole hour-and-a-half.

Angela Reads - under that towering east window!

It was lovely to read with Angela, a well-known local poet who has also just published a beautifully-written and deeply engaging travel book, On Juniper Mountain, about her travels in Nepal and how she came to found the charity Juniper Trust.

Afterwards I was able to spend some time with Angela and her husband Colin at their fine old house under the slopes of Bowscale Fell at Mosedale, near Penrith. We did some walking in the Mosedale Valley with the dogs and I was able to enjoy the gorgeous garden they’ve made in front of this beautiful traditional cottage – which was once painted by Sheila Fell, with L.S. Lowry in attendance. I have to say Lowry isn’t my favourite artist and even Fell gets pretty depressing, so the reality, with the warm evening light falling across the drifts of honeysuckle, was idyllic in a way that I definitely prefer, though neither artist would have countenanced it in their work!

Garden at Bowscale Cottage: drifts of honeysuckle, and Carrock Fell beyond

Anyway, a big Thank You to Carlisle City Council, and please invite me back! And thank you also to Angela and Colin, the perfect friends.

Oh, and for more about Love Parks Week and what might be on near you, go to