Saturday, 16 November 2013

Plans to Boost Nature Tourism after Autumn Watch puts area in the spotlight

Swans on Lancaster Canal. Photo: John Freeman
Hot on the heels of the district’s brush with fame on the BBC’s Autumn Watch, a series of free workshops have been organised for local tourism businesses in early December.

The workshops aim to capitalise on the success of Autumn Watch, which was based at Leighton Moss and also covered Morecambe Bay, by creating a new business and visitor guide to the area.

The events have been organised by Bay Tourism Association in partnership with the RSPB and other organisations as part of the Nature Tourism Business Network.

Bay Tourism chairman, Roger Carter, said: “Morecambe Bay is a special place to do business. We want to show visitors the very best of the nature around the Bay, to give them the experiences they want so they’ll stay longer, come back again and tell their friends.”

It’s hoped that the new Tourism Business Guide will show visitors all that is fascinating, quirky and exciting about Morecambe Bay and will need input from people and businesses who know about its hidden gems, the best spots to explore, the greatest walks and bike rides, top places to shop and relax.

Those attending the workshops are invited to take along their ideas, photographs, stories and memories to share and learn new things from nature experts such as Sophie Cade from Nurture Lakeland who will show delegates how to create an adventure from their own doorstep.

Photo: Ben Hull via the RSPB
In addition to the publicity Autumn Watch has given our area, the workshops follow the publication of a report earlier in the year  by Jenny Wain from the RSPB, who compiled the report on behalf of the Morecambe Bay Nature Improvement Area. It shows Morecambe Bay has the potential to become a leading destination for nature tourism.

Based on the results of an extensive visitor survey carried out across Morecambe Bay in autumn 2012, the report built up a picture of who visits the area, why they come and how much they spend. It revealed that of those people surveyed nearly nine out of ten people would be interested in visiting places where they can see or experience wildlife. However, it shows only 55% of people surveyed had actually visited or planned to visit a nature attraction.

The RSPB says these results suggest that many more people would take part in nature tourism activities if they were made more aware of the opportunities to enjoy wildlife in Morecambe Bay. 

“Most people who visit the Bay say the area’s beautiful scenery is its main attraction," said Jenny back in June. "They are aware that the area is a great place for nature and would like to experience it, but clearly, they need more inspiration and information about where to see popular wildlife such as red deer and otters.”

The results of the visitor survey report are helping to shape the activities of the Morecambe Bay Nature Tourism Business Network, a fledgling group of over 60 businesses including accommodation and activity providers and nature and cultural attractions. Supported by Bay Tourism Association, the RSPB and Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the aim of the Network is to boost the local tourism economy by unlocking the potential of the Bay’s nature and wildlife.

Network members Vic and Diana Brown run Tythebarn House Bed and Breakfast in Holme. Vic says: ”Many of the people who stay at my B&B are stopping off on their way up to Scotland and have no idea of the amazing natural attractions Morecambe Bay has to offer. I believe the Bay has a lot more potential to develop as a visitor destination and the variety of wildlife is one of its main selling points.” 

The first task of the Network is to develop a series of guides and itineraries to enable visitors to get up close and personal with nature and celebrate the wealth of nature that lives in the limestone hills, grassland and woodlands that flank the Bay, as well as its rivers, estuaries and the sea, and also connect with cultural and heritage attractions.

“Our plan is to give visitors a wealth of options to see wildlife, which will provide the foundation for a thriving nature economy," says Jenny. "By inspiring people to visit places rich in nature around Morecambe Bay, we hope that they will make longer trips and, therefore, spend more money on activities, local accommodation, pubs, cafes and restaurants.”

• All the workshops are free, run from 11.00am-3.00pm and include lunch and refreshments. They take place on 3rd December at The Stork Inn, Conder Green; 4th December at Ulverston Golf Club; and 10th December at Leighton Moss Nature Reserve near Silverdale.

For more information or to book your place, contact Roger Carter at or Jenny Wain at or ring her on 01524 581013.

Award-winning folk band Lau announce Lancaster show

Photo: Louise Bichan
Lau, who have won the BBC Folk Awards Best Group no less than four times in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2013 are playing what promises to be a very special and atmospheric show at St John the Evangelist's Church, Lancaster on Sunday 24th November.

Lau are modern folk music's most innovative band and without doubt one of the most exciting, inventive and thrilling live acts on the planet.

In 2007 their debut album Lightweights and Gentlemen mixed original tunes with inspired arrangements of traditional material and rocketed Lau to the fore of the burgeoning new folk scene.

Having dramatically cemented their reputation as a blistering stage act, Lau followed their debut with the much loved Lau Live album just a year later and in 2009 came the equally acclaimed Arc Light with a grander setting that produced a heavily played single 'Winter Moon' and an invitation from Mojo Magazine to cover The Beatles 'Dear Prudence' for their White Album celebrations.

Cue more awards, triumphant international touring, a proud catalogue of stomping festival appearances, splinter bands, solo recordings and a string of intriguing recent collaborations with rock legend Jack Bruce (Cream) Karine Polwart, Adem and a vast new orchestral work 'Strange Attractors' with composer Brian Irvine and The Northern Sinfonia.

Their last album Race The Loser  was recorded with American producer Tucker Martine (Sufjan Stevens, The Decemberists, R.E.M., Laura Veirs) in Scotland throughout the Spring of 2012. ‘Race The Loser’ pushes Lau’s complex, yet accessible sound, even further to the outer reaches of folk music whilst retaining all the strengths of the original acoustic trio (Kris Drever Vocals/Guitar, Martin Green Accordion, Aidan O’Rourke Fiddle).

The concert is being promoted by Alec Lyon of Lyon Events, “When I heard Lau were looking to do a tour of churches I jumped at the chance to present such an amazing act in an unusual setting. Their shows are always brilliant but set against the Georgian backdrop of St Johns I really think this is going to be a remarkable night”.

St. Johns, a redundant church on on Lancaster's North Road, is a product of industry and prosperity, built in 1754-55 when the congregation of the nearby Priory church became too large. It's been the backdrop to a varied range of events in recent years.

• Lau - 8.00pm, Sunday 24th November, St John the Evangelist's Church, North Road, Lancaster. Full details of the concert and online ticket sales can be found at or cal  01792 229960 to book tickets by phone.

More about St. John's on

Appeal for wanted man sighted in Lancaster

Police are appealing for information about a man named as wanted by the National Crime Agency who they believe has been sighted in Lancashire.

37 year old Brian Thexton, who is wanted by the NCA and by Durham Constabulary, was sighted in a vehicle in Lancaster at around 9am this morning and was asked to pull over on Aberdeen Road by an officer.

The vehicle, a white Vauxhall Insignia, pulled over and the officer walked over to the vehicle to speak to the driver, believed to be Thexton. As the officer was speaking to the driver, he reached into the vehicle to remove the keys from the ignition, at which point the car was driven away trapping the officer’s arm and dragging him a short distance down the road. Fortunately, the officer freed himself before he was seriously injured. The car was then driven away at speed, mounting the kerb, narrowly missing pedestrians.

It was found a short time later having been set on fire on Fenham Carr Lane, close to Williamson Park.

Detective Inspector Bev Foster said, “Following the incident this morning, we have set up a team of officers dedicated to tracking this person down and we are liaising with a number of other forces across England as well as the National Crime Agency.

“We are particularly keen to speak to anyone who may have seen any suspicious activity on Fernham Carr Lane, or perhaps may have seen the vehicle being abandoned to get in touch as soon as possible.

“This man has shown himself to be dangerous and to have very little regard for his actions and so we would ask the public to be vigilant and not to approach him but report any sightings to the police immediately - any details the public may have could be crucial.”

“If anyone thinks they have seen him or if they have any information at all, then I would urge them to come forward and contact us.”

• People with information can contact police by calling 101, alternatively, they can call the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111

Friday, 15 November 2013

Lancaster man convicted of sex offences

Stephen Shield, 53, of Balmoral Road, Lancaster, has been found guilty of three counts of indecent assault following a trial at Preston Crown Court.

The three historic allegations related to one male victim aged between 17-24 years, the committed between 1985 and 1992.

Sentence was adjourned until December 13th.

Detective Chief Inspector Jo Edwards, of Preston Police, said: “I am pleased that Mr Shields has been convicted of these offences.

“The victim in this case had lived with the knowledge of Mr Shield’s offending for a long period of time; this has had a significant impact upon him. It was a difficult decision for the victim to come forward and I am please that he felt confident enough in the Constabulary to help bring this man to justice.

“The fact that these convictions come a long time after they were committed shows that we will always take any allegations of sexual abuse extremely seriously and will investigate them thoroughly no matter how long ago they happened.

“I would encourage people with any information about sexual abuse or who has been a victim of sexual abuse to come forward and report their concerns confident in the knowledge it will be investigated appropriately and with sensitivity.”

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Local Cinema Round-Up for 14 - 21 November by Peter Clarke

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
For up to date local cinema links and day-by-day listings every week visit the Virtual-Lancaster Cinema Page. Read on for the weekly round-up and reviews.

New films during this period include crime drama with The Counsellor (18) and action / fantasy with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (12A).

There is still a strong mix of excellent films available including Philomena, Gravity and Thor: The Dark World.

A couple of family favourites are coming back for more with The Smurfs 2 and Despicable Me 2.

For alternative viewing the Dukes is offering both culture - Romeo and Juliet, Richard IIBolshoi Ballet: Le Corsaire - and period humour with George Formby (ask your parents) in Let George do it.


Captain Phillips
Director: Paul Greengrass
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Tom Hanks, Catherine Keener, Barkhad Abdi
(No, it's not the chap who married Princess Anne). A dramatisation of the 2009 hijacking of the container ship Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates who kidnapped  Captain Richard Phillips. This is a excellent must see thriller movie featuring superb acting. Characters are well developed and the film takes a sympathetic view of both pirates and the crew of the ship. In keeping with the subject the film has a documentary feel about it which makes for compelling viewing.

Despicable Me 2
Director: Pierre Coffin , Chris Renaud
Certificate: U
Cast includes the voices of: Steve Carell, Kirsten Wiig, Steve Coogan
A sequel to Despicable Me, which became the tenth biggest animation movie in US history. Gru, now retired, spends his time caring for his adopted children. He has turned good and is recruited by the Anti-Villain League to track down a criminal who has stolen a serum from a research facility. This is a great animation for both children and adults and, like last time, it is the Minions who provide the most entertainment. If you only get to see one film this week - this should be the one.

Ender's Game
Director: Gavin Hood
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Abigail Breslin
Set in the future, the film is based on Orson Scott Card's novel of the same name. An alien race (the Formics) have attacked the world - and been defeated. However the aliens will attack again.  Colonel Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford) is training an elite group of young children in the hope of finding someone who will again defeat the aliens. The young Ender Wiggins is selected to join the elite group at Battle School and, fortunately for the plot, he excels in war games. Thus he is chosen to to lead an army against the foe to determine the future of the earth. However Ender has some of his own daemons to contend with. An enjoyable film with humour as well as some violent scenes.

Escape Plan
Director: Mikael Håfstrom
Certificate: 15
Cast Includes: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Vinnie Jones
One of the world's greatest authorities on prison escape, Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone), is wrongly imprisoned in a ultra high security facility 'The Tomb'.  He must enlist help from fellow inmate Emil Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to mount an escape attempt. Stallone and Schwarzenegger work well together and both give convincing performances. This entertaining film provides humour, some violence and plenty of wisecracks.

Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
Medical engineer Ryan Stone (Bullock) and seasoned astronaut Matt Kowalsky (Clooney) are on a shuttle mission to repair the Hubble Telescope. During a routine space walk, disaster strikes and Stone tumbles free in space. The film follows Stone's plight as she battles to survive. Bullock gives a superlative performance in this spectacularly shot movie. However the interest of the film is not just the impressive special effects but rather the exploration of human frailty in adversity.

Director: Stephen Frears
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan
A quaint and charming film based on the book 'The Lost Child of Philomena Lee' by Martin Sixsmith. Philomena (Dench) plays an Irish woman who had her baby taken from her for adoption in the USA whilst she was forced to live and work in a convent after becoming pregnant out of wedlock. Much later in life she enlists the help of Sixsmith to try to discover the whereabouts of her lost son. Coogan produced the film and co-wrote the screenplay. He plays Sixsmith, the journalist who has fallen out of favour. Both Dench and Coogan give superb performances in this funny and heartwarming if a little sentimental film. Well worth seeing.

The Counsellor
Director: Ridley Scott
Certificate: 18
Cast Includes: Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz
The screenplay is by Cormac McCarthy and the film follows the Counsellor, a man in love with Laura (Cruz) and employed defending drug dealers. He succumbs to greed and becomes involved in a drug deal that goes very wrong, pitting him against some colourful and unpleasant characters. This is an original crime thriller with scenes of sexuality and gruesome violence which justifies its 18 category. The film is convoluted, unpredictable and generates an atmosphere of unease. However it is absorbing, very well acted and with its share of dark humour. A powerful must see movie.

Thor: The Dark World
Director: Alan Taylor
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Kat Dennings
Thor must combat an ancient, pervasive and powerful enemy led by Malekith to save the earth and all the realms. Much of the action is played out in Asgard and the interaction between Thor and Loki is a major part of the film. There is plenty of action and a strong vein of humour. In all a film that entertains and does not take itself too seriously.

Director: David Soren
Certificate: U
Cast Includes the voices of: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Peña
A DreamWorks animation in which Turbo is a snail obsessed with racing cars who dreams of competing in the Indianapolis 500 race. His hopes start to look more realistic when an accident with a car engine provides him with a magical turn of speed. The animation is expertly done. The snails have cute believable personalities and the whole has a real 'feelgood' factor of an underdog following his dreams. The film follows the DreamWorks hit animation 'The Croods' and whilst it is extremely enjoyable, it lacks twists and subplots that make for a really memorable movie.

Peter Clarke

For up to date local cinema listings every week visit the Virtual-Lancaster Cinema Page.

Review: Company Chameleon dancing Live at LICA

'Eden' and ‘Pictures We Make
Double Bill presented by Company Chameleon
at Live at LICA , The Nuffield Theatre,
Lancaster University
8:00pm, Thursday 6 November 2013
Reviewed by Hannah Dial.

As one audience member commented, “I’m not that familiar with contemporary dance, but I really enjoyed tonight’s performance.” I have seen my fair share of contemporary dance, yet you may attribute the second sentiment of that quote to me also. In fact, I defy anyone to watch this double-bill and not spend their journey home re-watching in their mind’s eye the point when a dancer seemed to levitate before passing partly through a wall in Eden (it’s amazing what effects a thin shaft of light can achieve), or trying to shake off the feeling that Pictures We Make had managed to creep uncomfortably close to their own experiences of human interaction.

What an absolute pleasure to be treated to such an intimate, thoughtful and inspiring set of work from Company Chameleon. Whether moving as individuals, pairs, or as a whole, the dancers are utterly watchable, and two of the foursome can be credited with choreography as well as performance. Pictures We Make comes from Company Chameleon’s co-founders Anthony Missen and Kevin Edward Turner (Missen performed), while dancer Gemma Nixon forms half of the choreographic duo Goddard/ Nixon responsible for Eden.

But it’s not all plain sailing as an audience member; you must work hard if you want to appreciate this double-bill fully. The Nuffield Theatre is a compact space and the artists were at times no more than one or two metres away from the front row. The dancers would also favour the positions of down stage right and down stage left (the stage corners nearest the audience), often at the same time. This, along with the close proximity of dance space and audience space, resulted in a ‘tennis match’ effect on the audience – I hope nobody on the front row came away with a sore neck! I wanted to take everything in but, as I am not blessed with panoramic vision nor had I opted for a seat farther back, I was forced to split my attention. All the more reason to see the performance again. And again.

But let’s regain a little perspective here; any audience concerns about the well-being of their neck muscles pale into insignificance when considering the sheer energy with which the quartet of dancers approached their performances (not to mention the gorgeous technical ability on display). The artists’ strength and control of movement as well as their openness of emotion drew you in to their stories. It was cathartic, and left me feeling as though I had been more of a participant than an observer that evening.

The fluidity of Eden contrasting with the rawness of Pictures We Make not only showcases the dancers’ wide-ranging abilities, but also acts as a wonderful advertisement for the quality of theatre available in Lancaster. If you are able to get down to any Live at LICA performances this year, you must. I have yet to be disappointed by a single evening there.

The only complaint I have is this: there were too many empty seats in the audience! I wish I could have simultaneously taken all the empty spots for myself; perhaps then I might have enjoyed every single movement, watched every single story unfold, without fear of missing a second.

Hannah Dial

Promo video:
Company Chameleon’s website:
Goddard/ Nixon’s website:

Tickets were priced (web advance): £10.00 (concessions available)
Future theatre / dance events at Live at LICA can be found here.

Join your local markets to celebrate Small Business Saturday UK

Lancaster City Council is celebrating the biggest day of the year for small businesses with the offer of free pitches at its markets in Lancaster and Morecambe on Small Business Saturday UK.

Small Business Saturday UK is taking place on 7th December - one of the busiest shopping days in the year and is a national campaign to encourage people to 'shop local' and support small businesses in their community.

To mark the day, the council is giving local entrepreneurs and new small businesses the opportunity to get a taste of trading for free for a day at its historic Charter Market and Assembly Rooms Market in Lancaster and Festival Market in Morecambe.

Anyone who can bring a unique craft to the markets or add a new and interesting commodity to the range of products already on offer is eligible to apply.  Goods currently represented on the applicant's preferred market or readily available in nearby shops will not be considered. 

The offer is limited to one free pitch /stall per applicant (subject to availability) on Saturday 7th December. Traders must provide their own stalls at Lancaster's Assembly Rooms and Charter Markets as well as a sturdy gazebo with weights if trading at the outdoor Charter Market. Stalls at the covered Festival Market in Morecambe will be provided.

Established stallholders at all three markets will be marking the day with the offer of discounts and special offers for customers. Simply look out for the Small Business Saturday UK signs displayed at participating stalls.   

Councillor Jon Barry, Cabinet member with responsibility for markets, said:  "Small Business Saturday UK is a fantastic opportunity for our markets to encourage more people to shop local and support the cluster of small businesses trading at our markets.  It's also an ideal day for those who want to give running their own business a try for free as well as bringing something fresh and exciting to our local markets which you wouldn't normally find on the high street."

• More information on the markets and a registration form for this offer is available at   

• Alternatively, call the Markets Office on 01524 414251 or send an email to

Monday, 11 November 2013

Witness appeal after man dies on the M6 motorway

Police are appealing for witnesses after a man died on the M6 motorway.

At shortly after 9.00pm on Sunday 10th November police began to pursue a grey Ford Focus Sport on Preston New Road in Blackpool following an incident in Montague Street, South Shore where a man had deliberately driven his car at a woman resulting in minor injuries.

The Focus was driven on to the M55 reaching speeds of around 100mph. At one point the car was driven deliberately at an officer on foot who was trying to deploy a ‘Stinger’ to stop the car. He was not hit and was fortunately unhurt, but was left extremely shaken.

The Ford then continued on to the M6 southbound and during the continuing pursuit also collided with a BMW X5 police vehicle which then lost control and left the motorway ending up in an adjacent field. Fortunately the two officers in the vehicle only received minor injuries. 

At this point police vehicles backed off and the police helicopter kept sight of the car.

The driver was then seen to collide with another vehicle, a Ford Mondeo, before stopping his vehicle on the hard shoulder of the M6 near to junction 28. He got out of the car and walked across the southbound carriageway and central reservation into the northbound carriageway where he was almost immediately hit and fatally injured by a car.

The deceased was a 33 year old man from Blackpool.

The motorway was closed in both directions for about 11 hours while the incident was dealt with.

The matter was referred voluntarily to the Independent Police Complaints Commission which decided that there should be a local investigation managed by Lancashire Constabulary. This is ongoing.

Sergeant Gareth Hill, of the Road Policing Unit, said: “The manner of driving during this pursuit was reckless in the extreme and it is only a matter of good fortune that no-one else was killed or seriously injured. I would appeal for anyone who witnessed the Ford Focus in Blackpool or on the M55 or M6 to get in touch with us.”

Anyone with information should contact police on 101 quoting log number 1400 of Sunday, November 10th.