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The Catstycam Blog

  • Catstycam and the Modern World

    “The times they are a changing” sang Bob Dylan in 1964. And he was right. And since then lots has changed, and the pace of change has left many by the wayside wondering what the hell just happened. But change is up there with Death & Taxes I’m afraid, unavoidable and forced upon us.

    Companies that we have known all our lives like Woolworths are gone and others are just hanging on. Peoples shopping habits have changed very quickly, sped up by the recession. Technology is allowing the internet to become our new High Street, and large discount stores are wiping out whats left of our town centres. It’s not about service or product any more, just price. Who can sell items cheaper than their competitors, just stack them high and sell them cheap.

    We have had to do a lot of head scratching here at Catstycam. We are turning over less than half what we were before the recession and the rise of the internet and discount stores gave us a good kicking. Redundancys have been made, ranges tightened up and plans that would cost money to implement dropped.

    I have been wondering if an independant Outdoor Shop in a Lakeland Village is just not relevant any more. People do their shopping online and at discount stores, and every high street has a few Outdoor Shops so people are sorted before they get here. I always thought an Outdoor Shop in a destination place like Ullswater would be the safest business going, but I didn’t recon on our old mate Change stirring things up and doing his evil work.

    We can no longer afford to hold more expensive items as we can’t match the internet and discount stores on price, and if it doesn’t sell then we have wasted a big percentage of our budget. We can not afford to have permanent staff any more, paying wages through the quiet winter months would wipe out any money made in the sumer. Georgia is still with us though, running the Pooley Bridge shop and helping me with Glenridding when she can. And good old Chris (of the more sureal blogs) covers our days off so the shops are always in safe hands and the quality of service we offer is consistantly excellent.

    But I don’t want to leave you with the impression we are on our way out. We have been massively affected by outside influences, and had to change the way we run the business and the stock we hold, but we are still here and plan to be for many years to come. As the business has shrunk, we have become more of what we started out as. An old fashioned Outdoor Shop keeping people safe and comfortable on the hills above Ullswater. You will get served by Georgia, Chris or me (I’m not being big headed but we are all very good at looking after our customers) rather than any seasonal Saturday staff so you will always get the best service.

    By making these changes and tightening up the way we operate we will be here at Glenridding, Pooley Bridge and online for years to come. I am very proud of Catstycam and the reputation we have earned over the years. I am proud to be an independant retailer in a corperate world where chains shout about the great service they offer but fall well short of the service always offered by independants.

    So next time you are walking around Ullswater and your boots/jacket/gloves/laces/map/gaiters fail, don’t worry because there are still a couple of excellent Outdoor Shops to supply you with the correct replacements at a sensible price. We are still relevant in this modern corporate age, just a scaled down version of our old self, concentrating on service and looking after our customers the old fashioned way.

  • Please say NO to the Glenridding Zip Wire

    People who live in the Lakes or come here regularly understand the differences between the different areas. Each area has it’s own distinct feeling and look. Windermere is the busiest and most touristy area, Wasdale and into the High Mountains have an almost Alpine feel, and Ullswater is known as “England's Most Beautiful Lake”.  This is because it is a lot less developed than most of the Lakes, making the area more natural and quiet. People like that. That’s why most people who come to Ullswater come to Ullswater. For the peace and serenity on offer by walking on the beautiful fells above our nice quiet Lake. We have had a speed limit on Ullswater since the mid 80’s, we like it quiet round here.

    While most people appreciate that, the Lake District National Park Authority who only exist to keep the Lake District beautiful and functional in a sustainable way seem to have missed that point. They want to put 4 parralel mile long Zip Wires above Glenridding on the way up to Helvellyn. If this was to go ahead then all of our visitors favourite walks from Glenridding would be ruined with the sounds of people screeming and the clatering of the Zip Wire.

    Helvellyn, which is one of the most popular Mountains in England, would be approached under the Zip Wire, with sections fenced off for “our” saftey, and the sounds of a Theme Park echoing round. The walk up to Lantys Tarn, one of the nicest and most peaceful short walks around here would be spoilt as you would look directly over the Zip Wire walking up to the Tarn. Birkhouse Moor, Sheffield Pike and Glenridding Dodd would all be ruined by the noise, which would travel up to Greenside and Raise with the wind behind it, and even back down into Glenridding village and the Lake.

    You might remember a right carry on recently at Honister Slate Mines where they had applied for planning permision to put a Zip Wire in but the Lake District National Park Authourity refused it on grounds that it would ruin the peace and quiet of the area. Chris Bonington resigned from Friends of the Lake District because he was so appalled at this decision. I thought they must have forgotten that Honister is a working slate mine with a Via Ferrata route up into the mountains and the perfect place to put a Zip Wire for people to enjoy, but no, theres more to it than that.

    Well, it seems politics and money have crept into this aguement. With the recent Government spending cuts the Lake District National Park Authority now have to raise a lot of their budget themselves, so instead of their priority being looking after the Lake District, it has become raising enough money for them to continue existing. And this is where the Glenridding Zip Wire arguement gets it’s momentum from. The Lake District National Park Authority do not own any of the land at Honister so would not make any money from a Zip Wire there. They do however own the land above Glenridding where the proposed Zip Wire would go and stand to make a lot of money out of this.

    I have never really given the Lake District National Park Authority that much thought. They have consistently been inconsistant with their planning applications and have never represented the people and businesses of the Lake District but you expect that from Government organisations. But now they are becoming the threat that they are supposed to protect the Lake District from is there any future for them? The Lake District National Park Authority costs millions of Taxpayers pounds a year to operate. The work they do is largely duplicated by  Eden, Allerdale and South Lakeland District Councils as well as the National Trust, Cumbria Tourism and the Parish Councils. If they were to close down and pass full responsibilities to the local District Councils, hand over their land to the National Trust, and let Cumbria Tourism handle the visitors centre it would save the Taxpayer millions of pounds every year.

    If they are to continue they will be looking for more ways of raising money. Every day we hear people complaining about the price of the car parks in the Lake District (The Lake District National Park Authority raise over £300,000 a year just from the main Glenridding car park, think what could be done locally with that money). Well those charges will go up even more. The Tourist Information Centres are not popular with local businesses already as they are taking trade selling more maps trinkets and souvenirs. This is only going to get worse as they need to increase their side of their funding, causing more competition between the Tourist Info Centres and local businesses. If these were to close there would be more money for local businesses and better advice for tourists as people would have to ask locals in village shops for information rather than the people who work in Tourist Information Centres, who are good, but not as informative as the locals.

    In this fast changing world some organisations and businesses that used to rule the roost are just no longer relevant any more. We need to think long and hard about the future of the Lake District National Park Authority and if the money it costs to run would be better spent more directly into Lakeland communities.

    But thats an arguement for another day. For now the most important thing we need to do is make the Lake District National Park Authority see sense and stop backing the proposed Zip Wire. This needs a bit of People Power to let them know how deeply unpopular it is. There is a petition you can sign at to let Richard Leafe, the head of the Lake District National Park Authority, know that we are against it. There is also an open meeting in Glenridding Village Hall at 7PM on Wednesday 3rd December where Richard Leafe and Mike Turner, who owns the company wanting to build the Zip Wire, will be there. Please come along to this and bring everyone you know who thinks its a crazy idea. We want as many people  as possible there to let Richard Leafe know that this is the wrong place to put a Zip Wire. We also want as much media as possible so we can try and get Richard Leafe and Mike Turner to justify their propsals to camera. With such strong local resistance to the Zip Wire I don’t see how they can put a spin on it that would be acceptable by the public.

    Please sign the petition and come along to the meeting. This is the biggest threat to the peace and quiet of Glenridding that I have ever known. It is vital that this does not go ahead or the whole character of the top of Ullswater will change for the worse.

    Thank You. Andrew Laverick.

  • We've been going through changes....

    The Shops...

    Signs New Signs

    The quieter winters in Glenridding give us a great chance to make the improvements to the shops that we’ve dreamt about all year – hopefully without disruption to our few hardier customers.

    This meant that two winters ago we could take the opportunity to swap out our old front entrance for a beautiful Oak frame with display cabinets to match.  This was a huge job by our standards and we’re really happy with the end result.

    New Entrance New Entrance

    We also renovated our lovely Beechwood floor with a serious amount of sanding, sweat and elbow grease from Mike and Jamie, they got it varnished up and looking great.

    As a general overhaul, both shops were fitted with new signage and lighting, as a result of which we can honestly say that the shops have never looked better and we’ve got plenty more ideas up our sleeves too!

    Projects like these are great to keep us busy but really it’s more of a pride thing, we’re tremendously proud of what we do here and aim to keep the standards high.

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