Fancy photographing Raptors With The Toons At Silverband ?

Few wildlife photographers have won so much praise for their work as Ann and Steve Toon. The active couple are conservation photographers famed particularly for their work with rhinos.

The husband and wife team will hold a Raptors Workshop Jun 26, Jul 31, Aug 7 in the Eden Valley, Cumbria. The Toons will team up with Silverband Falconry for what promises to be an amazing day of hawk and owl photography including Tawny , Barn , Snowy , European Eagle and Little Owls, also Kestrel, Buzzard, Peregrine Falcon and others, all for £120*.

Wild Open Eye - Natural Vision, News from Wild Open Eye

White rhinos, Ceratotherium simum, Hlane Royal National Park game reserve, Swaziland, Africa “Project African Rhino came about because we’ve been passionate about rhinos since the first time we saw them in the wild.” Ann and Steve Toon photo and copyright.

Wildopeneye talks with Ann and Steve Toon, founders of Project African Rhino about what makes them ‘click’. 

Images are all copyright Ann and Steve Toon.

Ann Toon photographing white rhino at Hlane game reserve, Swaziland Ann Toon photographing white rhino at Hlane game reserve, Swaziland

Wildopeneye first heard of the enterprising husband and wife photographic team via a promising news release on their Project African Rhino website and was immediately impressed by the Toons’ use of multimedia photojournalism to raise the profile of African Rhino conservation work.

You may well have seen and admired their work yourselves over recent years as their outstanding nature photographs have appeared in a variety of prestigious and influential magazines and other news media in service of environmental education. The award-winning pair sell images directly from their online data-base and via specialist agencies and…

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Roadside dining reaches new heights at The Bridge Bistro, Kirkby Thore

Light trails from trucks and cars blaze past  The Bridge Bistro, one of Cumbria's most elegant dining and drinking venues.

Light trails from trucks and cars blaze past The Bridge Bistro, one of Cumbria’s most elegant dining and drinking venues.

Located on the A66 gateway to the Lake District near Penrith, stylish bistro café The Bridge sets a new benchmark in roadside cuisine by serving affordable foodie fare.

How many times have you passed through Kirkby Thore on Cumbria’s A66 and have hardly been aware of the fact?  We always knew Kirkby Thore was there of course, most of us have driven through it numerous times on the way to somewhere else. The road bends, signs are there and we slowed down for the place and passed on through rejoicing. It was that sort of place, but …. it is no longer unremarkable, far otherwise.

elegant interior design at The Bridge Bistro

Elegant interior design. Calming, suave, warm and bright, our visit to The Bridge Bistro was uplifting.

Now a very elegant Bistro has put Kirkby Thore squarely on the map of really nice places to eat! It’s called The Bridge Bistro, and not only is it beside the bridge, on the Penrith side, but it bridges worlds by elevating roadside dining to new heights.

Yes, after today’s experience I’d even say that I think its worth detouring large distances for Kirkby Thore now, certainly planning an eating stop there for A66 travellers and here’s why, first in a nutshell for those  who are busy, but do read on for the full account if you can.

The nutshell version

  • A nice range of meals and drinks variously priced for different pockets
  • Great quality food
  • Substantial portions
  • Stylish and comfortable
  • Warm, friendly staff
  • Clean as a whistle
  • Long opening hours, at time of writing Mon – Thurs from 9 am to 10 pm, Fri – Sat 9 am to 11 pm, Sun 12pm – 6 pm.

More detail

Imagine that a husband and wife team decided to do a very good job of designing a stylish cafe cum bar cum restaurant (Bistro), using the best materials, with tasteful consideration of your comfort and aesthetic satisfaction in mind at every stage of the process, no expense spared by the looks of things and then went ahead and realised the dream. They then staffed it with nice people who want you to enjoy fresh food cooked well, and then they resisted the temptation to charge you the moon to eat there.  That’s exactly what happened. Matthew and Louise Reay have produced a really good restaurant. Matthew grew up  in nearby Culgaith, worked in London for a number of years where he met Louise and the couple moved north in 2006 to start their family. As keen travellers, they felt there was a gap in the market for good quality, reasonably priced food available on the road. They have now filled that niche, and how!

Friendly staff behind the bar at The Bridge Bistro, Kirkby Thore

Shapely bar  and  a warm welcome and fine eating await travellers on the A66 at The Bridge.

Louise Reay beside the hand painted silk wallpaper.

Louise Reay beside the hand painted silk wallpaper.

Hand-painted silk wallpapers, wood-panelling, bespoke lighting and a handmade bar shape the venue’s contemporary, elegant setting, with a glazed, gable end lending a bright, welcoming feel.

The Bridge is owned by husband-and-wife team Matthew and Louise Reay.

Matt says “Eating out in Cumbria is fairly limited – there is either fine dining or the local pub. The Bridge offers an outstanding mid-range alternative in a unique dining environment and as our Trip Advisor reviews show, we’re proving popular with locals and tourists alike. Having just been open for six months, we’re honoured to be included in next year’s Michelin guide.”

When we eat out we want it to be worthwhile. Today’s lunch was a fine experience from start to finish.

Pretty lady enjoying fine filter coffee at The Bridge Bistro in Kirkby Thore

Great uplift! Freshly brewed coffee in refreshingly elegant surroundings at The Bridge Bistro

Gujons of Plaice in light. crispy tenpura beer batter on a bed of french beans, peas and rocket, with chips, Tartar sauce and the best mushy peas that I've ever tasted!

Goujons of Plaice in light. crispy tempura beer batter on a bed of French beans, peas and rocket, with chips, Tartar sauce and the best mushy peas that I’ve ever tasted!

Here’s that dish viewed again from the side, because I want to share the visual appeal and I’m showing off my new camera. Today’s special at The Bridge Bistro.

Today's special at The Bridge Bistro.

Yes, it was as good as it looks.  My wife enjoyed the Mushroom Risotto very much.

The Bridge Bistro serve a rich Mushroom Risotto with light, crispy battered cauliflower florets for texture. Locally harvested forest mushrooms impart deep, complex flavour. Delicious!

The Bridge Bistro serve a rich Mushroom Risotto with light, crispy battered cauliflower florets for texture. Locally harvested forest mushrooms impart deep, complex flavour. Delicious!

The Bridge Bistro is full of light and beside the expansive front window I encountered the French Electronica band Kwoon, pausing en route to Glasgow as part of their European tour having played in London and Hull. Parisians know Bistro dining, it’s in their blood  and these guys declared their meal to be very good. Sandy Lavallart, the composer, pictured in striped top, declared that it exceeded his expectations of English food, especially from a roadside restaurant. Spot on! I must say the same.  I wish them best of luck with their tour.

Parisian Electronica band Kwoon taking time out on their European tour.

Parisian Electronica band Kwoon taking time out on their European tour.

During a quiet spell, we chatted with the Chef, Paul Mckinnon who uses local, fresh produce to create a varied menu, ranging from simple sandwiches in artisan bread to classic French and Italian dishes. Originally from Gateshead, Paul spent eight years working under Tyneside’s Michelin-starred chef Terry Laybourne at his ’21 Queen Street’ restaurant in Newcastle and at Newcastle United FC.

There is a map theme running through the menus and decor that befits the roadside Bistro

There is a map theme running through the menus and decor that befits the roadside Bistro

Paul says “Freshness of the ingredients is really important in our menu. You’re not eating things from plastic bags here. Take your Plaice for example, it came in on the boat last night, early this morning, and is cooked today. We’ll be offering game soon, pigeon, widgeon, pheasants and grouse.”  Son of a gamekeeper, Paul is skilled in venery, knowing the proper preparation and cuts of game. He is training up local lads in the culinary arts and is pleased with their development so far. The A66 is a major, arterial thoroughfare, with motorists, bikers and truck drivers travelling to and from Scotland, Yorkshire and the northeast.

He says at The Bridge there’s a fine balance in providing a variety of good quality food to suit people who need to eat quickly and be on with their journey and also in serving those who wish to linger and relish a protracted dining experience. He’s passionate about his art and I feel sure that The Bridge will continue to successfully achieve that balance.

Chef, Paul McKinnon explaining how fresh, often locally, sourced ingredients are brought together for outstanding dishes.

Chef, Paul McKinnon explaining how fresh, often locally, sourced ingredients are brought together for nourishing and tasty dishes. Apples and plums, forest mushrooms and fine meat as examples.

East Cumbria’s Eden Valley offers a great deal for visitors including  lovely landscapes, traditional towns, pretty villages, castles, stately homes, prehistoric heritage sites and nature reserves  including Lowther Castle, Acorn Bank, Lakeland Bird of Prey Centre , Lacy’s Caves and Appleby Golf Club.  Now there is fine roadside dining on the A66!

Appleby Golf Club - impressive views  £25 Green Fee

Appleby Golf Club – impressive views of  Pennine Fells and  Eden Valley

The Bridge serves breakfast/brunch, lunch and dinner with a sizable kids’ menu, pricing from £5-20 per person.

Check out the menus, correct at time of writing:

BFast & Kids sample Evening Sample Menu The Bridge Christmas 2013 Weekday Sample Menu

Opening times: Mon thru Thurs 10am–9pm; Fri – Sat 10am–11pm; Sun midday–6pm.

The Bridge, Kirkby Thore Bridge, Penrith, Cumbria CA10 1UZ

Tel: 01768 362766 /

Text and photos Charles Paxton of

The opinions expressed here are genuine and the author received no financial inducement to write this review.

The Eden Declaration – Rory’s Campaign For Fast Broadband For Cumbria Gains Momentum home page home page

by Charles Paxton

BroadbandCumbria.Com is an exciting new communications hub set up to help communities find out about fast broadband opportunities and to talk to each other about plans and developments in their immediate and wider area. We’ve never seen anything quite like this before. It really is quite a revolutionary social experiment in community communications. Community broadband champions from villages across the Upper and Lower Eden Valley and beyond are gathering online under the banner of Rory Stewart’s campaign for better communications in his Penrith and the Border constituency. The rapidly increasing membership is hoping that fast broadband will help connect many communities (that have really hitherto seemed fairly geographically isolated dots on the map) both to one another and then on to the wider world with the powerful advantage of very fast speed!

To my knowledge this is the first time that this sort of campaign has ever been organised and it is very interesting to see how it is developing. The benefits for us could be very far reaching in terms of enhancing our quality of life, not least in terms of the new friendships and contacts being forged every hour, between many people who otherwise might never have met.

There has been a flood of interest in the evolving website, which is in effect a cluster of community microsites joined to the central hub of Membership is free and takes just a few moments to complete. A list of communities that already have a microsite and those that have been offered one are visible here:

The Leith-Lyvennet microsite can be found at This is for people in the ecclesiastical parishes of Crosby Ravensworth (Maulds Meaburn and Reagill), Morland (inc Newby, Sleagill, Kings Meaburn), Great Strickland, Little Strickland (Thrimby), Cliburn and Bolton. Let us know what you think of it so far, it’s a work in progress, and if you see opportunities for improvement, then please let me know.

The Eden Declaration

One of the most important results to emerge so far is the communal development of a document that succinctly and powerfully condenses our needs and desires in respect of improved communications infrastructure. It cuts to the chase. I urge everybody in Eden to read The Eden Declaration and, if you agree with its content, to sign it as soon as possible!

To sign the petition, please go to and register. Then go to ‘your account’, click on ‘profile’, click on ‘edit profile’, and scroll down until you see a ‘sign the petition’ box.

Tick this box and your name will appear on the list of signatories on the petition page:

Current non-members have the option of signing the petition when they create an account on the site. It’s free to join. So, please pass this news on to your friends and neighbours by word of mouth, email, post, Facebook, Twitter, door-to-door at Church or at socials – any way that you can!
The more who sign-up, the merrier.  It will naturally be seen as a gauge of our collective enthusiasm and desire for improved communications services.

People new to the Internet may be interested to know that there is a very user-friendly training service available locally called Myguide. I have seen my elderly father using it and he is rapidly gaining confidence and facility with the system that provides a safe and gentle introduction to browsing the web and emailing.