An exploration of the stories and wildlife from Sir John Barrow cottage to the Irish Sea

This project was a commission by ARTSPACE to create a piece of work approaching Ulverston from a new perspective, inspired by the story of famous explorer Sir John Barrow who was born there. Based from Sir John Barrow Cottage the project included open days, creative workshops and the creation of the book ‘Tiny Voyages Of Discovery’. You can learn more at the my research blog or the Artspace project blog.


‘This book documents my journey exploring the course of Dragley Beck, starting from Sir John Barrow Cottage and ending at the Irish Sea. It is inspired by Sir John Barrow’s life as an explorer and member of the Admiralty, but also highlights the story of his wife Anna Maria Barrow who was a botanical illustrator. In reference to her work I have created an illustrated book of the wildlife that can be found in this environment.

I am not a trained a biologist or ecologist, I am an artist who is passionate about the natural world. This book isn’t an extensive overview of freshwater and marine life in Cumbria, but focuses on animals that caught my interest - whose migration, breeding methods or ways of creating shelter fascinated me. I have been lucky enough to have been advised by some very knowledgeable naturalists, but most of the research has been my own and may not be perfect. I hope I have illustrated creatures that should, or could, live in our area. Some of the pages feature specific species that are in decline or at risk in our rivers and oceans, and I have added a brief description for each to highlight the many ways human life can have an impact on the natural world on our doorstep.

This has been a personal journey for me as an artist, and I have included a short essay about the women that have influenced my work throughout this project.

I hope this book will spark your curiosity, and inspire you to visit the Cottage, the Beck, the beach or spend some time looking at a wildlife field guide.’




‘‘Unique’ is an overused word, yet this individual work is like no other recently published local book. Although it is described as ‘An exploration of the stories and wildlife from Sir John Barrow cottage to the Irish Sea’, it is far from being a dry guide book. Talented artist Ellie Chaney has over time closely observed wildlife in Dragley Beck, and produced striking illustrations of some its fauna, from microscopic protozoa to the grey heron. However, this is more than a collection of artwork, since Ellie brings together different historical and current strands to create a satisfying whole. While Sir John Barrow sent expeditions to the far ends of the earth, she demonstrates that there is still so much to explore and discover on a smaller scale closer to home. Similarly, just as the vast frozen polar expanses probed by Sir John Barrow’s explorers are threatened now by climate change, she warns how much of the wildlife in our own little ecosystem is put at risk by our activities, from dredging to using insecticides. She was also inspired by the often overlooked life of Sir John Barrow’s wife, Anna Maria nee Truter, born in South Africa and a painter of landscapes and flowers, and by the botanic illustrator Anna Atkins, born in 1799. Anna Atkins, regarded as the earliest woman photographer, used cyanotype images to illustrate a monumental ‘Manual of British Algae’. Cyanotype images are always blue, and this has informed the beautiful artwork of a book which deserves a nationwide audience.’ Ulverston Now, Feb 2018