A FAMILY business selling outdoor gear has weathered 50 years in business.

Ambleside shop Cunningham's is a favourite for generations of walkers.

The business, which also has stores in Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales, Betws-y-Coed in Snowdonia, and Newton Stewart in Galloway, was established in 1971 by Stewart Cunningham, from Ambleside.

Stewart and his Pam Cunningham bought the shop opposite the iconic bridge house in Ambleside 50 years ago. The shop opened offering a small selection of cagoules, Herdwick sweaters, wooden walking sticks, walking breeches and leather boots.

Cunningham’s was one of only three outdoor shops in Ambleside at the time.

Cunningham's is still family run, with Stewart's children, Ross and Wendy, now at the helm.

Talking about the early days of the business, Ross said: "Tourism was still very seasonal and winters were very long and quiet. Trading seven days a week was frowned upon. Customers always paid with cash or cheque as the debit card hadn’t been invented."

Stewart and Pam's three children, Wendy, Shirley and Ross, have all played a part in the business since childhood.

Wendy said: “We grew up working in the business, pricing stock, serving customers and sweeping up. Pocket money was replaced with wages. Working in the family business taught us a lot of life lessons and that if we wanted anything we’d have to work for it.”

Significant renovations and extensions to the Rydal Road site and the acquisition of the next-door property to create offices have taken place over the years. It’s created a bright, modern store over two floors while retaining the original character and charm of the building.

Stewart is 75 now and still active and still plays an active roll in the business, although at a slightly slower pace.

After dealing with national crises over the years, including the foot and mouth countryside shutdown in 2001, and Storm Desmond in 2015, Cunningham’s at 50 is still thriving after a prolonged period of closure during the pandemic lockdowns.

“After many months of enforced closures, along with fear and uncertainty none of which could have been imagined, we’re very glad to be open again and welcoming customers back,” said Ross.

“Advances in technology have created ranges of clothing, footwear and equipment that are lighter, more effective and light years away from the cagoules and sweaters of 50 years ago. It’s been a fascinating journey.”