Poets from around the world will gather on the shores of Coniston this summer to read and write and ramble at an iconic venue.
Led by David Whyte, American based Irish poet, the group will be based at a farmhouse with a strong literary heritage.
Bank Ground Farm, on the eastern shore of the lake, was the model for “Holly Howe” in Arthur Ransome’s classic children’s story Swallows and Amazons. Ransome stayed there himself while visiting literary friends who formed a remarkable creative community at Coniston, and the farmhouse and grounds were used as locations in the 1974 film version of the story.
Now the visiting poets are among an eclectic range of visitors who make their way to this family run farm. Companies bring staff here for team-building or wind-down time. Mountain bikers stage events here, thanks to its close proximity to Grizedale forest. Open water swimming and boating events frequently take place thanks to the farm’s lake frontage and iconic boat houses which make it the perfect iconic venue.
All are hosted by the young family who are maintaining a heritage of both farming and hospitality. Jonathon Batty and his wife Shayla run a guest house where tradition meets modern styling and convenience. There are spacious holiday cottages in converted farm buildings, and the menu (breakfast, lunch and dinner) feature beef and lamb which once roamed Bank Ground Farm’s fields.
It’s the ultimate combination of diversity and sustainability. Local produce is used – and meat from the farm is sold in the farm shop. Pictures on the walls are by local artists – Thuline De Cock, Nick Leigh, Jackie Hadwin – and the recently-carved tree stump at the entrance is the work of another local, Andy Levy.
Afternoon teas are served in the Swallows and Amazons tea rooms; cakes and bread are baked in the farmhouse kitchen, and herbs are grown in the garden, where there’s now a children’s play den made of willow and dubbed the Wigloo. Boats and mountain bikes can be hired by visitors.
“We aim to provide a homely base with all the important luxuries and facilities so that our guests can relax and unwind, we provide the venue, meals, and even activities; walkers and cyclists and sailors love being able to leave their car for the week and disconnect,” says Shayla, who is originally from Palma de Mallorca. Husband Jonathon is the grandson of the legendary matriarch Lucy Batty who welcomed generations of walkers and sailors to the guesthouse. He says: “There’s been a tradition of both farming and hospitality here for well over 100 years.”
*Budding poets can enter a competition organised by Bank Ground Farm and have their work judged by David Whyte. The poems must be about Bank Ground Farm or Swallows and Amazons, and should be typed in 16-point font on one sheet of A4 (as the top 3 winning poems will be framed and hung on the wall). The prize for the best is a mid-week break at Bank Ground. Deadline is July 1. Please email your poem to firstname.lastname@example.org