Treasure to be hunted at Swallows and Amazons farm

A photographic treasure hunt for all ages is under way at Bank Ground Farm near Coniston in the Lake District.

Visitors to the farm, the Swallows and Amazons cafe and tea-room, the guest house and holiday cottages, will find treasure hunt cards in the farm shop, displaying eight locations in and around the farm and its grounds.

What they have to do is find the actual locations, and take their own photos to be in with a chance of winning a prize.

S&A tearoom

Co-owner Shayla Batty said: “We’re looking for the most original and unusual views of places that might be familiar to us, but will be a challenge for our visitors. First they have to find the places in our picture, then take a photograph of their own.”

Photos are to be emailed to

Prizes will go to the best original shots, and the winners – adults and juniors –  will get a free trip in a rowing boat from the Bank Ground jetty.

Bank Ground Farm has strong connections with treasure hunting, as one of the locations in Arthur Ransome’s classic children’s story, Swallows and Amazons, in which the youngsters find a treasure chest on a tiny island on the lake. Swallows and Amazons, loved by generations of children – and adults – opens at a farm called Holly Howe where the children are waiting for a telegram from their father with permission to camp on an island in the lake. Bank Ground Farm was the model for Holly Howe, and was also used as a location in the 1974 film version of the story.


Visionary new retirement scheme launches in Cumbria

The prospect of retirement should be enjoyed rather than dreaded, according to the High Sheriff of Cumbria, Alistair Wannop.

He was speaking at the launch of a new approach to retirement living at Scalesceugh Hall where luxury homes are being built in the grounds of a restored mansion near Carlisle.


The High Sheriff, the Mayor of Carlisle, and Dr Herdeiro

Mr Wannop described the project as a “broad-minded example of new thinking” and hailed the ambitious plans of Dr Anita Herdeiro and her husband Bruno who have relocated from London to run Scalesceugh Hall and Villas.

His enthusiasm was echoed by the Mayor of Carlisle, Councillor Trish Vasey, who described Scalesceugh as a “truly exciting scheme”.

“Today we have older people who don’t have the infrastructure of family and friends around them, so this offers a community – if and when required.”

Buyers of the houses will have access to rooms in the Hall including a coffee lounge, library, and a fitness room where regular activities will be organised. Grandchildren will be encouraged to visit and stay with the building of a playground in the gardens. Assistance will be available if needed.

Dr Herdeiro spent many years working with older people and researching into the impact of keeping fit and healthy in later life, and her principles are based on similar schemes operating in Scandinavia and Australia.

“Downsizing is a big decision and it’s one best taken when you are secure and have positive choices ahead of you rather than through fear of the future,” she said. “Scalesceugh offers you a 250-year lease on your own home, living the independent life you choose and being in control.”

She added: This is just the start. We believe this concept could be adopted throughout the UK.”

Bruno Herdeiro told the packed reception of civic dignitaries, local politicians, business people and community workers: “We’re working harder and living longer so our retirement becomes a very important part of our life and one we should look forward to.”

The properties will go on sale shortly; houses are priced from £300,000 and bungalows from £175,000. A discount will be offered to owners of electric cars; a re-charging point is one of the many sustainable features of the new scheme.

If not duffers, come along to Coniston for Swallows and Amazons read-in

It’s been a remarkable summer so far for an old-fashioned story about some children who were allowed to go off on their own and camp on an island…without their parents! If not duffers, said their father, they won’t drown.

Arthur Ransome’s classic Swallows and Amazons has featured prominently in the celebrations of World Heritage Status for the Lake District, recognition for his contribution to the area’s cultural treasury.

At the same time, the 2016 film version of the story has been released in America where it’s been received with great acclaim…and some health and safety puzzlement.

Now a new generation- and older fans – can join in the celebrations of the narrative when a marathon reading of Swallows and Amazons will be staged on the shore of the lake where the tale was set.


Hannah Jayne Thorp as Peggy

The event, to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Ransome, will take place at Coniston on Sunday September 3.

A number of celebrity readers have already signed up to take part and it’s expected that the book’s 31 chapters will take around nine hours to read.

The event is being organised by Dr Chris Routledge who is head of Continuing Education, English Language and Literature, at Liverpool University, in association with the Lake District National Park and the Arthur Ransome Trust. Also supporting the reading are Stephen and Janine Sykes who live at Hill Top, Ransome’s last home in the Lake District.

It will mark the end of a summer-long exhibition at the Ruskin Museum in Coniston about Ransome, Russia and storytelling;and a further exhibition and series of activities at Blackwell, near Windermere.

Dr Routledge, a great fan of Arthur Ransome, previously organised a marathon reading of Moby Dick at the Merseyside Maritime Museum; a much longer novel, that event took three days.

“It seems an appropriate way to celebrate the life and work of Ransome,” he said. “We are delighted that the Lake District National Park  has offered their site at the Coniston Boating Centre on the lake shore. And our partners at the Arthur Ransome Trust are providing marquees to keep our readers and visitors under canvas, in true Swallows and Amazons fashion.”


Chris Routledge: appropriate way to celebrate the life and work of Arthur Ransome

Dr Routledge’s 13 year old daughter Caitlin will be one of the younger readers, along with Elizabeth Kaye, the 11 year old daughter of Jonathan and Caroline Kaye, owners of Windermere’s Cedar Manor Hotel, who are avid fans of the Ransome stories.

Also taking part is Becky Heaton Cooper, director of the Heaton Cooper Studio, who is currently reading Swallows and Amazons to her six year old twins Alfie and Ophelia. “They love the book. They’ve not yet sailed, but we’ve paddled in a Canadian canoe to ‘Wild Cat Island’ on Coniston, so they identify with all the adventures,” said Becky.

“We have a remarkable literary and artistic heritage here in the Lakes and it is a pleasure to connect our family of artists with one of the great writers.”

Among the celebrity readers who have signed up are 14 year old actor Hannah Jayne Thorp, who played the part of Peggy in last year’s film version of Swallows and Amazons. The screenplay writer of that film, Andrea Gibb, will also read a chapter, along with Christina Hardyment, author of several Ransome-related books and senior executor for the Arthur Ransome Literary Estate. Also reading will be Ransome fan Christopher Wordsworth, great great great great grandson of the poet William Wordsworth.

Christopher Wordsworth

Christopher Wordsworth


(part of the LakesCulture calendar

Poets inspired by Swallows and Amazons

Entries came in from across the globe for a poetry competition organised by the owners of an iconic Lake District farm with a literary heritage.

Shayla and Jonathon Batty created the contest asking for poems about their home, Bank Ground Farm at Coniston, or Swallows and Amazons, the classic Arthur Ransome children’s story which has strong connections to their farm.

The winner was 73 year old Bob Cuming from Hamilton, New Zealand, a member of the International Arthur Ransome Society and lifelong fan of Swallows and Amazons.

“We have only been the one time to the Lake District but remember it so well because of my Swallows and Amazons interest,” he said. “We caught up with a lot of the sights including Bank Ground Farm.”

The working farm, also a guest house with holiday cottages and a tea-room, was the location of Holly Howe in the story, from where the children set sail to Wild Cat Island.

In second place was another Swallows and Amazons fan, 10 year old Katie Byron from North Wales.

She said: “One day when I was seven my Mum got out Swallows and Amazons. I point blank refused to listen to mum read the book. I thought it would be boring! But mum made me listen, and before long I was pleading to Mum to carry on. I thought it was amazing and still do. My favourite character is by far Nancy Blackett. She is so lively and adventurous. When I am reading the book I feel like I am Nancy. My sister Maya likes to pretend to be Peggy.”

poetry winner pic

Amazon pirates Katie, left, and sister Maya

In third place was  Andrew Smith from Staveley.

Shayla Batty said: “We were delighted with the high standard of entries for the competition, and especially pleased that a poet of David’s calibre agreed to be our judge.”

The winning poems will be framed and displayed on the wall at Bank Ground Farm.


Students to get their own natural beauty range

Students learning beauty therapy at Kendal College are to have their own range of natural products created for them to use in training.

Jo Evans, who runs Bespoke Aroma and is a former student at the college, has been asked to create bespoke products for The Retreat, the professional hair and beauty training centre. The salons are open to the general public and offer a wide range of treatments.

Bespoke Aroma is now partnered with a number of top class hotels and spas across the Lake District.

Jo, a trained massage therapist, developed her range of natural products initially after listening to clients. “One had undergone treatment for breast cancer and her skin was very sensitive. Another was allergic to many products on the market. Others had dermatology problems, eczema and dry skin” says Jo.

jo evans pic 1

“I decided to develop a natural range of skin care products because some brands still contain known skin irritants, ingredients we promise never to use.

“My range contains well researched ingredients that are skin nurturing, to help with different skin conditions and needs, as well as helping ease aching muscles and either promote relaxation or sharpen senses.”

Students at Kendal work with highly qualified and experienced therapists and hair stylists to ensure that professional industry standards are maintained.

“The thought of using natural products and from a local company with individual service and delivery is something we feel strongly about, and when I found out that Jo supplies to some of the best Spas in England I couldn’t say no,” said Alysia Parker, Hair and Beauty Therapy Co-ordinator.

“I was very impressed with the products she offered and her ethos about using natural, freshly made products. Jo is currently developing our own range which will be used by students on clients as from September. She has kindly offered to do some training with the students to introduce the range which will enable us to retail and increase profits also. We are excited to be in partnership with such a dynamic range of natural products and this fits in well with our surroundings of the Lake District.”

Jo said: “Having trained as an aromatherapist at Kendal College it is great to have the opportunity to return and work with them and share my passion with the students.”



Tribute to top sportsman at iconic Lakes event

A new award will be made at Ambleside Sports this summer in memory of one of the event’s stalwart supporters who died last year.

The Gerry Meneaud Memorial Trophy will be presented to the top hound trailer at the Sports at the end of this month.

Gerry Meneaud, well known on the local sports scene, particularly as a fell runner, was also an expert trail setter for the hound races. He was part of an elite team who drag a highly-scented rag for up to nine miles over the fells for the hounds to follow as they race.

new trophy pic

“Gerry was a loyal and hardworking member of our committee and he is very sadly missed,” said Sports chairman Jak Hirst. He’s pictured here showing the trophy to Gerry’s daughter, Carolyn Meneaud, also a fell runner, who will this year take on the organising of the first main event at the sports, the Rydal Round race.

gerry and thatch

Laying the trail: the late Gerry Menaud (right) with colleague Mike Thornton in the fells

Said Jak: “We wanted to show our appreciation and honour his memory and we thought this was a really good way to keep his name alive.”

Ambleside Sports will be held on Thursday July 27 at Rydal Park, with wrestling, cycling and children’s races along with fell-running and houndtrails. There will be many stalls, entertainment, refreshments and a beer tent. Gates open at 10am and the Rydal Round will start at 12 noon. Full details:

Full circle as leading mountain artist returns to his Lakeland roots

The last in a trio of exhibitions of the work of Britain’s foremost living mountain artist will open in Grasmere next month (July 7).

Full Circle is a major retrospective of paintings by Julian Cooper who is returning to home territory at the Heaton Cooper Studio.

It was in the new studio there in 1969 that his father, the painter William Heaton Cooper, put on the first exhibition of work by Julian who had just graduated from Goldsmiths Art College.

Great Gable

Almost 50 years later, his work will be the first to be shown at the re-opening of the Archive Gallery at the Grasmere studio.

It follows two other big events which have marked the artist’s 70th birthday this year. A  London exhibition, Upstream, ran at  Art Space Gallery in the spring, devoted to new paintings on the theme of going upstream from Cockermouth, Cooper’s home town.

In Kendal, the Abbot Hall Art Gallery has been showing over 30 monumental paintings from Cooper’s extensive output over 45 years and reflecting the artist’s travels. While some are of the Lake District, others were inspired by journeys to South America, the Alps, the Himalayas and the quarries of Tasmania and Carrara.

The Grasmere exhibition, which will run throughout the summer, includes previously unseen work covering a range of time and subjects, will combine some urban scenes set in different European cities from the 1970’s and ’80’s, a Cumbrian landscape with figure from the 1990’s and some of the recent paintings from his London ‘Upstream’ exhibition.

Cooper’s father,  William Heaton Cooper (1903-1995) was a successful painter of the Lake District, as was his grandfather, Alfred Heaton Cooper (1863-1929), and his mother was the sculptor Ophelia Gordon Bell (1915-1975).

He studied Fine Art at Goldsmith’s College School of Art in the late 1960s. In a career spanning three decades, his work has ranged from narrative paintings based on Malcom Lowry’s novel Under the Volcano to a series of paintings about the assassination of the Brazilian union leader and environmentalist Chico Mendes in Amazonia, in 1989.

His more recent work has been concerned with finding a relevant contemporary language for painting mountains and rock. In 2001 his Mind has Mountains exhibition at the Wordsworth Trust and in London showed paintings made after an expedition to the Kanchenjunga region of Nepal; noticeable was an absence of sky and a concentration on selected areas of terrain.

His solo exhibition Cliffs of Fall in 2004 at Art Space Gallery  showed work based on a comparative study of the North Face of the Eiger in Switzerland and the Honister Slate Mine in the English Lake District.





Tribute to Mathilde as new cafe opens in the Lake District

She was the young country girl from Norway who fell in love with an English painter and together they founded a dynasty of great landscape artists.

Now Mathilde Heaton Cooper is to be remembered in a new project at the family art studio in Grasmere in the Lake District.

Mathilde’s is the name of the new café which opens this summer, offering an extra dimension of hospitality to one of the Lakes’ most popular tourist destinations.

It’s a fitting tribute to the woman who played a quietly supportive role in the life of Alfred Heaton Cooper, and gave birth to their son, William. The father and son became known as the most famous of the English landscape artists of their respective generations. Her grandson, Julian Cooper, is now Britain’s foremost painter of mountain scenes and is about to open his third exhibition of the year.

“She was the love of his life,” says Becky Heaton Cooper, director of the studio and Mathilde’s great grand-daughter. “It really was a love match. Alfred was the centre of her world, and we think it’s wonderful to have her name here now at the centre of our new expansion project.”

The café, an ongoing project itself, is part of a major re-development at the Grasmere studio which will also offer extended exhibition space, and places for artists to work and study.

Alfred Heaton Cooper, born in Lancashire, had travelled to Norway after studying art in London. He became fascinated by the rural lifestyle of the Sogne region – which influenced his work subsequently – where he eventually set up a studio beside the fjord at Balestrand.

It was there that he met Mathilde Valentsin, and it was love at first sight. Inspired by her, he made a series of sketches of Norwegian women in traditional costume, or dancing or skating.

But it would be several years before they could afford to marry; Alfred proposed in a letter written when he had returned to England to work and save. They were eventually married in Norway in 1894. To reach the church, the bride and groom and guests had to row across the Ese Fjord (in traditional costume).

The couple came to live in England, arriving in Newcastle on November 5 – bonfire night. Hearing the fireworks, Mathilde reportedly said to Alfred: “Isn’t it kind of the English to give us such a grand welcome.” She spoke no English at the time.

Alfred and Mathilde lived in several homes around the north west, including Bolton and Southport. Their first child, Sverre, died as a baby. They then had a daughter, Alice Ellide, and a son, Frithjof, before William was born in 1903. Their last child, Una, was born when they were living in Ulverston.

It was Alfred who “imported” the log house studio from Norway which was rebuilt first in Coniston, and then in Ambleside, where it remains today as a restaurant. William, himself by then an eminent artist, moved the studio and family business to Grasmere after his father’s death.

Mathilde outlived Alfred by almost 30 years, living long enough to be Grasmere’s oldest resident, and died at the age of 90 in 1953.

“It is such a pleasure that the new project has given us the impetus to look more closely at this aspect of the family history,” says Becky Heaton Cooper. “We hope that the new café will become the heart and soul of Grasmere for visitors from all over the world who love art.”

Lakes’ farm invitation to The Archers

A lake-shore business in Cumbria is offering the opportunity for the most famous fictional agricultural community in Britain to come and experience the reality of farming today.

Shayla and Jonathon Batty, who run Bank Ground Farm at Coniston, sent an invitation to the editor of BBC Radio 4’s daily soap opera The Archers.

“We know it’s a tough life in farming these days and we thought we could share our experiences with folk in Ambridge,” said Shayla.

In The Archers Ambridge, home to the Archer clan, features a number of farming issues, from Brian and Jennifer’s large scale operation at Home Farm, to Pat and Tony’s organic Bridge Farm.

That family is currently arguing about an offer to buy some of their land from an entrepreneur.

At Bank Ground Farm in the Lake District, the family have diversified in a number of exciting ways, to keep the business growing and profitable. Along with Aberdeen Angus Cattle, Jacob sheep, and a family of alpacas to guard the lambs, there’s also a guest house, holiday cottages, a tea room and restaurant, a small shop selling homemade crafts, and boats and bicycles for hire. Everything is managed in the most sustainable way possible.

Shayla and Jonathon Batty: real life farming


There’s also occasional events such as lakeside regattas, poetry workshops, and cycle sportives. The farm is used to dealing with fiction as well as real life; it was the location for Arthur Ransome’s “Holly Howe” in the classic children’s story Swallows and Amazons.

“We have expanded and diversified the farm business, which has been a great learning experience,” said Shayla. “We would be delighted if any of the production team – or the cast – wanted to come and visit to see how we do things at Bank Ground Farm.

“Our ethos is to farm in a sensible and sustainable manner so whilst not organically certified we farm a low input system that is mainly organic in character allowing us to develop the highest possible quality grass finished beef and lamb.”

And the response from Ambridge? “Thank you for your invitation and if we’re ever in the Lakes (how lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the country) we’ll pop in,” replied The Archers’ editor Huw Kennair-Jones.

The search for a new view of Windermere

The most unusual photograph of Windermere is being sought by one of the leading hotels in the Lake District.

The Cedar Manor Hotel, which is a few minutes’ walk from the shore of England’s largest lake, has launched a competition to find the best shot from the most distinctive angle.

Owners Jonathan and Caroline Kaye watch many of their guests setting off with cameras. “But we seldom see the results,” said Jonathan.

“We have our own favourite views, from the top of Orrest Head, a small but perfectly formed hill not far from our hotel.

“Both online and in magazines we see so many shots of the Langdale Pikes across the head of the lake, for example. We want to see something different, unusual, quirky.”

The idea for a competition came when they couple noticed that the most recent lake-view photos on their own website were actually of Wastwater and Coniston, not their own local lake, just half a mile from the hotel. Some of the rooms have views of the fells across the lake.

Entries should be submitted digitally to  with the entry form available here Closing date is July 27.

The prize is a two-night midweek stay for two people, out of season, subject to availability.

Jonathan said that it would be interesting to see pictures of the lake taken on dull or misty days. “Not that we have many of those,” he added.

The Cedar Manor is a luxury boutique hotel and restaurant which has won a string of awards in recent years, including best small hotel in Cumbria, and recently the Best Hotel in the UK in the boutique hotel awards.


Windermere sunset