(featured in Cumbria – The Lake District & More, 17viii2013)
A traditional small Lake District farm, Bank Ground is set on the eastern shores of Coniston Water. It is perhaps better known as “Holly Howe”, the name given to it by Arthur Ransome. The house and its lakeside setting became the fictional holiday home of the Walker children in his famous children’s story Swallows and Amazons. Their adventures, set in and around Bank Ground Farm and Coniston Water, have become firm favourites the world over. The farm was extensively used in the 1974 film version of Swallows and Amazons starring Virginia McKenna and Ronald Fraser.
Arthur Ransome was a prolific writer of children’s books. Born in Leeds in 1884, it was his father, a nature-loving history professor, who inspired his love of the outdoors and nurtured a passion for fishing. As a child he enjoyed active, outdoor holidays: sailing, camping and exploring the countryside. He used many of these holiday settings for his children’s stories, notably the much loved Swallows and Amazons, a book that sits comfortably in the category of “timeless classic” and remains one of his most popular titles for young people.
It is the wholesome story of four young children, John, Susan, Titty and Roger, who set out in their boat (the Swallow of the title) to an island of adventure. All seems well until they encounter their enemy. At first they are angry at the invasion of their peaceful haven by these Amazon pirates, Nancy and Peggy, who claim ownership of the land. But in time a truce is called and the Swallows and Amazons become firm friends. Camping under open skies, swimming in clear water, fishing, exploring and making discoveries is the stuff of dreams, serving to make this such a charming tale. The author manages to capture the innocence of a time when all this was real and possible. Swallows and Amazons transports children to a fantastical place where they can play safely and roam freely, without an adult in sight.
Bank Ground remains a family-run working farm of some 60+ acres, rearing both cattle and sheep. It commands uninterrupted views over the lake to Coniston Village and its magnificent backdrop of Lake District fells, the focal point of which is the 2 635 ft summit of Coniston Old Man.
Dating back to the 15th Century, Bank Ground has provided bed and breakfast accommodation for over 50 years. Casual callers can also enjoy a splendid, traditional English cream tea. The farmhouse itself is a Grade II listed building with low ceilings and open log fires. The provision of self-catering holiday cottage accommodation started when some of the original farm buildings were converted in the late 1980s. Each cottage has been carefully restored, retaining many original features such as exposed oak beams. All the cottages are comfortable and spacious, each with its own individual charm. There is lake access for those who want to follow in the footsteps of Ransome’s fictional family by fishing or exploring the lake by boat.
(reworked from Bank Ground’s own website)