The Lakes with kids – our break at Bank Ground Farm
The Lake District has huge nostalgia value for my husband and I. Well, Coniston, more specifically. Just this week awarded World Heritage status, the Lakes were the very first place we went on a long weekend away. I still remember the excitement of booking that cottage together on the laptop one lazy weekend morning in bed. You know, the mornings where you actually cuddled and chatted, and didn’t have to either launch yourself out of bed to some wailing or wrestle your phone off a small person while you try and doze or catch up on Facebook.
Little did we know the significance of the place to our whole relationship after that one short break turned into years of relaxing but active craft beer and food-filled fun.
Once we had children though, that 6 hour long drive oop north where you can’t do the walks or drink all the beer or push a buggy out the front door meant Coniston became just a happy ‘couple’ memory for us.
With a car and roof box packed to the rafters, enough story CDs to last 4 days and the entire snack aisle of Sainsbury’s, we threw caution to the wind set off.
My husband and I had never stayed at Bank Ground Farm before, but as the real-life setting of author Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons (which I massively bigged up to my 4 year old fan of pirates and adventure), and with different sized cottages on a working farm, a tearoom, beautiful grounds and direct access to Coniston Water, it seemed perfect.
The view from our picnic terrace wasn’t bad I suppose.
I don’t know about you, but despite the 5am baby alarm I feel more alive than drinking a bucket of coffee when my eyes have this kind of panoramic scenery to gaze at. The old peepers also appreciate the focal workout of looking long distance – away from a screen for a change.
Jonathan and Shayla own and run Bank Ground Farm. It’s a family run working farm; Jonathan having grown up there. And ‘working’ it certainly is – cows and sheep everywhere, kept in the grounds by a cattle grid that M loved juddering across in the car each time we came and went. The farming and kitchen staff buzz about and old barns full of farming equipment nestle right next to your cottage. Which, by the way, is full of character and well equipped (in M’s opinion ‘amazing cos I have two beds in my room and you only have one!’)
The evening that we ordered dinner in, Jonathan delivered some homemade pies with an apology that he was a little late due to a ‘cow and her calf feeding emergency’ in the fields. I think the calf needed more help with his dinner than us so I was cool with that.
And by the way, the food is incredible. You can eat in the restaurant but we ordered from their catering menu – what a bonus to get a three course meal as well as scrummy dishes for the children delivered straight to your cottage door. And beware the delicious cakes in the quirky Swallows and Amazons tearoom – my advice is to just cave in to the ‘it’s holiday sod the rules!’ thing quick and order one each – otherwise your offspring will scoff all of your ginger cake and you won’t be as happy about it as I look in this picture. This is the before shot – ‘go on, have a taste! Aww cute!’ (We missed the ‘she’s devoured it ALL DAMMIT’ shot…)
They even have an honesty bar, where you just leave the money for the drink you take from the bar. Old school and trusting – really love that vibe.
The cottages all look out onto Coniston Water and have direct access down to the Lake – we went down each night in that post-tea pre-bathtime hour to burn off the last bit of steam. The eldest would lob stones into the water and boat spot, and the littlest would toddle on the pier and the bank (knuckle-whiteningly well clung onto) and ‘wack wack’ at the ducks/swans/swallows (well she’s 14 months – bird, duck, potato, potarto).
Talking of boats, Jonathan can hire out anything you fancy – so we took out a little rowing boat, which he whacked a little motor on especially for M, who had become obsessed with going on a speedboat, ‘not just a normal boat Mummy’ for some reason. So he was thrilled he had his very own ‘speed-rowing-boat’ to captain as we went in search of pirates and adventure on Coniston Water. I was nervous about taking super active, climbing fan Little P on board, but obviously we all had lifejackets and actually, once we were moving she was so chilled out by the rushing air of the ‘speedboat’ she even fell asleep on my lap… “Yeah another lap of the Lake, Cap’n, before the pins and needles sets in, a-harr!”
What I loved about Bank Ground is that you only need a couple of hours jaunt somewhere before you’re happy to head back to chill out in the grounds. Those blissfully simple outings – a little museum, steam train trip or walk through the fields to the pub for a drink (which we attempted at the Black Bull that was our holiday local as a couple – and let me tell you, is an entirely different kettle of fish with two knackered under 5s starving, wet and cold from a crappy weather walk).
Then you’re bumping across the cattle grid and back home to the animals, the huge lawn, bench swing, willow igloo for kids (or ‘wigloo’ as we took to calling it), tearoom and your own terrace to eat or play games.
Bank Ground Farm is such a welcoming place I think our two genuinely thought it was theirs to own for the 4 nights we stayed. I certainly wish we did own it…
And as for our first venture oop North as parents? Well, instead of being nostalgic about long walks, lie-ins and uninterrupted pints, I think I’m ready to be make new, sleep-deprived but happy memories in the Lakes. We’ll just have to save the nice craft beer until they’re in bed.
If you want to take our break, here are the activities we did:
- Lego Discovery Centre, Manchester – on the way there. Highly recommend!
- Beatrix Potter World, Bowness-on-Windermere. Totally gorgeous and charming.
- Lakeland Motor Museum. A must-go for any car fan.
- Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway. Choo choo!
- Little visit to the Ruskin Museum, Coniston.
- Bike ride in Grizedale Forest. Perfect for knackering them out.
- Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester – on the way back. Really fun and very hands-on.
Disclaimer: We stayed at Bank Ground Farm at a discounted price and enjoyed a complimentary boat trip, tearoom visit and catered dinner thanks to Jonathan and Shayla. All opinions are my own.