I have been lying in the bath dreaming up a poem to enter this wonderful competition. So far, I have:
If you ever go for tea
at Bank Ground Farm, you’re sure to see
the field where the Swallows waited
for the telegram that stated
they could go to sea.
IF NOT DUFFERS WONT DROWN
has become well renowned
as a response to Health and Safety
when adult natives get too hasty
or turn adventure down.
Did Arthur Ransome ever think
that a feature film might link
Lucy Batty to a famous movie star
like sweet Virginia McKenna
while at her kitchen sink?
‘I put a paddlock on the gate,
obliging them to wait
until they paid a decent fee
to use my property
and jolly well reinstate
But if you stay at Bank Ground Farm’s
house, the stable block or barns
TARS will most certainly
be welcomed personally
with ever open arms.
I think I need to try I little harder. Here are the competition details:
A new competition for poets is being launched at a Lake District farm with a strong literary heritage.
The owners of Bank Ground Farm, on the eastern shore of Coniston, are asking poets to write about their visit – or about Swallows and Amazons, the children’s classic story which is set in the area.
The entries will be judged by American poet and author David Whyte who is visiting this summer to run a residential school. Whyte, the Anglo-Irish poet now living in the USA, is the author of eight books of poetry and four books of prose. With a degree in Marine Zoology, he has traveled widely, including living and working as a naturalist guide in the Galapagos Islands and leading anthropological and natural history expeditions in the Andes, Amazon and Himalaya.
Swallows and Amazons, loved by generations of children – and adults – opens at a farm called Holly…
We were sad to hear that Lucy Batty has passed away. She was 87. Our thoughts are with her family. She will be fondly remembered by visitors from all over the world who were made so welcome at Bank Ground Farm above Coniston Water in the Lake District, which she ran as a guest house for many years. It was also used as a film location, becoming known as ‘Holly Howe’ in Richard Pilbrow’s 1974 movie, Swallows & Amazons.
I first met Mrs Batty when we filmed in her home back in 1973 and returned to stay with her in 2003 when the BBC asked Suzanna Hamilton and myself if we would appear in Countryfile, which they were filming at Bank Ground Farm with Ben Fogle. It was then that she had time to show me her photo albums. What a life she led! She was very proud of having brought up seven children on the farm, “Two of my own and five that came with my husband,” she explained. “Getting them all off to school in the mornings was such hard work that my in-laws came to help on my first day.They all wanted bread and dripping for breakfast, with sugar sprinkled on top.”
“A magistrate once asked me what running a B&B entailed. ‘It’s much like looking after cattle,’ I told him. ‘You bring ‘um in, feed ‘um, see they’re bedded down, turn ’em out and muck’um out.’ He flung back his head and roared with laughter.”
She had a great sense of humour. I have a cutting from an article in The News written by Brenda Colton and published on 25th May 1973. It reads:
‘When Mrs Lucy Batty was asked if her house could be used for the setting of the film Swallows and Amazons, with guest star Virginia McKenna, she was delighted. After all, her home, Bank Ground Farm on the east side of Coniston Water, near Brantwood, was the setting chosen by Arthur Ransome for his children’s book Swallows and Amazons.
Mrs Batty thought it a good idea that the story should be filmed in an authentic location, and she felt she should be able to put up with a few cameras and film men for a while. But she just did not realise the scale of a “medium budget” film like this one, or what the production staff could do to her house. It was not the two double-decker buses coming down the path and parking on the farm that she minded, nor the numerous vans, lorries, cars and caravans. It was not even the difficulty of having 80 men and women wandering round the farmhouse carrying equipment here, there and everywhere.But when art director Simon Holland started tearing up her lino and carpet in the kitchen to get to the bare stone floor, she did get a little annoyed. Especially when he removed all the electric sockets, lights and switches, pushed all the kitchen furniture into the larder and whitewashed the newly papered walls.
“Have you seen the kitchen?” Mrs Batty said to me. “The larder is piled high with my furniture; and you would not believe the tip my lounge is in. But they are a funny lot. I asked if I could wash the beams in the kitchen for them, and they said ‘Oh no, we want them to look old.’ I have even had to hunt out a lot of old pottery from the cellar for them.
“But I have given up now. I have just left them to it.”
What I really did not know, until I watched the BBC documentary ‘Country Tracks’, was that Mrs Batty reached the point when she locked out the crew. She explained that when she was originally asked if we could film on her property she did not quite realise the scale of operations and only asked for – or accepted – a location fee of £75. She said that she decided that £75 was not enough, padlocked her front gate and wouldn’t let them back in until they agreed to pay her £1,000. It was a lot of money, more than double the fee I received for acting in the whole movie.
To read a little more about filming of Swallows & Amazons at Bank Ground Farm, please click here.
I am sure many people reading this have their own memories of Mrs Batty who was such a great character. Please do add them to the Comments box below. I feel it would be a tribute to all the hard work and love she put into making Bank Ground available over the decades for so many to enjoy.