Before we set up Sally’s Cottages I used to work for LEADER+, an organisation which gives help to farmers and rural businesses. It was at the time of Foot and Mouth and so we were certainly kept busy. Despite being a farmer’s daughter, I came to realise how little I knew about farming in Cumbria. Three years at LEADER+ certainly taught me a thing or two and now I have a four year old boy, I’m learning even more about farming! I thought I’d share some of that knowledge with you now about what is happening over the coming year in the farming calendar …
THE FARMING CALENDAR
Much of the snow has now melted but farmers are still busy taking hay to sheep still on the fellside and hills.
In March & April, the sheep will be brought down from the fellside to the lower fields to give the newborn lambs the best possible start in life.
In the summer, the sheep are sheared and sent back up to the fells. The fields are then left to grow grass to make hay & silage in late summer – a worried eye is kept on the weather forecast as it’s best to have as many days of sunshine as possible when mowing the fields.
Then it’s Autumn with harvest festivals and the last of the country shows before we’re back to the short days and snow in winter.
Quite often, if you stay at a cottage on a farm, you’ll be right among all the farming activity. Many farmers are happy to have a helping hand if you’re keen, giving you a chance to see everything first hand!
FARM SHOPS & CAFÉS
There are plenty of farm shops and cafés in Cumbria but here are a selection that we have enjoyed over the past few years:
Low Sizergh Barn
Situated just outside of Kendal, this is a great shop and café which has a large window into the milking parlour. Come at milking time and watch the cows being milked while you enjoy a nice hot chocolate. It’s on the way to Eskdale & Wasdale so a good place to stop before embarking on the final hour of your journey to cottages in these two valleys.
Not a farm shop per se but they supply fantastic local meat – the fillet steaks from here are fabulous.
Woodlands Tea Room
It’s not a farm café but it serves good homemade food using local ingredients, and is well located for people staying in Wasdale & Eskdale. They also provide an outside catering service so if you’re a large group staying in a holiday cottage, have a night off from cooking!
At Millstones there is a bakery where you can see breads and pastries being created, an arts and crafts gallery, and a tea room situated in the Old Byre where the cows once lived. This farm shop is situated in Bootle which is a small village near Ravenglass.
Wellington Jersey Ice Cream & The Old Stackyard Tearooms
This is a personal favourite of mine; I just love the ice cream here. And Bruno (my three year old) likes visiting the cows in their shed. It’s just off the main Cockermouth roundabout.
Low Bridge End Farm
There is a lovely circular walk in St John’s in the Vale (near Keswick) which takes about 2 hours and starts at St John’s Church. About ¾ of the way round, you come across Low Bridge End Farm which has a great café and allows dogs. For walk details, please click here.
The Flock Inn
Set in a beautiful location in Rosthwaite in Borrowdale, this one is a favourite of Prince Charles, who seems to come up to visit most years! Sit down, enjoy a drink, a bite to eat and a chat with Carole and her helpers. There is a farm shop too specialising in Herdwick Sheep from the farm.
Legendary cafe set under Shepherds Crag (beside the Borrowdale Hotel). Great basic food at fantastic prices. Stuff your face for a fiver! Great views and a fine way to spend a few hours of the day!
Just off junction 40, in the village of Stainton, Greystone House combines a farm shop with a café and stocks local products from the surrounding area. This is an organic farm and they are developing access to the farm so you can see how the food is produced.
Abbott Lodge is in the Eden Valley so is within visiting distance for guests staying at Ullswater, Orton or Keswick. My little boy likes the play tractors and the playground while (once again) I enjoy one of the home-made ice-creams. There is a café and indoor play area too if it’s raining.
There are some great markets in and around the Lake District with some of our finest producers selling truly delicious food produced, baked or created in Cumbria. Sillfield Farm, for example, is a regular favourite at Borough Market in London yet he lives and works in Cumbria and is always at Milnthorpe Market. My favourites, though, are the home-baked cakes and lemon curd that you see at most of the markets. Yum.
Milnthorpe Farmers' Market
2nd Friday of the month, 9.30am-2.30pm.
For details ring 07928 103407.
Brough Farmers' Market
3rd Saturday of the month, 9.30am-2pm (Jan-Mar 9.30am-1pm).
Orton Farmers' Market
2nd Saturday of the month, 9.30am-2.30pm.
Orton Village 1 mile from M6 J38
Penrith Farmers' Market
3rd Tuesday of the month, 9am-2.30pm.
Pooley Bridge Farmers' Market (near Ullswater)
Last Sunday of the month Apr - Sep, 10.30am-2.30pm. For other dates see website.
Cockermouth Food & Craft Fair
1st Saturday of the month, 9.30am-2.00pm.
Thursdays and Saturdays in Keswick
Whitehaven Farmers' Market
2nd Saturday of the month (from March), 10am-3pm.
Ring 01946 61919 for further details.
Ulverston Farmers' Market
3rd Saturday of the month, 9.30am-2.30pm.
There are a variety of farms and farm-based centres throughout Cumbria who open their doors to families looking to spend a day out among the animals. Here are a few that we’ve been to:
Lake District Wildlife Park
At Bassenthwaite, between Cockermouth & Keswick, this farm has been extended to house all sorts such as gibbons, zebras, meerkats, lemurs and otters, as well as the more traditional farm animals. They do tractor rides, pet talks and donkey rides. There is also an indoor soft play area and a café should the weather become inclement.
We visited here a year ago and Bruno still talks about the tigers who climb poles at feeding time to hunt dead hens! There is a walkway at the top level so you can see it all happening up close and personal. As you wander around, you will come face to face with emus who are left to roam free. You can hand feed the giraffes and penguins or even become a keeper for the day.
Riding stables in the area include Murthwaite Green Trekking Centre at Silecroft offering beach rides while Cumbrian Heavy Horses in the Whicham Valley provide an opportunity to ride magnificent Clydesdale and Shire horses. On Cold Fell (between Ennerdale and Eskdale) is Bradley Farm pony trekking over the moors.
For older kids really, you can go quad bike riding, horse trekking and operate a JCB excavator here, as well as do more outrageous activities such as driving a tank and shooting rifles!
Lakeland Maize Maze
We’ve not been here but it looks really good and hopefully will be a trip for this year. Situated near Kendal, it’s a working farm with a variety of animals to visit. What I really want to visit though is the Maize Maze which looks a-maze-ing (sorry).
DRY STONE WALLING
The walls in and around Cumbria are beautiful and vary depending on where in Cumbria you are. Walling is an art form, made harder by the fact that no cement is used to stick the stones together.
A visit to Grizedale Forest takes in a variety of sculptures including Andy Goldsworthy’s “Taking a Wall for a Walk”. This has been damaged by tree felling but is still worth a visit.
Throughout Cumbria there are agricultural shows that take place near the cottages we let. They are brilliant places to go to, especially if you have kids. Most have sheep shows, other animal shows, Cumberland wrestling, bouncy castles, beer tents, agricultural machinery and all sorts. Bruno’s already asking when he can go to the next one, even though it’s been three months since we last went to one.
Have a look at our Review of the Lake District shows.