How to be happy and free …
My sister and I on the rafts at Fisherground in Eskdale, where we grew up
(now with our own little ones)
Do you remember summer holidays stretching on for ever and ever? Do you remember when the sun shone every day? We spent hours by the stream watching the haymaking and just being. And do you remember proper winters where the snow fell and you could make a really decent snowman? Perhaps you didn’t have this but it sounds nice doesn’t it?
Fisherground Farm in Eskdale, the Lake District where I grew up
I was lucky enough to have a happy and free childhood. We grew up on a small farm in Eskdale in the Lake District. We were two families who had gone into partnership together. At £30k the farm was too expensive for one family to buy alone. It was hard work but we loved it. We were five children and four adults so there was always someone to play with and someone to share the workload.
Barngarth, one of the lodges at Fisherground in Eskdale
Our parents had started from scratch and together built the farm into an enterprise to sustain the nine of us and any other hangers on. A field was turned into a campsite that provided us kids with even more playmates. The orchard housed three static caravans which in time became wooden chalets. A couple of barns became a couple of Lake District cottages. The days were long and we spent most of our time outside.
I believe that growing up in this way was a fantastic experience. My dad, in particular, passed onto us all his values of hard work combined with the greater good. As well as the farming, holiday cottages and campsite, he became a non-stipendiary vicar and still found time to go paragliding – his little piece of freedom within the Lake District dream.
I still live by these lessons learned during an idyllic childhood. I think that happiness and freedom comes from believing in what you do. How many people do a job that they don’t respect and that they don’t like? Working hard gives us purpose in life but only if it is worthwhile work.
When we set up “Sally’s Lake District Cottages”, an agency letting holiday cottages in the Lake District, it started at a cottage belong to a neighbour in Eskdale (the valley where I grew up). She was having trouble getting a long let for her house, Hollin Head, so I offered to rent it from her and sublet it to people wanting to take a holiday in the Lake District. Before long other farmers in Eskdale and Wasdale were asking if I could let their houses for them too. These houses needed people to clean them and others to provide maintenance. Over the years we have become a growing network of people who work well with each other in a mutually gainful relationship, rather than the unequal but more usual employer-employee relationship.
Daisy, my little girl, on one of the tractors that was around when I was growing up
How good it is that families and good neighbours still exist. The family bond has grown and developed along with the business that we set up. I work every day alongside my husband and brother-in-law. We are in constant contact with people that I went to school with, as well as their parents, all of whom have spotted an opportunity and provide a service to us and to each other. And I think it really does work, giving us the best of both worlds; the money is important but there is so much more to it than that. We care about what we’re doing, and we also believe that everyone who stays in our Lake District cottages should have a chance to experience a little piece of the childhood that I was so lucky to take for granted when growing up.