WHEN George Grange isn’t out catching escaped sheep on her family farm, she runs a new arts venture in the middle of the beautiful Kentmere Valley.

Cowshed Creative opened in 2019, on the 500-acre farm which has been in her mother’s family for generations. The business offers craft courses in a range of disciplines, with the chance of staying over on the farm in one of four new camping pods.

After a career working in the arts - George studied fine art and sculpture, taught in London and then returned to her mother’s farm 30 years ago, working at Dallam College, near Milnthorpe, and Kendal’s Brewery Arts Centre - she decided the time was right to set up her own business.

“I wanted to do something and the opportunity came up,” she said. “I was passionate about what I did at Kendal Brewery but I guess I was at the right age for someone else to take over. Because we were able to take the farm back and farm it more environmentally it felt we could tie in creative activities with that…like traditional dry stone walling courses,” she said. Her sister Candida Hodgson now farms the land, including Herdwick and Swaledale sheep and cattle (the farm had been tenanted for some years) and George lives in the farmhouse and helps out when needed.

To set up Cowshed Creative after George applied for a LEADER grant – European money which was then available to rural businesses in Cumbria to support sustainable development. She produced a five-year business plan, with the grant covering 40% of the basic building work to create four camping pods (bought from The Original Pod Company in Kendal), together with the plumbing and also put in the kitchen and toilet in the cowshed. “The grant was a really big help in getting the business going,” she said.

“The building used to be a cowshed. I remember when I was little and we used to come up a lot. It was a dairy farm then, it’s a nice use for a really beautiful building.”

She went to Kendal College and did an evening class in website design so she could create one for her new business. “We were doing it on quite a budget,” she said.

Cowshed opened on Browfoot Farm in 2019. “I ran a small programme which was really successful,” she said. The most popular courses were jewellery making and raku pottery. Guests were travelling from further afield to the classes although many villagers from Staveley and Kentmere also attended, including a local who was working for a farmer and wanted to learn how to build stone walls. George says many of the courses use the farm as a creative inspiration, from wild wreath making to photography and painting rural animals. “It’s being able to use the farm much more directly. It’s nice to do that and be outside if the weather permits.

At the moment George IS Cowshed Creative. A mother of two, she organises the courses, cleans, books in the guests, and cooks their lunch. In the future though she’d like to teach a few classes, particularly silver jewellery making.

Working with Natural England she and her sister are also making the farm more environmentally friendly, doing lots of tree planting and reducing their farming of the uplands.

“It’s a really gorgeous place. Tucked away in the middle of Kentmere. I’m so lucky to work here…