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Friday, 03 July 2015

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Book dream becomes reality for ex Keswick councillor

Ian Hall, farmer-turned-author, hopes his new book could achieve a second success when this year’s Lakeland Book of the Year winner is announced in the summer.

HIGHS AND LOWS: Ian Hall and his wife Jennifer, of Applethwaite, with their book Fisherground – Living the Dream

IAN Hall, farmer-turned-author, hopes his new book could achieve a second success when this year’s Lakeland Book of the Year winner is announced in the summer.

Ian and his wife Jennifer, of Applethwaite near Keswick, have just launched Fisherground – Living the Dream.

Two years ago Mr Hall received a £1,000 Hunter Davies Bursary through the Book of the Year scheme to help him complete it.

The book tells of the 28 years that the couple, and friends Geoff and Anne-Marie Wake, spent at Fisherground in Eskdale.

Launched at the Words by the Water festival in Keswick, it has been entered in this year’s Lakeland Book of the Year contest.

Ian, 65, a former maths teacher at Whitehaven Grammar School, and Jennifer were living in Wilton, near Egremont, next door to good friends Geoff and Anne-Marie when they hit upon the idea of running a farm.

Keen to maintain their friendship, the couples moved to Fisherground together in 1976 and brought up five children there between them.

In the 40-chapter book, Ian describes the highs and lows of the experience, including the effects of the foot and mouth outbreak and how the couples brought in a new income stream by creating a campsite and self-catering lodges.

It also covers his ordination, in 1988, as an unpaid priest and his subsequent work in four local parishes, his love of paragliding and his time serving on the Lake District National Park Authority.

Ian is tight lipped about how the Fisherground dream came to an end in 2004, encouraging people to read the book to learn the full story.

The couple now run three holiday houses – two in Applethwaite and one in Keswick – and Ian was a town councillor for several years before standing down in 2012 to concentrate on his book.

He may be a man of so many roles but Ian thinks writing was always in his blood.

He says: “My mother won a writing competition with Farmers’ Weekly in 1948 and my daughter Catherine’s a novelist.”

Though the book bears his name and he penned the words, Ian is keen to emphasise that it was very much a collaboration with his wife.

He says: “It’s a joint venture, this whole thing, the book and the farming.

“It was me and Jennifer who wanted to go into farming but we all thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company and thought it would be nice to live together.

“Jen and I have had great fun digging the memories up. Largely they’ve been stimulated by her photos.”

Ian began the project as a way of documenting this part of their life so their experiences would live on for their daughters, Catherine and Sally, who is founder director of Sally’s Cottages holiday lettings firm, their grandchildren and future generations.

He says: “It’s become almost a novel as much as a memoir. It’s developed from that initial idea. It’s much more than it was.

“It will help to keep the memories alive. I’m hoping it will be of interest to anybody in Cumbria, especially anyone who’s stayed at the campsite or lodges at Fisherground. It’s got a lot of history in it.”

A former Keswick town councillor, Ian stepped down in 2012 to concentrate on his book.

He is already working on his next book, when he’s not busy playing for Keswick Croquet Club. The next project promises to be totally different.

Fisherground – Living the Dream is available at Bookends in Keswick and on Amazon, priced £9.99.

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