LABOUR OF LOVE

Interview
At Lingholm with Jenny Seymour

Jenny Seymour did not expect to become an Estate Manager of a Grade II listed Victorian house in the Lake District. She did not have a background in hospitality and no expertise in landscaping or gardening. When her father bought the Lingholm Estate in 2013 and asked her to manage the restoration and running of the estate however, she packed up, moved north and rose to the challenge with steely determination and an optimistic spirit.

The restoration of the Lingholm Estate has truly been a labour of love. Read on to hear about Lingholm's storied history, its merry bunch of Herdwick and Jenny's hopes for the future of the estate. Can you tell us about becoming Estate Manager at Lingholm?

My father came to Lingholm in 2013 to look at one of the properties here, but being the businessman he is, he saw the potential in restoring the entire estate and asked me if I would be interested in managing it. I agreed to do it, but with no background in hospitality, it was really a baptism by fire. We moved into the main house while guests were staying here and we had to keep warm that first winter by an AGA, since the central heating had completely broken down. At the time, the house was in need of a lot of work but we knew that it was a truly special place and that we really wanted to rebuild it’s identity.  

Lingholm has a storied history as a grade II listed house, but what for you, is the charm of thestate? 

Firstly the setting, the estate is in a beautiful spot, on the edge of the lake shore, nestled in the woods. I always say we live in a micro climate here. The weather can often be really poor in the fells but when you come down the long driveway to Lingholm it feels magical, all hidden in the trees. The history of the estate is fascinating with so many interesting characters having visited here over the years and we have tried really hard to piece that history back together. Of course, the people are what make the place too and we are lucky to have a great team working here. Can you tell us a little about the history of the estate and what has captured your imagination since you took it over in 2013?  

Just before we moved here, I took a holiday to Italy. We visited the town of Arezzo in Tuscany and while I was there, my father told me that the great fireplace in the Stone Room at Lingholm had come from that very town. There were a number of other small coincidences that happened which made it feel right that we were moving to Lingholm. I visited the V&A around that time to look through their archive boxes because I knew that Beatrix Potter had spent some of her summers at the estate and I found many drawings of the house and one of the main hall and stairway which was sketched exactly as it stands today. Learning more about Beatrix Potter and her connection to Lingholm has made all of us here fall in love with her a little bit more. 

Soon after moving to the estate, we received a letter from a gentleman called Mike Swift who used to be the Head Gardener here. We invited him over and it turned out that he had a wealth of knowledge about the flora and fauna of  the estate that he kindly shared with us and since then his son has taken over his position as Head Gardener. Where are your favourite places to escape to?

The woods and the lake! We love to explore the surrounding woodlands. They are huge, you can get lost in there for a while and you never see anyone. I also do a lot of wild swimming so I love to escape to the lake. I’ve yet to swim the length of it but hopefully that's something that I’ll be able to do by the end of this year. The good thing about Derwentwater is that there are lots of well placed islands to take a rest and the views from the middle of the lake are amazing.

The Lingholm Estate has undergone significant changes over the last 6 years not least with the rebuilding of the octagonal walled kitchen garden. Why was it so important for you to rebuild this and what other changes have taken place on the estate? 

When we moved here the walled garden area was completely overgrown. What we didn’t know was that there was an old tea room hidden in the overgrown mass. It had always been a bit of a pipe dream of mine to someday own my own coffee shop so we decided that we would try to rebuild it as part of the master plan. It took three years before we could do this but the octagonal walled kitchen garden, which used to be surrounded by a hedge, and the coffee shop have both been a great success. 

 Can you tell us about your merry bunch of Herdwick? 

Our Herdwick are actually from Yew Tree Farm which is the farm that Beatrix Potter used to own. We bought two to begin with for my Mum’s birthday and she loved them so much that we bought her two more the next year.  We have had a few escapees, but recently, while we have been closed, we have let them roam freely on the estate which has been lovely!

With so many visitors to the estate each year, how do you keep the magic of Lingholm alive for yourselves as a family?

We are very lucky because we have moved out of the main house now to a property by the lake shore. The private areas of the estate, where only guests are allowed to go, are really peaceful and after the cafe closes each day there is a real sense of calm that pervades the whole estate. 

What plans do you have next and what is your greatest hope for the future of the estate?

We were planning to open a shop on the estate this year but we have delayed it until next year now. Our plans have already been accepted so we are excited to move ahead with them when the time is right. I feel like the estate has almost reached it’s natural capacity now and I'm aware that there is a sensitive tipping point. We never wanted to turn Lingholm into a holiday village and so now our focus is to preserve and look after the estate.

next on the view: RUSKIN Campaign Shoot at Lingholm