This is Brantwood, the setting for our Geopoetics conference “Going Outward” this weekend. It is a beautiful house, set in 250 acresof lovely Lakeland countryside and overlooking Coniston Water. It was the home of John Ruskin, and the setting for some of his experiments in farming and gardening, and where he spent years studying and drawingand encouraging local crafts and industries.
I hadn’t known much about Ruskin apart from his art criticism, which established the reputation of Turner and inspired the Pre-Raphaelites, but it turned out there was a lot more to him than that. He was interested in education and social welfareand the environment, and the place of art and creativity in the lives of ordinary working people, not just a cultured elite. He was a competent but not a great artist, (which gave him a perceptive insight into the process of painting) and a serious geologist, not to mention a prolific writer.
The Brantwood Trust who own and manage the property now, continue his aims by managing the estate with a view to sustainable farming and conservation of habitat as well as making it pleasant and accessible for visitors. There is a gallery for local artists and they run courses in gardening, and drawing, and a very pleasant and comfortable venue for conferences like ours.
We learned about Ruskin and visited the garden – many of us took a walk around the estate, but I didn’t, being defeated by the distances and the steep hills involved. I looked around the herb garden full of plants useful for dyeing and medicine and food and cosmetics, and watched the ducks on the lake and visited the house, which is kept very much as Ruskin left it.
We talked about the connections between Ruskin and geo-poetics, and between geo-poetics (and poetry in general) and film-making and watched some very stunning films. We had a social evening with poetry and singing and stories, and were introduced to the work of Mariusz Wilks (particularly his Journals of a White Sea-Wolf) a Polish Writer who practices geo-poetics in Russia, and heard poetry from England, Scotland, Wales, Poland and Venezuala. All in all, it was a great weekend – even the weather was lovely!
You can find out more about geopoetics here