After returning to her childhood home, natural therapist Helen Leece established a centre for wellbeing and renewal high among the hills on the western fringe of the Forest of Bowland.
The Gathering Fields is a rural Retreat centre teaching Yoga, Meditation, Cookery and Wild medicine. The centre can be hired by companies and community groups and hosts a variety of retreats based around wellbeing in nature.
Standing some 140 metres above sea level, Swainshead Hall Farm, enjoys an elevated position offering amazing views of both the fells and the wide sweep of Morecambe Bay, with the hazy outline of the Lakeland Fells peeping over the northern horizon.
It’s a truly enchanting view that’s entirely in keeping with the aura that permeates this magical rural hideaway overlooking the upper Wyre Valley and the Ward Stone – the highest point in the Bowland Fells.
Helen returned to her family home – a working hill farm of some 280 aces – after a varied career which saw her qualify as a holistic therapist and practitioner of Ayurveda – an Indian-based holistic medical system incorporating diet, lifestyle and herbal medicine.
She immediately set about diversifying, converting the outbuildings into cosy bunkhouse accommodation and indoor and outdoor spaces for learning and discovery, which she christened ‘The Gathering Fields.’
“This little community has been a place where people have come together in friendship for centuries and we want to preserve those traditions,” said Helen. “The name the Gathering Fields seems to capture that instinct for like-minded people to share each others’ company in a relaxed and open setting.”
Ideal for extended families or informal friendship groups, community groups and charities, the Gathering Fields offers yoga, Sound relaxation, herbal foraging with a medicinal twist, Flower essence making or simply revelling in the glorious countryside on the doorstep.
Alongside the camping barn – which was once a cowshed – there’s also a paddock to pitch tents and a wonderfully expansive covered outdoor seating area complete with communal firepit to while away the evenings around the campfire.
A recently restored community pub is a shortish hike across the fields, while the ridgeline of surrounding hills can be reached on foot within an hour. The Gathering Fields also makes the perfect base for exploring the quiet roads and wild trails of Bowland on road, mountain or electric bikes.
“We encourage a ‘back to nature’ approach to stays on the farm,” said Helen. “But while it’s deliberately rustic, the camping barn has all mod cons, with hot and cold water, heating, toilets and indoor kitchen and plenty of room to dry out wet clothes and boots.
“Families love the sense of space and safety and seem to settle in and get comfortable in their surroundings very quickly. We know the surrounding area really well and can point guests in the direction of the best places to walk, cycle, explore – and enjoy a pint! We’ll even supply torches if they fancy a night hike.
“We welcome guests to share stories, skills, open fires, music, make friendships and from here we can bring people together to grow a community.”
Swainshead Hall Farm Over Wyresdale Nr Lancaster LA2 9DN
The Gathering Fields is a working farm which follows holistic principles to help people reconnect with nature. The centre specialises in helping school age children from underprivileged urban areas to access nature. Helen is currently restoring a four-acre pasture on the farm to encourage indigenous wildflowers to return to the hay meadow.