Farmer, family man and entrepreneur

Date: Tuesday 29th May 2018
Ken Stamper
Ken Stamper

WELL-known farmer, golfer, rugby fan, raconteur and family man Joseph Kenneth “Ken” Stamper, late of Blencarn Hall, Blencarn, died peacefully at home, aged 78.

Ken lived and farmed at Blencarn Hall for more than 50 years with his wife, Jill, after taking over the farm in 1961.

He was born at Ivy house, Culgaith. He first attended the village school in Culgaith, moving on to Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Penrith, and then to St Bees School, where he made many lifelong friends and represented the school at rugby.

After leaving school he entered further education at Newton Rigg Farm School where he trained to gain the technical skills for what became his lifelong work and passion — his farm, the beautiful local landscape, his cattle and going to the farmers’ auction in Penrith on Mondays.

The year 1961 was a momentous one for him as, at the age of 21, he married Jill (nee Pickersgill), who originated from Bowes, and together they moved into and started farming at Blencarn Hall. From that start, Ken built up and expanded the farm business to create a successful enterprise and at the time of his death was farming more than 500 acres at Blencarn and Culgaith.

Ken was an entrepreneur, too. In 1976 after the drought, he embarked on a remarkable project which will stand as his legacy — the creation of Blencarn Lake, which became a byword for beauty and tranquility, set against the backdrop of Cross Fell and the northern Pennines.

In 1981 the lake opened to fly fishermen and Ken spent many happy hours in this remarkable place.

In recalling Ken, one of the Blencarn Lake fishermen wrote in a letter to Jill “in creating Blencarn Lake, Ken became one of those rare people who had truly enhanced his environment, creating a beautiful and peaceful place, enjoyed by both people and wildlife, which hopefully will continue to be appreciated for years to come”.

Another venture, perhaps less known, was his attempt to create a ski resort on the East Fellside. His plan was first to create snow, using a snow-making machine, then to create a ski lift and finally a mountain restaurant.

The snow machine was purchased and on the first evening that the temperature went below the required minus four degrees, Ken and his brother, Geoff, took off up the hill side, both equipped with walkie talkies, to put the machine to work and create the piste.

They positioned the machine just right. The water went in one end and they watched as out of the other side came the beautiful powder snow. What they had not anticipated, however, was that it was a windy night and rather than landing on the piste, it floated over on to the neighbouring fell.

As it did not hit minus four degrees for some years after, the ski resort project never did take off. The concrete platform for the restaurant stands as a memorial to this grand design.

Alongside his successful farming career, Ken loved life and people and he had a unique gift for making everything fun, generously entertaining his friends and family.

He had many other interests, which included longstanding membership of Penrith Golf Club, where he was a regular player until recent times; he loved rugby, John Wayne cowboy movies, and country and western music.

He was above everything else a family man. He leaves his wife of 57 years, Jill, daughters Angela and Helen, sons-in-law Dave and Nick, and grandchildren Thomas, Robert, Charlie and Annie.

Dave and Angela continue the farming activities at Blencarn, while Helen and Nick work together in their Penrith estate agency, Eden Estate Agents with Fine & Country, of which Ken was formerly a director.