At the end of Summer, during our stay at Ullswater Heights, we were keen to explore as much of the area as possible. Although we have enjoyed countless holidays and days out up in Cumbria, we have never really explored the Penrith area until now and, as members of the National Trust, we wanted to make the most of our membership during our stay!
Acorn Bank is home to 1000 years of history, free to National Trust members, and best known for its comprehensive herb collection and traditional fruit orchards, Other than this information we had seen on the website, we knew nothing at all about Acorn Bank and yet for us, that’s always part of the adventure.
On arriving at Acorn Bank we were greeted by a member of staff who informed us not only was there a house and gardens to look around, but also a water mill, a cafe, and a fairy trail! I absolutely love the National Trust trails, as do the children, and they are just the perfect way to get kids outdoors, enjoying nature, and using their imaginations.
As we turned the corner and discovered the house we were all surprised to see something so grand before us. I’m not sure what I had imagined the house to be like and yet I can certainly say it wasn’t this! Amazingly, parts of the house date from the 16th century, but the main block was rebuilt in the mid-17th century. The whole house was then given a new façade in the 1690s, with Georgian sash windows added in the 1740s.
Directly opposite the house there was a row of deck chairs where we took a moment to sit down and admire the view. Often when we visit National Trust properties such as this Eva and I like to talk about what it would be like to live there, how many dogs. we would have if we did (always seven) and the names we would give them. And they are some of my absolute favourite memories we share together.
The house is open to explore which is great when you’re as nosy as we are, and despite being so grand it was actually really inviting and welcoming of young families such as ours. I hate visiting places with the children where we have to shush them or tell them not to touch anything so it’s always refreshing when they can explore without us feeling all eyes on us!
Upstairs we were amazed to find a book shop which is just the loveliest idea! You can look through a whole selection of second hand books, covering all genres, and make your purchase via the honesty box. I could have spent the whole time in there, sitting looking through books, deliberating over my decisions, but with the children impatient to explore I made a quick choice and on we went.
The house is beautiful and it’s interesting to imagine which parts are the original features and which were introduced with the renovations. With every window we came across the children rushed to admire the views and the stained glass, as well as arguing over whether Cinderella or Princess Elsa lived here. I just love their imaginations!
Downstairs Megan was delighted to discover a desk and type writer, where as Harry and Eva were more interested in the touch screen feedback form. Sometimes it’s the little things that interest them the most!
Back outside there is a coach house cafe which leads into a court yard with outdoor seating and an ice cream stand which we promised the children we would have at the end of the day. The cafe did hot and cold food and, although we only had a drink and a cake, it all looked and smelled delicious!
For me, it was the Acorn Bank gardens which were the real highlight, boasting a series of small linked gardens spanning over 350 years. Here you can find a collection of more than a hundred local apple varieties, vegetable and herb gardens, and even beehives.
Eva has developed a real interest in gardening over the last few months, enjoying planting seeds with her Nanna and Grandad and watching as they grow, so she loved every second of exploring the greenhouses, telling us all about the plants she recognised, and relishing in getting one up on Megan and Harry when they didn’t know as much as about plants as she did!
Of course it wouldn’t be a day out for us without at least one of the children falling over and this time it was Harry, cutting open his knee and yet very bravely soldiering on with the promise of that ice cream!
In the orchards there are row after row of apple trees and the children were happy just to run up and down, playing hide and seek, and enjoying being outdoors. I love days like this, when the sun is shining and just being outside is enough.
Although the orchards are lovely to just wander, you can actually take part in apple tours, apple tasting, apple identification days (for the die hard apple fans!) and even cooking demos. I love how much is going on at Acorn Bank throughout the year!
I can see why it’s easy to spend an entire day out at Acorn Bank as, by the time we had finished exploring the gardens, we had been there several hours and hadn’t even started on the woods and the fairy trail. Although as members we get free entry, I think it would well be worth paying the entry fee for a day out!
In the woods the children were excited to make a start on their trail sheets with and of course, hunt for the fairies. Every few steps we took they would stop to look at something else so the trail did take a little longer than we predicted!
On discovering the first fairy house the children were beside themselves with excitement, checking inside for signs of fairies, “I think they’ve gone out!” said Megan. Hidden in the nooks of the tree, made from wood to look authentic, even I started to believe their tales!
As we followed the trail round we came to the old Water Mill, running since 1323 and ceasing to work in the 1940’s when it sadly fell into a state of ruin. In the late 1980’s restoration began and was eventually fully restored in 1995 and re-opened to the public.
In 2011 flour was ground for the first time in more than 70 years and in 2012 the volunteer restoration team won the Marsh Heritage Volunteering Award for their hard work for this project.
Back into the woods, the fairy trail continued in a loop with fairy houses dotted in and around the trees and with every find the children ticked them them from their check lists with excitement. Completely free to take part, I thought this was such a lovely trail and the perfect ending to our day.
We absolutely loved our day at Acorn Bank and, as always, left feeling reminded of why we joined the National Trust just over a year ago. In that time we have had the most amount of fun, right throughout the country and experienced days out we wouldn’t have ordinarily been able to afford on a pay per visit basis. If you’re thinking about joining the National Trust, my advice is just do it!