Autumn has never really been a time of year that I have appreciated before. In the past, autumn has always marked the end of summer, with colder weather and dark nights drawing in. This year however, the leaves seem to be brighter, and the trees have a greater mix of colours. It also hasn’t been quite as wet as I remember other years being, which always makes it more enjoyable! Anyway, when James last came to visit we decided to make the most of the autumn (and my new car!) and head to Acorn Bank National Trust property for a day out in the cool air.
Acorn Bank is located in the Eden Valley; a manor house, working watermill and the largest collection of culinary and medicinal herbs of any National Trust property. Despite it not being too far from where I live, I had never visited before. One of the great things that comes with the independence of having my own car is a greater ability to explore my local area. On the way to Acorn Bank we passed signs to multiple other places that sounded as though they would make promising day trips, and we even managed to squeeze in the Lakeland Bird of Prey Centre on the way home.
We visited Acorn Bank the weekend prior to Halloween, and as a big kid James signed up to do the children’s Halloween trail which provided us with some entertainment on the way round. I can see why it would have gone down well with families. One thing that I was delighted to discover was not just for Halloween, but a year round feature, was the lovely fairy doors and mini scenes that could be found in the grounds. Some of the doors actually opened, allowing you to see a miniature world which had been depicted. I thought it was a lovely touch, and again added something to the trip.
The house itself is quite bare compared to other National Trust properties. The first floor is home to an art exhibition, but neither of us were particularly impressed by the work on display. We were much more interested in the table downstairs which was laden with all sorts of different varieties of apple – who knew so many were available?!
We also found the watermill very interesting. It had been restored entirely by volunteers, saving the National Trust a huge amount of money. The volunteer team won the Marsh Heritage Volunteering Award in 2012. The mill now produces flour which is sold in the shop and used in the tea-room, and you can speak to the volunteers involved in project most weekend afternoons from April to October.
We have National Trust membership so our visit was free (except for the £1 Halloween trail), but a family without membership can visit for less than £20. We didn’t know much about Acorn Bank before we arrived, but thoroughly enjoyed our visit and would happily go again. I imagine it would be quite different depending on the season.
Lakeland Bird of Prey Centre
We arrived at the Bird of Prey Centre just after 3pm, and as a result were admitted with concession tickets as there was less than an hour left of the flying display. We were therefore quite surprised to be charged £7 each which was a little more expensive than we had anticipated!
The flying display was not the best display that I had been to (although we may have missed a lot of the flying), but it was very interactive. Everyone who wanted to have a go flying the birds was permitted to (both adults and children) and the falconer was entertaining, interspersing his information about the birds with anecdotes from his own life.
Following the flying display, the falconer took his audience as a group to meet a European Eagle Owl, Bald Eagle and “Hooty”, their juvenile Snowy Owl. We realised that we were going to miss out on seeing the majority of the birds so left the group and quickly went to see the other enclosures. If you are going to visit, I would advise arriving earlier in the day than we did as our trip felt quite rushed and not worth the money, however I can see why it would make a popular family day out.
When people think of Cumbria they tend to think only of the Lake District and Hadrian’s Wall. Whilst the two attractions are certainly worth visiting, there are plenty of other smaller places which also make great day trips!