Acorn Bank's glorious gardens

The stunning summer flowers at Acorn Bank gardens

When you visit us at Acorn Bank, you cannot miss our gardens. We have an incredible herb garden with over 250 varieties of herbs, plus hot beds, vegetable patches and wonderful traditional fruit orchards, all waiting to be explored.

A potted history

The 17th-century walls shelter the National Trust's largest collection of medicinal and culinary plants in our fascinating herb garden; the traditional orchards are carpeted with wildflowers and surrounded by herbaceous borders.

Beyond the walls, the new orchard contains a growing collection of local apples.

A series of small linked gardens celebrates continuous development and adaption over at least 350 years. The first brick-lined walls date from around 1650, enclosing a productive vegetable garden with a smaller area for fruit growing protected by a wall heated with the flue gases from three fires.

By the 1830s the emphasis had moved towards ornamentation and fruit production with the now lost lower garden made on the banks of Crowdundle Beck for vegetables.

Dorothy's legacy

Dorothy Una Ratcliffe carried on this work in the 1930s and ’40s with a walled garden full of fruit and flowers adding new and salvaged ornamental ironwork and statuary, creating a wildflower and bird reserve on the bank behind the house and a pond on land between the house and watermill.

Daffodils and apple trees were protected from the wartime dig for victory plough by making a new vegetable growing area adjacent to the walled garden.

Looking for newts at Acorn Bank

Our work

We've directly managed the garden since 1969. The first herb garden was laid out by Graham Stuart Thomas in the smaller of the walled gardens; this herb garden was re-designed and comprehensively re-planted in 2003 and holds approximately 300 different varieties.

Creating our orchard

The garden is also becoming increasingly known for its orchards and an Apple Day event, held in mid-October each year.

A collection of more than a hundred local apple varieties is being established in Dorothy Una Ratcliffe’s vegetable garden and a succession of manure hotbeds have also been built in this area, which provide early salad crops for the tearoom.

At the top of the orchards we have a teaching apiary with four buzzing beehives which was established by Penrith beekeepers.

Spectacular in every season

  • Winter: woodland walks; trees; industrial and historic landscape
  • Spring: carpets of snowdrops in the woods; drifts of daffodils in woods and snakes head fritillaries in the walled orchard; woodland wild flowers; fruit blossom; birdsong; succession of new leaf colour; wildlife in the ponds, newts in sunken garden pond
  • Summer: Herb Garden reaching its peak; walled garden borders; dark and atmospheric woodland pond
  • Autumn: apples; late colour in the dahlia bed; autumn colour in borders and woodland