Grasmere Island now in our care

Aerial view of Grasmere Island in Cumbria
Published : 23 Feb 2017 Last update : 24 Feb 2017

An island which inspired one of our founding members to help form the National Trust has been gifted to us after more than a century in private hands.

Grasmere Island, which sits within lake Grasmere, attracted the attention of Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley when it was put up for sale in 1893. 

Rawnsley was a great defender of the Lake District landscape and he recognised that no organisation existed to protect it from private ownership and potential development. 

Sir Robert Hunter and Octavia Hill had been discussing for some years the need for a national organisation which would hold lands for the public, but it was the private sale of important sites, including Grasmere Island, that sparked the course of events that led to the formation of the National Trust.  

In November 1893, the first official meeting took place between the three founding members, Rawnsley, Hill and Hunter. Just over a year later on 12 January 1895, the National Trust was founded. 

Rawnsley said of the need for the organisation: “It is notorious that during the last two years the top of Snowdon, the island in the middle of Grasmere lake, and the Lodore Falls have all come into the market. Had such a Trust as that now proposed been in existence, each of these places might have been obtained for the nation.” 

Grasmere Island, which has inspired many writers and poets over the years, forms part of the near view from Allan Bank house. Allan Bank, the former home of William Wordsworth, was purchased by Canon Rawnsley in 1915 who left it to the National Trust in his will.

" It’s fantastic that 124 years after the private sale of Grasmere island, the view that can be enjoyed from Allan Bank and that has inspired so many, will now be protected for ever, for everyone. "
- Dave Almond, Manager for Allan Bank and Grasmere

The island provides a quiet haven for wildlife, including a heronry comprising four nests that have established here almost certainly because of the relative lack of human disturbance. 

There's a magnificent ‘Medusa-like’ veteran oak on the island, which has become engulfed by the surrounding younger trees. This is such an important tree ecologically because of the wildlife that it supports, but some work will need to be done to give it the space it needs. It’s an exciting prospect and we will be carrying out some wildlife surveys, such as bat surveys, to see what species are present.

Throughout 2017 visitors will be able to find out more about the story of ‘Rawnsley’s island' over at Allan Bank.

A bright sunny spring day in Ennerdale, Cumbria

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