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Exploring the wider estate and watermill at Acorn Bank

Path snaking through the woodland at Acorn Bank. On either side are large, old trees and green, lush vegetation.
A woodland walk at Acorn Bank | © National Trust Images/Annapurna Mellor

With 180 acres of woodland and parkland to explore, there are plenty of opportunities for peaceful moments away from the crowds. Surround yourself with a wide variety of trees along the woodland paths and discover hidden views along the way. Visit the historic watermill, get closer to nature, or go on a geocaching adventure.

Spring on the estate

The the woodland floor is at its best in April and May, so a woodland walk comes recommended by us. A succession of wild daffodils in April is followed by bluebells in May and onto wild garlic, recognisable by its delicate white flower and strong smell.

There will also be another 30-40 species of wildflower popping up throughout spring. Once the tree canopy fully forms in June, less light penetrates the woodland floor and the bulk of flowers have gone over so it’s best seen in spring. If you come in the morning, the woodland is wonderfully peaceful, and filled with birdsong.

See the working watermill at Acorn Bank

Tucked away between the trees and the Crowdundle Beck, the watermill is only a short walk from the garden. You can see it working and chat to the millers from April to October on Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays, 11am–3pm.

There has been a watermill at Acorn Bank for hundreds of years. The first mention is made in 1323 when the estate passed to the Knights Hospitaller, however the present building dates from the early 19th century.

Winding down

Although primarily a corn mill, the mill was also used to provide power to the gypsum mines which were on the estate.

The mill stopped working in the 1940s and gradually fell into a state of ruin. Its restoration began in the late 1980s when the woodland walks were also opened, allowing visitors greater access to the estate.

The mill building was partially restored with the help of work experience teams and has been open to the public since 1995.

Getting the mill running

Since 2007 the mill has undergone further transformation with the help of a dedicated team of volunteers who have restored its machinery to working order.

Flour was ground for the first time in more than 70 years in September 2011. The volunteer team’s achievement was recognised when they won the Marsh Heritage Volunteering Award in 2012.

These volunteers stepped up to the plate again in early 2021, when, owing to COVID-19, it was feared the mill may have to close due to scaled-back operations at Acorn Bank.

Keep up with the team

The team formed the Acorn Bank Watermill Trust, and the mill continues to produce flour. Follow their endeavours on the Acorn Bank Watermill Trust website  and at facebook.com/acornbankwatermill.

If you're interested in volunteering, email the team directly at david.robertson@acornbankwatermill.org.uk

Soundscape installation

A soundscape installation went live at Acorn Bank in June 2023, adding a new sensory layer to a day out here. Immerse yourself in the beauty of nature, listen, and be inspired.

The project was supported by the University of Central Lancashire and The Global Sounds Movement.

In the Dovecote

Pause, listen, and reflect on the intricate tapestry of life that unfolds in the countryside, with a soundscape of nature recordings taken at Acorn Bank which showcases its rich natural diversity. You'll hear birdsong, the environment and the ever-changing seasons at Acorn Bank, and the soundscape evolves dynamically, shifting with the seasons to mirror nature's cycles.

It celebrates the beauty of birdsong and the changing seasons, fostering connections between us and nature.

Children with handheld GPS devices at Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve, Cambridgeshire
Try your hand at geocaching | © National Trust Images/John Millar

Go geocaching at Acorn Bank

Can you find all of the six geocaches hidden at Acorn Bank? Some may not be immediately obvious, so you’ll need to keep your eyes peeled.

What is geocaching?

A geocache or ‘cache’ is a small waterproof container hidden outdoors that contains treasure. These containers can look like anything (such as toys, boxes or tins) and geocachers must use a GPS-enabled device to find them, guided by coordinates or ‘waypoints’.

You can download these onto a GPS receiver or smartphone at geocaching.com or you can download a free geocaching app for Android or iPhone.

The object is to find each container, sign and date the log sheet and swap one of the trinkets inside with one you’ve brought with you. The rule is that if you take a treasure, you must leave another in its place so remember to come prepared.

Find out more about how to get started in these step-by-step instructions.

Top tips for geocaching at Acorn Bank

  • Dress for the weather and wear sensible boots. Waterproofs are always a good idea just in case.
  • Bring a selection of snacks and drinks to keep you going.
  • Look out for wildlife on the way, from red squirrels in the woodlands to otter prints on the banks of the Crowdundle Beck.
  • Tick off number 49 in your list of ‘50 things to do before you’re 11¾’.

Riverlands project at Acorn Bank

Flowing through the estate, Crowdundle Beck is an important part of Acorn Bank’s heritage and unique beauty. However, in the woodland, two weirs which have maintained the river level and allowed the watermill to operate are becoming unstable, acting as a barrier for fish to travel upstream. In partnership with the Acorn Bank Watermill Trust, the Environment Agency and Eden Rivers Trust, the National Trust Riverlands team are working on a solution that benefits both history and nature. The Riverlands team are also working on ways to prevent Crowdundle Beck from eroding the riverbank near the driveway.

Bright red tulips on the side of the courtyard at Acorn Bank. It's been raining, and the slabs on the ground are wet. In the background out of focus is a large tree and the gates into the courtyard.

Discover more at Acorn Bank

Find out when Acorn Bank is open, how to get here, the things to see and do and more.

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