This brief piece suggests two attractive places to visit when in Cumbria. They are both outside the boundaries of the National Park; one is in the south of the county below Kendal, the other in the northeast of the county. Levens Hall with its pele tower and historic topiary is the southern one. In the north, at Acorn Bank, the National Trust has cares not only for a country house but also for a wonderful herb garden and a watermill.
Just south of Kendal, in wonderful parkland alongside the River Kent, is Levens Hall with its renowned gardens. The house as seen now comes chiefly from the sixteenth century although it is based around a defensive tower constructed considerably earlier in the medieval period of border warfare.
The Levens Hall gardens were planned during the late-1600s and their current format is very near to that initial style and design. They are divided into specialist garden areas containing herbs, vegetables and flowers, including a terrific rose garden. The unique component of Levens Hall gardens, though, is its topiary in an extraordinary assortment of styles using bushes which in some instances have been here since the seventeenth century.
Close to the village of Temple Sowerby, in between Penrith and Appleby, is the Acorn Bank estate. Nowadays the National Trust owns it and opens the grounds to visitors. A special feature is the functioning watermill reached via a delightful walk along woodland paths. Although the majority of the house is closed to visitors (parts of it have been converted into self-catering accommodation) there is a reception desk and sales area from which the flour milled on the site can be purchased.
Gypsum mining used to be a major industry throughout the Lake District and the Eden Valley, and on the Acorn Bank estate there are some remains of an old gypsum mine. Hopefully this aspect of the site will be developed further as gypsum mining has for more than two centuries been (and continues to be) extremely important to the local community.
Close to the house is a delightful walled garden and an apple orchard. Acorn Bank’s principal interest for many visitors will, however, be its herb garden. It contains both medicinal and culinary herbs, including around 250 varieties.
Without a doubt the Lake District is stunning, but Cumbria in addition has much that’s worthy of a visit outside the National Park.
Click this link for another photo, this one of the Acorn Bank herb garden.