Acorn Bank, National Trust, Temple Sowerby

Turning off the A66 Temple Sowerby bypass and following the brown tourist signs on to the quieter back roads you approach the National Trust property known as Acorn Bank.

Acorn Bank, Temple Sowerby

Acorn Bank, Temple Sowerby

Driving towards the main red sandstone building of Acorn Bank  you get the feeling that this property once held status in this area.

Car parking is available in a small car park at the rear of the main building.

A visit to Acorn Bank can possibly be broken down to five parts.

  • Part 1 – The two orchards
  • Part 2 – The nationally renowned herb garden
  • Part 3 – The Woodland walk towards
  • Part 4 – The Acorn Bank water mill
  • Part 5 – Tea room for homemade cakes and local produce.

Sadly the main building in not open to the general public, however you can enjoy the gardens, woodlands, tea-room and watermill.

Acorn Bank is the former Manor House and dates from the late sixteenth Century. It is named after the thick oak woodlands that surrounded the main house.

The manor was sold by the Crown to the Dalston family in 1544.  Sir Christopher Dalston was knighted by King James in 1615. He married Anne, the daughter of Sir William Hutton of Penrith.

The Estate changed it’s name in the early 1930’s and became Temple Sowerby Manor when it was occupied by poet and writer Dorothy Clough and her second husband Capt. Noel McGrigor Phillips.

Dorothy wrote and was more widely known under the name Dorothy Una Ratcliffe,  also know to her friends as DUR.  She was the niece in Law of Lord Brotherton and inherited part of his Estate upon his death.

Acorn Bank, Temple Sowerby

Acorn Bank, Temple Sowerby

Restoration of both the house and gardens was to become a key part of life for the couple.

Some of the internal woodwork repairs and commissions were undertaken by ‘The Mouseman of Kilburn,’ Robert Thompson.

Following the sudden death of Capt. Phillips, Dorothy handed the property to the National Trust in around 1950. It then reverted back to it’s original title of Acorn Bank

DUR spent many hours in the gardens and planted many shrubs, trees, bulbs and re-arranging the planting in general to create a changing garden throughout the seasons.

In early spring the woodlands and main drive come alive with bright yellow daffodils some of which are now classed as heritage varieties.

Apple blossom and riots of colour transform the Estate during the summer sunshine which gives way to a rich bounty of fruit at the start of winter.

Dorothy died in Scotland 20 November 1967.  She is buried nearby in Temple Sowerby Church.


After purchasing your entrance tickets you emerge into one of the two apple orchards.

Perry Pear

Perry Pear

Acorn Bank features around 20 varieties of apple including many heritage varieties.

During October apples are the centre of attraction when Acorn Bank hosts an Apple Day.

Trees are distributed in the main walled garden and in a more open area beyond.

Mistletoe can be seen growing on some of the apple trees.

Apple trees are complemented by a magnificent Blakeney Red Perry Pear and Medlars in the main walled garden.

This variety of pear originates from the 17th Century and is still a popular pear for Perry making, a form of cider made from pears,  the skins were used after stewing to dye soldiers’ khaki uniforms.


Acorn Bank has become noted for the herb and medicinal plant garden which you can find to your right as you enter the gardens from the ticket office.

Reportedly holding the largest collection of medicinal and culinary in England, over 250 plant types, it also features a few Damson trees and a fine Portuguese quince.

Herbs have also been named after Acorn Bank.  These possibly include the Acorn Bank Oregano / Marjoram

The herb garden was replanted in 2002 – 3

Water Mill

A circular woodland walk runs along Crowdundle Beck to the partially restored Acorn Bank watermill, which is open to visitors.

Acorn Bank, Temple Sowerby

Acorn Bank Mill, Temple Sowerby

Three 12ft waterwheels ensured that as much energy as possible could be harnesses from the beck that runs alongside the 19th Century Mill.

The top and middle wheels drove the corn milling equipment whilst the bottom one drove a saw bench.

At some point the middle wheel was adapted to provide power to a nearby gypsum mine.

Wooden cogs transferred the vertical rotation of the waterwheels outside to the horizontal rotation of up to four pairs of millstones inside the mill.

Only one wooden waterwheel has been restored and is used to power some demonstration milling equipment.

Acorn Bank, Temple Sowerby

Acorn Bank, Temple Sowerby

The middle part of the building, currently in need of renovation, was once a kiln.  Here oats were dried on a floor above a diffused fire pit before being milled.

Once the watermill has been visited a walk following the mill race is well worth the trouble.

Caution should be noted, that in the wet this path may be slippy.  It also has a steep zig zag path at the end so will not be suitable for wheelchairs. Child buggies should be ok.

Acorn Bank, Temple Sowerby

Dogs must be kept on a lead.

Looking into the almost swamp like ponds in this part of the garden, made interesting by the fallen trees slowly decaying in the water, you can see many kinds of wildlife.

A number of bridges span parts of ‘the swamp’ and offer an ideal chance for children, under supervision, to go bug hunting or just to stand still and see what they can hear or see.  If you are lucky you may see a red squirrel or even a newt or two.  The ponds are home  to all three species of British newt.

Newts are also to be found in the sunken garden pond to the rear of the main buildings.

Acorn Bank, Temple Sowerby

The view from the front of Acorn Bank

Dogs are allowed in this area but must be kept on a lead.  They are not permitted in the more formal garden areas.

The path returns you to the top orchard area where it is a simple walk, downhill to the main courtyard where you purchased your tickets.  It is also here that you will find the toilets and the tearoom.

Seating is available inside,  however on a sunny day tables and chairs are provided in the sheltered courtyard.

Contact details

Acorn Bank Garden and Watermill
Temple Sowerby, nr Penrith,
Cumbria CA10 1SP

Telephone: 017683 61893

Accommodation is available at Acorn Bank

Additional information

Notes on the Docker Family Of Westmorland

Eden District Council appraisal of the area

All about the history of the area

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