Exploring a National Trust treasure

John Traynor has a wealth of knowledge about all things outdoor, he's a contributor to our magazine website and an experienced tent camper.

Next to our Club membership, my favourite annual subscription is our joint National Trust membership. With no need to cough up admission, it’s allowed us to call into properties on impulse rather than planning a visit to get ‘value for money’.

It was impulse that led us to Acorn Bank one Spring on the way to spending a few days in the Lakes. Spotting the National Trust logo on the map, it was the work of only a few minutes to look it up, discover it had a herb garden and divert to this little gem.

In fact, there was much more than just a herb garden, including 180 acres of park and woodland,  an easy circular walk through the woods, well garden, orchard, wild garden and tea-room. As usual, it was the latter that proved to be the first port of call for a cuppa and a slice of cake. It’s never too early – or late – for both at Traynor Towers. Nor, indeed, anywhere else.
With a spicy-sweet flavour, gold-tipped marjoram is cousin to oregano. Chop into salads, blend with butter to create a tasty sauce for fish or add to casseroles just before serving
With the sun shining brightly, there was an exotic air to the large collection of culinary and medicinal plants in the herb garden and brushing a hand across a few released heady aromas. Sitting down, absorbing the web of scents and identifying herbs, with the aid of a guide, all felt well with the world.
It is thought that chemicals in betony may decrease blood pressure  while gypsywort is an astringent and sedative
Chatting with others is always fun in gardens, exchanging views, tips and experiences. Mostly, for us, it’s about learning not sharing our scanty insights. Deciding on a few plants to add to our allotment collection, it was time to head on through for what we planned as a whistle-stop tour. It was not to be.

The orchard was charming with grassy sward and banks of daffodils. Or were they narcissi? Making a note to check, we headed off to explore what was happening at the raised beds. With somebody hard at work, it was the matter of moments to become engrossed in a veggie chat about hot beds and forget all about the identity of the bulbs.
Raised beds, compost and elbow grease are the foundations of happy veg growing
It was the sort of day that invited lying down to watch the fluffy clouds forming and drifting across the sky but we headed onwards as we’d been told there were Himalayan Blue Poppies to savour. The 17th century wall that encircles the gardens is a superb backdrop for pottering along the grassy paths, discovering plants on the way.

Sure enough, there were the poppies, growing happily outdoors and not looking at all bothered about survival. Unlike our carefully nurtured plants at home that died if I turned my back on them. Sharing my woes with another visitor, I not only picked up some poppy tips but also a recommendation to visit the Pot Place for a wide selection of planters with the bonus of great bacon rolls in the café.
Curiously, we bought neither pot nor planter but opted for a large, sculpted wood ball. And, of course, bacon rolls.
A couple of hours had passed and, before the pot tipoff, we had planned to explore the woodland and the house itself. As it was, we left them for another day and headed westwards. We’ll be back and this time we’ll stay over as nearby Crossfells Farm certificated site has had some great member feedback. Looks like an excellent basecamp for exploring the Eden Valley again.

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