Running up to getting married in Coniston earlier this year, we were up in the Lakes for meetings with the hotel on several occasions. After one, much shorter than expected, visit to the venue, we found ourselves with some free time but no walking gear to venture onto the fells with. We decided to make our way to Grasmere to visit Allan Bank, former home to William Wordsworth and Canon Rawnsley (one of the founders of the National Trust)
The limited parking at Allan Bank is reserved for blue badge holders, so we parked at Broadgate Meadow car park (postcode LA22 9TA) and walked along a path by the River Rothay to get back to Grasmere’s pretty village centre. From here, it was a short walk along a quiet road to the grounds where we were greeted by a gorgeous willow squirrel.
Allan Bank is a National Trust property, and as such, entry is free to members. We flashed our magic cards (well worth the annual membership) and received a map with containing clues and answer sheet for the Billie Buzzard trail. We were on the hunt for more willow animals and the incentive of a prize at the end had Rowan raring to go.
But before embarking on our search for Billie Buzzard and his friends, we went to investigate a gorgeous hobbit hole door we had spotted on the way in. Heading inside the small building, we found a large screen showing information about the site. However, Rowan was far too excited to watch so we head out on our quest.
Leaving the rustic old door behind, we followed the clues to find the first animal – a curious mole poking his nose out of the ground.
The trail led us round the side of the house where we had to resist the urge to spend some time chilling out on the deck chairs overlooking Grasmere lake. We followed the path to a gate – a large willow owl watching from overhead as we passed through and into the garden.
The garden was really peaceful, and with a potting shed and bothy to explore, there was plenty of interest for Rowan. After a good look around, resulting in finding another animal, we head on our way.
We next found ourselves in a grassing clearing, with trees and bug houses, and rope swings. Billie Buzzard himself was surveying the area, and a couple of willow badgers were snuffling around in the grass.
Using the map and clues, we eventually found all nine of the woodland creature, so with the answer sheet filled in, we set off to explore the rest of our surroundings.
I was really excited about this. As a fix the fells volunteer, I had helped laying the gravel paths round the grounds prior to Allan Bank opening to the public back in 2012. I had mentioned this to the ladies in the house and they had brought out book full of pictures of the work that had been completed in the run up to opening. This had brought back some really happy memories so I was looking forward to seeing what it all looked like now, starting with the Victorian viewing tunnel.
It was with some trepidation that we passed through (I don’t do small spaces well and Rowan was unsure of the dark). But as we emerged, we were greeted with a beautiful violet blue carpet of bluebells and a path (that I distinctly remembered helping with) winding its way up through the woodland. It made for a magical place.
The path climbed a little and as it levelled off, we found another natural play area ready to be discovered.
From here, we continued round to find the viewing seat. Climbing some stone steps to a platform, we were presented with a gorgeous view of Helm Crag (one on our fells to visit soon list).
There weren’t many people walking the woodland trail. Most people seemed to be happy lingering around the house. However venturing into the woods was well worth it. It was cool and quiet under the trees, the greens of the moss and leaves, the blue skies and the bluebells felt calming and refreshing. And I loved how bedded in some of the paths looked.
After a while, we were back at the house. Allan Bank is dog friendly, so we went inside to have a nosey in some of the rooms. The building has been left undecorated and unrestored. There are no trinkets belonging to the former residents or ornaments to make me nervous of Rowan’s excited fingers. What there is though, is craft rooms, a painting room, a toy room with dressing up clothes and old wooden rocking horses. It is very much a place to get hands on and creative. And we loved it! There were even tea and coffee making facilities in return for a donation and dog bowls for our thirsty muttlers.
Eventually though, we had to leave. My tummy was rumbling and the delicious food at Greens Café was calling – their menu includes loads of vegan options for me (including cake). We’d had a brilliant time during our impromptu visit to Allan Bank. If you’d like to visit the willow animals, or maybe spot a red squirrel, or find out about events during the school holiday, you can take a look here.