COVID-19 IN CUMBRIA

Throughout the crisis I have felt incredibly privileged to live in a part of the country where you can go about your day to day business for hours without seeing another soul. My horizons are fells and big skies, dotted with small villages of tight communities. It has felt like the perfect place to weather the storm. I’m also fortunate to have outdoor space at home where my family and I could get outside, enjoy fresh air and take exercise.

The National Trust asked me to carry on looking after the garden at Acorn Bank and also its house and estate. I’ve had a 2.5 acre heritage garden to ramble around, a beautiful woodland filled with wild flowers, and views across the Lake District to lift my spirits. Combined with the incredible weather, I’ve got to say – at times it’s felt pretty idyllic under the circumstances.

It seems churlish to suggest any downside when compared with the stress, anxiety and grief that so many have suffered in the last few months. Loneliness and isolation are a serious issue for many people in Cumbria at the best of times. But looking after a heritage garden, manor house and estate is clearly not a one person job – and the longer this situation continues, the more apparent that becomes. Every day I have to prioritise jobs to be done. It has to be said that the weeds are getting the better of me. Essential tasks are taking care of our important plant collections including northern apples and medicinal herbs, irrigation of any planting under glass or in containers and monitoring pest and disease across the garden. Weeds will be dealt with to keep them back from the point of no return!

As I write this in early June, it seems that Cumbria is at the centre of the English Covid-19 crisis. While much of the country is seeing reduced new cases and associated deaths, our numbers in the North West are still high. People are excited by the prospect of loosening the lockdown, but many are also worried and nervous. In the meantime, my overwhelming emotion is one of gratitude to be able to carry on looking after this special place so that visitors can continue to enjoy it as soon as we are able to invite them back to Acorn Bank safely.