Parks in peril?

Harry Bowell, Regional Director for the National Trust, writes about the National Trust’s new partnership with Sheffield City Council to explore new ways of financially supporting the city’s public parks and green spaces. Funded by Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), Big Lottery Fund and Nesta through their Rethinking Parks programme, the project in Sheffield was unveiled this morning with the release of HLF’s comprehensive report into the threats faced by the UK’s parks over the coming years as funding cuts begin to bite.

“Today’s ground-breaking report from Heritage Lottery Fund is an important wake up call for all who care about people and nature.

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Europe’s largest electricity generating waterwheel makes a splash at historic National Trust beauty spot

Water power has returned to a historic beauty spot that the National Trust looks after in Wales this week, following the restoration of Europe’s largest electricity generating waterwheel.

Watch BBC One’s Countryfile this Sunday from 6.30pm to see the big switch-on.

Aberdulais Tin Works and Waterfall, South Wales (National Trust / Paul Harris)

Aberdulais Tin Works and Waterfall, South Wales (National Trust / Paul Harris)

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National Trust reaction to fracking plans announced in the Queen’s speech

An Infrastructure Bill which could make fracking for gas easier was announced in the Queen’s Speech today.

Rick Hebditch, Assistant Director for External Affairs at the National Trust, said:

“The Government has only just started consulting on changing the trespass law to make it easier for fracking. It’s a little presumptuous therefore for the Government to say today that the Infrastructure Bill will open up access for shale given the continued concerns from the National Trust and others about how well fracking is regulated. 

“It’s also important that all the measures in the Infrastructure Bill, including on planning, get proper Parliamentary scrutiny in the short session before the election. Adding in measures on fracking would mean there’s less time for scrutiny, which could lead to poor policy that doesn’t address perfectly legitimate concerns about the process.”

Making waves in energy generation: National Trust powers mansion with Britain’s biggest marine source heat pump

A major milestone will be passed today with the completion of the UK’s largest marine source heat pump, off the North Wales coast, to provide all of the power needed to heat the National Trust’s breath-taking Plas Newydd mansion.

The project is the first of five schemes to be completed in a £3.5m pilot phase of the charity’s Renewable Energy Investment Programme, which was launched last year in partnership with the 100% renewable electricity supplier Good Energy.

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National Trust supports new guidance to turn solar farms into biodiversity hotspots

We are supporting new guidance to help transform solar developments into great homes for nature.

Thousands of orchids grow alongside a solar array at Plas Newydd in Anglesey (National Trust/Keith Jones)

Thousands of orchids grow alongside a solar array at Plas Newydd in Anglesey (National Trust/Keith Jones)

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National Trust enters renewable energy trading business

A hydro scheme on the side of Snowdon has been switched on as a new trading company set up by the National Trust begins to harness the power it generates, to help fund conservation.

Snowdon hydro weir (credit: National Trust/John Millar)

Snowdon hydro weir (credit: National Trust/John Millar)

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Finally, the return of the Great British Summer

After six consecutive poor summers, a hot July and August helped to turn around the fortunes for much of our wildlife, say experts at the National Trust.

The winners of the year were warmth-loving insects, particularly butterflies, moths, bees, crickets and grasshoppers, many of which fared really well. The distinctive tree bumblebee, which only started to colonize in the UK in 2001, expanded considerably, crossing north of Hadrian’s Wall for the first time.

Tree Bumble Bee B hypnorum Savernake, credit Matthew Oates

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National Trust Reaction to Government’s farm funding deal in England

Patrick Begg, National Trust Rural Enterprises Director, said: “Defra have done well to rescue the Common Agricultural Policy settlement from being a complete disaster for the natural environment. But for the long term our fears are growing: cash available to support greener farming will be less for the next 7 years and the legacy may be a further decline in the health of soils, water and wildlife.

“Analysis by Defra has showed that agri-environment schemes deliver the best benefits for the public and support a more sustainable long-term future for farming. Now, the challenge for Defra is to ensure that direct subsidies for farmers are as “green” as possible and that they follow through on the intention to increase funding for agri-environment from 2018.”

To see the full announcement made by Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, click here

Government planning policy puts England’s Green Belts at risk, suggests new research

A view of the valley parkland and beyond to the Bath skyline

Half of the councils in England with Green Belt land are preparing to allocate some of it for development whilst brownfield sites throughout the country are overlooked, suggests research published today by the National Trust.

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Petworth Park Visit

The Press Office team took a trip to Petworth House and Park in West Sussex yesterday to take part in an afternoon’s volunteering.

Before the hard work began we managed to fit in a tour of Petworth’s not-to-be-missed Christmas event, ‘A Festive Feast for the Eyes’. The historic kitchens were almost unrecognisable as they played host to the fantastic Christmas creations.

Each room was uniquely dressed with installations and extraordinary props on show: a street of gingerbread houses, an enchanting indoor/outdoor forest and a snow queen-esque banquet. The rooms dazzled with life and more than a spot of humour thanks to the tiny wool mice depicting the upstairs and downstairs life of one of Britain’s finest stately homes.

After our tour we squeezed in some lunch (which as it turned out was much needed fuel) before heading out to the house’s beautiful gardens, landscaped by Capability Brown (and immortalised by Mr Turner), to get to work.

The park’s azaleas, which were planted after the storm of 1987, were being strangled by brambles, so armed with gardening gloves and spades in hand we spent the afternoon brambling.

Thank you to everyone who helped make the day happen and to Senior Gardener, Martin, who kept us hard at work. The photo below shows just one of several piles of brambles we managed to clear – not bad for an afternoon’s work!

 Press office bramble bashing, Petworth, 11 Dec, 2013