Snowdrops in bloom thanks to mild winter

Snowdrops at Anglesey Abbey. Credit Howard Cooper

Snowdrops at Anglesey Abbey. Credit Howard Cooper

The gardens at the National Trust’s Anglesey Abbey are set to be transformed into a ‘sea of white’ as thousands of delicate snowdrops come into bloom early due to the unseasonably warm winter weather.

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National Trust welcomes Lake District nomination to World Heritage Status

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey announced earlier today that the Lake District will be bidding for World Heritage Site status in 2016. 

The National Trust has been caring for this iconic landscapes for over 100 years, nurturing both the natural environment and its cultural heritage.  Continue reading

National Trust voices concerns on biodiversity offsetting for habitats earmarked for housing

In response to Owen Paterson’s interview in the Times on Saturday 4 January, a spokesperson at the National Trust said: “We are deeply concerned about the article in the Times regarding biodiversity offsetting for housing to include 400 year old woodland. Continue reading

Investigating Rembrandt – confirming the true authorship of a potential grand master

Christine Sitwell, Paintings Conservation Adviser at the National Trust talks about her first visit to the Cambridge conservation studio where work is being undertaken to see if one of Rembrandt’s self portraits, previously thought to have been done by one of his pupils, was really painted by the grand  master himself.

Christine Sitwell, Paintings Conservation Adviser at the National Trust with the Rembrandt self portrait which is undergoing further testing in an attempt to verify its true authorship.

Christine Sitwell, Paintings Conservation Adviser at the National Trust with the Rembrandt self portrait which is undergoing further testing in an attempt to verify its true authorship.

The five months investigative work has been funded by the People’s Postcode Lottery.  The painting usually resides at Buckland Abbey, near Plymouth in Devon. Continue reading

Response to Defra’s recommendations of the Tree Health and Biosecurity Task Force announced this morning

Dr Simon Pryor, Natural Environment Director at the National Trust said: “We welcome the moves announced by Defra today.  It’s particularly good that it has accepted the remaining plant health taskforce recommendations.

“We are pleased to see a strategy and high level commitment to reprioritise resources and we look forward to hearing more in the spring about the measures being put in place to protect the UK from future plant and tree health diseases. 

“Government must also ensure we have the resources to tackle those diseases already here, as well as any future ones.”

Comment on today’s Sunday Times article

Commenting on an article in the Sunday Times today, a National Trust spokesman said:

“We’re extremely disappointed with the piece which is littered with inaccuracies and biased reporting.

“The reason that we rent properties is to raise vital funds, which we pump back into our core charitable purpose: to look after the special places enjoyed by tens of millions of people every year.

“We always aim to be professional and fair in the way we work with our 8,000 residential, agricultural and commercial tenants – charging no more than a market rent in return for the homes, premises and land that we let out.

“We’ve recently joined the most recognised independent benchmarking service within the sector, run by Savills. This has shown that we charge average market rent for our residential holdings, and around 20 per cent under market for agricultural rents.

“To suggest that we are pursuing a new, aggressively commercial agenda is unfair and inaccurate. In fact, our recent residential tenants’ satisfaction survey showed that the vast majority of our tenants are perfectly happy with the relationship we have with them and also that 8 in ten would recommend us to their friends and family.”

The article contains reference to three case studies:

Wickham Farm – a debate about market rental value is a normal part of any negotiation process; agreeing that critical benchmark is at the heart of reaching any final settlement. That we have not been able to reach an agreement with the tenants’ agents on this crucial figure, or how to calculate it, has been a major sticking point in making progress quickly. In addition, we have presented suggestions for the type of new conservation and public access activities that could make a real difference and form part of the rent ‘equation’. The tenant’s and our agents are meeting later this month to discuss the proposition. We very much hope to be able to move forward as a result.

Harbour Challenge – with our help and support, this charity has operated on-site rent-free for over a decade. It is now well established. The rental agreement will – as you would expect in any comparable situation – formalise the relationship we have with them so we can agree who is responsible for what on site. The rent we have proposed is around £6 per day and represents a huge discount on local market values. We continue, very happily, to publicise their work in our marketing material at Brownsea.

Marble Hill Lodge, Felbrigg – this is a longstanding dispute over a rental agreement where the tenants pay a very low, regulated rent but are responsible for repairs and maintenance. Over the last 35 years they have failed to maintain the property, have built an unauthorised conservatory and converted the loft. Gaining access to carry out a professional building survey has taken years to achieve and has revealed that the works are of such an extent that the structural integrity of the building has been compromised and the lodge is now seriously dilapidated and requires significant repair valued at £70k. We have offered various options which would not only ensure that the urgent repairs are done, at the Trust’s expense (even though this is not our responsibility), but also allow the Clements to stay in their home under a new agreement. These proposals have been discussed with the help of the local MP and we are all hopeful that an agreement can be reached.

Contact the National Trust press office on 0844 800 4955 press.office@nationaltrust.org.uk information on this issue and comment on the case studies included in the Sunday Times article.

Find out more about the National Trust and tenants here.

National Trust responds to Defra’s sweet chestnut and plane tree importation controls

Dr Simon Pryor, Director of the Natural Environment at the National Trust said:

“The introduction of these tighter import controls is good news for our native trees.  This is an extremely complex issue to address and this is an important step for commercial tree importers in particular.  But more still needs to be done to further tighten up regulations for the more ‘informal’ tree importer, such as landscape gardeners and the wider general public. 

“We are pleased to see these new regulations come into force and would also call for more to be done with other tree species over the coming months to give us even greater reassurance of the health of imported tree stocks; but to also prevent future outbreaks of diseases such as ash dieback.”

Giant support for Movember is a sight to behold

Trust supports Movember ‘tache on world famous Giant

British Seed Houses has gone big to show its support for Movember by giving the world famous Cerne Abbas Giant in Dorset, cared for by the National Trust, a grass moustache.

Cerne Abbas Giant, with his new moustache for Movember!

Cerne Abbas Giant, the National Trust’s iconic giant; with his new moustache for Movember!

The huge mo added a rakish look to the imposing 180 ft tall landmark to promote the men’s health charity for prostate and testicular cancer and mental health and its month long moustache growing campaign to raise awareness and funds. Continue reading

Join me for a walk George, says National Trust DG Helen Ghosh

“Last week (October 24th) the Times published a front page story headlined “We’re open to fracking, says National Trust boss,” which suggested that our position on wind energy and fracking had changed. The use of selective quotes from this interview gave a false impression of where the Trust stands on these controversial issues and the headline was misleading.

“In the wake of this article George Monbiot responded with a blog which declared “your priorities seem odd” and asked if I had changed National Trust policy on fracking and wind turbines without informing members. I haven’t. Your assumption from the Times article that I am “anti-wind and pro-fracking” is mistaken.

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National Trust AGM outcomes 2013

National Trust members today (Saturday 26 October) voted against a members’ resolution to introduce an immediate and widespread badger vaccination programme on the charity’s land.

The resolution was suggested by a group of members to help tackle bovine TB and prevent National Trust land being involved in a cull of badgers if one is rolled out by the Government next year.

The charity’s Trustees stressed that their recommendation against the resolution did not mean that the Trust is in favour of culling badgers, and they will take on board the views expressed by many members as part of the AGM debate.

The Trust advocates an evidence based approach to tackling bovine TB which covers an integrated package of measures, including those to improve biosecurity and prevent cattle-to-cattle transmission.

“This is an emotive issue on all sides of the debate,” said Patrick Begg from the National Trust.

“We are in favour of doing what works to solve the problem that is affecting so many of our tenants and farmers across the country.

“Vaccination is our long term preference, both of badgers and cattle, but our badger vaccination trial at Killerton in Devon is only half way through.  It may prove costly and hard to administer in practice.

“We have deep concerns about how useful the Government’s pilot badger culls will now prove, and have sought assurances from them that they remain committed to upholding high standards of scientific rigour in the conduct and analysis of the pilots.  Changes to the original design has shaken our confidence.

“We will judge the outcomes of the pilots, and the Government’s subsequent approach, against the criteria for success set out by Professor Bourne in his review of the Randomised Badger Culling Trial.”

The results of the member votes were:

  • Badger vaccination: 7,808 for the resolution, 8,694 against.
  • Fairtrade tea: 7,337 for the resolution, 9,036 against.

The following members were also elected to the Trust’s Council:

  • John Godfrey, 10,708
  • Rosie Corner, 9,735
  • Irving Lord, 8,175
  • Cristina George, 9,918
  • Geoffrey Nickolds, 7,397
  • John Lyon, 7,548
  • Dylan Williams, 8,406
  • Roseanne Williams, 7,875
  • Caroline Goodall, 9,781
  • Rupert Thorp, 7,524

Notes

[1] More information on the members’ resolutions, including the full resolution and the trustee response, is available here: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/agm