Fingle Woods reaches £3.8m milestone as charities celebrate purchase

Despite the disappointing news announced this morning about the un-successful bid by the the National Trust to acquire a section of iconic estuary and coastline in Devon, it has been able to celebrate the full acquisition of Fingle Woods on the edge of Dartmoor with the Woodland Trust today.

The two charities have reached the £3.8m funding target which means the entire 825 acre site is now fully in their care. 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.

Continue reading

Helen Ghosh takes over as National Trust Director-General

The National Trust’s new Director-General, Dame Helen Ghosh, spent her first day yesterday (Monday 12 November) meeting staff, volunteers and visitors at Chirk Castle and Powis Castle & Gardens in Wales.

She is embarking on a ‘listening tour’ of National Trust places where she’ll meet people involved at all different levels of the organisation to build her understanding of how the charity works.

Dame Helen Ghosh, Day 1 at Chirk Castle

“At both Chirk and Powis castles I found fantastic, energetic people,” said Helen. “It reminded me that this wonderful mosaic of staff, volunteers and visitors is what makes the Trust what it is.”

She takes over from Dame Fiona Reynolds who stepped down on Saturday (10 November) at the National Trust AGM after 12 years leading the organisation.

National Trust members say farewell to Dame Fiona

Dame Fiona Reynolds stepped down as Director-General of the National Trust this Saturday (10 November) as 600 members gathered in Swindon for the charity’s AGM.

She leaves the National Trust after 11 years in charge, during which time she has increased membership from 2.7 to 4 million, guided the charity to financial solvency and reconnected the organisation with its original founding purpose.

Fiona is leaving to become Master of Emmanuel College at the University of Cambridge in the autumn of 2013, where she will be the first woman to be elected Master in the College’s history.

Fiona said: “I have loved every minute leading the National Trust and working with our passionate and dedicated staff, volunteers and supporters. 

“I am incredibly proud of all that we have achieved in the last 11 years. 

“There is no organisation like it and I will miss it terribly.  But it is time to allow someone else an opportunity to make their mark.”

Simon Jenkins, National Trust Chairman, said: “Fiona has presided over a triumphant era in the history of the National Trust.

“Her strategic vision and personal leadership have made it one of Britain’s most popular institutions.

“She guided us with panache, first to financial solvency and then to four million members. We shall miss her, and wish her every success in the future.”

 -ENDS-

 Notes to Editors:

Biopic of Dame Fiona Reynolds DBE, Director-General of the National Trust (2001-2012)

Fiona Reynolds was born on 29 March 1958 in Alston, Cumbria. She attended Rugby High School for Girls (1969-76) before going to Newnham College, Cambridge University, where she studied Geography and Land Economy (1976-79) before completing an MPhil in Land Economy, also at Cambridge (1980-81).

Before joining the Trust as Director-General, Fiona was previously Director of the Women’s Unit in the Cabinet Office (1998-2000), Director of the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) (1992-98), Assistant Director (Policy) at CPRE (1987-92), and Secretary to the Council for National Parks (1980-1987).

She married Robert Merrill – who runs the local Riding for the Disabled group – in 1981. They have three daughters and live near Cirencester in Gloucestershire. Her favourite ways to relax are walking, cycling, reading and listening to classical music.

Fiona was awarded the CBE for “services to the environment and conservation” in 1998 and was appointed DBE in 2008 for “services to heritage and conservation”.

National Trust

Fiona was involved with the Trust for many years prior to becoming Director-General, as a member of the Trust’s Council, the Thames and Chilterns regional committee, and chairing the local committee for Sutton House in Hackney.

She became Director-General of the National Trust in January 2001. Since then, she has overseen a period of transformational change at the National Trust, reconnecting the organisation with its original founding purpose and infusing it with warmth and liveliness. 

From her earliest days at the Trust, Fiona pioneered an ‘arms open’ approach to conservation, bringing expert work out from behind closed doors to take place in front of visitors, now an integral part of the Trust’s programme to bring places to life. 

She has overseen a restructure of the governance of the charity, from a 52-member Council to a 12-member Board of Trustees, as well as two major internal restructures which have strengthened and localised the organisation. This included bringing all of the Trust’s central office teams under one roof – the purpose-built and award-winning Heelis in Swindon – which remains one of Europe’s most environmentally-friendly office buildings.

She also led a series of financial reforms that took the Trust from a vulnerable financial position to one of security to meet the recession in 2008.  The Trust now spends over £100 million a year on conservation work.

Over this period:

  • Membership has grown from 2.7 million in 2001 to more than four million in 2011.
  • Visitor numbers to the Trust’s 300 properties reached 19 million from 10 million a decade ago. 
  • Volunteer numbers have also doubled, with more than 67,000 people giving their time to special places last year. 

As a geographer and walker with a passionate interest in landscape, she has systematically added to the 617,000 acres of countryside under the Trust’s care. Most recently, this included the acquisition of the 617-acre Llyndy Isaf estate near Snowdon after a public appeal raised £1 million in seven months from 20,000 donors.

Property acquisitions over the last 11 years have included the vast Victorian Gothic Tyntesfield and its estate near Bristol, Vanbrugh’s Seaton Delaval Hall in Northumberland, the ‘back-to-back’ terraced houses in Birmingham, John Lennon’s boyhood home in Liverpool and the quirky home of Kenyan-born poet Khadambi Asalache in Wandsworth. 

These acquisitions have been part of a concerted focus on social and community relevance for the Trust, recently underlined by the long-term lease taken out on Tredegar House in South East Wales.

During her time as Director-General, Fiona has championed the importance of access to the outdoors and nature for people’s wellbeing and promoted local and seasonal food with a drive to create 1,000 new allotments on National Trust land. 

In 2012 she launched the Trust’s Natural Childhood report and ’50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾’ campaign, which aim to reconnect children with nature and the outdoors. This echoes the vision of the Trust’s founders, in particular the Victorian social campaigner Octavia Hill, the centenary of whose death is marked this year.

While maintaining the Trust’s strict party-political neutrality, Fiona has also championed its conservation principles, most recently leading the charge against proposed changes to the planning framework which, she warned, would bias planning towards excessive building in the countryside. 

Her decision to step down as National Trust Director-General to become Master of Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge, was announced on Tuesday 6 March 2012.

Next steps

Fiona will become the first female Master in EmmanuelCollege’s history in the autumn of 2013, in succession to Lord Wilson of Dinton.

She became a Non-executive Director of the BBC on 1 January 2012, and was confirmed as the next Senior Independent Director on the broadcaster’s Executive Board on 18 September 2012.  She was also appointed a Non-executive Director on the Board of Wessex Water on 3 August 2012, and will Chair the company’s sustainability panel.

Fiona plans to use the interval between leaving and moving to Cambridge in September 2013 to write a book about her years at the Trust.

Other information

Appearing on the BBC’s Desert Island Discs in April 2002, Fiona’s choice of music was:

  • the Mingulay Boat Song, performed by Robin Hall and Jimmie MacGregor;
  • the Agnus Dei from Fauré’s Requiem;
  • Mozart’s Divertimento in D Major;
  • Mendelssohn’s Octet;
  • Robert Speaight reading from Wordsworth’s Lines composed above Tintern Abbey;
  • The Salutation from Gerald Finzi’s Dies Natalis;
  • Maria Tipo playing the Adagio from Bach/Busoni’s Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C Major; and
  • Oh! Hang at open doors the net from Britten’s opera Peter Grimes.

 If she could take just one record it would be the Finzi; her book was The Making of the English Landscape by W G Hoskins and her luxury a full set of Ordnance Survey maps of the British Isles.

The National Trust looks after more than 250,000 hectares of countryside, 720 miles of coastline and hundreds of historic places across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. For more information and ideas for great value family days out go to: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/

Dame Helen Ghosh named as next National Trust director-general

Dame Helen Ghosh DCB will be the next director-general of the National Trust, Europe’s largest conservation charity.

Helen joins the Trust from her current role as permanent secretary to the Home Office. Previously, Helen held a variety of civil service roles including as permanent secretary to Defra between 2005 and 2010.

She will take over from Fiona Reynolds who has been at the helm for nearly 12 years. During that time, Fiona has grown the charity’s membership to four million and built a volunteer base of more than 67,000 people.

Credit 'Crown Copyright'

Helen said:  “I have been an admirer of the Trust and its work all my life, and I am thrilled that I have been given the chance to be part of its future.  I am delighted to be able to build on Fiona Reynolds’ great work in setting the Trust’s direction for the 21st century”.

Simon Jenkins, chairman of the National Trust, said: “The Board of Trustees is delighted that Helen will be the Trust’s next director-general. The Trustees’ strategy is to widen the Trust’s appeal and grow its membership. Helen is a distinguished and energetic public servant. We are convinced she is ideal to lead the organisation through what is proving a challenging time. We all look forward to working with her”.

Fiona Reynolds, who moves on to become Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 2013, said “I am delighted by Helen’s appointment.  The National Trust is a fantastic organisation to work for and I wish her, and the Trust, all the very best for the future”.

The National Trust was founded in 1895 to protect threatened coastline, countryside and buildings for the benefit and enjoyment of everyone.

Today the Trust employs more than 5,500 people and cares for special places across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, including 250,000 hectares of countryside, 710 miles of coastline and 300 historic houses and gardens.