Hydropower returns to Cragside and lights up history

A new Archimedes screw at Cragside in Northumberland will harness the power of water to relight this grand Victorian house just as its previous owner Lord Armstrong did back in 1878. Continue reading

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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National Trust reaction to Government announcement on badgers

Patrick Begg, Rural Enterprises Director at the National Trust, said: “We’re pleased that the Government has recognised the need to learn lessons from the pilots. We wrote to Defra last year expressing our deepest concerns about the conduct of the culls, so it’s encouraging that they appear to be listening.

“We welcome their commitment to looking harder at the potential of vaccination at the heart of a suite of measures to get this devastating disease under control, including funding for vaccination projects and continued efforts to reduce the risks of cattle giving other cattle the disease – still the greatest route for the infection to spread. We’ve funded our own large vaccination programme on our Killerton estate so we’re pleased Defra are now looking to support programmes like this.

“What is clear to us, as an organisation that cares about wildlife and our farm tenants who carry out much of our conservation work in the wider countryside, is that the Government’s actions must be based on sound scientific evidence and meet highest possible standards of conduct, or risk making this devastating disease even worse. We are pleased that they appear to be listening, but will need to look at the detail of the strategy and the panel’s report before concluding our position.”

English farmers visiting Westminster call for greater share of farming budget to go to the environment

Farmers from across England will be taking a strong environmental message to Westminster later today [Wednesday 23 October, 2013], when they meet MPs to highlight the need for a greater share of funding to help threatened species, landscapes and heritage features.

Within weeks Owen Paterson MP – the Environment Secretary – will have to finalise his budget and priorities for the future of the countryside. A key decision the Secretary of State has to make is how much funding to dedicate to so-called agri-environment schemes, which fund farmers to manage their farms in wildlife-friendly and environmentally-friendly ways. With a finite amount of money available under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), he has the power to transfer up to 15 per cent of direct subsidies to these and other rural development schemes, and farmers attending today’s event are calling for the maximum transfer.

With many species continuing to decline this funding is needed more than ever. Figures released last week by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) revealed that the number of birds reliant on farmland have halved in number since 1970. Additionally, the State of Nature report launched by Sir David Attenborough, in May, shows that 60 per cent of 1064 species monitored on farmland have declined, and a third of the total, including the small skipper butterfly, have declined strongly.

As well as addressing wildlife declines, agri-environment schemes can also help promote more sustainable farming and deliver wider public benefits, such as tourism and jobs. The National Trust, the RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts and Conservation Grade believe these schemes are vital for competitiveness and long-term viability of the sector, as well as the encouraging the growth and vitality of rural communities.

Richard Morris Farm Manager at the National Trust’s Wimpole Estate in Cambridgeshire said: “Farmers have to ensure a return from their land so that their businesses remain viable. With no other support this requires field corner-to-corner production. A successful alternative that has delivered huge benefits to nature are agri-environment schemes.  If farmers sign up to these, they receive income support for the land they take out of production to replant hedges, establish margins, field corners and habitats which are rich and varied. 

“Without continued support for the cost of management and forgoing income from these areas they are likely to return to production with the resulting degradation of nature’s resource. I believe the public would want to see more investment in this ecological friendly and more sustainable type of production. We need to ensure funds to deliver these schemes that protect biodiversity, habitat and healthy living landscapes both for today, and for future generations.”

Sheep grazing ont he Wimpole Estate in Cambridgeshire.

Sheep grazing ont he Wimpole Estate in Cambridgeshire.

The partnership of organisations helping with today’s event know from experience it is possible to reverse the declines of some of our most threatened wildlife, and to date a broad coalition of farmers, NGOs, scientists and Government have played a key role in some important conservation success stories. But the organisations believe if these successes are to be repeated in the future, continued support for environmental schemes is essential.

Patrick Begg, Rural Enterprise Director at the National Trust, remarked:  “Farming needs to be more in-tune with the natural characteristics of the land and rural economies in which it operates, recognising both its dependence on environmental resilience and sustainable land management, as well as the multiplier effect it can have both culturally and economically. 

“We cannot emphasise strongly enough the importance of maximising modulation and securing a high agri-environment spend in mitigating the impact of EU cuts and securing a positive outcome for the countryside and taxpayers.  Only then can we rise to the challenge of producing enough food, safeguarding our precious natural resources, and ensuring an economic future for farming and their communities.

“Our Government needs to show real leadership in Europe and send a clear signal that environmental sustainability has to be put at the heart of farming in the UK.”

My Farm Project - Home Farm, Wimpole Estate (21st April 2011)

Martin Harper is the RSPB’s conservation director. He said: “Three-quarters of England is farmed, and that means farmers have a huge responsibility to look after a great proportion of our wildlife, landscapes and cultural heritage.

“Over the last two decades, an increasing number of farmers have embraced the challenge and taken the step to enter agri-environment schemes, working hard to get results on the ground. I’m delighted we are working alongside farmers today to try and secure a better deal for these schemes in the future.

“Together we hope that Owen Paterson MP will keep his pledge to help wildlife and the wider environment by shifting farming budgets in favour of those farmers seeking to farm in wildlife-friendly ways.”

The Wildlife Trusts Head of Living Landscape, Paul Wilkinson commented:  “Wildlife Trusts across the country work with farmers delivering the current agri-environment schemes.

“We know how important it is for those famers who make a long-term commitment to delivering effective schemes to receive appropriate financial support. In many parts of the country, agri-environment schemes play a crucial role in shaping the landscapes that underpin rural economies and communities.

“We believe that the public appreciate that and we hope that the Government will therefore put the public funding in place to support those farmers who do the most for the environment.”

Today’s lobby of Parliament, includes 28 farmers, from various parts of England, working alongside the RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts, the National Trust and Conservation Grade.

Charties and Coops urge MPs to support community energy

A coalition of civil society organisations with over 12 million members is urging all MPs to support community-owned and controlled renewable projects in today’s Energy Bill debate. They are concerned that the draft Energy Bill would stifle the growth of the burgeoning community energy sector if changes are not made.

The group which includes: The Co-operative; the National Trust; the National Federation of Women’s Institutes; Transition Towns; and Groundwork, have written to all MPs asking them to support a community approach to the UK’s future energy needs.

The group believes that community ownership of energy projects empowers communities to collectively decide upon and run their own energy projects in locally appropriate ways. It also benefits the local economy by keeping the profits generated within the community, often being spent on tackling fuel poverty or other social problems.

The MPs have been contacted as the Energy Bill is debated in Parliament today (December 19). The organisations are concerned that the legislation has been designed for large commercial developers and could exclude communities from participating in the new energy market.

In Germany, an estimated 15% of all renewable electricity generation is owned by local communities, with over 600 energy cooperatives. In the UK this is around 1% but there are hundreds of energy groups with plans to generate renewable power.

Paul Monaghan, Head of Social Goals at The Co-operative, said: “Communities across the UK stand ready to lead a community energy revolution but their opportunity to grow could be extinguished if the Energy Bill stays as it is. Community energy must be treated fairly in electricity market reform and allowed to flourish as it has elsewhere in Europe.

“Community ownership is proven to increase public support for local renewable energy projects, which is vital if the UK is to meet its energy and climate objectives. A recent opinion poll we commissioned found that opposition to projects, including wind turbines, drops from 22% to just 7% if the project belongs to the community.”

Patrick Begg, Rural Enterprise Director at the National Trust said “We know that when communities secure a stake in energy projects they are much more reassured that their own beautiful local landscapes and villages that they love can embrace the proposals. Community energy can help empower local people to take control of their own energy futures and in a style that maintains and even enhances what makes local places special and cherished. We want to work with the Government to support a big increase in community owned renewable energy and energy efficiency schemes.”

National Trust and Good Energy Powering a Greener Future

Good Energy Partnership Powers National Trust’s Bold Energy Ambitions

The National Trust and green energy supplier, Good Energy, have announced a strategic energy partnership to help conserve the nation’s special places.  

Good Energy will become the National Trust’s principal energy partner and will provide the charity with financial and practical support in developing renewable energy projects to help meet its ambitious target to halve its use of fossil fuels by 2020.

Projects are likely to include wood-fired boilers to replace old oil heating systems in National Trust properties, plus sustainable water and solar power installations to generate green electricity. 

As part of the initiative, Good Energy will offer its certified 100% green energy tariff to over 4m National Trust members, in addition to supporters and volunteers. 

For each National Trust supporter who signs up to the 100% tariff and standard gas, Good Energy will give up to £40 every year to support the National Trust. 

The UK is blessed with abundant renewable energy sources which were used effectively in the past to generate heat and power.  Good Energy will use its expertise in making the most of natural resources to generate energy, helping the National Trust to meet its bold targets. 

Juliet Davenport, CEO and founder of Good Energy, said:  “Good Energy’s mission is to make the world a more habitable place by changing the way we make and use energy.  This makes us an ideal partner for the National Trust, who takes care of our nation’s most special places.  We are looking forward to supporting the charity in its mission to half its use of fossil fuels by 2020, making the world a better place for all of us.”

Patrick Begg, National Trust Rural Enterprise Director said: “Building a renewable energy future for the special places we look after makes good business as well as environmental sense.

“Investing in renewables helps us reduce our costs which means more of the money we raise can go into vital conservation work. It also means we’re cutting our damaging carbon emissions by burning fewer fossil fuels.  This will be vital in helping us do our bit to reduce the impact of changing climate on these special places.

“The partnership with Good Energy will gives us the opportunity to develop a range of innovative new schemes, and also tap into a wealth of sound advice and support.

“Signing up to Good Energy is another way our members can support the work we do, showing how they care for the places we look after for the benefit of the nation.”

Statement on bovine TB and badger culling

Patrick Begg, Rural Enterprise Director at the National Trust, said: “The National Trust is not involved in the pilot cull in Gloucestershire.

“We are strong supporters of vaccination as the long-term solution to this pressing problem. This is why we are running a badger vaccination programme at Killerton to help demonstrate the practicality of vaccinating badgers.

“We have consistently argued that any approach to tackling bovine TB in cattle should be science-led. All of the evidence points to the need for a comprehensive and multi-pronged approach to prevent transmission of the disease. This should include more rigorous measures to stop cattle-to-cattle, cattle-to-badger and badger-to-badger transmission.

“In England, we wouldn’t stand in the way of a pilot badger cull providing it was carried out according to best scientific advice. However, even if any pilots reduce TB in cattle, we don’t believe it will be possible to meet successful cull criteria over much larger areas.”

For a video on our vaccination programme and more information on this issue, visit our position statement:


Research reveals that grass-fed beef is better for people and the environment

Feeding cattle on grass throughout their lifecycle is the most environmentally sustainable way to rear beef, according to new research for the National Trust.

One of the biggest global challenges is how to increase food security whilst reducing the environmental impacts of food production.

Livestock – like cattle and sheep – produce high levels of methane as part of the process of digesting grass.  This has led to suggestions that intensive production methods – where cattle are fed largely on cereals, producing less methane – should be preferred over more traditional grass fed livestock farming.

However, in a report [1] issued today, research at 10 Trust farms shows that while the carbon footprint of grass-fed and conventional farms were comparable, the carbon sequestration contribution of well-managed grass pasture [2] on the less intensive systems reduced net emissions by up to 94 per cent, even resulting in a carbon ‘net gain’ in upland areas.  The farms that had recently converted to organic status showed even greater gains.

Rob Macklin, National Agriculture and Food Adviser at the National Trust, said: “The results are contrary to recent thinking that livestock farming methods must intensify further in order to lessen carbon emissions to feed an ever-increasing world population.”

“Maximising carbon efficiency alone is too simplistic.  Many less intensive livestock systems would be classed ‘inefficient’ on the carbon emission scale, yet are much less reliant on artificial inputs and tend to have less impacts on water quality, loss of soil organic matter and reduced biodiversity.

“We believe that optimised beef production – deliberately accommodating less than maximum output in order to secure stronger and broader ecosystem protection – is the best sustainable use for the grasslands in our care.

“The debate about climate change and food often calls for a reduction of meat consumption and a more plant based diet, but this often overlooks the fact that many grasslands are unsuitable for continuous arable cropping.

“Grasslands support a range of ecosystems services including water resources, biodiversity and carbon capture and storage.  Grazing livestock not only contributes to their maintenance but also turns grass into human-edible food.”

Other recent research [3] found that the health benefits of beef (and lamb) are greater when animals are fed totally on grass – their natural food.  Omega 3 fatty acids – recognised as essential to good physical and mental health – are higher in meat from grass and the levels of saturated fat are a third of grain fed beef.

Patrick Begg, Rural Enterprises Director at the National Trust, said: “This research is incredibly timely.  Policy makers across Europe and in the UK are having to tackle the issue of carbon-efficient food production right now.  The debate is all about bringing broader public benefits to the fore alongside food production and this research demonstrates how extensive, grass-fed beef should be at the heart of discussions.

“We need to find new market mechanisms which reward optimised rather than maximised beef production and as bodies like the Government’s Ecosystem Markets Task Force gather their thoughts we think this research demonstrates an area which is due some real focus.  Current Common Agricultural Policy reform discussions can also benefit from understanding what this research is telling us and, as the reform drives towards even stronger ‘greening’ of the payments farmers receive, we think management that delivers quality, grass-fed beef should be encouraged even more through agri-environment measures.

“We’ll be taking the findings forward with our tenants, policy makers and the industry to explore how we can develop a market advantage which supports a stronger grass-fed beef sector”.


[1] The research was carried out by sustainability consultants, Best Foot Forward and farm business consultants, the Laurence Gould Partnership in Autumn 2010.

The two assessors used PAS 2050 (PAS 2050 incorporates the greenhouse gas emissions potency of methane and nitrous oxide emissions using the carbon accounting unit of CO2 equivalent per live weight of beef produced) as well as developing additional scenarios to account for carbon sequestration by grassland and organic conversion and compared with other published life cycle studies on UK, US and Brazilian production methods.

They compared the carbon footprints of beef cattle raised on ten of the charity’s livestock farms in England, Wales and Northern Ireland; four organic, four conventional and two semi-intensive conventional in both upland and lowland areas.

The results show the average carbon footprint across the Trust farms was 21.5 kg CO2 equivalent per kg live weight of beef which were comparable with those from other studies in the UK.  See:

Taylor, RC et al (2010) ‘Measuring holistic carbon footprints for lamb and beef farms in the Cambrian Mountains’ Report for Countryside Council of Wales.

EBLEX (2010) ‘Test the Water – The English Beef and Sheep Production Environmental Roadmap – Phase 2.

Williams, AG Audsley E and Sandars, DL (2006) ‘Determining the environmental burdens and resource use in the production of agricultrual and horticultural commodities.  Main Report. Defra Research Project ISO 20.  Bedford: Cranfield University and Defra.

[2] Carbon sequestration is the capture of carbon dioxide (CO2).  All crops absorb CO2 during growth and release it after harvest.  The goal of agricultural carbon removal is to use the crop and its relation to the carbon cycle to permanently sequester carbon within the soil.  This is done by selecting farming methods that return biomass to the soil and enhance the conditions in which the carbon within the plants will be stored in a stable state.

[3] See: Wyness, L et al (2011) ‘Red meat in the diet: an update’ Nutrition Bulletin 36,1 pp.34-77.

Rule, DC et al (2002) ‘Comparison of muscle fatty acid profiles and cholesterol concentrations of bison, beef, cattle, elk and chicken’ J ANIM SCI 80 pp. 1202-1211.

Duckett, SK et al (1993) Effects of time on feed on beef nutrient composition J ANIM SCI 71pp. 2079-2088.