63% more plants blooming in this year’s annual Valentine’s flower count

National Trust Garden teams in South West England have been busy recording flowers in bloom in this year’s annual Valentine’s Flower Count, with nearly all gardens showing an increase on last year.

The Annual National Trust Valentine's Flower Count - Fiona Hailstone counting Snowdrops

The Annual National Trust Valentine’s Flower Count – Fiona Hailstone counting Snowdrops

In 2008, 3,335 plants in bloom were recorded in Devon and Cornwall (where the flower count first started), marking the earliest spring so far recorded during the count. This year, 2,644 plants were recorded in gardens across the whole of the South West compared to 1,622 in 2015. Continue reading

Shell founders house goes green

A National Trust property, once owned by the family that founded the Shell oil company, has made the switch from oil to a renewable energy heating system.
Upton House 1.jpg
 
Upton House, in Warwickshire, was using 25,000 litres of oil each year to heat the estate. It now produces the equivalent energy from two new wood pellet boilers, which is enough to heat eleven average sized houses. This will save £6,000 a year on heating bills and 55 tonnes of CO2 emissions.
 
The successful completion of the Upton House and Gardens project is the first milestone in the Trust’s £30 million investment programme in renewable energy, announced last year, to heat and power some of its historic places [1].
 
The estate and gardens were gifted to the Trust by owner, and then Shell chairman, Lord Bearsted, in 1948.
 
Ed Wood, the Trust’s renewables project manager at Upton House, said: “The irony that the estate was owned by a family whose fortune was built on oil was not lost on us when we started our project to take Upton off this fossil fuel.
 
“In the past, oil was the most effective way to heat the property. Times have changed and to lower our carbon emissions and meet our targets to generate 50 per cent of all energy we use from renewable sources by 2020 we felt it important to change our energy source here.”
 
The property removed four oil boilers, and in doing so, the associated risks of oil leaks. The new biomass boilers, with the wood pellets sourced from the UK, are heating the house, property offices, the squash court gallery, restaurant and cottage. 
 
Julie Smith, General Manager at Upton House, said: “Installing the new heating system has met the energy needs of this wonderful country house with appropriate consideration for the heritage of the property and gardens.
 
”It took just eight weeks to install and clearly shows how we are committed to safeguarding our heritage and helping to protect the natural environment.”
 
Mike Hudson, Renewable Energy Director for the National Trust, said: “This is a great example of what support from the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme is enabling the Trust to do. Schemes like these cut carbon, promote local sustainable wood management and work in harmony with the natural and built environment. They work for the local environment and economy and support national energy and climate change ambitions.”

Capability Brown tercentenary gets underway with planting of his favoured tree

To launch a year of celebrations to mark the tercentenary of Lancelot (Capability) Brown’s birth, the National Trust is planting hundreds of trees back into several of his designed landscapes in its care.

_MG_5373

Dame Helen Ghosh, Director General of the National Trust plants a Cedar of Lebanon at Croome in Worcestershire to mark the tercentary of one of the landscape gardening greats – Capability Brown. Credit James Dobson & NT Images

Continue reading

National Trust puts cider apples at its core

An internationally important collection of cider apples, with almost 300 different varieties, has been given to the National Trust to help secure its future and stop many of the rarer varieties becoming lost forever.

Apples growing in the orchards at Killerton, Devon. The apples are collected and made into cider, using a traditional cider press, by volunteers.

Apples growing in the orchards at Killerton, Devon. Credit National Trust Images/Ross Hoddinott

Slack-ma-Girdle, Netherton Late Blower and Billy Down Pippin are just three of the apple varieties in the ‘National cider apple’ collection established over the course of more than 25 years by collector and donor Henry May.

Continue reading

Cyril Diver: a natural hero

National Trust wildlife expert Matthew Oates explores the life of naturalist and wildlife pioneer Cyril Diver.

“Few of Britain’s remarkable naturalists achieved as much as Cyril Diver (1892-1969). During the 1930s he and other volunteer experts meticulously surveyed, mapped and recorded the wildlife of the heath and dune system on the Studland peninsula, near Swanage in Dorset. They had a fantastic time, and also saved the site from development. A civil servant, Diver went on to draft much of our country’s initial wildlife legislation, and devise and lead the Nature Conservancy. This country owes him big time, yet he is largely forgotten.

D DVR 7 1 F 7

Cyril Diver and friends surveying Studland on the Dorset coast in the 1930s

Eighty years on, the National Trust has led a three year project to resurvey the peninsula, with close reference to the Diver archive material. As in the 1930s, specialist surveys were conducted by volunteers, both experts and beginners, though coordinated by a project officer. They had a fantastic time too, and have pioneered the citizen science approach to advanced wildlife recording, much of this in partnership with techy students from Bournemouth University. There is nothing naturalists love more than survey work, especially in a place as rich as Studland Peninsula.

The place has changed too, massively. Major changes commenced when Studland was taken over for tank training during the Second World War, and then when Rabbits died out to myxomatosis. A new sand dune has developed since the 1930s, and major changes to the ponds, swamps and mires have occurred.

D DVR 7 1 E 9

Cyril Diver in Dorset in the 1930s.

Recent surveys found 620 species of vascular plants – a quarter of the UK’s native flora, an increase from 465 in Diver’s time, though a few rarities have disappeared. Diver didn’t survey the lichen flora, due to a scarcity of experts, but recently over 340 lichen taxa have been found, including 29 major rarities. Insect-wise, today’s beetle surveys comfortably outscored Diver – 777 species, compared to 239, though 56 of Diver’s 239 were not re-found. Diver found 325 species of moth, the recent surveys found 611 but failed to re-find 105 on Diver’s list. And so on… . The recent surveys discovered two species new to Britain, though others may await confirmation. All this data will fascinate scientists, particularly climate change specialists, and will be celebrated at a conference at Bournemouth University on March 21st.

Now, more than ever, this nation needs its naturalists, to provide data to help us understand the burgeoning issues of climate change, new species colonisation and impending ecological change. We need more in-depth studies along the lines of the Diver Project, and to recruit and equip a new generation of inspired naturalists. The National Trust has a key role to play here, and will do so.”

National Trust reveals bold plans to breathe new life into fire-hit mansion

  • Charity to restore the most significant ground floor rooms to their original glory
  • Upper floors to become flexible, modern spaces
  • Competition to be launched later this year to find designer
  • Restore gardens as they were when the house was built

The National Trust today announced ambitious plans to bring a fire-ravaged Palladian mansion back to life in what will be the charity’s biggest conservation project in a generation.

Interior of the house, photo John Millar-National Trust Images

Interior of the house, photo John Millar-National Trust Images

Clandon Park, an 18th century stately home, near Guildford, Surrey, was hit by a devastating fire, which ripped through the building last April.

The conservation charity today outlined plans to restore the house’s most architecturally and historically significant rooms on the ground floor while at the same time creating vibrant, modern spaces, which would breathe new life into the house.

A competition will be held later this year to find the right architect to bring the space alive in a bold and imaginative way.

The Trust said it was now confident a number of principal rooms on the ground floor – including the Marble Hall, Speakers’ Parlour and Saloon – could and should be restored given their architectural and historical significance.

The Marble Hall, 1, photo James Dobson-National Trust Images

The Marble Hall. Photo James Dobson, National Trust Images

The fact that so many features survived and items from the rooms are being recovered from the ashes made the case for restoration compelling.

But the Trust said it was not looking to recreate the rooms as they were the day before the fire. The enduring significance of the architect Leoni’s original designs means it will go back instead to look at the 18th century decorative schemes and layout of the house.

The Trust will discuss the restoration plans with specialists and a number of conservation bodies over the coming months.

On the upper floors, the Trust said that the rooms were less architecturally significant and had been considerably altered over the centuries.

So the proposal is for these floors to be transformed to create flexible spaces which could be used for exhibitions, events and performances.

Scaffolding around the entrance of Clandon, photo James Dobson-National Trust Images

Scaffolding around the entrance of Clandon. Photo James Dobson, National Trust Images

Members, visitors, specialists and the general public would be encouraged to get involved and comment on a short-list of design options.

The Trust is also proposing to return the gardens to how they were designed when the house was originally built.

Helen Ghosh, the Trust’s director general, said: “Today marks an exciting new chapter in the Clandon story, and will represent one of most ambitious projects ever undertaken by the National Trust.

“The fire at Clandon was shocking, but gives us the opportunity not only to show our respect for the heritage of the past, but also to create new heritage for the future.

“Our plans involve returning parts of the house to its 18th century glory whilst at the same time creating a building of beauty and relevance for the 21st century.

“Given their historic and cultural significance, and the fact so many original features have survived, we believe we should restore the magnificent state rooms on the ground floor – the most architecturally important and beautiful rooms.

“This element of the project will also enable us to draw on the wealth of expertise within the Trust and beyond to utilise and develop traditional skills which are in grave danger of being lost.

“In the floors above, we can approach the design with more freedom and adapt the space, both architecturally and in its function, so that we can use it for exhibitions and events that bring our treasures and stories to a wide range of audiences.

“Recent research has also given us a wonderful picture of the original 18th century gardens, and so resources permitting, we also hope to bring those back to life in the spirit of a project that will both look back to the best of the past and create an exciting future”.

One of Clandon’s most important rooms – the Speakers’ Parlour – suffered only minor damage in the blaze and the entire external structure of the house as conceived by its Venetian architect remains in place.

Statue of Venus in the Marble Hall, photo James Dobson-National Trust Images

Statue of Venus in the Marble Hall. Photo James Dobson, National Trust Images

Major architectural features such as fireplaces, panelling and decorative plasterwork survive in a number of rooms, including the magnificent marble chimney pieces and over mantels by the renowned sculptor John Michael Rysbrack in the Marble Hall.

Over the last nine months, the Trust reviewed a number of options for Clandon, ranging from leaving it as a ruin to a full restoration. It looked carefully at the architectural significance of what had survived the fire, the items salvaged from the building and what was technically possible within it.

It also applied a set of criteria, based on the charity’s core purpose, to guide its thinking. This included: ensuring Clandon Park remained open and accessible to the public; reflected Clandon’s historic and cultural significance; and generated enough income to maintain its long-term conservation.

The cost of the project is expected to be met largely through the Trust’s insurance policy – although not in its entirety. Once its plans are at a more advanced stage, the charity said it would be asking supporters for help.

Telling tree stories

A new campaign launched today is calling on people to share their stories of why trees and woods matter to them.

Coppice and thicket scrub in the north east section of Hatfield Forest, Essex.

The history of Hatfield Forest in Essex dates back over a thousand years

The stories will be collected together in a Charter for Trees, Woods and People and published in November 2017, 800 years after the original Charter of the Forests was signed by Henry III, restoring people’s rights of access to the Royal Forests.

The National Trust is one of 43 organisations involved in the campaign, led by the Woodland Trust.

At a time of unprecedented pressures on trees and woods, the charter will record the relationships between people and trees, setting out the enormous benefits woods provide the UK economy and society.

As a national charity caring for 25,000 hectares of woodland and thousands of ancient and veteran trees in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, The National Trust has  seen first-hand the impact of climate change and diseases like Ash Dieback.

But we also know from the millions of visitors to our woods, parks and gardens every year that people feel a real love for trees – and are fascinated by the stories of trees like the Dorset sycamore under whose branches the Tolpuddle Martyrs reputedly met or the majestic 1,000 year old Quarry Oak at Croft Castle in Herefordshire.

Ashridge Estate, credit National Trust Images, Michael Caldwell

Ashridge is the Chilterns comes live with the autumn colour every year and its one of the best National Trust places for ancient trees

Ray Hawes, Head of Forestry at the National Trust, says: “How people value trees and woods is changing”, he says. “In the past they were valued mainly for the tangible products they provided, like timber and fuel.

“Today, many people say they love trees. Millions of people enjoy visiting woods in the UK without always realising the wider contributions that these places make to society as a whole and what needs to be done to maintain woods for future generations.

“Healthy woods have many uses and can be adapted to changing needs, but there are increasing challenges to maintain them in a condition which will enable this.”

By encouraging people to share why trees matter to them, the campaign launched today aims to capture the value of trees to people’s lives – as well as connecting people to the work that goes in to keeping our trees and woods healthy.

The campaign will recruit a network of local ‘Charter Champions’ from across the UK to represent their communities in the development of the charter. Funding will be available to help local groups in events and projects aimed at reconnecting people and trees.