National Trust welcomes publication of Clandon fire report  

The National Trust today welcomed the publication of a Surrey Fire and Rescue Service report into the cause of the devastating fire at Clandon Park earlier this year.

Investigators concluded the fire was accidental and the probable cause was a defect in an electrical distribution board.

The distribution board, located in a cupboard in the basement, ‘could be assumed was delivered from the manufacturer with this fault,’ according to the report.

The Trust said none of its staff would have been able to identify this as a potential issue. The fault had not been detected during a number of previous professional checks by electricians.

Trained staff at the 18th century mansion near Guildford, Surrey evacuated all visitors safely after the fire broke out at around 4pm, on April 29. No-one was injured.

Pic 6, credit National Trust Images-James Dobson

The fire spread from the basement through the lift shaft, voids and into the roof, the report found. The wind blew the fire from one side of the roof to the other. The fire then burnt down to the floors below, leaving 95% of the house damaged by the fire.

Despite having some measures in place to limit the spread of fire, these had not been enough to slow the blaze once it had taken hold. The Trust said it was committed to working closely with the fire service to identify any areas for improvements in its processes – and would act on any they found.

The charity is also in the process of carrying out its own in-depth review of its fire prevention policies at all its properties to see where they can be strengthened further.

This will include checking distribution boards at all its historic mansions and looking at whether there are any further steps it can take to prevent and slow the spread of fires in future.

A well-rehearsed salvage plan also meant a significant number of valuable items were saved from the fire. The Trust is continuing to work closely with its insurers, who are carrying out their own in-depth investigation into the fire.

Around 400 items have been saved to date from the fire. A team of specialist salvage operators are currently in the process of painstakingly sifting through the debris within the house to locate further items.

The Trust has already announced that Clandon will be rebuilt in some shape or form. It’s considering options for the house. Scaffolding is being erected around the house and a temporary roof will be put in place.

Pic 2, credit National Trust Images-James Dobson

Commenting on the report, the Trust’s Director-General, Helen Ghosh, said: “The fire at Clandon was a terrible blow, with the loss of such a significant historic interior and so much of the important collections it housed. The response of staff, volunteers and the local community showed how much Clandon meant to so many people.

“The report from Surrey Fire and Rescue Service is welcome and important to us. The fact that we had a well- rehearsed salvage plan meant we were able to save a number of significant items from the fire, and our fire detection systems also operated as they should have done.

“But we’re certainly not complacent and we now will be working with the fire service to identify any areas for improvement in any of our properties. We have already begun a full review of our processes and systems to see where they can be strengthened further. If there are lessons for us to learn – we will act upon them and share them with others who look after historic buildings.”

The fire report by Surrey Fire and Rescue Service can be read here

Watch our video update on the fire report here


National Trust response to Spending Review

The National Trust outlines below its response to the Spending Review announcements made today.

Richard Hebditch, External Affairs Director for the National Trust, said: “The Government’s commitment to ensure the new commercial model for English Heritage will have sufficient funding is very welcome, as is recognition of the importance of heritage, and Historic England, more generally. Within Defra’s budgets, we’re particularly pleased to see the protection of funding for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, National Parks and public forests. In the last Parliament, Nick Clegg also announced funding for Natural England to complete the England Coastal Path by 2020 but we have to see confirmation that that funding will continue – we trust it will.

“Though there has been good news in terms of some of DCMS and Defra’s settlements, we’re disappointed to see further reforms proposed for the planning system, on top of those proposed in the Housing and Planning Bill. Local council planning teams have been cut back by more than 40% in the last five years. Further changes to planning rules will place additional burdens on these teams, and risk destabilising the Government’s plans for good quality housebuilding.”

Forecast Changeable

A wind-shattered tree on the shores of Buttermere, Lake District, Cumbria.

A wind-shattered tree on the shores of Buttermere, Lake District, Cumbria. ©National Trust Images/David Noton.


Climate change poses the single biggest threat to National Trust places, bringing new, damaging impacts to a natural and cultural environment already under pressure, and a growing conservation challenge to our houses and gardens. Find out what we’re doing and how it’s affecting our places in our new report, Forecast Changeable: Forecast Changeable Report

Autumn review

Susan Guy_Calke Abbey_Serpentine Wood_Autumn 31.10.15_2

Autumn colours at the end of October in Serpentine Wood at Calke Abbey. Credit Susan Guy.

Matthew Oates, nature and wildlife specialist, looks back on the effects of a mild autumn on our wildlife:

Autumn has been incredibly mild, to date.  The south has had a single light frost, a windscreen affair on October 25th. It has also been dry, everywhere – with a drought in Northern Ireland – until the autumn rains arrived, perhaps with a vengeance, after the warmest November day on record (the 1st).

In consequence, many summer plants are flowering in garden and countryside.  Even tender summer annuals, such as Nasturtiums, are persisting.  In the wild some high summer plants have sprung back into bloom, notably the brambles.  Also, many of spring’s flowers are evident, again in both garden and countryside – especially Primrose, violets, Wild Strawberry and, most noticeably, the garden Viburnums.

Insects have lingered long into the autumn. Speckled Wood butterflies made it into November in numbers over much of southern Britain, and dragonflies, moths and crickets and grasshoppers have also persisted well. This year it will be the rains, rather than the frosts, that kill them off.

The leaves came off on time, with the exception of the Ash which dropped somewhat early in many districts. The maples flamed deep red this year.

Now, Fieldfare and Redwing seem unusually numerous, perhaps because poor weather in Scandinavia and Russia has pushed them deep into their wintering grounds.

It seems likely that the first part of the winter, at least, will be mild and wet, and perhaps stormy.

National Trust comments on CPRE report

A spokesperson from the National Trust said:

“There is a need for more new housing, and when it works well, our planning system can ensure this goes in the most appropriate locations, and that we build places people want to live in.

“This new research is concerning, because it suggests that inflexible targets mean that in some areas the local vision for development is being bypassed, with the best sites going undeveloped, whilst less suitable sites are approved. This is a problem we also identified in our 2014 report, Positive Planning. Government should ensure that local authorities are not penalised for setting ambitious targets for new housing, and keep its housing supply rules under review to ensure the Local Plan is sovereign.”

National Trust calls for urgent action to manage threats to our coastline

The National Trust is calling for urgent action from Government and agencies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure all coastal areas are ready for the enormous challenges presented by severe storms and rising sea levels.

Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire. Credit Joe Cornish

Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire. Credit Joe Cornish

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Expanding two precious National Parks

The Government has today announced that it is expanding the size of two of England’s National Parks – the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales.

Reacting to this exciting announcement Mike Innerdale, National Trust Assistant Director of Operations in the North Region, said: “Expanding the size of these two precious National Parks, loved by millions of people is great news.

“These treasured landscapes play such an important part in connecting people to beautiful places, rich in nature and wonderful human stories. The two new larger National Parks mean that we’ll be able to work more effectively with our partner organisations on a bigger scale to enrich the natural environment and create the space for wildlife and people to flourish.

View of two adult walkers returning from their farm trail on Low Sizergh Farm in Kendal, Cumbria. The path is on a route around the farm and estate. (M.R.)

View of two adult walkers returning from their farm trail on Low Sizergh Farm in Kendal, Cumbria. The path is on a route around the farm and estate.

“We especially welcome the recognition of the scenic, cultural and ecological qualities of the National Trust’s Sizergh Estate and the contribution that this special place will make to the newly expanded Lake District National Park in the future. Its a place enjoyed by walkers, nature lovers and people that are passionate about history”

National Trust sign for the Malham Tarn Estate, North Yorkshire.

National Trust sign for the Malham Tarn Estate, North Yorkshire.

The National Trust owns 25% of the Lake District National Park including Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England, and farms given to the conservation charity by Beatrix Potter. In the Yorkshire Dales National Park the Trust manages 6,000 hectares including Malham Tarn and Upper Wharfedale.

Around 40 per cent of National Trust land can be found in the National Parks of England and Wales.