Coastal entente cordiale

50 years ago the National Trust set up the Neptune Coastline Campaign. It was a key moment in the story of the conservation charity as it identified the need to have a clear strategic plan for protecting the coast of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

White Cliffs birds eye view for blog post - credit National Trust John Miller-1

This stretch of the White Cliffs of Dover was acquired by the National Trust in 2012

The pressures on the coast were huge from development and industrialisation. Our relationship with the coast had been slowly changing from a working relationship and one of the fear of invasion to the coast being seen as a place to visit for leisure (linked to the spread of the rail network and the arrival of paid annual leave). More of us wanted to go and take the sea air and there was a need to protect the natural beauty of our diverse and varied coastline.

In essence this meant buying vast tracts of coastline including the White Cliffs of Dover, Studland in Dorset, the Black beaches in Durham and much of the Gower in South Wales.

Ten years later in 1975 this pioneering model based around acquiring coast made it across the English Channel with the setting up of the Conservatoire du Littoral. Whereas the National Trust is a charity the Conservatoire is a Government body funded by licenses from boats moored around the French coast. But both have a shared common purpose; tapping into the respective national love of the coastline.

It’s intriguing to think that the Trust model of working on the coast inspired the French to take a hard long look at how they protect their own coast. You can see many of the pressures on the French coastline, especially on the Cote D’Azur, in terms of development.

Ideas have a habit of flowing between nations and the double anniversary in 2015 provides a chance to reflect on the goals of the two organisations.

In the last fifty years the Trust has acquired 550 miles of coastline; taking its total ownership to more than 10 per cent of the English, Welsh and Northern Irish coastline. The Conservatoire now manages 13 per cent of the French coastline (its remit also includes French overseas territories).

Acquisition remains at the heart of the Conservatoire strategy: with a target to double its ownership by 2050. For the National Trust new models are being tested, such as managing rather than owning coast, and there is a focus on consolidation and adding pieces to the missing coastal jigsaw.

However – both organisations are focusing firmly on the realities of a changing climate. The coast is often at the forefront of massive and rapid change. This has been shown by the huge impact of winter storms in the last decade; with cliff collapse, dunes becoming even more mobile and the loss of beaches.

Thinking long term and planning is the key to dealing with the changes happening and coming our way. It’s about innovation and sharing best practice across the channel: focused on the need for adaptation.

As two nations linked by geography, culture, history and the movement of people it feels fitting that our relationship with the coast has followed similar routes in terms of protecting these special places.

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

Continue reading