Dame Helen Ghosh has announced she will be leaving her role as Director General of the National Trust in March, next year.
Helen, who has led the conservation charity since 2012, will take up a new position as the Master of Balliol College, at Oxford University.
The Trust said it would begin the process of looking for a new Director General in the autumn.
Paying tribute to Helen’s time in charge of the Trust, Tim Parker, the organisation’s chairman said: “Helen has done an outstanding job as Director General.
“She will be leaving the organisation in great shape – one clear of its future direction with ever growing levels of investment in conservation.
“We are indebted to Helen for all she has done and wish her well in her new role.”
During five years at the helm, Helen has overseen the implementation of an ambitious 10- year strategy, which has seen the Trust return to its roots by playing an active part in meeting some of the big challenges facing the nation such as the declining health of the natural environment, and the loss of green spaces in towns and cities.
Membership numbers and visits have soared since 2012, with both now at all-time high. Around 25m people paid to visit a Trust property last year, while there were an estimated 200m visits to the coastlines and countryside the charity looks after for the nation.
Under Helen’s leadership, income has also grown significantly and its finances strengthened. This has allowed the Trust to spend more than ever before – over £100m a year – on the conservation of its houses, collections, coast and countryside. The charity has also been able to invest more in specialist posts, doubling the number of its curators, and employing more rural surveyors, gardeners and building surveyors to support its strategy.
Commenting on her decision to step down, Helen said: “There is never a good time to leave a job that you love, so the decision was a very tough one. But the Trust is in a great place and in great hands, and 2018 which will be my sixth year here seemed the right time to hand over to someone else.
“I am enormously proud of all the Trust has achieved over the past five years, with the conservation of nature and heritage at the heart of what we do and an extraordinary growth in membership, support and visits.”
Helen will remain in post until March 2018. She begins her new role at Oxford in April.