Shortlist for Wainwright Prize 2016 revealed

Publisher Frances Lincoln, in association with the National Trust, has today announced the shortlist for The Wainwright Prize 2016, an annual award to celebrate the best UK nature and travel writing.

Wainwright

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‘Chamber of secrets’ brings Cliveden’s ghosts to life

Pic, A historic chamber will open to visitors at the National Trust's Cliveden following conservation work, NT Images-John MillarAs the glamorous Cliveden Estate in Buckinghamshire celebrates its 350th anniversary, an historic chamber located below the South Terrace is opening for the first time in 30 years, inviting visitors to help the National Trust solve the mystery of its past.

From the notorious 2nd Duke of Buckingham who built the first house for his mistress before fatally wounding her husband, to the focus of the Profumo affair in the 1960s, Cliveden has long been a place of scandal and intrigue.

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New EP captures sounds of Marconi’s Lizard

A new four-track EP, Marconi and the Lizard, by musician and producer Joe Acheson is released today following a week-long National Trust sound residency on the Lizard in Cornwall in August 2015.

The first-ever National sound residency, which was based at the hut where Guglielmo Marconi broadcast the ship-to-shore radio transmission on the beautiful south Cornish coast, was part of the Sounds of our Shores project that ran during the summer of 2015.

Joe Acheson said: “It was a privilege to record sounds that are disappearing from the Lizard, such as the old foghorn and the decommissioned spark transmitter.

“Making music that is so deeply-connected to one specific location brought its own resonance to the project. Like the food philosophy, ‘what grows together, goes together’, sounds from one place naturally work well with each other.”

Download an exclusive FREE track from Marconi and the Lizard

Joe Acheson, Credit National Trust, Steven Haywood

Acheson spent a week exploring a coast full of coves and cliffs in wild summer weather to capture the sounds of the most southerly part of the UK.  Taking inspiration from the Cornish landscape and the people who work in it, Acheson’s EP incorporates sounds of a now decommissioned lighthouse foghorn and fishermen chatting over ships’ radio.

Catherine Lee, National Trust Community and Volunteering Officer on the Lizard, said: “Joe Acheson’s recordings bring the rugged beauty of the Lizard to life. Living and working here you get used to the sounds of the weather and the sea. These familiar sounds which I never consciously notice jumped out of Acheson’s music.

“Acheson transports you back in time to 1901 to the Lizard of Guglielmo Marconi. History seeps into the compositions, with the lighthouse spark generator which has now been taken out of use and lobster pot weaving, a traditional practice now only used by a select few. These sounds might have been lost to history had they not been recorded, shared and celebrated as part of the National Trust’s first ever sound residency.”

Sounds of our Shores was a collaboration between the Trust, British Library and National Trust for Scotland. The project saw more than 680 sounds uploaded on to a crowd-sourced sound map, helping to capture a sonic journey around the 10,800 miles of UK coastline. All of these sounds have now been added to the British Library Sound Archive.

 The EP will be available for digital download from the Tru Thoughts website and to stream on Spotify. The RRP for the EP is £2.50, with individual tracks priced at 79p.

Clandon Park’s State Bed rises from the ashes a year after the fire

Clandon - The State Bed's elaborate headboard, National Trust-James Dobson

The State Bed’s elaborate headboard. Credit National Trust, James Dobson

One of Clandon Park’s most iconic objects, its 18th century State Bed, has been rescued from the rubble a year after the fire which devastated the Surrey mansion last April.

Ever since the fire on 29 April last year, National Trust staff had been anxious to reach the State Bed but had to wait for the house to be made safe to enter. Archaeologists then had to work their way through timber and rubble eight feet deep.

As the rooms were gradually cleared, conservators were able to get closer and closer, allowing them to work out the best way to dismantle the bed and carefully move it to safety. Continue reading

Rare chance to see Grayson Perry tapestry at Castle Drogo in Devon

A rare chance to see a vibrant tapestry by artist Grayson Perry, created for his popular Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman exhibition at The British Museum, will be on display at the National Trust’s Castle Drogo in Devon from Monday 7th March.

The 15ft wide Map of Truths and Beliefs, created by Perry in 2011, will be part of the new Truth and Triomphe exhibition at the castle. Perry’s tapestry will be hung alongside a French masterpiece, the 300 year old Char de Triomphe, made for King Louis XIV and believed to have hung in the Palace of Versailles during his reign.

Conservationists at The National Trust's Castle Drogo, Devon hanging a vibrant tapestry by artist Grayson Perry, created for his popular Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman exhibition at The British Museum, is set to be displayed at Castle Drogo which is on loan from a private collector.

Conservationists at the National Trust’s Castle Drogo, Devon hanging a vibrant tapestry by artist Grayson Perry. Credit National Trust images/Steven Haywood.

The exhibition is providing a rare opportunity for members of the public to compare and contrast the historic and contemporary methods, symbolism and making of both tapestries. Continue reading

Ralph Vaughan Williams’ piano on display for the first time at his childhood home, Leith Hill Place in Surrey

His compositions included operas, chamber music and symphonies, and The Lark Ascending has been named the nation’s favourite piece of classical music.[i]

Yet the piano on which Ralph Vaughan Williams composed these masterpieces, and which has been glimpsed only in family photographs, has been unseen by the public.

Ralph Vaughan Williams by kind permission of the Ralph Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust.

Ralph Vaughan Williams. By kind permission of the Ralph Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust.

Now, thanks to a private donor, visitors can see Vaughan Williams’ piano on display at Leith Hill Place, his childhood home in Surrey, which he gave to the National Trust in 1945.

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Slowing the flow of water as it leaves the hills

Over the last few winters we’ve seen the impact of major flooding on communities and the landscapes across the UK. Nigel Hester, project manager at the National Trust, reflects on some of the lessons from a major flood demonstration project in north Somerset:

The weather this winter has been characterised by a series of storms battering the UK with gales, mountainous seas and record amounts of rainfall, causing misery, damage and disruption to homes, businesses, infrastructure and the landscape.

 

Allerford 4

Water flowing through the village of Allerford on the River Aller; one of two villages that have been at risk of flooding as the waters head down from the hills of Exmoor

In recent years, there has been a shift in focus in flood risk management recognising that, in addition to conventional flood measures, more can be achieved by allowing the land to function more naturally. This natural flood management is at the core of an exciting demonstration flood project at the National Trust’s Holnicote Estate in Exmoor.

The project, core funded by Defra, has been running for 6 years and shows how working with nature, introducing some careful natural flood management interventions, and working in partnership, can contribute to reducing local flood risk and, importantly, provide a range of other benefits for the environment and local communities.

The target area for the work is based on the whole catchment approach, working from source of the rivers Horner and Aller high on Exmoor down to the Bristol Channel, using natural features to slow down or store flood water before it reaches the downstream villages of Allerford and Bossington.

East from bund top

One of the bunds, helping to store the water when the river levels rise, helping to reduce the risk of flooding in the villages of Allerford and Bossington

Since 2011 a range of natural flood management measures have been undertaken including moorland drainage interventions, woody debris dams, woodland creation, leaky weirs and flood storage areas on the floodplain.

Partnership work with farmers has also focused on improved soil management to reduce run-off and soil loss during rainfall events. In addition, it has been critical to have an extensive hydrological monitoring network in place to provide high quality rainfall and flow data to capture the effects on any land management changes made.

The extreme weather events in recent years have been a good test of the natural flood management measures implemented and the key outcomes are very positive. During a severe storm in late December 2013, when the ground was already waterlogged, there was a 10% reduction in the flood peak reaching the downstream villages.

In the extremely wet winter of 2013/14, there was no flooding in the vulnerable catchment villages that have experienced regular flooding in the past. The insurance value of the properties at risk is estimated at £30 million yet the capital costs of constructing the flood storage area were £163,000, a small cost in comparison.

Despite the high rainfall experienced so far in 2016, people’s homes have remained dry and the river has remained in its channel. The work has not finished at Holnicote; there are still lots of opportunities to slow the flow even further by encouraging the land to act as a natural sponge and the National Trust is committed to finding ways to continue this work into the future.