Trust digs deep to stem sector’s skills shortage in heritage horticulture

Gardener on a cherry-picker clipping the hedging at Powis Castle and Garden, Powys, in August.

Gardener on a cherry-picker clipping the hedging at Powis Castle and Garden, Powys, in August. Credit National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra.

The National Trust has announced plans to step-up its commitment to heritage horticulture with the launch of its new Heritage Gardening Programme.

The programme will for the first time offer comprehensive training for all of the conservation charity’s gardening roles. Continue reading

Thorneythwaite Farm

The National Trust has acquired approximately 303 acres of land at Thorneythwaite Farm in Borrowdale, in the Lake District, following a successful bid at auction. This beautiful landscape will now be looked after for ever, for everyone.

We are passionate about conserving the beauty and uniqueness of the Lake District. We bid for this land because it offers such amazing places for wildlife including woodland featuring veteran trees, riverside fields, open craggy fell and wood pasture. It’s home to a wealth of important wildlife including redstarts and pied flycatchers.

The land was split into two plots by the auctioneers: the farm land and a farm house. The Trust used its charitable funds to bid for the land rather than the building.

We were aware that there was international interest in the lots, and that it had been marketed widely, so there was risk it could be bought up by a private owner from anywhere in the world, or a property investor. There were certainly no guarantees that a local farmer would have secured it. We simply don’t know who else was in the market for it and what their intentions would have been.

We bid above the guide price but we had an independent valuation which was significantly higher than that. We are confident that we paid the right price to secure this very important stretch of Lakeland landscape. We did not have the funds to buy both lots, the farm house and the land, and for us the land was more of a priority than the farmhouse.

We will continue to farm this land and we believe we can look after it in way which benefits nature, our visitors and the local community. We already manage much of the surrounding land in Borrowdale, which means we can take a ‘big picture’ view of how we look after the wider landscape. That allows us to continue farming and at the same time deliver healthy soil, natural water management, thriving natural habitats and continued public access.

We will also explore how we may be able to use the farm to slow the flow of the Upper River Derwent, thereby contributing to the prevention of flooding downstream in communities such as Keswick and Cockermouth.

The Trust has a long history of and is committed to the tradition of Herdwick farming. We have an existing stock of 21,000 Herdwick sheep and we own 54 farms in the Fells.

The land will be managed by a tenant, and we have already had several expressions of interest. It will be farmed with nature in mind but it will continue to support a flock of Herdwick sheep.

National Trust calls for major reforms of farming subsides post-Brexit to reverse the damage to the natural environment

  • Brexit provides opportunity to reset entire system for subsidising farming industry
  • Farmers should only be rewarded for managing land in nature-friendly way
  • Current £3bn a year payments must deliver public benefit beyond food production
  • 60% of species in decline partly due to intensive farming methods
Pentire Farm at Trevose Head, Cornwall.

Pentire Farm at Trevose Head, Cornwall. Credit National Trust/John Miller.

The National Trust today (Thursday, August 4) called on government to put the recovery and future resilience of the natural environment at the heart of the funding system that will replace the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

The conservation charity said reform was essential to reverse decades of damage to the countryside and the headlong decline of species.

Dame Helen Ghosh, Director General of the Trust, will tell an audience at the National Trust Theatre at BBC Countryfile Live that the vote to leave the European Union presents an urgent opportunity to shape a new and better system for stewardship of the countryside.

She will call for a system that increases the benefit to the public of a beautiful, natural environment rich in nature and wildlife and that secures the long term health and productivity of the land on which our farming depends.

It is essential to act now as 60% of species have declined in the UK over the last 50 years. Habitats, breeding grounds and food sources have been lost, soils have become depleted and natural fertility impoverished.

This has happened in large part due to the industrialised farming methods incentivised by successive funding regimes since the Second World War. So it is not the fault of farmers but the fault of the system which is flawed and expensive.

Farmers currently receive £3.1 billion a year through the EU’s CAP.

Helen Ghosh said: “Whatever your view of Brexit, it gives us an opportunity to think again about how and why we use public money to create the countryside we want to hand on to future generations. Unless we make different choices, we will leave an environment that is less productive, less rich and less beautiful than that which we inherited.

“Taxpayers should only pay public subsidy to farmers in return for things that the market won’t pay for but are valued and needed by the public.

“We may need some kind of transition period to get there but that means payments for goods that go beyond food production – for the wildflowers, bees and butterflies that we love, for the farmland birds, now threatened, for the water meadows and meandering rivers that will help prevent the flooding of our towns, and for the rebuilding of the fertility and health of the soils on which both nature and production depend.

“In the long run there’s no conflict between maintaining our ability to grow food and looking after the land and nature on which it depends. The first is utterly dependent on the second.

“This is not just about the subsidy system but the way the market works. Farmers should get a proper return from retailers and food manufacturers.  If they are also producing clean water, unflooded streets or great holiday experiences, they should also get a proper return from the utilities or tourism industry.

“Farmers are key partners in finding solutions but this is too important to leave to governments and farmers to sort out between themselves.

“We would encourage ministers to now consult widely on the way we fund farming in a post-Brexit world and involve the public in the debate, along with organisations who have experience and insights to share.”

Dame Helen set out six principles that any new system must deliver for the public:

  1. Public money must only pay for public goods. Currently, most of a £600m pot from the EU (out of the £3.1bn CAP funding) benefits wildlife and the environment. The majority of the remainder is allocated based on the size of farm. There will need to be a transition to the new world but this basic income support payment should be removed.
  1. It should be unacceptable to harm nature but easy to help it. Currently, only 1/3 of the basic payment is conditional on meeting ‘green’ farming standards. In the future, 100% of any public payment should be conditional on meeting higher standards of wildlife, soil and water stewardship.
  1. Nature should be abundant everywhere.  The system needs to support nature in the lowlands as well as the uplands – people in towns and cities also need access to wildlife, recreation and the services the environment provides.
  1. We need to drive better outcomes for nature, thinking long-term and on a large scale. Nature doesn’t respect farm boundaries and needs joined up habitats on a landscape scale with subsidies implemented on a farm-by-farm basis. In the future, we should start at the landscape level, with farmers and landowners working collaboratively to set plans based on clear outcomes.
  1. Farmers that deliver the most public benefit, should get the most. Currently, the more land you own, the more money you get. In the future, those farmers and land managers who get the most public money should be those who deliver the best outcomes. 
  1. We must invest in science, new technology and new markets that help nature. Currently, some science and technology harms nature – it increases crop yields with big machines and harmful fertilizers. In the future, public money should help create ways of farming that benefit nature and help develop new markets to reward farmer for storing carbon, preventing floods and promoting biodiversity.

 

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.

Continue reading

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