National Trust doubles the number of curators and seeks new Director to champion curatorial excellence

The National Trust is recruiting for a newly created executive role which will champion curatorial excellence and deliver exceptional visitor experience.

The Director of Curation and Experience will oversee the delivery of one of the charity’s key strategic aims – to provide experiences that ‘move, teach and inspire’  visitors to National Trust houses, collections and countryside.

The conservation charity has also announced that it will nearly double the number of curators it employs – from 36 to around 65 full time staff over the next two years. These changes mean that the Trust is committed to investing more in curatorial excellence than at any time in its history.

The new director will join the executive board and deliver the outcomes of the charity’s curatorial review, which has been assessing the changing needs and skills of its curators, and the resources they need to enable them to support and inspire properties to deliver outstanding interpretation.

Dame Helen Ghosh, the Trust’s Director-General, said: “We have many curators in the Trust who combine deep knowledge of places and collections with flair and imagination in how they are presented to visitors.  But we need more of them.

“The new role of Director of Curation and Experience is a critical one for the Trust; it will help to marry high standards of scholarship and research with a compelling, inspiring and enjoyable experience for all our visitors.

“We will be looking for someone with world class expertise and an outstanding track record for delivering programmes, experiences and exhibitions which bring our houses and landscapes to life.”

Sandy Nairne CBE, former Director of the National Portrait Gallery and one of the Trust’s Board of Trustees said: “There are now many examples across the heritage and museum sector of innovative projects which attract new and existing audiences while promoting high standards of academic research and curatorial excellence.

“The Trust has been recognised recently for some outstanding projects, including the recreation of a First World War hospital at Dunham Massey and the Turner and Constable exhibitions at Petworth. It will now be investing in more curatorial posts and expertise at all levels of the organisation to ensure that these levels of excellence are achieved across all its properties.

“This new senior role is a clear sign of the National Trust’s commitment to put inspirational curatorship at the heart of how it cares for and interprets its places.”

Applications for the role of Director of Curation and Experience open on November 7th 2016.

The job will be advertised on the National Trust Jobs website

First seal pups spotted on the Farne Islands

The first seal pups of the year have been spotted by National Trust rangers on the Farne Islands off the Northumberland Coast.  Continue reading

Cider insider welcomes a bumper British apple harvest

NATIONAL TRUST cider expert Rachel Brewer has predicted a strong year for cider and apple juice, with late summer rains producing a sweet and juicy apple crop.

The pommelier and gardener manages ten acres of orchards at Barrington Court, Somerset, where over 90 varieties of apple trees grow.

Ms Brewer said: “The apple juice this year is some of the best we’ve ever made. I was worried that too much summer sun would stunt our crop but the rain came at a crucial moment late in the season, leaving us with lovely sweet and juicy apples.

“There may be some sore heads in Somerset this winter; sweet apples means that our cider will be strong,” she added.
Continue reading

Where have all the butterflies gone?

Today the results from Butterfly Conservation’s annual Big Butterfly Count reveals that this was the poorest summer for common garden butterflies since the Count began in 2010.

The National Trust’s butterfly expert, Matthew Oates comments on the report findings. Continue reading

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.