Hay, hoe, let’s go! Countryfile presenters launch first ever BBC Countryfile Live at Blenheim Palace

Presenters from the BBC’s Countryfile climbed into a sixteen foot “haystack” at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, to launch the first ever Countryfile Live, which is set to bring the best of the Great British countryside to the stunning stately home and grounds from 4th-7th August 2016.

BBC Countryfile presenters pose next to a sixteen foot GÇ£haystackGÇ¥ at Blenheim Palace to promote BBC Countryfile Live

BBC Countryfile presenters pose next to a sixteen foot haystack at Blenheim Palace to promote BBC Countryfile Live. Credit Tom Dulat

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National Trust welcomes CLG committee report into government’s planning reforms

 

Commenting on the publication of the CLG committee’s report today (Friday, April 1) on changes to the government’s controversial National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), Ingrid Samuel, Historic Environment Director at the Trust, said:

“The changes to the NPPF are just one part of the biggest shake-up of planning since the NPPF itself was controversially introduced in 2012. We share the committee’s concerns about these further reforms. They’re too piecemeal, rushed and confusing so we welcome the call for a thorough, evidence-based review of the effectiveness of planning policy.

“We know from the big campaign over the NPPF that the public want a planning system that is able to deliver the homes we need but not by carelessly allowing our countryside to be sacrificed. So we’re particularly pleased that the committee is calling for a different approach on the small sites proposal and the housing delivery test which are particularly worrying.

“These two measures from DCLG could see the constant expansion of rural towns and villages into the countryside and developers being able to pick and choose more greenfield sites over brownfield. Some greenfield sites may be needed for housing but this has to be done through the Local Plan to protect the natural environment and avoid developers being able to bypass the local community.

“It’s important that the government gets any reform right rather than rushing into changes. The wording in the consultation was often high level and lacking in detail so ministers should listen to MPs and agree to consult again on the precise wording of changes to the NPPF. We look forward to working with DCLG to get the final wording right.”

Celebrating 300 years of Capability Brown with the National Trust

2016 marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of one of the UK’s most celebrated landscape gardeners, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.

A revered designer, entrepreneur and salesman, his nickname came from his fondness for describing country estates as having great ‘capabilities’ for improvement.

He designed landscapes on an immense scale which provided the must-have setting for country houses, surrounded by wooded belts, parkland dotted with trees, carefully contoured ground, and serpentine lakes that resembled artificial rivers.

Many of Brown’s designs can still be seen at National Trust places across England and Wales today, cared for by the conservation charity’s teams of gardeners and volunteers.

We’ve got plenty of activities taking place throughout the year to mark the anniversary and help you explore the landscapes of ‘Capability’ Brown.

Here’s just a small selection to show you what’s on offer.

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Soundscape transports you to the coast

Musician and producer Martyn Ware is today releasing an 82-minute coastal soundscape inspired by the hundreds of sounds submitted as part of the ‘Sounds of our Shores’ project, which ran throughout the summer of 2015.

Martyn Ware on Brighton beach

Martyn Ware on Brighton beach recording sounds for the sounds of our shores project. Credit: Tim Stubbings

Called “Sea Inside Us All” this ‘cinema for the mind’ takes listeners on a sonic journey into a world of rich, diverse and beautiful sounds from the stunning UK coastline.

The “Sounds of our Shores” crowd-sourced project was a collaboration between the National Trust, British Library and National Trust for Scotland that ran between June and September 2015 – part of a celebration of the National Trust’s 50th anniversary of the Neptune Coastline Campaign.

Martyn Ware, a founding member of The Human League and Heaven 17, said: “This project has been a delight to work on – it has been a genuine pleasure to create this unique composition featuring the amazing sounds that people have recorded around our magnificent and characterful coastline.

“I’ve tried to create an emotional journey around all the elements that connect us all to the coast and the seaside, and this has been beautifully enhanced by my son Gabriel Ware’s orchestral compositions.

“You will be transported to places of fond reminiscence and imagination with the help of this cinema for the mind.”

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Some of the sounds that made it on to the soundscape include the classic ghost train ride in an amusement arcade, the singing of a Cornish folk song and people walking along a shingle beach.

Cheryl Tipp, Curator of Wildlife and Environment Sounds at the British Library, said: “Martyn Ware’s ‘Sea Inside Us All’ beautifully encapsulates the importance of sound in our nation’s relationship with the British coastline. From waves and wildlife to amusements and industry, these sounds represent the many aspects of the coast that we hold dear.

“I cannot think of a better way to sum up the project than with this cinematic soundscape that celebrates the sounds of our shores so perfectly.”

All of the sounds submitted as part of the ‘Sounds of our Shores’ project, via audioBoom, appear on a unique sound map and will be added to the British Library Sound Archive.

More than 680 sounds were uploaded by hundreds of people from across the UK on to the sound map from around the 10,800 miles of coastline including the intensity of the Fog Horn on the Lizard in Cornwall to the drama of heavy waves on Orkney. These sounds captured people’s special connections with the coast, whether a place that they go on holiday with the family or a sound linked to a particular memory.

Kate Martin, National Trust Area Ranger at Formby, said: “This soundscape provides an instant feeling of calm in a manic world. It stirs so many pleasant memories and feelings from throughout my life and genuinely slowed my pulse and put a smile on my face.

“As the soundscape plays out I was transported to many different times of my life, from happy childhood seaside holidays, to foggy days working on the beach at Formby and many more besides. You really cannot overstate how evocative sounds are.”

 

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.

 

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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.

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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.

63% more plants blooming in this year’s annual Valentine’s flower count

National Trust Garden teams in South West England have been busy recording flowers in bloom in this year’s annual Valentine’s Flower Count, with nearly all gardens showing an increase on last year.

The Annual National Trust Valentine's Flower Count - Fiona Hailstone counting Snowdrops

The Annual National Trust Valentine’s Flower Count – Fiona Hailstone counting Snowdrops

In 2008, 3,335 plants in bloom were recorded in Devon and Cornwall (where the flower count first started), marking the earliest spring so far recorded during the count. This year, 2,644 plants were recorded in gardens across the whole of the South West compared to 1,622 in 2015. Continue reading

Capability Brown tercentenary gets underway with planting of his favoured tree

To launch a year of celebrations to mark the tercentenary of Lancelot (Capability) Brown’s birth, the National Trust is planting hundreds of trees back into several of his designed landscapes in its care.

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Dame Helen Ghosh, Director General of the National Trust plants a Cedar of Lebanon at Croome in Worcestershire to mark the tercentary of one of the landscape gardening greats – Capability Brown. Credit James Dobson & NT Images

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