Extreme weeding – fighting an aquatic invader at Claremont

In an extreme case of weeding, amphibious tractors are this week tackling almost 16 tonnes of invasive weed in the lake at the National Trust’s Claremont Landscape Garden.

The vehicles, an amphibious cross between a tractor and a tank, are armed with giant rakes to remove the carpet of Crassula helmsii – also known as New Zealand Pigmyweed – that is covering the man-made serpentine lake at the Surrey garden.

Extreme weeding at Claremont, photo Dee Durham/National Trust

The non-native weed reproduces rapidly and, without natural competition in the UK, can quickly spread out of control, overtaking a waterbody and blocking out light for other flora and fauna.

The harvesters have been busy collecting the weed and depositing it in a huge pile on the island in the centre of the lake. Here it will rot down quickly, creating compost, while allowing any fish and invertebrates scooped up to make their way back into the lake.

The lake is 27,000 m2 and it could take almost two weeks for the surface to be completely clear of the aquatic invader. There is currently no known way to entirely eradicate the weed, so gardeners at Claremont will manually remove the weed throughout the year using nets and waders. 

Claremont Landscape Garden, photo Hannah Elliott/National Trust

Tim Rayfield, Senior Gardener at Claremont, said: “By using the large harvesters, we’re able to control the Crassula with minimum impact on the lake and its eco system.

“It’s one of the more unusual ways that we conserve this amazing landscape garden, and it’s great to be able to see the trees reflected in the water once again.”

 

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Green light for Sutton Hoo transformation as National Trust is awarded £1.8 million National Lottery grant

Bold plans to take one of the UK’s most significant historical sites into the future are set to go ahead after the National Trust learnt it has been awarded a £1.8million National Lottery grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to help transform the way it tells the story of one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time.

Home to the burial ground of the Anglo-Saxon King Raedwald, Sutton Hoo near Woodbridge in Suffolk has been fascinating visitors from around the world ever since its hoard of treasure and royal secrets were discovered by a local archaeologist in 1939.

Now, thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the National Trust can move ahead with plans to transform the experience of visitors and help them discover more about the people who settled here and those who went on to lead the archaeological digs that uncovered the world famous finds, including the Sutton Hoo helmet.

Sunset over the famous burial mounds at Sutton Hoo. ©National Trust Images_Justin Minns

The news of the successful grant bid follows two years of planning and the funds will go towards the total project cost of £4million.

Plans include building a 17 metre observation tower to give views over the entire burial ground and to the River Deben beyond, revealing the fascinating story of this evocative landscape. It was from the River Deben that an Anglo-Saxon ship was hauled up the valley before it formed the burial chamber found in Mound One, where the famous treasure was discovered by Suffolk archaeologist Basil Brown.

A new route around the site will allow visitors to walk in the steps of the Anglo-Saxons.  Tranmer House, the former home of Edith Pretty who instigated the dig that would lead to the discoveries, will be transformed with a new exhibition exploring a timeline of multiple discoveries and the ongoing research at this and other archaeological sites.

Enhanced guided tours, thought-provoking activities and installations, innovative interpretation and creative programming will all sit alongside a schools education programme.

In addition, partnership working with archaeological bodies, the British Museum and the local community will all help to bring both the landscape and Exhibition Hall to life.

The project, called ‘Releasing the Story of Sutton Hoo’, will enable the National Trust to create an experience that helps visitors discover more about this internationally significant site and how its stories have captured the imaginations of people the world over.

The dig at Sutton Hoo in 1939. ©British Museum

Allison Girling, Property Operations Manager at Sutton Hoo said: “We welcome visitors with a wide range of interests and knowledge to Sutton Hoo and these plans are all about sharing more about the history of this special place, helping visitors delve deeper into the lives of the Anglo-Saxons who settled here, the people who discovered them and to learn more about what it is that makes Sutton Hoo so fascinating.

“From why the Anglo-Saxons chose to bury their king here and how their lives and traditions have influenced English culture for generations, to how the determination of one remarkable woman led to the discoveries in the first place, there are so many stories to tell at Sutton Hoo and thanks to National Lottery players who make these grants possible, we’ll be able to move forward with our plans.”

Allison added: “We’ve been working with Sutton Hoo’s teams of staff and volunteers, regular visitors and supporters, the local community and the National Lottery to shape the future for Sutton Hoo and together we want to create an experience that really brings history to life whether you’re visiting for a family day out, to discover what’s on your doorstep or to support academic research.”

Replica of the richly decorated Anglo-Saxon helmet found at Sutton Hoo. ©National Trust Images_Andreas von Einsiedel

Robyn Llewellyn, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund in the East of England said: “Sutton Hoo is an incredibly significant treasure trove of Anglo-Saxon heritage and it’s exciting that thanks to National Lottery players, this fascinating site will be transformed for visitors from near and far. This is a great opportunity to share this amazing place and put people of all ages at the heart of a story which spans 6,000 years.”

The Trust has also been given permission for plans to transform the welcome centre and car park.

The £4million project is being made possible thanks in part to support provided by members and visitors and the National Trust is aiming to raise a further £560,000 in order to complete the project.

The project is scheduled for completion in 2021.

Kingston Lacy explores the life and exile of William John Bankes as part of National Trust’s ‘Prejudice & Pride’ programme

EXILE – 18 September – 12 November, Kingston Lacy, Dorset

A bold new installation at the National Trust’s Kingston Lacy in Dorset marks fifty years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality.

It examines the exile of former owner William John Bankes and reveals both its significance for understanding the house that is seen today and its relationship to the ongoing challenges faced by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LBGTQ) community.

William John Bankes, explorer, scholar and art collector, inherited Kingston Lacy in 1834 and set about transforming the house into a Venetian Renaissance palazzo.

William John Bankes, credit NT Images 

In 1841 he was caught with a soldier in ‘an indecent act’ at a time when intimate relationships between men could be punishable by death.

Bankes had narrowly escaped prosecution for a similar incident a few years earlier, so on this second occasion he felt he had no choice but to leave the home he loved for exile in France and later Italy.

From abroad, however, he continued to commission and collect art and other treasures to send back to Kingston Lacy with instructions on how they were to be displayed and with designs for decorative schemes.

EXILE will enable visitors to learn more about Bankes’ exile and his contribution to the house and its decoration from afar, and also consider his extraordinary story within a broader context of intolerance and persecution of LGBTQ lives from Henry VIII to modern times.

EXILE features three distinct installations, linked by a series of new interpretive panels. As visitors enter the house, they will encounter ‘In Memoriam’, a tribute to the 51 men who were hanged under laws that criminalised same-sex acts during Bankes’ lifetime. It is a reminder of the brutality of the times and the context of his actions.

In Memoriam, installation in the entrance hall, credit National Trust/Steve Haywood

Further into the house, the second installation – ‘Displaced’ – uses projection and sound to make connections between Bankes’ story and the ongoing persecution of LGBTQ people, drawing on contemporary experiences of those forced to leave their homes in the UK and abroad.

The final installation – ‘Prejudice, Persecution, Pride’ – sets Bankes’ story within a global history that examines how the law has shaped – and continues to shape – LGBTQ lives. Facsimile copies of legal documents from the Parliamentary Archives will be exhibited alongside a timeline that reveals familiar and surprising stories of persecution and intolerance, liberation and equality.

The installation at Kingston Lacy is part of the National Trust’s ‘Prejudice & Pride’ programme which is celebrating the stories of LGBTQ people at a number of its places and acknowledging the contributions they have made to history and society.

The Spanish Room at Kingston Lacy, credit NT Images/John Hammond

The programme has been researched and developed by the University of Leicester’s Research Centre for Museums and Galleries (RCMG) in collaboration with the National Trust and with support from Stonewall.

John Orna-Ornstein, National Trust Director of Curation & Experience says: “Kingston Lacy holds a story that deserves to be known more widely – as with all those we have researched and shared through our ‘Prejudice & Pride’ programme. These stories show how deeply and widely LGBTQ heritage goes back into our shared history and how this resonates with our lives today.”

Professor Richard Sandell of the University of Leicester’s Research Centre for Museums and Galleries says: “Historic sites hold enormous potential to tell stories that not only illuminate our understanding of the past but which also offer us opportunities to look differently at the world today. Our collective aim in researching and developing EXILE has been to offer visitors an enhanced appreciation of the house and its beautiful collections but also the chance to reflect on how that history is entwined with a bigger, ongoing story about the law and LGBTQ equality.”

The rainbow flag will be flown at Kingston Lacy from 18 September, the day that William John Bankes went into exile, until 12 November.

Visitors can see EXILE at Kingston Lacy from 18 September to 12 November. Entry is by timed entry tickets. For opening times, booking information and further details www.nationaltrust.org.uk/kingston-lacy or phone on 0344 249 1895.

 

TOP PRIZES FOR NATIONAL TRUST GARDENS

Horticulturalists from two National Trust gardens have been awarded top prizes in the Horticulture Week Custodian Awards 2017.

Croome, Worcestershire, was a double-award winner, taking home the ‘Best Parks Restoration/Development Project’ for the restoration of the 18th-century parkland, as well as the ‘Best Visitor-Engagement Event’ award for ‘Brown at Work’.  Bodnant Garden, Conwy, scooped the ‘Best Gardens Restoration/Development’ for the restoration of The Bath area of the Victorian garden.

The conservation charity looks after 173 registered parks and gardens across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, including 38 listed as Grade I.

Work to restore the parkland at Croome, ‘Capability’ Brown’s first large-scale commission, started when the National Trust acquired the park in 1996, following years of neglect and intensive arable farming.

Thanks to external funding of over £8 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Natural England, English Heritage and others, and nearly 20 years of hard work by a team of gardeners, rangers and volunteers, the parkland has been returned to its 18th-century heyday.

National Trust Croome team with Lord Heseltine (C) Horticulture Week

The team from Croome accepting their award from Lord Heseltine (C) Horticulture Week

 

A £230,000 donation from Monument 85 and Croome Court Appeal Committee enabled the reinstatement of the lost Chinese Bridge over the river. Thousands of trees have been returned to their original positions, follies and temples have been repaired and the river and lake have been dredged.

‘Brown at Work’, an Arts Council England funded project supported by the Landscape Institute and CB300 celebrations, was a miniature landscape created at Croome in summer 2016. Tonnes of sand and simple tools enabled visitors to form their own landscape masterpieces that could be sculpted and re-sculpted by visitors to help them understand the ‘created’ landscape in which they walked.

Michael Forster-Smith, Croome’s General Manager, said: “It is fantastic that the hard work of our gardens team has been recognised by this prestigious national award. With the support of a number of generous donations and grants, one of Brown’s finest works has been returned to its former glory.

“Last year’s ‘Brown at Work’ installation was a captivating way to bring Brown’s creation to life for our visitors. While there is still work to do to at Croome, this is a great moment to reflect on how much has been achieved in a relatively short period of time. Our restored parkland is, once again, a meaningful and special place for all those who love spending time at Croome.”

The National Trust’s third award of the night came courtesy of Bodnant Garden, Conwy. Winning the ‘Best Gardens Restoration/Development Project’ award for the two year restoration of The Bath, a Victorian ornamental pool below the front lawn of the mansion, Bodnant’s garden team was rewarded for returning The Bath to a miniature exotic paradise, as it would have been in the late 19th-century.

Plans to restore The Bath were given new impetus following the winter storms of 2013/14. When an old oak tree came down, damaging walls and ripping up flower beds in the process, horticulture students working and studying at Bodnant Garden were able to develop a new planting scheme in the nearby beds.

In 2016, the walls around The Bath were repaired, plants removed and a new tropical plant scheme was introduced to take advantage of the sheltered microclimate area provides.

Bodnant Garden - The Bath in October

The stunning Bath at Bodnant Garden (C) Joe Wainwright

 

Bill Warrell, Bodnant garden supervisor, said: “To go from the devastation of the 2013 storms to this award is fantastic. It’s a credit and a real boost to the gardeners, students and volunteers who put in a huge amount of work, both repairing and renovating this lovely old part of the formal garden.

“We took the opportunity to do something ambitious and to create something fun and colourful that was a little different to the rest of the garden, while reflecting the Bath’s history. The Bath’s sheltered microclimate offered us the ideal opportunity for a little experimentation. Visitors have loved the results too and we’ve had many wonderful comments.”

Four other National Trust gardens and parks were nominated for awards, including Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire; Quarry Bank, Cheshire; Emmetts Garden, Kent and Chartwell, Kent.

Mike Calnan, Head of Gardens for the National Trust, said “I’m delighted that the hard work of our horticulturalists and gardens and parks teams has been recognised with such prestigious awards and nominations. The teams that manage National Trust gardens and parks pride themselves on maintaining the highest standards of attention to historic detail, horticultural expertise and innovation while allowing our visitors to experience these incredible places for themselves.”

The winners were announced at a prestigious ceremony at Woburn Abbey House and Gardens Sculpture Gallery. Now in its second year, the Custodian Awards nominees were this year drawn from a list almost twice as long as the inaugural list in 2016.

The awards were judged by an independent panel including Professional Gardeners’ Guild (PGG) chair Tony Arnold, Horticulture Week technical editor Sally Drury, former City of London Corporation director of open spaces Sue Ireland, London Tree Officers Association executive member Dave Lofthouse and master gardener Alan Sargent.

National Trust scoops Special Recognition Award at the Museums + Heritage Awards for Excellence

Last night (17 May) the National Trust was awarded a one-off Special Recognition Award at the prestigious Museums + Heritage Awards for Excellence.

Nominated by a panel of expert judges made up of some of the heritage sector’s most senior leaders, the National Trust was rewarded for its creativity in visitor engagement, remarkable growth in visitor numbers and its fostering of creative partnerships.

Helen Ghosh accepting the award (C) M+H Awards

Dame Helen Ghosh accepting the Special Recognition Award on behalf of the National Trust (C) Simon Callaghan

Dame Helen Ghosh, Director-General of the National Trust, accepted the award on behalf of the Trust and thanked the assembled guests and wider heritage sector for their support: “The fact that we are able to reach out and touch so many people is because of all of you and what you do on a day to day basis.

“We are enormously lucky for that support and to be able to spend more than we have ever been able to on conservation and experiences that move, teach and inspire.”

 

The conservation charity also won the Best Educational Initiative for Potter and Ponder: Sensory Experiences at Croome Court, Worcestershire. The project was described as a “remarkable, creative and innovative story of engaging children with severe learning difficulties” by the judging panel.

The Trust’s Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire, was shortlisted in the Project on a Limited Budget category for its Lost Treasures, The Imagined Mansion installation, but was beaten to the award by the Hallaton in the Great War Research Group.

The glittering awards ceremony was attended by hundreds of sector professionals. Now in its fifteenth year, the awards recognise the innovators and leaders in the museums, galleries and cultural heritage visitor attractions sector.

The awards were judged by a panel of sector experts including: Dr Diana Owen, Director, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust; Maggie Appleton MBE, Chief Executive Officer, Royal Air Force Museum; Stephen Duncan, Director of Commercial and Tourism, Historic Scotland; Bernard Donoghue, Director, ALVA; Diane Lees CBE, Director General, Imperial War Museums; Dr Matthew Tanner MBE, Chief Executive of the SS Great Britain Trust and Sam Mullins, Director, London Transport Museum.

To find out more about the awards, visit: http://awards.museumsandheritage.com/

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1920s Arts and Crafts garden returns to its heyday as five year restoration is completed at Standen

A five year restoration project at one of the country’s most important Arts and Crafts gardens has been completed at the National Trust’s Standen in West Sussex.

The impressive house at Standen, with its breath-taking views over the High Weald and Weir Wood Reservoir, was designed for James Beale and his family in the late 19th century by leading Arts and Crafts architect Philip Webb.

The 12 acre hillside garden, however, was designed by Beale’s wife Margaret and saw its heyday in the 1920s. An accomplished gardener and plants-woman, Margaret was inspired by a world tour in 1906-07 and created a series of outdoor rooms at Standen, including a scented rose garden – the Rosery – and a lime tree walk, along with more exotic areas with bamboo, ponds and lush foliage.

Espalier apple tree with blossum.jpg

Espaliered apple tree in the restored Kitchen Garden (C) National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

Over ten years ago, a group of volunteers discovered the Beale family swimming pond while clearing out some overgrown bamboo in part of the garden. Following extensive research, the garden revival project began in 2012 and is one of the biggest that the conservation charity has undertaken.

 

James Masters, head gardener at Standen explains: “In the latter part of the 20th century, Standen’s gardens saw alterations and replanting which covered or removed some of the original features. When I was first investigating the undergrowth in areas of the gardens I realised there was much more than met the eye.

“Over the years our discoveries have included lost walls, a rock garden and rare and unusual plants all overgrown by the vigorous modern planting that had masked the original beauty of Margaret Beale’s design. So we were lucky to have a wealth of archive material that has helped us research how it would have looked, ranging from family photographs, maps and receipts, to Margaret’s garden diaries which she kept for over 40 years. These have enabled us to piece it together and bring the garden back to its best.”

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The Courtyard (C) National Trust images/Andrew Butler

Among the garden features that have been restored are:

 

  • The original swimming pond and rose garden growing Margaret Beale’s coveted China pink roses.
  • A fine oak trellis rebuilt to the original design by Philip Webb. Trellis is a feature in one of Arts and Crafts designer William Morris’ wallpaper designs which is used in the house.
  • Lime trees reinstated along Grandfather’s walk.
  • 10,000 tulips including rare varieties
  • The kitchen garden and the original espaliered apple trees.
  • New views opened from the top terrace across to the Ashdown Forest.
  • New Arts & Crafts inspired planting in the house courtyard.
  • The medieval quarry face revealed alongside the drive, which inspired the Beales to build Standen in this location.

The £500,000 funding for the restoration project included generous legacies to the Trust for the purpose of garden projects and properties in Sussex.

James Masters adds: “I look back at photographs from before we started the restoration to remind myself of the remarkable changes the team of staff and volunteers has made since then. We have worked so hard to do justice to this lovely lost garden and make it shine again and I hope our visitors will enjoy discovering something new down every path and around each corner.”

A new exhibition about the garden and its revival will be taking place in the house from 6 May to 3 September and will include many of Margaret Beale’s original documents that were used for the restoration. A tulip festival is also taking place and a midsummer celebration will include talks, teas and tours from 1 June.

For more information and opening times visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/standen

 

Fit for a King: return of Kedleston’s state bed marks the end of 30 year restoration project at 18th century treasure house

The return of a lavishly carved and decorated 18th century state bed to the National Trust’s Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire marks the final stage of an exciting 30 year restoration journey.

Simon McCormack, conservation manager at the National Trust’s Kedleston Hall, puts the finishing touches to the state bed which has returned following restoration. Credit National Trust Images/James Dobson.

The restoration of 11 rooms on the state floor of the historic Hall, designed by Neoclassical architect Robert Adam as a spectacular show house for his client Nathaniel Curzon, has involved countless skilled carvers, gilders, painters and conservators. Continue reading