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.


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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National Trust puts cider apples at its core

An internationally important collection of cider apples, with almost 300 different varieties, has been given to the National Trust to help secure its future and stop many of the rarer varieties becoming lost forever.

Apples growing in the orchards at Killerton, Devon. The apples are collected and made into cider, using a traditional cider press, by volunteers.

Apples growing in the orchards at Killerton, Devon. Credit National Trust Images/Ross Hoddinott

Slack-ma-Girdle, Netherton Late Blower and Billy Down Pippin are just three of the apple varieties in the ‘National cider apple’ collection established over the course of more than 25 years by collector and donor Henry May.

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Telling tree stories

A new campaign launched today is calling on people to share their stories of why trees and woods matter to them.

Coppice and thicket scrub in the north east section of Hatfield Forest, Essex.

The history of Hatfield Forest in Essex dates back over a thousand years

The stories will be collected together in a Charter for Trees, Woods and People and published in November 2017, 800 years after the original Charter of the Forests was signed by Henry III, restoring people’s rights of access to the Royal Forests.

The National Trust is one of 43 organisations involved in the campaign, led by the Woodland Trust.

At a time of unprecedented pressures on trees and woods, the charter will record the relationships between people and trees, setting out the enormous benefits woods provide the UK economy and society.

As a national charity caring for 25,000 hectares of woodland and thousands of ancient and veteran trees in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, The National Trust has  seen first-hand the impact of climate change and diseases like Ash Dieback.

But we also know from the millions of visitors to our woods, parks and gardens every year that people feel a real love for trees – and are fascinated by the stories of trees like the Dorset sycamore under whose branches the Tolpuddle Martyrs reputedly met or the majestic 1,000 year old Quarry Oak at Croft Castle in Herefordshire.

Ashridge Estate, credit National Trust Images, Michael Caldwell

Ashridge is the Chilterns comes live with the autumn colour every year and its one of the best National Trust places for ancient trees

Ray Hawes, Head of Forestry at the National Trust, says: “How people value trees and woods is changing”, he says. “In the past they were valued mainly for the tangible products they provided, like timber and fuel.

“Today, many people say they love trees. Millions of people enjoy visiting woods in the UK without always realising the wider contributions that these places make to society as a whole and what needs to be done to maintain woods for future generations.

“Healthy woods have many uses and can be adapted to changing needs, but there are increasing challenges to maintain them in a condition which will enable this.”

By encouraging people to share why trees matter to them, the campaign launched today aims to capture the value of trees to people’s lives – as well as connecting people to the work that goes in to keeping our trees and woods healthy.

The campaign will recruit a network of local ‘Charter Champions’ from across the UK to represent their communities in the development of the charter. Funding will be available to help local groups in events and projects aimed at reconnecting people and trees.


Response to MP’s vote on fracking

Yesterday MPs voted in Parliament to allow fracking in National Parks.

Here is the response of the National Trust to this vote:

“The decision by MP’s to allow fracking to happen under National Parks does nothing to allay our real concerns about the impact of fracking on some of the most precious landscapes in the UK. The Trust stands by its call for the Government to rule out fracking in the most sensitive areas – protected wildlife areas, nature reserves and national parks – and make them frack-free zones. There is a need to ensure that regulations offer sufficient protection to our treasured natural and historic environment.”

“There is an urgent need for more evidence about the impact of fracking on the hydrology, ecology and geology of landscapes. This is needed for informed decision-making about any future for fracking in the UK.”

The National Trust is a member of a wider coalition of ten organisations that published a report called ‘Are we fit to frack?

The NT’s Keith Jones in Paris

My first day at the climate change Conference of the Parties (COP) in Paris was one of acclimatisation and finding out where things where. Coffee sellers – check, travel pass – check. Press rooms where groups of nations would be committing to stuff – check.


Keith Jones at the COP in Paris


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Coastal entente cordiale

50 years ago the National Trust set up the Neptune Coastline Campaign. It was a key moment in the story of the conservation charity as it identified the need to have a clear strategic plan for protecting the coast of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

White Cliffs birds eye view for blog post - credit National Trust John Miller-1

This stretch of the White Cliffs of Dover was acquired by the National Trust in 2012

The pressures on the coast were huge from development and industrialisation. Our relationship with the coast had been slowly changing from a working relationship and one of the fear of invasion to the coast being seen as a place to visit for leisure (linked to the spread of the rail network and the arrival of paid annual leave). More of us wanted to go and take the sea air and there was a need to protect the natural beauty of our diverse and varied coastline.

In essence this meant buying vast tracts of coastline including the White Cliffs of Dover, Studland in Dorset, the Black beaches in Durham and much of the Gower in South Wales.

Ten years later in 1975 this pioneering model based around acquiring coast made it across the English Channel with the setting up of the Conservatoire du Littoral. Whereas the National Trust is a charity the Conservatoire is a Government body funded by licenses from boats moored around the French coast. But both have a shared common purpose; tapping into the respective national love of the coastline.

It’s intriguing to think that the Trust model of working on the coast inspired the French to take a hard long look at how they protect their own coast. You can see many of the pressures on the French coastline, especially on the Cote D’Azur, in terms of development.

Ideas have a habit of flowing between nations and the double anniversary in 2015 provides a chance to reflect on the goals of the two organisations.

In the last fifty years the Trust has acquired 550 miles of coastline; taking its total ownership to more than 10 per cent of the English, Welsh and Northern Irish coastline. The Conservatoire now manages 13 per cent of the French coastline (its remit also includes French overseas territories).

Acquisition remains at the heart of the Conservatoire strategy: with a target to double its ownership by 2050. For the National Trust new models are being tested, such as managing rather than owning coast, and there is a focus on consolidation and adding pieces to the missing coastal jigsaw.

However – both organisations are focusing firmly on the realities of a changing climate. The coast is often at the forefront of massive and rapid change. This has been shown by the huge impact of winter storms in the last decade; with cliff collapse, dunes becoming even more mobile and the loss of beaches.

Thinking long term and planning is the key to dealing with the changes happening and coming our way. It’s about innovation and sharing best practice across the channel: focused on the need for adaptation.

As two nations linked by geography, culture, history and the movement of people it feels fitting that our relationship with the coast has followed similar routes in terms of protecting these special places.

Isle of Wight farm set to help birds and butterflies flourish

Farmland acquired on the south west coast of the Isle of Wight is the largest coastal acquisition by the National Trust in England since 1993.

The view from Dunsbury Farm towards the Needles

The view from Dunsbury Farm towards the Needles

The 165 hectare Dunsbury Farm is the third major coastal acquisition of the year as the Trust celebrates 50 years of its Neptune Coastline Campaign.

Neighbouring the farm is the wildlife rich chalk downland of Compton, home to 33 species of butterflies including the Adonis blue, Common blue and Chalkhill blue, and an oasis of wildflowers such as the internationally rare early gentian and at least seven species of orchid.

The 15-mile Tennyson Trail, named after Alfred Lord Tennyson, skirts the northern edge of the farm. Tennyson loved striding out over the open downland, with its dramatic sea views. Whilst living on the Isle of Wight, as Poet Laureate, he was inspired to write many of his classic poems. To the south lies the picturesque Trust-owned Brook and Compton Bays.

Plans for Dunsbury Farm will help to expand the range for the Glanville Fritillary butterfly

Plans for Dunsbury Farm will help to expand the range for the Glanville Fritillary butterfly

A key vision for the farm is to help create the right farmland habitat for wildlife to flourish. The Isle of Wight is home to the UK’s only endemic population of the rare Glanville Fritillary butterfly, and Compton Bay is the traditional stronghold of that population.

The Trust will work in partnership with Butterfly Conservation to create the right conditions to safeguard the habitat of this beautiful insect. It relies on crumbling cliffs, and the downs behind the coast provide additional breeding habitat. The acquisition of Dunsbury is crucial to the future of the Glanville fritillary as the Isle of Wight coast continues to change.

Plans will also be developed to help farmlands birds, once a common sight, return to the land. These include the linnet, Dartford warbler, stonechat, meadow pipit, skylark, gold finch, bullfinch, hedge sparrow, grey partridge and yellow hammer.

Mixed farming, with livestock such as cattle and sheep, together with growing cereals such as wheat, will be important to provide diversity for wildlife. Farming will be un-intensive, with light grazing, wide field margins and stubble fields left to provide winter food for birds. The Trust hopes to achieve this by combining it with their farm at Compton, working with the farm tenant to produce a viable unit. Walkers will then be able to experience more wildlife as they use the network of footpaths across the farm.

Funding to buy the farm has come from a mixture of legacies and from the thousands of supporters who have generously given to the Neptune Campaign.

Tony Tutton, National Trust Isle of Wight General Manager, said: “This farm is a crucial piece of the coastal jigsaw for the National Trust on the Isle of Wight. It allows us to plan for the future of a coast which is eroding at a rate of 1.5 metres per year, allowing us to maintain access to this much loved part of the island, and to re-wild this landscape, making it healthy and beautiful for the future.

“Our plan is to introduce the sort of farming that will be an exemplar, by being both productive, and good for wildlife.

“Given time and lots of hard work the farm will also become a vital place where we can combine people’s enjoyment of butterflies and farmland birds with the stunning views along the chalk cliffs towards the Needles.”

The Farm sits within the Isle of Wight’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and ensures the future protection of an unbroken stretch of coastline that is one of the most significant in the UK to combine wildlife, geology and recreation.