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

Statement on National Trust tenancies and holiday lets

The National Trust owns more than 5,000 houses and cottages. The overwhelming majority of these are leased as rented accommodation. We have 418 holiday cottages.

There is no policy or drive to turn rented accommodation into holiday lets. There is also no evidence to support such a claim.

The overall number of rented homes we own has remained consistent. We have increased the number of holiday cottages we own, by an average of around five a year, over the last three years. That’s a 0.3% increase in holiday lets as a proportion of the overall total.

New holiday lets come from a wide range of previous uses, including from derelict buildings, empty wings of mansions or old staff housing. In some cases, they may have previously been used as a tenanted property which have subsequently become vacant. Holiday cottages have also been converted back to rented accommodation.

We charge the market rate on our rented accommodation taking into account the size, location and condition of the property. The only exception is staff housing, which is subsidised in very specific circumstances. We have a national residential house letting policy, which the Tenants Association of the National Trust were involved in establishing.

We take our responsibilities as a landlord very seriously. We will spend a record £25m in maintaining our houses this year and will continue to invest significant resources into our rented accommodation.

The Trust is always looking at ways to improve and takes any complaints seriously. Last year we completed a major survey of our residential tenants to seek feedback and we recognise there’s always more we can do.

We rent out properties to raise money to look after the special places enjoyed by tens of millions of people every year – around £40 million each year, which is then ploughed straight back into our conservation work, including the upkeep of our rented property.



National Trust appoints specialists to protect Hardwick Hall

The National Trust has appointed landscape architecture specialists Cookson and Tickner to develop a proposal to mitigate HS2’s impact on Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire, and to integrate the high speed rail line into the historic landscape.

An aerial view of Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire. The Hardwick estate is made of of stunning houses and beautiful landscapes.

An aerial view of Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire. Credit National Trust/John Miller. 

The appointment has been made following a competitive tender process conducted on behalf of the National Trust by the Landscape Institute, the Royal Chartered body for landscape architects. Continue reading

Sports clubs get extra time at Shugborough

Local sports clubs have been given extra time after the National Trust agreed to allow them to remain on the Shugborough Estate, rather than lose their home pitches.

The changes come after Staffordshire County Council surrendered their lease of Shugborough 49 years early, in a deal to save them £35 million.

The Trust’s initial plan had been to end non-traditional uses of the parkland with immediate effect, and return the Grade I Listed parkland to its former glory. However, after meeting with Colwich Parish Council and listening to the local community’s concerns it has now been agreed that the Great Haywood Football Club, Berkswich Football Club and Milford Cricket Club can continue to use the land at Shugborough for another season.

Ben Shipston, Assistant Director Operations for the National Trust, said: “We have listened to the local community, and are pleased to have reached a compromise whereby the local football and cricket teams can continue to use Shugborough next season. The teams have reassured us that this extension gives them the extra time they need to find a new location.”

Cllr Andy Cooper, Chair of Colwich Parish Council, was very pleased with the way things have turned out: “Colwich Parish Council and our local teams heard about the changes rather late in the process, which wasn’t giving the team time to find a new home ground in time to register for the next season. This gave the prospect of them having to fold after over 40 years of existence.

“After a positive and informative discussion with the Trust’s management we have a new agreement in place that now means the team have got the opportunity to plan for the future.”

Ben Walters, from Great Haywood Football Club, added: “We’re extremely grateful to the National Trust for working with Great Haywood FC and the wider community to compromise on the use of the land; by using Shugborough as our ‘home’ for one further season it will allow us to source a long-term alternative home pitch.”

David Smith, from Milford Cricket Club, said: “We are delighted to have reached a compromise over the pitches. It’s fantastic that we can play at Shugborough next season, which gives us the time to find alternative grounds.”

Keith Halliday, from Berkswich Football Club, added: “Whilst not wanting to lose such a practical and beautiful setting for our junior teams, we thank the National Trust for working with our Club to ensure that our older team can play at Shugborough for one more season. This extension will give Berkswich time to find an alternative site in our local community.”

Appeal is launched to reinvigorate Winston Churchill’s legacy at his family home and acquire prized possessions for the nation

A £7.1 million appeal has been launched today by the National Trust to reinvigorate the legacy of one of Britain’s greatest statesmen – Sir Winston Churchill – and to acquire hundreds of historic and personal objects that belonged to him at his home, Chartwell in Kent.

0402_NT_John Hammon_wooden speech box (1)

House and collections manager, Katherine Barnett, with some of the objects, including the wooden speech box. Credit National Trust, John Hammond.

It is fifty years since Chartwell, his family home, was opened to the public. The conservation charity is using this anniversary focus to call on its members, supporters, charitable institutions and public bodies to help reach its appeal target and ensure Churchill’s story resonates with future generations.

Continue reading

Statement on the proposed hydroelectric scheme in the Conwy Valley

RWE Innogy Ltd is proposing to develop a hydroelectric scheme on the River Conwy. We have agreed to allow a part of the renewable energy project to be built on our land.

This is not a National Trust project and the scheme could continue without our involvement. We feel that being actively involved in the scheme so far has however allowed us to influence the design and impact of the construction in a way that we believe has delivered an environmentally sustainable and aesthetically beneficial proposal.

We have fed into the hydro proposal and have consistently engaged with a broad range of stakeholders both locally and more widely on the proposals, including Snowdonia Society and Save Our Conwy. Our specific involvement has been in developing the design of the weir on Trust land and influencing the design of the turbine and outfall on neighbouring land. More recently we have also been advising on the protection of specific trees.

We recognise that standing aside from or opposing the scheme would not have stopped its development.

We have always been acutely aware that there are environmental and social impacts to consider and have carried out all the necessary due diligence that we can on the project. We have been  further reassured that Natural Resources Wales, as the statutory consultee to the proposal, and as the government body responsible for protecting the environment and its natural resources, has assessed the potential impacts and made no objection so far to the scheme.

We will continue to act in good faith to all sides in this ongoing discussion and have an open mind with regards to any changes to the proposed development, or any new evidence. If we feel there is any substantive change in this matter then we will obviously reconsider our position.

Thorneythwaite Farm QAs

The National Trust has received a number of questions relating to the purchase of land at Thorneythwaite, in the Lake District.

Below, we have provided answers to the most common queries to try and help people understand our approach.

Why did the Trust want to buy the land at Thorneythwaite? 

The land at Thorneythwaite 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.

This was a once in a generation opportunity to secure this beautiful landscape for the nation.

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 is home to a wealth of important wildlife including redstarts and pied flycatchers.

We believe we can look after this land in way which benefits nature, our visitors and the local community. Managing much of the surrounding land in Borrowdale means we can take a ‘big picture’ view of how we manage the wider landscape, and it allows us to focus on delivering 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.

What does the sale mean for the future of Herdwick farming and why has a working farm been broken up?

The Trust has a long history of, and is committed to the tradition of Herdwick farming. We have an existing stock of 21,000 Herdwicks and own 90 farms in the Lake District, 54 of which are fell farms.

The Trust did not break up the farm. The private owners decided to sell the land in two separate plots – thereby splitting the land and the farm. The Trust used its charitable funds to bid for the land rather than the building. We did not have the funds to buy both lots and prioritised the 300 acres of land.

There was still an opportunity for someone to purchase both parcels together after we had bid for the land.

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.

We understand some people believe we should also have bought the farm house and continued to manage the land in the same way. However, given our limited funds, we believe that this was the right approach and we’re pleased to have secured the land for the nation.

Why put in a bid of £950,000 – when the guide price was £750,000?

The guide price was £750,000 for the land. This is where the auction process gets quite complex.

The private owner decided to spilt the land and the farm into two separate lots for sale to maximise the value. The Trust had no influence over the vendor’s decision to do this i.e (the farm was split up by the vendor not the Trust).

The guide price for both was around £1.55m, although they were marketed as two individual lots: with a guide price of £750,000 for the land and £800,000 for the farm and buildings.

Despite being sold as two separate lots, the auctioneer also reserved the right to package both together at the end of process – once all the bids were in – to ensure they achieved the highest price possible (i.e. bids were not binding until this final stage where they could all be effectively gazumped).

That meant that even if the Trust was the highest bidder for the land – it would face the risk of losing it if the auctioneer decided to package the two together for a price it could not afford.

The £950,000 bid was therefore a calculation based on how much the Trust would need to offer to secure the land and minimise the risk of losing out if the two lots were sold together.

In making our bid we were also guided by the independent valuation, which was much higher than the asking price. This took into account the internationally important conservation features of the land; it offers a rich and diverse mosaic of habitats including woodland featuring veteran trees, riverside fields, open craggy fell and wood pasture; home to a wealth of important wildlife.

The Trust did not have the funds to buy both the farm and the land.

What will happen to the flock of sheep on the land?

The land acquired does not become ours until 14 October 2016. The land purchase included a flock of sheep, and they are currently still the responsibility of the Lodore Estate and their current tenant.

After the 14 October, the sheep will be owned by the National Trust. We are currently talking to a number of National Trust agricultural tenants from the Borrowdale valley, following a number of expressions of interest to help us manage the land and the flock of sheep. It will continue to support a flock of Herdwick sheep.

Where are the tenants supposed to live?  

There is no existing tenant at Thorneythwaite Farm, so no-one is being displaced as part of this sale. The Trust is currently discussing management arrangements with a number of National Trust agricultural tenants from within the Borrowdale valley, following a number of expressions of interest to help us manage the land.

What would Beatrix Potter think? 

The Trust believes in the upholding the cultural legacy of the pastoral landscape and share Beatrix Potter’s love and passion for the Lake District.

However, we also recognise that world has changed, and will keep on changing. The way we maintain those traditions must therefore also change and adapt with it.