Fine Farm Produce Awards to be announced this evening

The National Trust’s Fine Farm Produce Award winners will be announced at an exclusive event at Selfridges in London this evening.

This year is the 10th anniversary of these prestigious awards which recognise the very best of the conservation charity’s 1,500 tenant farmers and producers.

We go behind the scenes of the judging process with Helen Beer, deputy editor of the National Trust magazine, who gives a behind the scenes glimpse of what happens during the ‘taste test’ element of the rigorous judging process.

The National Trust's Fine Farm Produce Awards will be held at Selfridges in London tonight

The National Trust’s Fine Farm Produce Awards will be held at Selfridges in London tonight

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New technology saves exquisite Tudor stained glass

Visitors to The Vyne in Hampshire can witness a unique project to conserve beautiful 16th-century stained glass windows in the Tudor Chapel. Having survived Civil War armies and Second World War bombing raids, this precious glass is now under attack from a new enemy.

The Chapel contains the finest stained glass in our care, considered to be among the most beautiful 16th-century glass in Europe. Famous for its jewel-like clarity, it features images of King Henry VIII, who visited The Vyne several times, as well as his sister Margaret and first wife Catherine of Aragon, together with their patron saints.

But condensation is eating away at it, causing pitting and corrosion. Thankfully modern technology is coming to the rescue. The glass is being removed so that it can be re-fitted with state-of-the-art protective glazing by specialists Holy Well Glass.

Stained glass conservator Steve Clare removes Tudow window depicting King Henry VIII, from The Vyne's chapel ©National Trust Images James Dobson

Stained glass conservator Steve Clare removes Tudor window depicting King Henry VIII, from The Vyne’s Chapel ©National Trust Images James Dobson

Scaffold platform offers once-in-a-lifetime view

As the stained glass is removed, the empty window spaces will be temporarily filled with clear glass featuring simple lead tracery that matches the outline of the original imagery. This will offer a previously unseen perspective of the Chapel during the work from a scaffold viewing platform.

‘Our viewing platform will give visitors a fantastic view of the Chapel’s other historic features,’ says house steward Dominique Shembry. ‘These include the incredible detail on the Tudor wooden stalls, which are carved with heraldry, plant motifs and cherubs, and the 18th-century trompe l’oeil artwork on the walls.’

Get up close to superb Tudor craftsmanship

The viewing platform also provides a unique opportunity to study up close the superb workmanship of the Chapel’s central window. This stained glass, depicting the crucifixion of Christ, has already been successfully fitted with new glazing as part of a pilot project and is remaining in place.

The external wire grills currently covering the Chapel windows are also being removed so that the stained glass can be seen in its original 16th-century splendour when it returns later in the year.

The Vyne Chapel - L to R Henry's sister Queen Margaret of Scotland with St Margaret of Antioch, ©National Trust Images, Helen Sanderson

The Vyne Chapel – L to R Henry VIII’s sister Queen Margaret of Scotland with St Margaret of Antioch, ©National Trust Images, Helen Sanderson

Technology captures conservation in action

A new exhibition reveals more about the stories portrayed in the stained glass and the legends surrounding its mysterious past. There’ll also be a chance to examine some of the original glass before it’s reinstated in the Chapel.

Film footage of the conservators working on the glass in their studio will be captured using audio-visual technology supplied by Panasonic, including wearable cameras.

This, together with time-lapse photography of the glass being removed from the Chapel’s windows, will be projected into a new exhibition space, giving visitors a unique opportunity to follow the work as it progresses.

A Tudor power house

The Chapel, together with the Oak Gallery, are the most complete surviving Tudor interiors at The Vyne which was the home of Henry VIII’s Lord Chamberlain, Lord Sandys. Sandys entertained Anne Boleyn at The Vyne, but was later to escort her to her prison in the Tower of London.

 

 

Trust ‘hopeful’ of rebuilding fire-hit stately home

The National Trust today said it hoped to rebuild, in some shape or form, Clandon Park, the 18th century mansion which was reduced to a shell following a devastating fire.

The house, near Guildford, Surrey, suffered extensive damage in the blaze which ripped through the building on April 29. The roof and floors collapsed, the rooms were destroyed and thousands of items are feared to have been lost in the flames.

The external walls however remain largely intact and a specialist team are planning the archaeological salvage operation to recover further items from the building.

The conservation charity said the full extent of the damage remains unknown as structural engineers and insurers continue to assess the site.

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Photo: Chris Lacey

But despite the many uncertainties, the Trust said it was hopeful that Clandon could be rebuilt and would have a long-term future.

Helen Ghosh, director-general of the Trust said: “We’re hopeful that one day we can rebuild Clandon but quite how, when and in what form is far from certain at this early stage.

“The house has been left a shell, with the inside of the building almost completely destroyed. We’re still awaiting guidance from the structural engineers on the safety of the house.

“As we get more information on the extent of the damage, we will be able to take a clearer view on the potential options for Clandon.

“Despite the uncertainty, we would like to reassure all those people who love Clandon as much as we do that it will continue in some shape or form in the future.”

Work will begin shortly to erect scaffolding around the building. Once the scaffolding work is complete and the building confirmed as safe to enter, the painstaking salvage operation can start again.

Significant items from the collection were rescued from the fire during the initial salvage operation including paintings, furniture and silver.

Meanwhile further details of over 350 items rescued have been confirmed including Onslow family photographs, personal mementoes belonging to the 6th Earl of Onslow relating to his time as a prisoner of war, and a silver christening mug.

Poignant and personal mementoes of the Onslow family that have been saved include:

  • A metal prisoner-of-war identity badge worn by the 6th Earl of Onslow in Offlag 79, a prisoner-of-war camp in Brunswick, Germany, where he was imprisoned during the last months of the Second World War.
  • A tie-pin cushion made after the 6th Earl of Onslow’s return from war from the hoof of ‘Queenie’ one of his horses that had served him and had been destroyed because of the shortage of food.
  • The 4th Countess of Onslow’s dinner book of guests and menus for dinner parties. It covers the period 1875-1910 and includes a Parliamentary Dinner from 1908.
  • Two framed photographs of Lady Teresa Onslow as a baby; she later married the journalist and author Auberon Waugh.
  • Photograph of Arthur, 6th Earl of Onslow, and his wife, surrounded by their dogs and caged birds
  • Speaker Sir Richard Onslow’s (1654-1717) silver christening mug.
  • State Purse and metal embroidered red State stocking worn by the ‘Great Speaker’ Arthur Onslow (1691-1768).

    State Purse of Speaker Arthur Onslow as Chancellor to Queen Caroline of Anspach (wife of George II); worked in silver thread with the arms of George II.

    State Purse of Speaker Arthur Onslow 

Sophie Chessum, the curator who is leading the National Trust’s conservation team at Clandon Park comments:

“We are so pleased that so many significant Onslow family portraits and associated historic artefacts were saved.  Three Onslow men have held the office of Speaker of the House of Commons, a unique achievement, and to have rescued their portraits and the Great Speaker’s State Purse is wonderful. We are looking forward to re-uniting the three portraits which had to be cut from their frames on the night of the fire with their elaborate gilded frames.

“We were greatly relieved that the Speakers’ Parlour has survived the fire and the frames were discovered unharmed several days after the fire.  Also rescued was the huge carved and gilt chair that stood on the Stone Stairs. This 250 year old chair might have been a gift to Arthur Onslow, known as the Great Speaker, to commemorate his retirement from the post he held for 33 years.”

It won’t be possible to confirm the full list of items saved or lost until the final assessment and salvage operation is completed.

Photographic, 3D laser and geophysical surveys are all helping with the assessment of the site along with new aerial footage of the building which can be viewed here

Shepherd found for Snowdonia project

The National Trust has appointed a second shepherd to support its innovative conservation project in the foothills of Snowdon in North Wales.

Daniel Jones, 36, from Anglesey will support the current shepherd, Bryn Griffiths at the conservation charity’s in-hand farm, Hafod-y-Llan in caring for the 1600 flock of Welsh Mountain sheep during daylight hours for the next five months.

He will be joined by his two sheepdogs, Jill and Nel.

Daniel Jones with his sheepdogs Jill and Nel in his new role at Hafod Y Llan. Credit Gerallt Llewellyn

Daniel Jones with his sheepdogs Jill and Nel in his new role at Hafod Y Llan. Credit Gerallt Llewellyn

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Clandon Park fire – items rescued from Speakers’ Parlour

One of Clandon Park’s most important rooms has miraculously survived almost intact after the devastating fire left the 18th century mansion a burnt out shell last week (Wednesday 29 April).

While the building is being assessed for structural damage, only limited access has been granted to the least damaged parts of the house.

Among these is the Speakers’ Parlour, one of the ground floor rooms, which celebrated the three members of the Onslow family who were Speakers for the House of Commons over the centuries.

The Speakers’ Parlour remained almost intact after the fire which has enabled access to the collections that remained inside.

Removing the carpet from the Speakers' Parlour after the fire

Removing the carpet from the Speakers’ Parlour after the fire

Objects now taken to safety include the ornate ormolu chandelier which was part of the decorative scheme from 1801, the large Turkey carpet dating from the 19th century, the decorative polished brass and steel fender from the fireplace and pieces of delicate, gilt etched glassware.

The decorative plaster ceiling in the Speakers’ Parlour, among the most magnificent in the house, has been carefully propped up to protect it, and the chimneypiece, designed by the house’s architect Giacomo Leoni in the 1720s, has also survived.

All the paintings from the room, including the portraits of Arthur Onslow, the Great Speaker, and Richard Onslow, Speaker in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, were rescued on the day of the fire.

The Speakers' Parlour at Clandon Park, Surrey.

The Speakers’ Parlour before the fire, photo: National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

 

Jim Foy who is managing the salvage operation at Clandon comments: “It is heartening that we have been able to rescue more of the important items inside the house and we hope that there will be more good news as the salvage operation continues.

 “We are still limited in terms of access while structural engineers assess the building. The weather is also a big factor as we wait to see how the building responds to conditions like the high winds we have had over the past couple of days. We are incredibly grateful for the continued support we are receiving from volunteers, external specialists, the fire service and many others.”

An investigation is underway to identify the cause of the fire.

It is too early to say what the longer term plans will be for Clandon Park but donations raised will help it to face its uncertain future. To make a donation please call 0344 800 1895 or donate online at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/donate

Head for the hills – are ewe the right person for this one-off shepherding opportunity?

The National Trust is looking for a second shepherd to support an innovative conservation project in the foothills of Snowdon in North Wales.

Herding the sheep on the mountains above Hafod Y Llan. Credit Joe Cornish

Herding the sheep on the mountains above Hafod Y Llan. Credit Joe Cornish

The conservation charity’s in-hand farm, Hafod-y-Llan, manages 1600 Welsh Mountain sheep and every day between May and September, some of the flock is shepherded to new grazing areas away from any sensitive mountain habitats such as upland heaths and flushes (wet, boggy areas), in a bid to improve plant diversity on areas of the mountain.

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National Trust launches ambitious plan to nurse natural environment back to health

The National Trust today (Monday, 23 March) launched an ambitious plan to nurse the natural environment back to health and reverse the alarming decline in wildlife – as it warned time was running out to save the countryside from further harm.

Image 1  Satellite image taken on Feb 16, 2014, shows how soil is washed from fields and out into the sea.  Credit NEODAAS University of Dundee.

Satellite image taken on Feb 16, 2014, shows how soil is washed from fields and out into the sea. Credit NEODAAS University of Dundee.

Europe’s biggest conservation charity said climate change now poses the single biggest threat to the places the Trust looks after, bringing new, damaging threats to a natural environment already under-pressure, and a growing conservation challenge to its houses and gardens.

The countryside had been damaged by decades of unsustainable land management, which has seen intensive farming and now climate change undermine the long-term health of the land. 60% of species have declined in the UK over the last 50 years [1], habitats have been destroyed and over-worked soils have been washed out to sea.

The Trust said it would challenge itself to develop new, innovative ways of managing land on a large scale, which were good for farmers, good for the economy and good for the environment. It also pledged to work with partners to help look after some of the country’s most important landscapes, reconnecting habitats and bringing back their natural beauty.

The River Liza, part of the Wild Ennerdale project, Cumbria.

The River Liza, part of the Wild Ennerdale project, Cumbria. Copyright National Trust.

The next decade will mark a new chapter in the Trust’s history, which will see it increasingly join forces with other charities, government, business and local communities to improve the quality of the land and attract wildlife back to the fields, woods and river banks.

The charity, which has over 4.2m members, announced it would spend more than ever on looking after its historic houses and collections, and would also explore ways to help local communities to look after the heritage that is important to them.

Launched today in central London, the Trust’s 10-year strategy ‘Playing our Part – What does the nation need from the National Trust in the 21 century?’ outlines four key priority areas:

Looking after our places

  • We will spend around £1bn over the next ten years on the conservation of our houses, gardens and countryside, including £300m on clearing the backlog of repairs.
  • We will continue to play our part in mitigating climate change: cutting our energy usage by 20% by 2020 and sourcing 50% of that from renewable sources on our land.

Healthy, beautiful natural environment

  • Develop new economic models of land use to share with others and champion the role of nature in our lives.
  • We will work with our tenant farmers to improve all our land to a good condition.
  • We will work with other organisations to conserve and renew the nation’s most important landscapes.

Experiences of our places that move, teach and inspire

  • People’s tastes are changing and their expectations continue to grow. We will work harder to give our visitors experiences that are emotionally rewarding, intellectually stimulating and inspire them to support our cause.
  • We will invest in major changes at our most visited houses to transform how we tell the story of why the place mattered in the past and why it matters today.

Helping to look after the places people live

  • Budget cuts mean that many public green spaces enjoyed by local communities are now under threat. The Trust will explore what role it could play in helping safeguard their future.
  • We will also look at ways of supporting local heritage impacted by spending cuts and play a leadership role in the annual Heritage Open Days, the country’s most popular heritage event.
Maritime heather, (Erica vagans) in flower in August and view of Cornish coastline from Kynance Cove, The Lizard, Cornwall

Maritime heather, (Erica vagans) in flower in August and view of Cornish coastline from Kynance Cove, The Lizard, Cornwall. Copyright National Trust.

Helen Ghosh, the Trust’s Director General, said: “The protection of our natural environment and historic places over the past 100 years has been core to the work of the Trust but it has never been just about looking after our own places.

“The natural environment is in poor health, compromised by decades of unsustainable management and under pressure from climate change. Wildlife has declined, over-worked soils are washing out to sea; villages and towns are flooded.

“Millions of people love and cherish the great outdoors, it’s vital to our sense of well-being, our identity and our health. But beyond that nature also supports us in all kinds of other ways, from flood protection to carbon storage. We can’t keep taking it for granted.

“Our strategy calls on the National Trust to respond to these threats and play its part in new ways: achieving a step change in how we look after our own countryside, and reaching out to partners and communities beyond our boundaries to meet the challenges we face at this moment in our history.

“This is a long-term commitment, for the benefit of generations to come: we know that many of our changes will take thirty years or more.”

Chairman Tim Parker added: “We can’t solve these issues on our own. Our strategy will see us working more collaboratively with a range of partners to explore new approaches and find new solutions. We will support where we can and lead where we should.

“The National Trust has always responded to the challenges of the time. I believe our founders would be proud of our ambitions and the part we plan to play.”

So that members can make the most of their membership, most properties will be moving to being open 364 days a year.  Members and supporters will get more personalised information from the Trust about events and activities, and be able to get much better information on digital channels about the places and subjects that interest them.

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1] State of Nature Report, RSPB and others (2013)