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.

Ends

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

New wave of proposed Marine Conservation Zones don’t go far enough

The Government has today launched a three month consultation on the next tranche of Marine Conservation Zones around the coast of England. Below is a joint response to the announcement from the National Trust and the Marine Conservation Society.

Second round of Marine Conservation Zone designation will leave English waters woefully under protected

Conservation charities say promised network of protection is not even close as vital sites don’t even get to public consultation

The UK’s leading marine charity says it is hugely disappointed that, in the same week the Government has been warned how England’s declining natural environment is harming the economy, it has failed to deliver on promises to better protect English seas.

37 sites had been proposed to go forward to a second public consultation on Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs), all identified by Government’s scientific advisers as vital to plugging “major gaps” that currently exist in the development of a UK network.

However, only 23 sites have made the final list when the consultation for potential new MCZs was launched on Friday 30th January. While MCS is keen that members of the public air their views to ensure that these sites become a reality, the charity has real concerns that English seas will not contribute a network of sites that we can be proud of in future.

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Blakeney seals its place in the record books

Blakeney Point, which is managed by the National Trust, on the North Norfolk coast has shot to number one as the largest breeding site for grey seals in England.

A seal pup born at Blakeney Point this winter. Credit National Trust/Ian Ward

 

The number of grey seals born on this beautiful stretch of Norfolk coastline has increased one hundredfold in just 14 years, when the first 25 pups were born on the spit.

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Red squirrel recovery

Following recent positive reports about red squirrels in the north of England, we revisit the story of the red squirrels at Formby. Countryside Manager Andrew Brockbank charts a challenging few years for the red squirrels on this stretch of the Sefton coast in Lancashire.

Formby

National Trust Formby is in the heart of the Sefton Coast pine wood reserve of 400 hectares (1000 acres).

The surrounding landscape is part of the North Merseyside red squirrel stronghold, which extends from the northern fringes of Liverpool to Southport, including part of West Lancashire.

Pine woods are a very valuable habitat for red squirrels. At Formby they can be at high density of up to one red squirrel in every acre.

Red squirrels eat a variety of berries, seeds and shoots of trees but pine cones and seeds form the mainstay of their diet.

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Sussex project tops off boom in National Trust tree planting

This week marked the start of the largest ever National Trust tree planting project at the conservation charity’s Slindon Estate in West Sussex.

The ten year programme, named ‘The Rise of Northwood’, will see 75 hectares (185 acres) of woodland – the equivalent of 105 football pitches – restored to its former glory, having been removed during the First and Second World Wars. Thanks to a generous legacy left to the Trust for use in the South Downs, the Slindon Estate team’s vision for the area has become a reality.

Ranger Hannah Woodhouse firms the soil around a new yew, credit www.scottramsey.co.uk

Ranger Hannah Woodhouse firms the soil around a new yew, credit http://www.scottramsey.co.uk

 

Over three months, volunteers will help to plant 13,500 native trees at Northwood using seeds collected from the surrounding woodland. In just two days, more than 3,000 trees had already been planted, thanks to the support of more than 100 volunteers.

This planting, however, is just the beginning of a ten year project, with many more trees expected to emerge through natural colonisation, direct seeding and further planting of saplings.

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Landscape that inspired Thomas Hardy acquired by the National Trust

More than 200 acres of the sort of wild and windswept heathland that inspired Dorset’s most famous writer, Thomas Hardy, has been acquired by the National Trust. Slepe Heath in Dorset is the largest area of lowland heath that the Trust has acquired for more than a decade.

The magical Slepe Heath in Dorset. A landscape that inspired Dorset's most famous writer, Thomas Hardy. Credit: National Trust/Will Wilkinson.

The magical Slepe Heath in Dorset. A landscape that inspired Dorset’s most famous writer, Thomas Hardy. Credit: National Trust/Will Wilkinson.

As part of a conservation vision inspired by the landscapes featured in the novels of Thomas Hardy, Slepe Heath will connect the protected lowland heath of Hartland Moor, already looked after by the National Trust and Natural England, and the Arne reserve, owned by the RSPB.

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Isle of Wight bee-eaters rewrite the record books

Bee-eaters nesting on the Isle of Wight have raised eight chicks – the most successful breeding attempt by these birds, normally found in the Mediterranean, on record in the UK.

Three chicks have now fledged from one nest, on National Trust land, and another five chicks have fledged from a second nest.

Bee eater

Bee-eaters on the Isle of Wight. Credit Danny Vokins.

An adult bee-eater was first spotted at Wydcombe on 15 July by National Trust dragonfly survey volunteer Dave Dana. And chicks were first sighted a month later on the 15 August. There were originally thought to be nine chicks but one has not survived.

Dave Dana, a National Trust Volunteer on the Isle of Wight, said: “I’d just come from counting golden-ringed dragonflies at a stream and I thought ‘that bird looks a bit different!’

“Its flight path seemed almost triangular. I didn’t really appreciate the bird until I got home and looked at the photos. I’d always wanted to see a bee-eater in this country but I never thought it would turn out to be a major wildlife event.”

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