Marking 10 years since the MSC Napoli was grounded at Branscombe, Devon

What do you do when a large tanker containing thousands of gallons of oil is left beached and broken just metres from your beach?

That was the challenge facing rangers at Branscombe, east Devon, on Sunday 21 January 2007.

The stricken MSC Napoli after shedding its cargo, now washed up on the beach at Branscombe, Devon

The MSC Napoli was grounded off the Devon coast ten years ago. Credit: David Levenson / National Trust Images

Days before, the 275 metre long container ship MSC Napoli had broken its back in storms of the Cornish coast.

Tugs battled through stormy conditions trying to tow the ship to Portland harbour, Dorset, when coastguards took the decision to ground her just off Branscombe beach – rather than risk worse damage in deep water.

But the vessel leaked 200 tonnes of fuel and around 200 containers – a tenth of the total number strapped to the ship.

National Trust rangers helped with the clear up along the Devon and Dorset coast.
And the crash helped transform the conservation charity’s approach to planning for marine disasters.

Simon Ford, the National Trust’s Wildlife and Countryside Adviser in the South West, said: “I remember I was at the office when we heard about the Napoli. The rangers at Branscombe rushed down to the beach and we drew together our own team to support the emergency services’ effort.

“There were hundreds of thousands of mars bars completely smothered in oil washing up on the beaches throughout east Devon and Dorset, along with a multitude of other items from car parts to enormous shipping containers.

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Oil-slicked Mars Bars litter the beach following the grounding of the MSC Napoli ten years ago. Credit: Simon Ford / National Trust

“At the time I was working on a marine plan for Cornwall, planning the National Trust’s response in the event of a disaster off the Cornish coast.

“The ship grounded just as I was completing the plan for Cornwall and extending it to Devon.

“When it happened we were caught off guard.

“But because we had the draft plan from Cornwall we knew what we had to do.

“We rushed through, trying to use the information from Napoli to guide our plans for all National Trust places.

“We changed our planning processes as a result, taking into account marine pollution – cargo as well as oil.

“We made sure that every single National Trust coastal site in the UK have an emergency plan.”

Sheep graze peacefully above the aftermath of the MSC Napoli shedding its cargo, now washed up on the beach at Branscombe, Devon

Sheep graze in front of debris cleared following the Napoli disaster Credit: David Levenson / National Trust Images

The oil slick claimed the lives of many birds such as cormorants and guillemots .

But the long-term impact of the disaster on the area’s wildlife was not as bad as conservationists initially feared.

In the immediate aftermath it was thought that the scaly cricket (Pseudomogoplistes vicentae) had vanished from Branscombe beach.

But the rare insect, which is nocturnal and lives on shingle beaches, was rediscovered 18 months after the MSC Napoli was grounded.

Simon said: “We’ve learned the lessons of Napoli and previous tanker disasters, making sure that the damage to wildlife on sea and land is kept to a minimum.

“We’re as prepared as we can be for the next Napoli.”

Norfolk’s Blakeney retains crown for hosting the largest grey seal colony in England

Blakeney Point on the north Norfolk coast is once again home to England’s largest colony of grey seals, National Trust rangers have confirmed.

The breeding season at the Norfolk nature reserve ended this month, with rangers from the conservation charity saying that 2,366 grey seal pups have been born on the colony since November.

This represents a one per cent increase on last year, when 2,343 pups were born. Early indications show that the seal colony fared well following last Friday’s tidal surge.

National Trust rangers have volunteers have conducted counts of the seal pups on the reserve since 2001, when just when just 25 pups were born.

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The National Trust’s Blakeney National Nature Reserve on the North Norfolk coast has retained its status as England’s largest seal colony. Over 2,000 grey seal pups were born on the reserve this winter, rangers from the conservation charity have confirmed. CREDIT: Jemma Finch / National Trust Images

Ajay Tegala, National Trust ranger on the north Norfolk coast, said: “We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of grey seal pups being born at Blakeney Point in recent years. But in the last two years it would appear that the numbers have become more static.

“Thankfully the pupping season had finished before last Friday’s tidal surge, which meant that a large number of pups had already dispersed.

“We’re pleased that all the effort the National Trust team has put into caring for the Point is helping to create a healthy environment for these beautiful animals and that they continue to return and pup here.”

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National Trust rangers and volunteers spend several months counting the seal pups at Blakeney National Nature Reserve. CREDIT: Jemma Finch / National Trust Images

With lots of space and no natural predators, Blakeney Point offers the perfect breeding site for grey seals. Rangers are starting to see them spread from the beach further into the reserve – adding to the challenge of counting the pups.

Grey seal pups are born on land, with white coats and are fed on their mother’s rich milk for up to three weeks. In this time, they triple in size and shed their white fur.

Ajay added: “With their beautiful white fur and cute faces the pups are definitely one of main highlights of the year that the whole team looks forward to.

“It’s a real privilege and joy of the job to be able to get up close and personal with the colony – and one that I never tire of.”

Seal colonies have fared well around the UK this year. The National Trust’s Farne Islands in Northumberland reported record numbers with the arrival of 2,295 pups – possibly because there were fewer storms during the pupping season. 1,959 pups were born at Donna Nook, which is cared for by the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.

Ranger Ajay added: “As the final seal pups are weaned, we’d continue to encourage anyone wishing to see them to enjoy one of the boat trips that regularly operate from Morston Quay. That way visitors still get the opportunity to see the seals close-up without disturbing the colony.”

National Trust and LGiU survey shows lack of democracy in local planning system

A survey of over 1,200 ward councillors in England, carried out by the Local Government Information Unit, and commissioned by the National Trust, reveals councillors’ view that the planning system works in the interests of developers over councils and local communities.

The survey found that:

  • Over half of councillors say that sites that are not in line with the Council’s plan are being approved for housing in their area;
  • There are also concerns about Green Belt release and the loosening of the planning system through the introduction of permitted development rights for home extensions, office to residential use conversion, barn conversions and other changes of use;
  • Councillors also have concerns about the under-resourcing of planning teams.

In debates on the future of the planning system the views of councillors are often overlooked – and yet, as local decision-makers, and an important link with local communities, they have an essential role to play in ensuring development is sensitive to the needs of an area.

Key survey findings

  • 72% of councillors say that the system is too weighted in favour of developers at the expense of local communities;
  • Half of councillors say sites that are not in line with the local plan are being approved for new housing;
  • Half of councillors believe planning departments are not adequately resourced;
  • 58% of councillors with Green Belt in their area think that their council will allocate Green Belt land for housing in the next five years;
  • The National Planning Policy Framework does not appear to be having the positive impact it was intended to have on design quality – with only 18% of councillors feeling design has improved since the NPPF was drawn up, and only 12% of councillors think that the loosening of planning restrictions has had a positive effect.

Housing White Paper

There are concerns the new Housing White Paper, expected later this month, could make matters worse, if it sets rigid housing numbers for local plans which don’t take account of local factors such as Green Belt and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

As the Government puts the final touches to the Housing White Paper, the National Trust and LGiU hope that Ministers will take a number of sensible steps to improve the confidence that councillors have in the way the planning system works, including:

  • More resources for Local Planning Authorities to help get local plans in place;
  • Stronger Government backing for councils setting design standards;
  • A smart approach to meeting housing need which allows councils to recognise local constraints and focuses development in the most appropriate places.

Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive of the LGiU, said: “The planning system is one of the fundamental pillars of local democracy, allowing communities to help shape the physical structure of the places they live. Councillors are the most important link between communities and that system. Our survey with the National Trust shows that many councillors feel that this democratic tool is at risk of being undermined.”

Ingrid Samuel, Historic Environment Director at the National Trust, said:“It’s now almost 5 years after the Government’s planning framework was adopted, so it’s worrying that councillors feel it hasn’t delivered the localism that was promised. If ministers are serious about Local Plans being at the heart of the planning system, then they should invest in council planning teams and use the Housing White Paper to give them the tools to deliver good quality housing in the right places.”

New exhibition celebrates Turner and the Age of British Watercolour

Petworth, west Sussex 7 January – 12 March 2017

The house and upper pond at Petworth House and Park, West Sussex. The deer park at Petworth was landscaped by 'Capability' Brown.

The house and upper pond at Petworth House and Park, West Sussex. Credit National Trust Images, Andrew Butler.

Some of Britain’s greatest watercolours will come to the National Trust’s Petworth in West Sussex for an exhibition that explores JMW Turner’s leading role in shaping this uniquely British art form.

The exhibition will display watercolours by Turner himself alongside stunning works by artists who inspired him including Edward Dayes and Thomas Hearne, contemporaries John Constable, John Sell Cotman, Thomas Girtin and many others.

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Tackling prejudice and celebrating with pride: National Trust explores LGBTQ heritage to mark anniversary in 2017

 

Themes of gender and sexuality will be explored and celebrated by the National Trust in 2017 as part of the nation’s commemoration to mark 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality.

LGBTQ heritage has an important place in the history of the conservation charity and the places in its care.

The acquisition last week by the Trust of a copy of the novel Orlando, signed by Virginia Woolf to the cousin of her lover Vita Sackville-West, highlights the commitment to LGBTQ heritage that runs through many Trust places. Orlando, inspired by Sackville-West’s family history at Knole in Kent, tells the story of a gender-changing character whose life spans the 400 year history of the house.

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Copy of novel ‘Orlando’ signed ‘Eddy, with love from Virginia’, Oct 1928

During 2017 as part of its ‘Prejudice and Pride’ programme the Trust will tell the stories of the men and women who challenged conventional notions of gender and sexuality and who shaped the properties in which they lived.

A number of events will be taking place at properties with LGBTQ connections and the Trust will also be involved in community-focussed celebrations including Pride festivals around the country.

Over the course of the year, online and published resources will be available including a podcast series and a new guidebook exploring LGBTQ heritage in Trust places.

Tom Freshwater, National Programmes Manager at the National Trust says: “Our places span large historic mansions to small workers’ cottages across England, Wales and Northern Ireland so we have a unique opportunity to bring together those stories that unite them and show how deeply and widely LGBTQ heritage goes back into our shared history.

“Some of the stories are well known already, such as the relationship between Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf, but some have not been explored or fully told until now. This anniversary is giving us the opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the contribution of the people and the places that meant so much to them and offer a greater understanding, accessibility and higher profile for LGBTQ heritage.

“We are pleased to be working in partnership with University of Leicester Research Centre for Museums and Galleries who are bringing their expertise to the Trust in researching and sharing LGBTQ histories in a heritage context.”

The exterior of the north front of Sutton House, London. Constructed in 1525, the house was remodelled in 1700, and has additions dating from 1904.

Sutton House will hold a year of exhibitions, activities and events.

Sarah Waters, author of the bestselling Tipping the Velvet and a contributor to the Trust’s forthcoming LGBTQ articles and publications says: “These days we can all be a bit bolder about exploring and enjoying the UK’s rich heritage of sex and gender diversity. And I’d argue that without an awareness of that heritage our experience of certain National Trust properties is incomplete.”

Among the National Trust properties taking part are:

 Sutton House, Hackney

Sutton House will hold a year of exhibitions, activities and events around the theme ‘Sutton House Queered’. Working with a number of community partners, the programme will unpick themes of exploration, anarchy and campaigning and include a range of displays and trails ranging from Alice in Wonderland to 1980s squatters. Events begin in LGBTQ history month in February. 

 Hanbury Hall, Worcestershire

Hanbury Hall will be focussing on their collection and, in particular, the dramatic Sir James Thornhill wall paintings that adorn the staircase which include depictions of Achilles and his lover Patroclus. Hidden stories will be shared revealing tales of classical love in Ancient Greece and satirically, Queen Anne’s Court. From March onwards. 

The ceiling painting and top of the Painted Staircase in the Hall at Hanbury Hall, Worcestershire. The Staircase was painted by Sir James Thornhill (1675-1734), c.1710. The ceiling painting is a political allusion and depicts an assembly of the classical deities and a portrait of Dr Sacheverell. Mercury is depicted falling between the ceiling and the wall.

The ceiling painting and top of the Painted Staircase at Hanbury Hall

Smallhythe Place, Kent

The former home of actress Ellen Terry will shine a spotlight on her daughter Edy Craig who lived with two female partners in the Priest’s House. Playwrights, Pioneers, Provocateurs will highlight a number of objects in the house, and a production of Wilde Without The Boy, a dramatisation of De Profundis, the letter/s written by Oscar Wilde to Lord Douglas from prison, will take place in the Barn Theatre on 9th and 10th June.

Knole, Kent

Knole will be celebrating Virginia Woolf’s iconic novel ‘Orlando’, inspired by her lover Vita Sackville-West, who was born and brought up at Knole. A copy of the book, signed by Woolf for Vita’s cousin Eddy Sackville-West recently acquired at auction, will form the centre piece of events which include a partnership with Cinelive and the British Film Institute. A week of events begins Tuesday 27th June.  

 

The west front of Knole, Kent. The central gatehouse was built by Henry VIII between 1543 and 1548, with later additions to the west front in the seventeenth-century.

The west front of Knole, Kent. 

Simon Murray, Senior Director of the National Trust says:

“Our spotlight on LGBTQ heritage is an important one and we have chosen it to begin our ‘Challenging Histories’ programme. Over the next few years we will be exploring some of the complex and often more difficult aspects of the history of our places, stories we have perhaps shied away from but which are important to our understanding of their history.

“In 2018, to mark the centenary of the first Act of women’s suffrage, we will be looking at the role women have played in shaping our places but also how they were often excluded; in 2019, 200 years after the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester, we will look at places which have been the scene of important national events such as Runnymede, Tolpuddle and Mam Tor.

“The programme will be built on new research and will, we hope, stimulate contemporary debate on issues that have their roots in the past but are of continuing relevance today. We will create a programme of events and exhibitions that will be of interest to new and existing audiences alike and remind us all of the importance of our cultural heritage and how vital it is to care for it for future generations to enjoy.”

Read more about LGBTQ activities around National Trust places in 2017.

 

 

Farmer moves into £1m coastal farm – for just one pound a year

SHEPHERD Dan Jones and his young family have moved in to their ‘dream farm’, the National Trust’s £1 million Parc Farm on the Great Orme, North Wales.

Ceri and Dan Jones and their sheepdogs move into Parc Farm. Credit Richard Williams.JPG

Ceri and Dan Jones and their four sheepdogs, Bet, Tian, Nel and Floss are the new National Trust tenants at Parc Farm on the Great Orme. Credit Richard Williams

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Bettany Hughes’s ‘Ten Places, Europe & Us’

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Bettany Hughes at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk

A new podcast series from the National Trust unravels Europe’s influence on our nation through the ages revealing the continental roots that lie buried in locations from Neolithic Avebury ring to modernist Hampstead.

Over ten weeks starting on 24 October, award-winning historian and broadcaster, Bettany Hughes, will explore National Trust sites and uncover their cosmopolitan histories, revealing their links to the wider world in ten 20 minute programmes. Continue reading