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.

National Trust welcomes publication of Clandon fire report  

The National Trust today welcomed the publication of a Surrey Fire and Rescue Service report into the cause of the devastating fire at Clandon Park earlier this year.

Investigators concluded the fire was accidental and the probable cause was a defect in an electrical distribution board.

The distribution board, located in a cupboard in the basement, ‘could be assumed was delivered from the manufacturer with this fault,’ according to the report.

The Trust said none of its staff would have been able to identify this as a potential issue. The fault had not been detected during a number of previous professional checks by electricians.

Trained staff at the 18th century mansion near Guildford, Surrey evacuated all visitors safely after the fire broke out at around 4pm, on April 29. No-one was injured.

Pic 6, credit National Trust Images-James Dobson

The fire spread from the basement through the lift shaft, voids and into the roof, the report found. The wind blew the fire from one side of the roof to the other. The fire then burnt down to the floors below, leaving 95% of the house damaged by the fire.

Despite having some measures in place to limit the spread of fire, these had not been enough to slow the blaze once it had taken hold. The Trust said it was committed to working closely with the fire service to identify any areas for improvements in its processes – and would act on any they found.

The charity is also in the process of carrying out its own in-depth review of its fire prevention policies at all its properties to see where they can be strengthened further.

This will include checking distribution boards at all its historic mansions and looking at whether there are any further steps it can take to prevent and slow the spread of fires in future.

A well-rehearsed salvage plan also meant a significant number of valuable items were saved from the fire. The Trust is continuing to work closely with its insurers, who are carrying out their own in-depth investigation into the fire.

Around 400 items have been saved to date from the fire. A team of specialist salvage operators are currently in the process of painstakingly sifting through the debris within the house to locate further items.

The Trust has already announced that Clandon will be rebuilt in some shape or form. It’s considering options for the house. Scaffolding is being erected around the house and a temporary roof will be put in place.

Pic 2, credit National Trust Images-James Dobson

Commenting on the report, the Trust’s Director-General, Helen Ghosh, said: “The fire at Clandon was a terrible blow, with the loss of such a significant historic interior and so much of the important collections it housed. The response of staff, volunteers and the local community showed how much Clandon meant to so many people.

“The report from Surrey Fire and Rescue Service is welcome and important to us. The fact that we had a well- rehearsed salvage plan meant we were able to save a number of significant items from the fire, and our fire detection systems also operated as they should have done.

“But we’re certainly not complacent and we now will be working with the fire service to identify any areas for improvement in any of our properties. We have already begun a full review of our processes and systems to see where they can be strengthened further. If there are lessons for us to learn – we will act upon them and share them with others who look after historic buildings.”

The fire report by Surrey Fire and Rescue Service can be read here

Watch our video update on the fire report here


National Trust comments on CPRE report

A spokesperson from the National Trust said:

“There is a need for more new housing, and when it works well, our planning system can ensure this goes in the most appropriate locations, and that we build places people want to live in.

“This new research is concerning, because it suggests that inflexible targets mean that in some areas the local vision for development is being bypassed, with the best sites going undeveloped, whilst less suitable sites are approved. This is a problem we also identified in our 2014 report, Positive Planning. Government should ensure that local authorities are not penalised for setting ambitious targets for new housing, and keep its housing supply rules under review to ensure the Local Plan is sovereign.”

National Trust calls for urgent action to manage threats to our coastline

The National Trust is calling for urgent action from Government and agencies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure all coastal areas are ready for the enormous challenges presented by severe storms and rising sea levels.

Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire. Credit Joe Cornish

Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire. Credit Joe Cornish

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Expanding two precious National Parks

The Government has today announced that it is expanding the size of two of England’s National Parks – the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales.

Reacting to this exciting announcement Mike Innerdale, National Trust Assistant Director of Operations in the North Region, said: “Expanding the size of these two precious National Parks, loved by millions of people is great news.

“These treasured landscapes play such an important part in connecting people to beautiful places, rich in nature and wonderful human stories. The two new larger National Parks mean that we’ll be able to work more effectively with our partner organisations on a bigger scale to enrich the natural environment and create the space for wildlife and people to flourish.

View of two adult walkers returning from their farm trail on Low Sizergh Farm in Kendal, Cumbria. The path is on a route around the farm and estate. (M.R.)

View of two adult walkers returning from their farm trail on Low Sizergh Farm in Kendal, Cumbria. The path is on a route around the farm and estate.

“We especially welcome the recognition of the scenic, cultural and ecological qualities of the National Trust’s Sizergh Estate and the contribution that this special place will make to the newly expanded Lake District National Park in the future. Its a place enjoyed by walkers, nature lovers and people that are passionate about history”

National Trust sign for the Malham Tarn Estate, North Yorkshire.

National Trust sign for the Malham Tarn Estate, North Yorkshire.

The National Trust owns 25% of the Lake District National Park including Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England, and farms given to the conservation charity by Beatrix Potter. In the Yorkshire Dales National Park the Trust manages 6,000 hectares including Malham Tarn and Upper Wharfedale.

Around 40 per cent of National Trust land can be found in the National Parks of England and Wales.

New nature reports: Nature needs us and we need nature

An ambitious long-term plan is needed to save nature as the Government considers its spending priorities.

We need a plan to help nature recover and everyone needs to play their part

We need a plan to help nature recover and everyone needs to play their part

That is the clear message from the Response for Nature reports published today by a coalition of leading conservation organisations, including the National Trust, RSPB and Wildlife Trusts.

The reports, each setting out a vision for restoring nature in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, will be launched at events in London, Cardiff, Belfast and Edinburgh this evening (Tuesday, 13 October).

They follow 2013’s State of Nature report, the first ever comprehensive stock-take of our native species. It revealed that 60% of the species studied had declined over recent decades. One in ten species were at threat of disappearing altogether.

Each of the reports launched tonight make key recommendations to which governments must respond to, to help restore nature in the UK.

A misty sunrise on Ibsley Common, New Forest, Hampshire, in August.

The reports call on central and devolved governments to deliver an inspiring vision for nature, establish a network of special places for nature to help threatened species recover and improve the connection of young people to nature for their own health and well-being and for nature’s future.

Speaking tonight at the London launch, presenter of children’s programme Deadly 60 and Springwatch, Steve Backshall, will say: “The State of Nature report revealed where we are. Now we need a plan for where we should go. The Response for Nature document starts us on that long road.

“Action can’t be simply hived off to a single, hard-pressed department in Whitehall. It must run as a matter of course through every department, from Defra to the Treasury. Every individual, from top to bottom, needs to embrace it, and act on it.”

Puffins on the Farne Islands off of the Northumberland coast

Puffins on the Farne Islands off of the Northumberland coast

David Bullock, Head of Nature Conservation at the National Trust and co-author of the Response for Nature report, says: “We have to do more than simply halt nature’s decline. We need to reverse it once and for all.

“That can only happen if we are able to connect nature with people. If people understand why nature matters, they’re going to care. And if they care about nature, they’re more likely to act to protect it.”

Read the full Response for Nature reports at You can join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #responsefornature

The sounds of our shores

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Imogen Tinkler, communications intern for the National Trust, looks back at some of the highlights from the ‘Sounds of our shores’ project

After three months, over 680 uploads and around 67,000 listens, the ‘Sounds of Our Shores’ project in collaboration with the British Library and the National Trust for Scotland has come to a close.

As well as encouraging people to get out and explore the seaside, the aim of this coastal sound map was to create a ‘snapshot’ of the UK coastline that could be preserved for future generations. Yet the sounds that we have received not only create a sense of what our shores sound like in 2015, but also reveal much about our relationship with the coast.

Waves crash against the rocks at Heddon's Mouth, North Devon.

Waves crash against the rocks at Heddon’s Mouth, North Devon. Credit National Trust.

One discovery we’ve made through this project is the sheer diversity of sounds that can be heard near the sea. On the soundmap, the classic noises of seagulls and waves breaking on the shore sit alongside some more unusual contributions, such as the roar of ‘The Deluge’ chain flush inside the (now disused) ornate Victorian toilets on Rothesay seafront in Glasgow.   Continue reading