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.
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 , 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 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.
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.
1] State of Nature Report, RSPB and others (2013)
A new species of wild flower, Hieracium attenboroughianum, Attenborough’s Hawkweed, which was found a decade ago in the central Brecon Beacons in South Wales has been named in honour of Sir David Attenborough.
This is the first time that a new plant species found in the UK has been named after the world famous naturalist and TV presenter.
Dr Tim Rich, the plant taxonomist who named the new species, said “Finding a new species is a really exciting moment and something that you dream of as a naturalist.
“I decided to name this special little plant found in the mountains of the Brecon Beacons after David Attenborough as he inspired me to study ecology when I was 17.
“This is a personal thank you for the years of fascination he has given me going to different places to search for new things.”
The Attenborough Hawkweed is one of a group of closely related plants which belong to the daisy family and has probably evolved in the Brecon Beacons since the last ice age. The hawkweeds are close relatives of dandelions and have similar looking flowers.
Attenborough’s Hawkweed occurs on rocky ledges on Cribyn, one of three spectacular peaks of the central Brecon Beacons which belong to the National Trust.
In late June/early July the hawkweed colours the rocks yellow with its delicate dandelion like flowers and can be easily seen from the main path up to Cribyn.
Joe Daggett, National Trust Countryside Manager, said: “It is amazing to think that this is the only place in the world where this plant occurs and that the evolution of a species can occur at such a local level.
“The inaccessible rocks where it’s found should ensure its continued survival into the future.”
The new plant was first studied in 2004 when Joe Daggett, Graham Motley, Tim Rich and Paul Smith found it whilst looking for the rare Summit Hawkweed, which was found on the adjacent Pen-y-fan.
More than 300 plants of the Attenborough’s Hawkweed were found flowering profusely on the rocky ledges, safe from the sheep which graze the mountains. It took another ten years of study and comparison with related species to be sure it was new.
Commenting on the naming of the Hawkweed after him, Sir David Attenborough, said: “I am thrilled that my name has been given to the delightful new species of hawkweed discovered in the Brecon Beacons.
“Bestowing a name on a new species is surely one of the greatest of biological compliments and I am truly grateful. It is an added joy that Hieracium attenboroughianum should be so beautiful and live in such a lovely part of the country.”
David Attenborough has eleven plants and animals named after him, including a giant pitcher plant from the Philippines and an Indonesian beetle. Most recently he has had a plant genus named after him, identified by a team of researchers in Gabon, Africa. However Attenborough’s Hawkweed is the only living British species that has his name.
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.
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.
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.
Extreme weather in 2014 created an unpredictable rollercoaster of a year for our beleaguered wildlife and saw a raft of migrant species visiting our shores, say experts at the National Trust in their annual wildlife and weather round-up.
As a result of the warm, often wet summer, this year’s wildlife winners include biting flies, slugs and snails. More positively, many resident birds, mammals and amphibians also had good breeding seasons, although the picture is patchy and localised.
The year, however, will be most remembered for the winter storms in January and February; indicating the challenges that the natural world could face with the growing extremes of weather some of which may be caused by climate change.
National Trust rangers looking after the 742 miles of coastline cared for by the charity across England, Wales and Northern Ireland witnessed several years’ worth of erosion, while inland many of the Trust’s gardens and parklands suffered their greatest tree losses in almost 30 years.
Little terns along the Norfolk coast at Blakeney had to nest in low areas as a result of severe tidal surges which changed the beach profile. High tides followed in mid-June and flooded the seabirds’ nests resulting in a very poor breeding season.
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.
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.