The National Trust is set to spend an average of £3m every week this year on conservation for the first time as it continues to invest more in houses, collections, coastline and countryside. The news comes as Europe’s biggest conservation charity lays out plans for its biggest ever sustained investment in protecting nature and the environment as it continues to tackle the “crisis caused by climate change which is leaving nature in peril”.

Last month, Director General Hilary McGrady announced in a landmark speech that by 2030 the Trust will become carbon net zero. To achieve this, the Trust has outlined several major steps, including: planting and establishing 20 million trees, moving its heating and electricity entirely to renewable energy, continuing to spend millions on improving rivers and greatly improving the energy efficiency of many of its historic buildings.

To help fund this ongoing commitment to protecting the environment, and the Trust’s increasing investment in houses, collections and gardens, the charity has announced that from March its membership fees will increase by a maximum of 65p per month. During 2018/19 the National Trust spent £148.4m on conservation – £10m more than the previous year. This included £112.7m looking after historic buildings, collections and gardens, plus £35.7m on coast and countryside.

Major projects

Among the major conservation projects coming up are:

  • A £6m project to repair the roof, windows, chimneys and medieval gatehouse façade at Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk to secure the building’s future and impressive collection. The two-year project will launch with one of the toughest scaffolding tasks ever seen as the 500-year-old building is surrounded by a moat.
  • The £10m Dyrham Park Rework’d project near Bath will transform the 17th century house and gardens, by revitalising historic rooms, staircases and gardens, and improving lighting throughout to showcase its collections. There will also be major improvements to the visitor facilities including car parking, welcome building, toilets, shop and restaurant.
  • One of the country’s most spectacular displays of sunflowers will grow even larger this year to deliver more for nature. 650,000 sunflowers will be planted at the Vile in Rhosili, South Wales as restoration work across 45 hectares of farmland continue to further enrich habitats and improve food sources for bees, birds and butterflies. These will bloom alongside 15 hectares of wildflower meadows and a hectare of lavender.  
  • A unique 18th century walled garden, designed by famous landscape architect Capability Brown, has been opened to the public for the first time as part of a £1.2m project. The curved walled garden at Berrington Hall in Herefordshire will be transformed from an agricultural storage area to spectacular gardens, and will be the only one of its kind accessible to the public.
  • A £6.7m project at Seaton Delaval Hall near Newcastle Upon Tyne will bring new life to the north’s most flamboyant 18th century ‘party house’, which was once the scene of the Delaval family’s costume balls, spectacular theatrical productions and elaborate practical jokes. Work includes conserving the roof, basement floors and iconic cantilevered staircases. There will also be significant changes to the parkland with playful features encouraging visitors to learn more about its history, and improvements to visitor facilities.
Visitors enjoying the spectacular display of sunflowers at Rhosili, South Wales. National Trust images/Chris Lacey

Tom North, the Trust’s Membership Director, said: “Our members and supporters share our ambition to protect the environment and nature, while continuing to look after some of the nation’s most treasured houses, collections and gardens. Members have the chance to visit our places all-year-round while also helping to care for our coastline, countryside and historic sites, and keep them open free of any charge for everyone, for many more generations to enjoy.

“We are now 125 years old and generation after generation has supported the Trust; building and maintaining one of the most precious collections of places and objects in the world. We are very proud to be taking the organisation into its 6th quarter-century with nearly six million members. Many of the places we protect, like coast and countryside sites, are free to visit and as an independent charity we don’t receive any direct Government funding. The small increase in the price of membership will help us be rightly ambitious for nature and for the state of historic places.”

Growing membership

Membership has continued to grow during the past year, taking the total number of members to 5.9m – expected to hit 6m this year. The growth includes a doubling of the Trust’s £10 junior memberships to more than 40,000 over the last year. About 25% of National Trust members benefit from a concessionary membership including those aged under 25 and seniors who have been a member for five of the last 10 years.

The membership price changes take place from March 1. Individuals aged over 26 will pay 40p per month more for membership, taking it to £6.40 and a family membership (two adults, and up to 10 children aged 17 or under) will cost 65p more per month, taking it to £11.15. Membership of the Trust includes entry to more than 500 special places, free parking at most National Trust car parks, a yearly handbook, members’ magazine (issued three times a year), regular newsletters and the right to vote in its annual meeting.

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