Nature and conservation at heart of National Trust plans for 2023
Nature, wildlife and sustainability are at the heart of the National Trust’s programme for 2023. The charity is one of the organisations spearheading the People’s Plan for Nature, which will see a citizen’s assembly held in April to generate a public mandate for the protection and restoration of nature.
The plan will be published as part of a UK-wide nature campaign launching alongside a David Attenborough documentary, Wild Isles, and other culture sector initiatives such as Art Fund’s The Wild Escape campaign for schoolchildren. The trust will also build on its seasonal Blossom and Summer of Play campaigns, which encourage visitors to reconnect with nature.
Along with the completion of several projects to restore native vegetation and wildlife on its estates, the trust is continuing to take action on the climate crisis, with a plan to invest £65m over the next eight years to reduce the use of fossil fuels at its 100 highest-emitting buildings.
The charity has also placed access and inclusion high on its agenda, with plans to invest a further £3m in improving facilities and infrastructure for people with physical access needs.
It is also aiming to almost double the 169 apprentices currently enrolled in its training programmes – already the highest number in the trust’s history. A further 160 apprenticeships will be available this year, including new qualifications in curatorial and archaeology, while the Heritage and Rural Skills Centre will open at the trust’s Coleshill site in Oxfordshire in May.
Speaking at the launch of the its 2023 programme this week, director Hilary MacGrady said she was excited about the next 12 months after a difficult few years.
The trust was forced to make more than 1,700 staff redundant at the beginning of Covid-19 and also faced a revolt from the pressure group, Restore Trust, which aimed to change the way the charity was governed after objecting to its stance on issues such as decolonisation.
The pandemic is referenced in a year-long programme celebrating Isaac Newton, who retreated to his home at Woolsthorpe during an outbreak of the Great Plague in 1666. It was during this “lockdown” that Newton experienced his annus mirabilis, or year of wonders, where he developed his theories on universal gravitation.
The new Year of Wonders programme at Woolsthorpe will encourage visitors of all ages to develop their curiosity and creative thinking, with a prize to recognise young innovators.
In May the trust’s properties will be open to mark the coronation of King Charles, while the charity will also be supporting the Palace’s Big Help Out initiative.
Meanwhile a new six-part BBC series airing in spring, Treasures of the National Trust, will shed light on conservation, historic stories, staff and volunteers at the charity.
The trust has ambitious conservation plans this year, with a major project to conserve four paintings by the portraitist Joshua Reynolds to mark 300 years since his birth.
Meanwhile Beningbrough Hall in North Yorkshire will reopen in summer 2023 following completion of a £2.3m restoration project.
The charity is also celebrating the conclusion of its longest-ever restoration project, which has seen 13 Gideon tapestries at Hardwick Hall painstakingly conserved over 24 years, each artwork taking more than two years. The Elizabethan tapestries will finally be reunited in their original home this summer.
Among the trust’s longer-term conservation plans is the full restoration of the Petworth “Beauties”, six seventeenth-century portraits of noblewomen in the West Sussex palace that were famously folded over and shortened in the 1820s after the 3rd Earl of Egremont declared his intention to “cut off their legs” to create more wall space.
The survival of the folded areas was only discovered in 1995 and two of the portraits have since been restored to their original length, with four still shortened. The “Room of Beauties”, where the paintings are hung, will also be returned to its original 17th-century grandeur.
“From celebrating great people at the places that inspired them, to revealing beautiful objects and stories from across the trust in a brand new BBC series, we want to offer as many people as we can the chance to experience nature, beauty and history, in the spirit in which we were founded,” said MacGrady. “Our ambitious conservation programme also continues, and we’re continuing to help nature thrive.”