Published: 06:00, 22 January 2020
| Updated: 11:39, 22 January 2020
As Europe's largest conservation charity, the National Trust has been nurturing nature, our landscapes and history for the whole nation for 125 years. As the trust marks its anniversary, we look at its past, present and future, which affects - and helps - us all.
In an increasingly busy, digital world, there's one thing we can all agree on - we all need nature.
Who doesn't want to get out into the crisp air on a winter's day; to see the first fragrant blossom of the spring, or look out over a glorious view after a refreshing walk?
Whether we need nature for our own wellbeing, or for the wellbeing of our climate, the National Trust has been there, looking out for it on our behalf, for 125 years, along with its work to preserve and conserve our historical buildings.
And, as it marks its anniversary, it has big plans for the nation as a whole.
This year, a series of new initiatives will see the beginning of planting and establishing of 20 million new trees in 10 years. More than 18,000 hectares of woodland – an area the size of 42 Sherwood Forests - will be created.
Across the country, the trust also plans to maintain precious peat bogs; unlock green spaces near urban areas and lead a year-long campaign to inspire people to engage with nature.
It will also continue its work to reverse the decline in nature through projects including helping clean up the nation’s rivers and waterways, re-introducing species and re-purposing land in favour of woodland.
Research has shown that people who walk through woodland are more likely to have increased mental wellbeing and physical health, so the trust wants to boost public access to as much woodland as possible.
The trust's director general, Hilary McGrady, said: “It’s our 125th year and the National Trust has always been here for the benefit of everyone.
“As Europe’s biggest conservation charity, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to fight climate change, which poses the biggest threat to the places, nature and collections we care for.
“People need nature now more than ever. If they connect with it then they look after it."
There will be a year-long campaign to inspire and connect people to their natural environment, from tree planting, to river cleaning, birdwatching, picnics in the wild, cloud watching, painting, writing, walking and foraging, plus a celebration of Britain’s very own blossom season.”
Richard Henderson, assistant director of the London & South East region, said: "We are an organisation that is here forever. We are incredibly well supported and we value that support, but we are the largest conservation charity in Europe, so as an organisation we need to be focused on what people are concerned about at the moment, and that is our environment."
He said events around the country which would be happening at the majority of National Trust sites in the region included tree planting in the autumn; conservation work at the White Cliffs of Dover and, in May, the chance to join in with the Dawn Chorus along with pop-up choirs.
He also said there would be work to open up additional rooms at Winston Churchill's former home at Chartwell, near Sevenoaks.
In 1980 the National Trust had one million members; by 1995 it had topped three million and it expects to welcome its six millionth member in 2020.
The trust plans - by cutting its own emissions and storing more carbon - to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030.
Its woodland expansion plans means 17% of land it cares for will be covered in woodland – an increase from the current 10%.
Populations of the UK’s most important wildlife have plummeted by an average of 41% since 1970, according to the State of Nature report. The trust has had several wildlife re-introduction schemes, including water voles, butterflies and harvest mice. This year it will introduce beavers to Somerset and the South Downs.
As well as commitments to the environment, the trust also has some £2.2 million a week planned in restoration work to the country's heritage and culture this year.
According to research carried out by the National Trust, two thirds of Britons say they never or almost never listen to birdsong and less than a third say they stop to watch clouds or bees.
As Andy Beer, director of the trust's Midlands region, says: "When it comes to nature, you can choose to notice it or you can choose not to.
"I always think, it is like Tinkerbell - if people don't believe in her, she disappears. If people don't care about beautiful places, then they will disappear. Beautiful places should just make you go "aaah"; you should feel it. We help to keep them as special and nice as we can - that is what we at the National trust offer the nation. Places where you can relax and spend quality time with your friends."
Andy has written Everyday Nature, which is published in April (at £12.99), a companion to help you make the most of nature on your doorstep. He shows how it's everywhere, even in the most dense concrete jungle. His book contains an entry for every day of the year.
"This time of year, it might be seeing snowdrops, or hearing the great tits shouting "teacher, teacher" - that's their call. They are out there singing, finding a mate. I heard that this morning as I walked past the park to the office."
There are many National Trust sites across Kent, from grand, historic homes to lesser-known, smaller spots, all set in glorious countryside:
Cobham Wood and Mausoleum: a restored 18th century mausoleum, set in peaceful wood pasture, near Gravesend
Chartwell, Westerham: Family home and garden of Sir Winston Churchill, near Sevenoaks with 80 acres of gardens and countryside
Ightham Mote, Borough Green: A 14th century moated manor house, with 546 acres
Knole, Sevenoaks: One of the country's largest houses, it is set in 1,000 acres of parkland, known for its resident deer
Old Soar Manor, Borough Green: The remains of a late 13th-century knight's dwelling
Owletts, Gravesend: The family home of the renowned architect Sir Herbert Baker
Quebec House, Westerham: The childhood home of General James Wolfe, victor of the Battle of Quebec in 1759
Scotney Castle, Lamberhurst: A country house and 14th century moated castle, set in a 780-acre wooded estate
Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Sissinghurst: Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson created the world renowned garden at the castle near Cranbrook
Smallhythe Place, Tenterden: Ellen Terry's early 16th century house and cottage gardens
South Foreland Lighthouse, Dover: Set on the White Cliffs of Dover, it was the first lighthouse to use an electric light
Stoneacre, Maidstone: A medieval yeoman's house and garden near Otham
The White Cliffs of Dover: A coastal site overlooking the English Channel offering windswept walks with breathtaking views
Find your nearest site and more about visiting at nationaltrust.org.uk
More by this authorAngela Cole
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