Magnificent Speaker’s State Coach to go on display at Arlington Court

A superb state coach – last used at the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 – is to go on display at the National Trust’s Arlington Court in Devon.

The Speaker’s State Coach, a symbol of the power and status of the Speaker of the House of Commons, has been in use for state occasions since the early 18th century.

The loan of the coach by the House of Commons is the first in a series of exhibitions around the country where it can be seen and enjoyed by the public.

The coach will be the star attraction at Arlington Court’s Carriage Museum which houses a renowned collection of historic British carriages and coaches that were used for every occasion.

Still image from a film of the Speakers Carriage taken in 1953, reproduced by kind permission of British Pathe

The spectacular painted and gilded Speaker’s Coach – the work of a number of highly skilled woodcarvers – is believed to have been made in 1698 for King William III. It was presented to the Speaker a few years later by Queen Anne.  You can watch some historical British Pathé footage of the carriage here http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=60904

In the last three hundred years, the coach has been the subject of many repairs and refurbishments.

Last used by Speaker Thomas in 1981, the coach was then displayed at various venues in London before being removed for conservation work to begin.

The conservation now complete, the original and vibrant beauty and colours of the unique coach can be appreciated once more.

Ana Chylak, National Trust Property Manager said:

”Our historic carriages at Arlington range from those used every day to ones reserved for special occasions, so we are thrilled to be able to display the Speaker’s State Coach which is very special indeed. In its restored condition, its detail and decoration are absolutely breath-taking.

“I am sure that our visitors will be enthralled to see such a wonderful part of our country’s heritage in our collection.”

John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, said:  “The state coach is a magnificent example of an early 18th century carriage and an important piece of the United Kingdom’s parliamentary heritage. Therefore I am delighted that now it no longer has any practical role in parliamentary life it can be passed into the care of the National Trust and viewed by as wide an audience as possible. The carriage museum at Arlington Court, with its extensive collection, was an obvious place for the coach and we hope it will be the first of a series of appropriate exhibition venues around the country where the coach might be seen and enjoyed by the public.”

The Speaker’s State Coach will go on display at Arlington Court, near Barnstaple, Devon, from Saturday 12 March. For opening times and further information visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk or telephone 01271 850296.

South Milton Sands wins Sustainability South West ‘Planting Places’ Award


This week the National Trust’s South Milton Sands has collected another award for its work to re-landscape a popular beach in South Devon and challenge people’s perceptions toward coastal change

The Planting Places awards recognise projects which have had a strong and continued involvement with their local communities to work to promote and understand the benefits of green (and blue) spaces in supporting healthy lifestyles and providing valuable habitats for wildlife.

At South Milton Sands, the National trust has worked extensively over the last 6 years with local people to find and implement a shared solution for the long term future of the beach. As a result of climate change, South Milton Sands was identified as a high risk site to changes in sea levels and erosion within the next 20 years. The beach fronted car park was protected from the sea by an old timber coastal defence in need of replacement. The project sought to involve the local community to develop a sustainable approach to management of the beach that would work with natural coastal processes rather than against them. The result was to re-establish a soft and flexible sand dune system

The 4 year projects sought to openly and honestly, listen and communicate with local people through, events, talks, and the formation of a stakeholders group. As the project progressed more people got physically involved in shaping the beach landscape. A very successful programme of community marram planting resulted in over 16,500 marram grasses being planted across the new sand dunes. Participants now proudly return to inspect their work and watch the dunes develop.

National Trust Ranger Simon Hill said “This award is fantastic recognition for the National Trust South Devon Countryside who invested much energy and enthusiasm into the project, challenging people’s views on coastal change and involving them in the decision making processes.  I hope the award highlights how genuine, long lasting relationships can be forged through bringing people on a journey with us rather than delivering our solution.”

Never before had the property delivered such a significant project; re-landscaping a popular beach; challenging people’s views on coastal change and involving them in the decision making processes. SMS has become a blueprint of how we want to work in the future and involve communities each step of the way.

Nature’s floral barometer indicates the onset of spring

National Trust annual flower count taking place at Trengwainton Garden

December 2010 was the coldest this century the Met Office have said, and rewarded many with a white Christmas. Fortunately this unprecedented cold snap took place when flower buds were at their tightest, giving them most protection, however it also had the effect of greatly chilling the ground.

Coupled with a distinct lack of sun to inject some warmth into the ground, the cold has slowed up some of the emerging early flowers. Plants like the appropriately named Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’ only now fully out in flower West Cornwall, and Magnolia cambellii still in bud with only the slightest hint of pink beginning to show.

Our annual flower count has been conducted by National Trust gardeners and volunteers in Devon & Cornwall each February since 2006 and provides us with an annual snapshot of the heralding of spring.

This year, 1395 plants were recorded in flower across 16 gardens in Devon and Cornwall compared to 1,115 last year and 3,335 in 2008, when the highest count was recorded, giving a 75% increase in plants in bloom.  The highest number of flowers recorded in Devon this year was at Killerton with 200 in bloom (up from 172 last year) and at Glendurgan in Cornwall with 149 (up from 45 recorded last year).

Although Camellias have been flowering in Cornish gardens even before the cold period, our gardens are really only now beginning to burst into flower although a touch behind compared with other years.

The ever favourite Rhododendron is towering over great drifts of snowdrops and daffodils both are bravely popping their heads above the parapet hoping for some caressing valentine warmth, rather another visit from Jack Frost. Even the birds have been increasing the intensity of their dawn chorus during the last few days.

Ian Wright, National Trust South West Gardens Advisor said: ‘Our annual flower count is a simple and fun way of recording how our garden plants react and adapt to changes in weather patterns, a kind ‘floral barometer’, its not a scientific exercise but it is a simple indicator of the weather we have experienced and the season ahead. This fun and slightly competitive count is something you can try in your own garden. Our gardens are just beginning to burst into life; the worst that could happen now is a late cold period which would damage the buds which have already begun to open.

‘Last year we saw a spectacular display of a magnolias this year Rhododendrons look like being particularly good, when we do get some warmth from the elusive sun, our gardens will be under starters orders and quite frankly bursting with blooms, blossoms and flowering bulbs, our gardens should be a riot of colour once again, he added.

Many National Trust gardens are now open, including many of those in Devon and Cornwall.  Properties currently open are:

Devon – A la Ronde (open Sat – Weds 12-27 Feb, weekends to 6 March, Sat – Weds from 12 March).  Arlington Court (open daily). Buckland Abbey (open daily 18-27 Feb, Fri-Sun to 6 March, daily from 12 March). Castle Drogo (open daily  19-27 Feb and from 12 March. Killerton (garden open all year). Knightshayes Court (open daily – except Friday 19-27 Feb, weekends to 6 March, daily (except Friday) from 12 March). Lydford Gorge (Whitelady Waterfall Walk open daily all year). Overbeck’s (open Sat – Thurs daily). Saltram (Park open daily all year. Restaurant, shop and gardens open daily, except Friday, to 10 March then daily from 12 March)

Cornwall – Cotehele (garden and estate open all year). Glendurgan (open Tues-Sat from 12 February). Lanhydrock (garden open all year). Trelissick (open daily). Trengwainton (garden open Sun-Thurs from 13 Feb).

National Trust inquiry into the outdoors hits the road

The National Trust’s Outdoor Nation project will be touring the country from today to find out if the UK public thinks it’s losing touch with the outdoors and, if so, what might be done about it.

Over the next three months, Leni Hatcher, the Outdoor Nation roaming reporter, will be based in a specially created California campervan loaned to the project by Volkswagen.

Leni will be travelling the country, meeting experts, outdoors organisations and the general public, asking them about their views on the outdoors.

All the views, comments and research will be posted on the Outdoor Nation blog at www.outdoornation.org.uk with visitors invited to post and tweet their replies.

The blog has highlighted recent research showing that one in four children never play outside and that a sharp rise in rickets in British has been partly caused by playing indoors on computer games.

The outcomes of the project will help shape the future activities of the National Trust, which is focusing activities around helping more people spend more time outdoors.

Leni Hatcher said: “It’s great to be mobile and be able to use the campervan as my new base.  I will be following up on our Outdoor Nation blog user’s comments and tweets to see both what we are doing as a nation to improve access to and what the barriers are which prevent people from getting outside.

“Outdoor Nation runs for another three months so there is plenty of time for the public to make their voices heard and suggest what the National Trust and other organisations can do to help people get outside and enjoy the fresh air.”

The Outdoor Nation journey is reported at www.outdoornation.org.uk with video interviews and a blog, users can comment on the findings, put forward ideas and suggest avenues for investigation. Leni’s own journey can also be followed on Twitter by following @outdoor_nation.

Nicola Gates, Communications Manager for Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles UK, said:  “Volkswagen UK is proud to support Leni and the National Trust’s Outdoor Nation project.  We believe that there’s nothing better than exploring the outdoors and the Volkswagen California is the perfect vehicle to do this in.  We hope that Leni has a fun-filled adventure in her California and look forward to keeping up with her updates as she progresses on her journey.”

The project also aims to explore how changes introduced by the Government could present opportunities for ‘Big Society’ partnerships between NGOs and local community groups to help provide greater access to local green space.

So far the Outdoor Nation blog has generated nearly 20,000 views, attracted nearly 200 comments and 40 invitations have been received for items to film. Prominent figures interviewed include Ben Fogle and Simon King.

National Trust asks supporters to join in and help save the ‘last castle’ in Britain

Fiona Reynolds, Director General for the National Trust has launched an urgent public appeal to raise £1.5 million to safeguard the future of one of the country’s most iconic buildings – Castle Drogo in Devon.

The castle has suffered major structural problems ever since completion which have now resulted in serious leaks and water penetration throughout the building.

If extensive conservation is not undertaken, the castle will become inaccessible and a national treasure will be lost forever.

Castle Drogo is the last castle to have been built in Britain, between 1911 and 1931, by the renowned architect Edwin Lutyens.

It was built for Julius Drewe, a food retailing magnate, whose dream was to have an imposing granite fortress that would appear to have existed for hundreds of years.

By contrast, the inside offered the ultimate in modern living and convenience with all the technology and comforts of the age.

Plans to preserve the castle include the renovation of the massive flat roof structure using cutting-edge materials to make it permanently watertight.

This will be conservation on a grand scale. In order to install the new roof system, 2355 granite blocks weighing 680 tonnes will have to be removed and then returned. Some 900 windows containing over 13,000 panes will be refurbished to stop them leaking and over 60,000 metres of pointing will need to be replaced.

A key aim of the project will be the involvement of local people. There will be opportunities for learning new skills such as masonry, joinery and furniture-making and exciting ways for volunteers to take part in their local heritage.

The future of the castle will also include new learning and exhibition spaces and opportunities to explore the estate’s extensive grounds on Dartmoor.

The full cost of the conservation project will be £11 million over 5 years and the Trust is making approaches to various funding bodies, including a £2.5 million application to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), to reach the target.

However, a successful response from the public appeal will allow the first crucial stages of work to get underway.

Adrian Colston, Dartmoor General Manager for the National Trust said: “During the course of this year we will be talking to local people and our supporters about how they can get involved in helping save one of the country’s historic treasures.

“The castle is regarded as a masterpiece of 20th century architecture but its future is now hanging in the balance.

“This is our last chance for Castle Drogo and we urge our supporters across the country to help us raise the money we need to ensure its survival.”

To support the campaign to save Castle Drogo visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/savedrogo you can also follow the Castle Drogo campaign on twitter at www.twitter.com@savecastledrogo and on facebook at www.facebook.com/savecastledrogo

Great strides made as Britons step out

More than 350,000 walks, or one every one and a half minutes, were downloaded from the National Trust website over the last year.

And four of the top ten walks were in the South West, including the most popular – a walk along the Bath Skyline, which was the most popular for the second year running with 14,000 downloads.

The other top South West walks were Stourhead in Wiltshire (seventh with 4,964 downloads), Brownsea Island in Dorset (eighth with 4,724 downloads) and Lansallos in Cornwall (10th with 4,177downloads). All of the walks are free to download and include a map and details of the things that you might see en route.

Walking on the South West coast path between Pencarrow Head and Lansallos Cove, Cornwall.

In 2010 and the total number of downloads increased by 40 per cent compared to 2009 as more Britons sought out walking routes for days out or during weekends away.

Jo Burgon, Outdoor Programme Director at the National Trust, said: “We have seen a remarkable growth in the popularity of walking in the past couple of years.  Our downloadable walks cater for a wide range of walkers with everything from short circular routes to the more challenging hill walks.

“We’re finding that more people want to get out into the great outdoors but often need to be pointed in the right direction. You don’t have to be an expert to go walking, you just need to enjoy getting outside.”

There are 72 different walks to choose from on the website in the South West out of a total of 240 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  Together, the 240 walks cover a total of 858 miles, the distance between Lands End and John O’ Groats. All of the walks can be downloaded for free from www.nationaltrust.org.uk/walks

New South West entries on the website include five walks near Arlington Court in Devon, Lacock and Avebury in Wiltshire, Ebworth, near Stroud in Gloucestershire, Lamberts Castle in Dorset, and routes at Cotehele, Trelissick and Fowey in Cornwall.

August was the most popular month for walking with more than 50,000 downloads, or more than one every minute, with the Saturday of the bank holiday weekend the most popular day of the year.

The Bath skyline walk topped the walks chart for the second successive year with over 14,000 downloads during 2010, fifty per cent more than the second placed walk Alderley Edge in Cheshire.

This popular six mile circular walk has spectacular panoramic views of the world heritage city and a short diversion takes you to the stunning Prior Park gardens.

In third place was Flatford Mill in Suffolk, made famous by Constable’s landscape paintings.

An ambitious target has been set to have 1,000 downloadable trails on the National Trust website by spring 2012.  These will include the popular walks together with cycle routes, horse-riding routes and canoe trails.

The first ever National Trust walking festival is set to take place this year between the 22 October 30 October.

Stay in one of the National Trust’s oldest buildings

Holidaymakers will have the chance to stay in a medieval manor house thanks to a transformation that has created the grandest and oldest holiday property in the National Trust’s portfolio.

Shute Barton, near Axminster in east Devon, dates back to the 13th century and is part of what was a larger family house owned by the Bonville family. It has stood through a staggering amount of history from the dissolution of the monasteries through to the Second World War.

Shute Barton nr Axminster

Come and stay in one the Trust's oldest buildings

The house – which has reputedly the largest fireplace in England where two oxen could be roasted at once – was given to the National Trust in 1959 by the Carew Pole family. Cousins of this family, the Pole Carews, lived there until 2009.

The features include 17th century panelling in one of the master bedrooms and a great hall on the top floor dating from 1450 and reached by a tiny spiral staircase. The room has a garderobe in the corner and an incredible hammer beam roof which can be enjoyed by guests today when they holiday at Shute Barton.

Guests can dine under original paintings belonging to the Carew Pole family, sleep in antique beds and look out of the original lead windows to views little altered over the centuries. The house is approached through an ornate gatehouse – a scheduled monument in its own right – and there are formal gardens which stretch out to the back of the building.

The house, which accommodates ten people, is an ideal venue for a special family holiday in incredible surroundings, and is well located for the sites such as the Jurassic Coast and the attractive coastal villages of Beer and Seaton. It is available for bookings from February 2011.

To book go to http://www.nationaltrustcottages.co.uk/south_west/south_devon_and_dartmoor/shute_barton/459 or call the National Trust holiday cottages booking office on: 0844 8002070

panelled bedroom at Shute Barton

The Master bedroom has wonderful views over the garden

The kitchen at Shute Barton

Shute's well equipped kitchen

You’re Hired!

Five new 16- and 17-year-old apprentices have recently started work with the Trust’s direct labour teams based at Killerton, Cotehele (pictured) and Bodmin. They will work alongside skilled craftsmen for three years, learning and practising traditional trades such as stone masonry, brickwork, carpentry, joinery, plumbing/leadwork, painting and decoration – all essential in helping to protect the buildings cared for by the Trust.

New National Trust Apprentices

Pictured outside Cotehele

Defending Drogo from the drips

2011 is all set to be quite a year for Castle Drogo on Dartmoor, with the celebration of its 100th birthday and the launch of a major fundraising appeal to help save this unique national treasure.

The self-made millionaire Julius Drewe laid his castle’s foundation stone on his 55th birthday, 4 April 1911: the first of hundreds of thousands of blocks of Dartmoor granite that were to follow in the construction of an extraordinary building – the last castle to be built in England – which took 20 years to complete.

Castle Drogo nestling in the autumnal trees under a cloudy sky

The enthralling story of the castle’s construction – at the core of which is the complex relationship of two fascinating men: Julius Drewe and his architect, the mercurial genius Edwin Lutyens – is brilliantly told in the Castle Drogo souvenir guide. You can pick up a copy at the visitor centre (open all year) or buy it online at www.nationaltrustbooks.co.uk

The castle remains the only 20th-century building in Devon to be listed Grade I, and it was the first 20th-century building to be accepted by the National Trust, with its doors thrown open to the public for the first time in 1975. Since then more than 4 million people have visited and become captivated by Castle Drogo, and its beautiful garden and estate, and last autumn it deservedly won Visit Devon’s Gold Award for the best visitor attraction in 2010, and Silver in South West Tourism’s Excellence Awards.

building castle drogo

Perhaps one of the reasons why Drogo is such an evocative place, and loved by so many people, is that it vividly and poignantly encapsulates so much of the story of the 20th century, with its startling social changes. From the solid certainties of the Edwardian era when that first stone was laid – a time of confidence, of old ways and new wealth – to the devastating blow of the First World War that cut down an entire generation of young men; through the struggles and changed realities of the inter-war years, when the Drewe family were at last able to move into part of the building and make it their home, to the Second World War, when the now-completed castle sheltered children made homeless by the Blitz; and so on to the 1970s when the Drewes took the decision to give their home to the National Trust.

What lies ahead?

It’s been an amazing story so far, and now Drogo is embarking upon an exciting new phase in its life as the Trust aims to save it from ruin – an unimaginable fate for such an important building, but the shadow of which has hung over it from the very beginning. The castle looks mighty and strong, rising up out of the craggy landscape of the Teign Gorge like a tor hewn by men, but at its heart there is a tragic flaw. Julius Drewe’s dream was for Lutyens to build him a proper medieval fortress, not a pretend castle, and one of its most authentic features – its flat roof – became its inherent weakness. Lutyens tried to seal the roof using asphalt (relatively new and untested at the time), but contraction and expansion of the concrete beneath resulted in it cracking, and before the castle was even finished it had begun to leak. Add to this Drewe’s determination that there should be no windowsills or guttering to compromise the design, and so you have a building that has leaked through its roof, its walls and its windows for its entire existence.

After several unsuccessful attempts over the years to make the castle watertight, at last the Trust has found a permanent solution using modern materials, which has been tried and tested on the chapel roof since its application four years ago – with total success.

A public appeal to raise £1.5million – called A Design for Life? – has now been launched to help seal the leaks for good. Work will begin in 2012 and it will be conservation on a monumental scale: there are 2,355 granite blocks weighing 680 tonnes to be removed from the roof, and replaced once the new roof system has been installed; 900 windows with over 13,000 separate panes of glass to be refurbished; and over 60,000 metres of pointing to be replaced. Throughout it all, Castle Drogo will remain open and you will have some very exciting opportunities (of which more later…) to see the work going on, to discover different parts and aspects of the castle – including the roof itself – and to experience Drogo’s story in a totally new way.

To get involved,  find out about the appeal or to make a donation, please go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/savedrogo or come along to Castle Drogo itself and ask any member of staff or volunteer to tell you more. You can also keep in touch with the save Castle Drogo appeal by following them on twitter www.twitter.com/savecastledrogo

Homely tips for lovely loaves

Is there a better smell in the world than freshly baked bread, just out of the oven? Drop in for a bite to eat at Cotehele in Cornwall or Killerton in Devon and you could find yourself enveloped in that warm enticing fragrance, stealing out from the kitchens. The skills of the master baker are kept very much alive at Cotehele and Killerton, where bread is made regularly for their restaurants and tea-rooms using flour ground traditionally at Cotehele Mill and Clyston Mill respectively.

If you come away filled with the urge to bake your own bread, here are some inside tips for great bread-making from Cotehele’s Tim Bennett:

Cotehele flour

‘Starting with raw ingredients, you need to make sure you get good quality ingredients. We prefer to use a mixture of Cotehele’s own wholemeal flour and organic white flour. The white flour keeps the bread light and soft whilst the wholemeal flour adds a different texture and flavour.

‘Bread-making is a bit of a science and it’s good to experiment and find the recipe that works best for you, and then try adding in different flavours. Flavour a bread to complement what you’re going to serve it with. Sugar is used to feed the yeast, and also adds to the colour of the crust, but too much will restrict the gluten development. Salt aids the texture and adds to the flavour, but too much will kill the yeast and the bread won’t rise. The quantity of water needed will depend on the flour and will tend to vary slightly throughout the year; warm water is used to keep the yeast active.

‘Once the bread dough is mixed it’s important to knead it well. This stretches out the gluten in the flour and will give a much better texture. You need to get really involved when kneading and it should leave you tired. It’s a good exercise!

bread made from cotehele flour

‘A splash of water over the bread just before you bake it gives you a nice crust.’

Check www.nationaltrust.org.uk for opening times for Cotehele’s Barn Restaurant and the Edgcumbe on the quay, and for Killerton’s Garden Tea-room and Orchard Tea-room. You can watch flour being made on certain days at the historic watermills at Cotehele from 15 March, and Clyston Mill at Killerton from 3 April.