Archives for posts with tag: National Trust

A double whammy this week, as it’s almost time for environmental artists Simon and Caitlin to start work on their latest creation at Harting Down…

Well here we are less than a week to go before we start building our first temporary structure on Harting Down. Last week, standing on the rise overlooking Witcombe bottom, I was quietly overwhelmed by the deeply rooted beauty of this place. No deer that day (I’ve seen hundreds here); the occasional conversations of birds were the only sound to break the phenomenal silence of the place. This was one of those moments when, yet again, I thought ‘why build anything here? This place is perfect.’ A question you may well imagine gets asked of us often enough. Our answer is hard to put into words.

We see ourselves as facilitators, asking people to be aware of deep worlds hidden in nature. By altering the landscape, adding to it, just for a while, we can highlight, question and explore different aspects of the world around us currently concealed by our own familiarity. Even if you are lucky enough to walk this place every day, or every week, there are still ways of seeing, ways of experiencing a place which people never knew existed.

An example of Red Earth's work

Red Earth's work is inspired by their surroundings

Our installations are not meant to detract from a landscape. They are made from it, respond to it, highlight one or more of its hidden elements. And in the end, they’re temporary. This one gone by October, leaving, we hope, a good and lasting memory of a place changed – even enhanced – by our efforts.

Over 20 years Caitlin and I have been exploring the landscape, especially the South Downs, through sculptures and performances, and now with our three lively boys in tow. We’re just a couple of folk, working with some other talented artists and craftspeople, attempting to make something happen which stays with people a long time. We still don’t quite know what it is we manage to create. But it seems to work. And after all the ins and outs of planning and logistics and emails and press releases and re-planning, at last here we are. Only a few days of panic and madness before we can spend two weeks just working solidly in a fantastic space, on the wonderful task of making physical something that currently exists only in our imaginations.

Visit to find out more about this project and how you can get involved.


How time flies. We apologies for the lack of blogs latley. It is a busy time here as all our houses and gardens open. Now however, Mark councludes his short blogging stint by telling you how you can become a volunteer shepherd.

We have very recently set up a scheme for visitors to Reigate Hill in Surrey to help the wardens check the sheep and cattle that graze here.

The sheep and cattle help us by grazing the rare chalk downland habitat and stop it reverting back to scrub and eventually woodland. On the steeper slopes of the hill they are invaluable as it’s impossible to get any machinery on the slopes to clear the regrowth. We use Belted Galloway cows and Black Welsh Mountain sheep as these breeds thrive on grazing the poorer types of habitat found at Reigate and are also very friendly to visitors.

One of our newest recruits, Antonia, wanted to share her reasons for volunteering:

“I spend a lot of time looking for my Border Terrier Loki. I sit and wait patiently while he counts the rabbit population on the side of Reigate Hill and checks whether any small holes are really too small for a dog of his size and doubtful intelligence. It was on one of these occasions that I spotted the pink poster asking for volunteer stockpeople for the National Trust. I have a secret yearning to be a vet but haven’t the sheer animal vitality (excuse the pun) not to mention the brains to embark on the years of training. I’ve volunteered for animal charities but they always involve domestic pets. Here was my chance to get up close(ish) and personal with cows and sheep. The top of Reigate Hill is so beautiful whatever the weather and now I have a perfect reason to push myself up the side, rewarding myself with a brief one-sided chat with Billy and the girls, while I run an eye over them. It’s a great opportunity to get to know the animals and feel I am doing something worthwhile whilst enjoying myself.”

So if you interested in becoming a volunteer shepherd or even just want to find more about the scheme them please email Marc Russell at or telephone us on 01342 843 225. No experience is necessary and basic training is given. You can volunteer as often as you like – even if its just every now and then – anything is a great help.

A little later than planned, the next series of blogs will be written by Mark Richards, Head Warden for National Trust countryside in the east of the Surrey Hills. This week he writes about his dedicated volunteers and shares a personal favourite memory.

I always look forward to Thursday’s as it means working with my volunteers, the Limpsfield Voluntary Task Force. The group have been established for over 25 years. At the moment we have 35 in the group, and some of them have been with us for over 20 years. 

The volunteers have helped us with many projects over the years on Limpsfield Common, from the construction of a pond to the restoration of a Second World War air raid shelter. Last year alone they gave us over 2,400 hours of their time. Over the last few weeks they have been helping us re-plant an area of woodland with young oak and beech trees, but their favourite task has to be anything involving a bonfire – the bigger the better.

At exactly 10.15am on a Thursday morning the word “coffee” can be heard as it’s shouted across the worksite by the group’s leader Derek Horn. Everyone puts downs their tools and normally conjugates close to fire to discuss the latest goings on locally as well as further a-field while enjoying a hot cup of coffee from their flasks. Before you know it though Derek is telling them they have had a long enough coffee break and that they need to get back to work.

After a hard morning’s work the majority of the group head off to the local pub to have a well deserved drink and continue to their discussions from earlier in the morning.

The most memorable time for me with regards the volunteers is when they provided a guard of honour at my wedding. It was such a privilege to walk out of the church and go under a tunnel of slashers held high by my volunteers.

The volunteers at my wedding

As well as this volunteer group we have got two other groups that meet on a Tuesday at Reigate and on a Wednesday at Outwood near Redhill. If you are interested in joining any of these groups please email Mark Richards at

House Steward Sue Rhodes concludes her series on love, lust and romance at Petworth House on a happier note.

With wedding celebrations planned for 2011, I thought I would remember an important wedding at Petworth from 100 years ago.

In 1911 Lord Leconfield married Violet Rawson and the town celebrated in style. When the couple returned to Petworth, after honeymooning in Cranleigh, Surrey, they were greeted with such joy and warmth. About a mile out of town, as they drove to Petworth, they were met by about fifty tenant farmers and residents on horseback. They then climbed into a carriage drawn by a pair of horses, and were escorted into town.

On entering the town Lady Leconfield was handed flowers from the Petworth football, cricket, hockey and lawn tennis clubs. The horses were removed from the carriage and replaced by the Fireman from the local station who pulled the carriage through the streets of Petworth, with the Petworth town band leading the way.

The streets were decorated with flags and the family motto and filled with cheering crowds. In the market square the school children, Territorial Army and 230 employees of the Petworth estate wearing red, white and blue rosettes gave Lady Leconfield even more flowers.

The local Rector publicly welcomed the bride and groom, stating that Lady Leconfield was the first bride to be brought home to Petworth in 150 years. Lord Leconfield addressed the crowd, thanking them and said that it was the proudest moment of his life – even prouder than the actual moment he caught his first fox.

They then carried onto the house as the school children sang Home, Sweet Home, and entered amid rousing cheers and further celebrations.

Lord Leconfield and Violet prepare for a hunt - she was quite a character!

Petworth House has seen many family weddings over the years, even some very recently. This year the National Trust will be celebrating these with an exhibition called ‘Love is all around’, which highlights family and local resident weddings through the ages. Featuring textiles, mementoes, gifts and photographs, the exhibition will run throughout August.

Next week a new guest blogger will look at the National Trut’s work in the Surrey Hills.

To get you in the mood for Valentine’s Day we thought we would treat you to a series of romantic themed blogs from Sue Rhodes, House Steward at Petworth House.

Generations of people have lived, loved and lost here at Petworth House. As you walk around the house the faces of these people look down from the walls – it is touching to know that these distant lives were really no different to the trials of love today. Over the next few weeks I will be sharing a few of these romantic tales with you, starting with one from the 17th century.

Painting of the 6th Duke of Somerset

The 6th Duke of Somerset

Above you can see a painting of the 6th Duke of Somerset who married Elizabeth Percy, the great Percy heiress, in 1682. The 6th Duke is better known as the Proud Duke, mainly for his arrogance: he docked £20,000 off one of his daughter’s inheritance for daring to sit down in his presence while he was asleep (so not a likely candidate for a romantic streak). His wife, Elizabeth Percy, died in 1722, which left him looking for a new bride.

The Duke turned his attentions to the widowed Duchess of Marlborough and began to send her feverish love letters, which showed another side to him altogether. Unfortunately for him, the Duchess of Marlborough was still loyal to her first husband, the Duke of Marlborough.

However, the 6th Duke and the Duchess of Marlborough continued to exchange letters regularly. The Duke never lost his passionate tone, even when writing about more mundane issues such as estate business. The last letter known from the 6th Duke to the Duchess is dated 1737, which showed that he continued writing, declaring his unchanged affections for her, even after marrying Lady Caroline Finch in 1726.

This obviously meant that the Duke’s second marriage was not a love match, and perhaps this is why his new bride was treated so poorly. He told her, after she had gently tapped him on the shoulder with her fan: ‘Madam my first wife was a Percy and she never took such a liberty.’ But that is another story…


The original letters between the 6th Duke of Somerset and the Duchess of Marlborough are in the British Library

Hello. This week David Elliot shares more about the design and materials for the new environmentally friendly building that Ben Law is helping the National Trust to build at Swan Barn Farm.

We have decided to call the new building Speckled Wood, after this butterfly that likes to frequent woodland rides and glades. They seem to be doing rather well here at Swan Barn Farm, thanks in some way at least to the work we have been doing here for the past few years.

Speckled Wood butterfly

Speckled Wood butterfly

The building will be based on a roundwood cruck timber frame. This construction technique produces attractive, functional buildings that can be sourced from the local woods. Exterior walls will be made of straw bales which will then either be rendered with lime or protected with oak boards. Interior walls will be wattle and daub with earth plaster. The roof will be made of chestnut shingles. We are very proud that pretty much all of the materials used in the building will be sourced in a sustainable way from woods within a couple of miles of the project site.

Sketch of new building

Sketch of new building

Above is a sketch of what the new building will look like, we have had a long haul to get the project off the ground and are still working hard on funding. Meanwhile we are also working hard in the woods getting the materials we will need for the project ready.

Felling chestnut

Felling chestnut

Here we are working in Ridden Corner Copse on Black Down felling and preparing the Sweet Chestnut which will be used for the timber frame of the building. The process becomes really fascinating when you start to think about which parts of the building the tree’s you are working with are going to be used for.

Working on oak

Working on oak

Above you can see me working on an oak in Witley Copse at Swan Barn Farm. The tree I am working on in this photo is destined for interior floorboards for the building. It will be sawn into planks and then air dried for a number of months before a final short spell of kiln drying.

Most of the timber for the building is coming from coppice woodlands. Coppicing is a traditional (and sustainable) form of woodland management which dates back many hundreds, if not thousands, of years. In a coppiced wood an area of the wood is felled each winter, but the trees don’t die, instead they re-grow from the cut stumps, the re-growth from the stumps can be harvested many times without any affect on the tree’s ability to grow again. Coppicing provides wood which is useful for a variety of purposes, but perhaps even more importantly it also provides the alternating cycles of light and shade, as well bare ground and dense shrubby thickets which are so vital to much of our precious woodland wildlife. Wild flowers grab the opportunity to grow and set seed in the light when the coppice is cut and woodland birds love to nest in the thickets as the woodland regenerates. There is nothing quite like a walk through a well managed hazel coppice in the spring, it is a vibrant place, bursting with life.

If you are interested in finding out more about this project you can visit the speckled wood blog at:

I am writing it as way of keeping a diary of progress on the project, telling its story I suppose, as well as letting people locally know about some of the other things that are going on at Black Down.

The project has been really interesting so far, and we are only just getting going, we have been lucky to have lots of local support and interest and we hope this will continue.

We have a busy year ahead of us, so wish us luck! If you are here in Haslemere this summer why not call in and see the building going up, there is easy access to Swan Barn Farm from the High Street, and the main footpath goes right past the project.

In this week’s blog David Elliott, National Trust Head Warden for the Black Down Estate, starts writing about the Speckled Wood project at Swan Barn Farm.

Swan Barn Farm is a National Trust property next to the small town of Haslemere. Being right on the town’s doorstep it offers a real opportunity for people to get involved in the countryside. It is made up of about 100 acres of ancient woodland and meadows as well as a small orchard and a number of ponds and streams. It is home to the Black Down wardening team as well as to Hunter Basecamp.

Hunter Basecamp at Swan Barn Farm

Hunter Basecamp at Swan Barn Farm

The basecamp, pictured above, offers accommodation to volunteers who come for week long working holidays and work on a number of NT properties in the area. It is also the site for an exciting new project; a project that aims to extend the basecamp facilities by building new accommodation for long term volunteers.

View across the estate

View across the estate

From our base at Swan Barn Farm the Black Down countryside team manages hundreds of acres of woodland, heathland and meadows. This countryside and its important wildlife are much loved by local people. We want the new building to reflect this landscape and to be constructed from materials sourced on the estate in an environmentally friendly manner.

Woods near Swan Barn Farm

Woods near Swan Barn Farm

The woodlands on the estate are managed primarily for public access and nature conservation. Large areas of them are traditional coppiced woodlands. The cyclical cutting of coppiced woodland provides ideal conditions for a wide range of woodland wildlife as well as providing timber for use on the estate, including our new building.

Chesnut coppicing on the estate

Chesnut coppicing on the estate

We have been working with local designer and woodsman Ben Law, who you may have seen building his house (shown below) on the Channel 4 programme Grand Designs. Ben is working with us to design and build an environmentally friendly, locally sourced building which we can construct with the help of our volunteers.

The house Ben Law built

The house Ben Law built

Next week David will share more details about this project including what work has been carried out so far and the design of the building.

Well, the end of the year has come and gone. The end of “International Year of Biodiversity”. (IYB, no less) Please don’t say you missed it!

I realise that there is a “year”, “week” or “day” to “celebrate” almost everything. I believe that there is even some sort of celebration of that most pernicious, disgusting and, frankly, evil member of the planet’s flora – the Brussels Sprout. But even this object of torture that torments us from childhood to the grave has its moments. If you cut out the middle man/woman and chuck them straight on the compost heap they can benefit any number of microbial species and will no doubt nourish our earth worms. The worms will go deeper into the soil as the surface temperatures drop, but a compost heap is likely to be warmer (as a result of all that decomposition). I have sometimes put a bit of old carpet on my heap to speed up the rotting process. If you do this, then roll back a bit of the carpet in cold, snowy weather you are likely to find birds aplenty descending on it to find worms and other invertebrates.

One species you are likely to see is the Robin. This charming little bird (as seen on a Christmas card recently, no doubt) is actually a bit of a brutish thug at this time of year, engaged in some aggressive activity to defend its territory. Robins have no doubt been put off vegetarianism by the thought of sprouts, and prefer to eat meal worms from bird tables. They are the gardener’s friend – I have a “pet” on my allotment (whom I have imaginatively named “Robin”) who follows me up and down the plot as I dig.

Talking of aggressive, largely (but not solely) male behaviour, at the end of IYB…. There are other parallels in the generally mindless, drunken lechery and aggression that is sometime referred to by us humans as “celebrating” New Year’s Eve. As the New Year begins you can see some of our early breeding birds coming into full breeding plumage. Try and see through the apparently sordid mating scenes of the Mallards on your local Trust pond. Admittedly the females look battered and scarred and can sometimes be drowned by the “over-amorous” behaviour of a group of drakes, but this seems to be the way they work and you may wish to concentrate your thoughts on the male’s plumage. The head which may look, at first sight, to be dark green can shimmer as it moves from a sort of luminescent turquoise to blue and purple. And look at the colours of Starlings too. Close up that apparently dull dark brown/black also goes through all sorts of shades of deep purple – showing the sort of subtle “make up” and glamour that nature can produce but us humans may struggle with as we prepare to go out for New Year.

Mallards on frozen water at Petworth Park

After dark you will still hear the ducks (carrying on all night!), and last night I listened to a coo-ing collared dove sitting on a snow covered chimney in the cold and dark. But daytime also brings sounds of impending spring. If the sun manages to poke through you will here the “squeaky wheelbarrow” call of Great tits and the chirpy and generally “happy” sound of Chaffinches as their minds turn to finding a mate and getting down to the business of…well… life

So IYB comes to an end as 2010 closes, but I am glad to say that there is a sequel … well there is in my book. If “biodiversity” is simply our variety of wildlife, then every year is one in which to celebrate it, fancy logo or not.

A new year starts here – get out to your local Trust property and enjoy it…Ravens and Peregrines on the White Cliffs; orchids on the North Downs (and Bee Orchids in Batemans car park); Dartford warblers (have they survived the cold?) on our Surrey and West Sussex heaths; “mad” March Hares on the lawn at Uppark; Serotine bats at Polesden Lacey; dragonflies gracing ponds at Nymans, Ightham, Hatchlands and Sissinghurst and, best of all in my book, nearly 2,000 hectares of Trust woodland to explore in Kent, Sussex and Surrey.

Early morning, afternoon tea time, or after dark… get out there and enjoy it.

This November Adam Walsh, our Collections Engagement Officer, will be telling the stories of some of our places and their links to the First World War as part of the annual armistice commemoration, In this blog, Adam concludes by looking at the memorials of the Great War and our links to them.

At eleven o’clock in November 1918 the guns finally fell silent on the western front as a ceasefire was declared.  The experiences of the war had left a collective trauma on the nations involved. In the years that followed, war memorials both public and private would be built in towns and villages across the U.K.

Among the memorials built was the Sandham Memorial Chapel in Hampshire. The chapel was designed by Lionel Pearson and commissioned by Mary and Louis Behrend. It was dedicated to Lieutenant Henry William Sandy, Mary’s brother, who had died in 1919 from an illness he had contracted during the Macedonian campaigns.

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 The Chapel is famous for the paintings it houses by artist Stanley Spencer who drew on his every day experiences of being a private soldier serving in Macedonia and the U.K. Spencer had served as an orderly in the Royal Medical Corp, before volunteering for overseas service in August 1916. Serving in Macedonia himself, he would transfer to the Infantry with the Royal Berkshires before contracting malaria and eventually being sent home.

The architect Herbert Baker designed the War Memorial at Winchester College.

Herbert Baker, the famous architect and owner of Owletts, was involved in designing memorials to the sacrifices made during the war. Baker designed the memorial at Winchester College and later the largest British War Cemetery in the World at Tyne Cot in the Ypres salient.

Kipling at the dedication of Etchingham Village war memorial

Following the end of the war Rudyard Kipling also dedicated large parts of his life to the War Graves Commission. It would be Kipling who chose the words ‘The Glorious Dead’ engraved at each end of the Cenotaph in London, the centre of the nations commemorations the Sunday nearest to armistice.  He would also select the biblical phrase ‘their name liveth for ever more’ seen on many British War Memorials.

A page from a signed copy of Siegfried Sassons Collected Works in store at Scotney Castle.

 Have you forgotten yet?…
    For the world’s events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
    Like traffic checked a while at the crossing of city ways:
    And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
    Like clouds in the lit heavens of life; and you’re a man reprieved to go,
    Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
    But the past is just the same—and War’s a bloody game…
    Have you forgotten yet?…
    Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you’ll never forget.

 Aftermath by Siegfried Sassoon March 1919

Next week Crispin Scott, our Nature Conservation Adviser will be talking about what goes on in the natural world during the winter months.

This November Adam Walsh, our Collections Engagement Officer, will be telling the stories of some of our places and their links to the First World War as part of the annual armistice commemoration, In this blog, Adam explains how some of our places were used as hospitals and highlights the work of the VAD.

As war broke across Europe many owners of large houses offered their homes for use in the war effort. Among these were Clandon and Hatchlands Park.

Image of Clandon Park During the Great War

A House at War, Outside Clandon Park during the Great War.


The Entrance Hall as a hospital Ward at Clandon Park

The entrance hall at Clandon Park being put to use as Hospital Ward. The Hospital would eventually have 128 beds in use.

 Clandon Park was offered by the Onslows for use at the outbreak of war.  The 1st October 1914 would see it ready for use as an auxiliary hospital for other ranks. The Hospital was fitted out with 100 beds; this number would later be increased by another 14 beds in the entrance hall and 14 in smaller rooms. 

A signed first page from an book of autographs of patients and staff of the Hospital at Clandon Park

October 12th 1914, the first patients who arrived at the hospital were Belgians as can be seen by the regiments they belonged to like the 13e de Ligne or 13th Line Regiment.

Among its first patients were 100 Belgians evacuated after their country was overrun by the Germans; an Englishman and a lone French Marine. One patient died the day after admission and two would die three days later but the rest recovered. It would not be until March 1915 that the first large group of British patients would arrive.

The Burial of a Belgian soldier at Clandon Park Hospital, October 1914.

"The Burial of Belgain soldiers who died at Clandon Hospital, October 1914" Three of the first patients at Clandon would die, the rest would recover.

Unusually for an Auxiliary Hospital, Clandon was used as a functional hospital with an operating theatre. Most Auxiliary Hospitals were used for coping with those with lesser injuries. The operating theatre at Clandon was located in Lord Onslow’s dressing room, due to its access to running water. In 1916, 251 operations were performed in the hospital.

A plaque marking the use as Clandon Park as a Hospital with operating theatre

Clandon Park unusally for a V.A.D Hospital had an operating theatre.


Three nursing sisters at Clandon Park

By 1917 the senior members of the V.A.D had been promoted to Nursing Sisters.


Lady Onslow in her V.A.D Comandants Uniform

Lady Onslow commented that the uniform of the V.A.D was much scorned at the outbreak of war, but in time this changed.

 Clandon and Hatchlands, as so many other hospitals throughout the country, were staffed by Nurses of the Voluntary Aid Detachments. In many cases these were local women who had volunteered; they were paid expenses but did not normally receive a salary for their work. By 1917 the senior members of the VAD units at Clandon had been promoted to Staff Nurses. Lady Onslow, who was commandant of both this and another two hospitals from December 1914, noted that the uniform of the VAD was scorned at the beginning of the war, but with time this attitude changed.

A certificate for a V.A.D Nurse from St. John's Jerusalem, Kent

A V.A.D certificate of Miss Charlotte Bell from St.John's Jerusalem, Kent.

A Silver Salt

Centre; A Silver Salt recieved by Lady Onslow on the discharge of the last patient to Woolwich, to commemorate her role and the use of Clandon.

A Certificate of Thanks from Army Council for use of Hatchlands as a Hospital

Hatchlands Park too was also used a hospital during the Great War. Voluntary Hospitals in Surrey would treat over 60,000 individuals in 1918 alone.

Next week I will continue by looking at some of the other historic houses which were used as Hospitals during the Great War.

If you want to find out more about Clandon and it use as a Voluntary Hospital and see some of the objects personally; Clandon will be hosting an exhibition “When War Came to Clandon” from 24th July – 25th August 2011.