My grandfather, Sir John Winnifrith, was Director General of the National Trust back in the 1970s. Back then its mission was to preserve old houses and historic rural areas. It got on with the job. And as such it was a body worth supporting. Folks felt the same way about it as they did about the RSPCA. But both bodies have quite simply lost the plot.
I have covered the RSPCA elsewhere (as you can read here) but I am these days as likely to give it my cash as I am to give cash to the NT. And I suspect that many of traditional “core” supporters fell the same way. Having visited two of its properties last week let me explain why.
The first was the 14th or 15th century farmhouse in which my grandfather was allowed to live after retiring from the NT. It is not a terribly remarkable building or very big. No tourist would visit it specifically but it is (or was) a lovely old place. When my grandparents lived there the lawn was immaculate and my grandmother (who played rugby for her – boys - prep school used to bowl at me there – it was as flat as a cricket pitch. My grandfather tended his vegetable garden with utter care and in the shed he and I used to split great big logs into smaller pieces for a roaring open fire that was at the centre of the (rather cold) old house.
I pitched up to find the place deserted. The lawn and vegetable patch were covered in weeds and two foot long grass. The trees were overgrown. Inside all I could see in the main room was that inside the great hearth that had hosted open fires for 500 years was a modern wood burning stove. But there was nothing else. The house was abandoned and slowly going to pot.
So what the fuck does the National Trust spend its millions on these days? Heading over to Bodiam Castle in Sussex via the steam railway from Tenterden I was greeted with a sign erected by the NT in c2000. “Within 50 years this area will be underwater due to climate change”. What utter bollocks.
Of course much of the area around Bodiam on Romney Marsh was underwater in 1300 and before but that was nothing to do with man-made fossil fuels and global warming. The world gets warmer and it gets colder. Land masses rise and they fall.
So far we are 13 years into those 50 and there is absolutely no evidence that I will need wellies or a rubber dinghy to visit Bodiam by 2050 or indeed ever. But the NT seems to have been captured by the sort of political establishment loons who are happy to let buildings like Hall House Farm Appledore crumble and disappear in weeds as long as they can splash the cash on fighting global warming.
I quote from the NT’s website:
“We're pledging to reduce use of fossil fuels by 50 per cent within the next 10 years. The move will aim to cut our carbon emissions from energy use for heat and electricity by 45 per cent – beating the Government’s target of a 34 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020.
In addition to the benefits to the climate, the move could also help us dramatically reduce the amount we spend on fuel - we currently spend around £6 million each year on power and heating for our buildings.
The target will be met by reducing energy use for electricity and heating by 20 per cent and introducing ‘grow your own’ micro and small scale energy schemes using wood fuel, solar, heat pumps, hydro and wind.
The initiative will involve our entire in-hand building stock, which includes 300 major historic houses, office buildings, visitor centres and 360 holiday cottages.
We anticipate that most of the schemes will break-even within the next 10 years, even allowing for the huge variability in the price of energy and uncertainty over the future of grants and subsidies. Our reduction in the use of mains electricity, gas, oil and LPG will be equivalent to removing 4,500 family cars from the road.
World leaders may not have provided a political solution to the climate change problem at Copenhagen, but that should not delay us from delivering practical solutions on the ground,' said Fiona Reynolds, Director-General of the National Trust.
'The Trust has a responsibility to look after the special places in our care for ever, requiring us to make long term decisions that will protect them for future generations to enjoy.
'Climate change is already having a major impact on our properties and is one of the reasons why we need to act now, both to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to change,' Fiona Reynolds continued.
Okay Fiona darling – what climate change are you referring to? The UK is colder now than it was back in the late 1970s. It got warmer then it got colder. What specific climate changes are you referring to and how exactly is this harming the properties you look after? Or complexly fucking ignore like Hall House Farm Appledore?
You tell us that you will get ten year payback on most of your “green” energy schemes but that may depend on subsidies etc. Wake up and smell the coffee. All across Europe Governments are scrapping subsidies for pointless green energy projects. The game is up. How much time, money and effort are you ploughing into “saving the planet” rather than saving Hall House Farm Appledore and other buildings which is what your job is meant to be?
As a footnote my father has written to the NT about its neglect of Hall House Farm. I await its response with interest.