So pleased and honoured that my first official outing as INTO Secretary-General, following new Chairman, Fiona Reynold’s announcement at the end of the Cambridge Conference, was to the National Trust of Guernsey’s Annual General Meeting yesterday.
What an wonderful organisation. My impression was of a Trust firmly in the ascendance: healthy membership growth, a renewed sense of purpose and some ambitious plans for the future.
The National Trust of Guernsey (NTG) Council, many of whom I met last night, have taken some brave steps over the past year and concentrated a lot of effort on two major restoration projects at Les Caches Barn, a beautiful mid-19th Century Guernsey farm complex, and the magnificent Georgian residence, Brockhurst in St Peter Port, which is being restored to a very high standard, with a view to finding a new tenant to relish and enjoy its Regency splendour.
This sense of momentum was echoed in the meeting room last night – the NTG is definitely a Trust that is going places! A wonderful new map guide to promote its properties; plans to connect more with the National Trust for Jersey and other conservation groups in the Channel Islands (strength in numbers!) and a healthy and interested turn out at their AGM.
Two things struck me about the meeting – the readiness of people to volunteer to serve this great organisation and the important role the NTG plays in the community. President Martin Ozanne had told me about the meeting venue, St. James Concert & Assembly Hall, a former church which had fallen into disrepair in the 1970s and was under threat from development until a coalition, including the National Trust of Guernsey, helped find a new use for the site and managed to persuade the States to pay for its restoration (people power!).
And one of the questions raised after my lecture, from newly appointed Vice-President, Bill Bowen, was about how the National Trust of England, Wales and Northern Ireland funds maintenance of its coastal footpaths. The background to the question was that there have been suggestions that the NTG might consider taking on the management of the island’s coastal paths. Whether or not this comes about, time will indeed tell, but it is testament to the high regard in which the NTG is held that the question ever arose and demonstrates that our organisations are trusted, by government and civil society alike. (Incidentally, for pictures of the best coastal walks in the UK, check out this recent study commissioned by the National Trust.)
I am delighted that the National Trust of Guernsey is part of our incredible worldwide movement of National Trusts and that their members and supporters can join a group of millions of people across the globe with a shared interest in heritage and conservation. The more people that share these values, the more chance there is that protecting our heritage will become integral to our society’s future.