Strange to be sitting back at the computer after nearly four days … Can it really be four days? Well, yes. I spent Thursday at NTEWNI’s Dyrham Park, Friday and Saturday at Blenheim Palace and Sunday at one of our local Forestry Commission woods. A veritable feast of outdoor delights!
The week started at Heelis with our wonderful volunteers, Jackie and Noémie, and catching up with Fiona over lunch. Great to chat in real time to our INTO Chairman and make plans for our forthcoming EC/Board meeting in Milan. Whilst we have regular teleconferences, both of us are really looking forward to meeting everyone in person and having a ‘strategic planning retreat’ in wonderful surroundings (see FAI’s Villa Balbianello below!).
We had our second All Member Global Webinar on Tuesday, organized by Dora Khoo (Hui Theng of INTO members, TEIA) and our webmaster, Bill Turner, which we hope was useful to those who checked in. It was certainly interesting for me to hear about training the Siam Society have been delivering around using the law to protect heritage places, amongst other things.
On Wednesday I had a great morning at WWF-UK. They have the most fabulous sustainable office (the Living Planet Centre – see above) and if you’re ever in Woking do pop in to have a look around. Our discussion was wide-ranging but essentially about how we could work more together (one of the things Fiona called for in her World Heritage Day speech). UNESCO and World Heritage, climate change and Heritage Open Days were all on the agenda. A lot more thinking to do but fantastic to standing alongside such an inspirational organization – watch this space!
I went with Noémie and my kids to Dyrham Park on Thursday. It was a lovely day out and a good chance to see a National Trust place in action. We particularly liked the treestumps that have been inventively carved into sign-posts and the deer … We took the long way round to the house and stumbled across the herd (which we were feeling quite smug about until later when they were right in front of the house for everyone to see!).
We chatted to some volunteers who were reworking a gateway at the Old Lodge and the children enjoyed the play area there before finally going down to the house. (And while I was on the phone briefing the NTEWNI Director I had arranged to meet the new President of the Barbados National Trust later that day, the children ran up and down to a statue on a hill – which we discovered was Neptune and part of the amazing former water gardens.)
The house itself is undergoing something of a transformation following the re-roofing project. We all loved the video recreation of the extraordinary ‘lost’ water garden – and in fact I loved all the Dutch references, particularly to Het Loo, where our friend Johan Carel Bierens de Haan is now Deputy Director, and Middachten, which Fiona and I visited a few years ago with Jeanine Perryck of the Gelderland Trust (see below).
Early on Friday morning I set off for Countryfile Live at Blenheim Palace. The NTEWNI was a partner in this massive celebration of rural life and the outdoors and was looking for volunteers to help out so I spent a brilliant day backstage at the NT Cookery Theatre and a day doing 50 Things before you’re 11 3/4 activities. I’m now an expert grass trumpet blower (!) and will never be able to watch a cookery demonstration in the same way again, but it was wonderful to be a part of it.
Yesterday, Fiona spoke about why we need beauty in our lives and that “beauty covers all the things in life that matter but money can’t buy”. It was brilliant, of course.
For the Trust Countryfile Live was a great opportunity to talk about the future of the countryside, and to dispel any thoughts that the NT is ‘just’ about stately homes.
All in all, a wonderful week – thanks for reading!