This week, we dropped in on one of our local NT places, the Vyne. Oh my, what a treat! We used to be fairly regular visitors when a friend of ours was Head Gardener, but haven’t been for a while. Wow. We had a wonderful time exploring the new exhibitions but the highlight was this year’s rooftop walk. The Trust is replacing the roof – a vast £5.4m conservation project – and the 41 miles of scaffolding now enveloping the Tudor mansion include visitor access …
I wasn’t sure how we’d feel about seeing an old friend covered in metal and plastic. But the experience was wonderful and unforgettable. Firstly, we were all able to take the new look Vyne in our stride. No pining for the past, just a huge excitement about being able to experience something quite unique. Secondly, the aerial view of the roof from the 13m high platform is extraordinary. Quite amazing to examine the different eras of construction from such proximity. And bizarrely you don’t feel at all high up – it feels more like you’re looking into an archaeological dig somehow. Finally, it’s just fascinating. And beautiful. And consequently very moving. The Trust really does do this kind of thing well. (You can read more about the Trust’s approach to using conservation to build deeper relationships with supporters here.)
The rooftop volunteers were all really well briefed and charming. The organisation was super slick. And we did of course donate £5 to sign a tile and chuck a pound or two down the epically long coin slide. Who wouldn’t? It was just brilliant. So if you’re anywhere near Basingstoke this year, do pop in at the Vyne!
This visit reminded me how important it is for all of us to tell a really good story about our work. Preserving, protecting and passing on heritage doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Or indeed by waving some kind of magic wand. Showing, sharing and involving people in the work INTO organisations do to preserve, protect and pass on our heritage is essential. Because it builds loyal and enduring support.
This is one of the many things we aim to capture in the INTO Heritage Trusts Handbook. Some of you may have already been contacted by Dr June Taboroff – either for suggestions of what to include in the tome or requests for case studies to feature. It would of course be impossible to include everything in the Handbook. (It would be enormous and no one would ever read it!) For that reason, June and I are constantly thinking how to prioritise, summarise and focus things. This is inevitably taking up a lot of time but I’m really excited about finally having a document which sets out what a National Trust is, explores the key challenges to our organisations and showcases best practice from across the INTO network in meeting these.
May is a month of holidays in many countries. We have our Spring Bank Holiday tomorrow (May Day) and another at the end of the month, combined with our Whitsun half-term break. On Saturday, I visited our local bluebell wood and drank in the boundless purple and green. Spring is definitely well under way and Summer just around the corner. Which means, the 17th International Conference of National Trusts will be upon us in the blink of an eye! Do make sure to register and send in your abstracts.
Thanks for reading!