Europe’s largest conservation charity the National Trust looks after a fifth of the Lake District for everyone to enjoy. The trust was founded in 1895 by three people, one of whom was Grasmere’s Hardwicke Rawnsley. They saw the importance of the nation’s heritage and open spaces. Today, the trust’s Cumbria team - 400 staff and nearly 2,000 volunteers - look after an incredibly diverse set of places. More than £9 million is re-invested into the Lakes annually - funds raised by the trust.

As one year ends and another begins the trust’s new Director for the North of England Mike Innerdale, who lives with his family in the Eden Valley, takes stock

PASSION for engaging people with conservation and beautiful places has always been something that drives me, from starting my career as a ranger in Grizedale to one reason for taking up the reins as a Regional Director for the National Trust.

This is my dream job, with the challenge to improve nature and engage people with the places in our care at its core.

Nowhere in the UK is this more evident than in the Lakes. One powerful story of people and landscapes, resonating with more than one million people, was the ‘Great Gift’. After the Great War, 14 summits were given to the trust, for the nation, as a war memorial. Acts of remembrance have included a community choir performing live on 10 of the summits and rangers who camped on Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain, to rebuild the memorial sited there.

This year has also been about World Heritage Site status, partly awarded because of the centuries-old tradition of hill farming, and support for our farmers in these unprecedented times.

If we leave the European Union, subsidies based on the size of landownership are likely to be replaced by payments rewarding farmers for delivering public benefits. We see this as a key opportunity and are working hard to influence national thinking.

Given the size of our landholding, and our conservation remit, we remain committed to doing whatever we can to support a future for all our working farms here.

We want to see farming and conservation working together and traditional breeds thriving. Our farming action plan is helping with this, developed with farmers and partner organisations. It lays the foundations for a shared understanding of the issues, challenges and opportunities facing us all, including how to nurture and support the next generation of farmers and land managers for this internationally important landscape.

The great news is that there are lots of individuals, couples and families who want to take up the challenge of farming in the Lake District.

As we look to do more to respond to climate change we continue our programme of building micro hydro-electric power schemes to produce renewable energy. The trust’s 50th scheme is at Greenburn, providing a renewable energy solution in a landscape where few other opportunities exist. It’s also an income 'stream' to support future conservation work in Little Langdale.

We know that climate change is also likely to increase the regularity of extreme weather. We have started two projects looking at how we can work with nature, to help reduce downstream flooding. The Derwent catchment is part of a £10 million programme and in the Ullswater valley we are working with our tenants, the community and statutory bodies to restore Goldrill Beck to a more natural meandering course. This will help to protect a key valley road, alleviate flooding and be good for wildlife and plants.

The wet spring and a hot summer presented other weather challenges, including topping up the private water supplies of 180 tenants. Our teams worked long hours and bought in £10,000 of extra equipment to help.

But it was good for insects, brought a bumper crop of apples at Acorn Bank near Penrith, where they have 175 heritage varieties, and lots of visitors to our campsites.

The winter will see us start to upgrade facilities at Wasdale and Langdale, and next spring we will have tree tents at Low Wray. Offering an inspiring place to stay is part of our remit here in the Lakes.

Investments at two lakeshore places, where people can access Windermere, have proved popular. A new jetty for Wray Castle and at Fell Foot, near Newby Bridge, our first Outdoor Festival introduced people to lots of different land and water-based activities. The event marked the opening of Active Base, supported by Sport England, while HLF funding sees work continue next year to improve visitors' enjoyment of the park’s historic boathouse, arboretum and wider landscape.

2019 will see us continue to balance economic, environmental and societal needs across all we do in the county. Our context is a hugely important cultural landscape which people want to enjoy and make a living from.

One opportunity is trust land near Windermere railway station, which is being considered for development in the LDNPA’s draft local plan. This could be the centre of ambitious partnership plans for a world class welcome, at a pivotal entrance to the central Lakes, and also address local housing needs.

The everyday, and often invisible, task of conservation carries on throughout the year with the help of volunteers, the real heroes. It can be as varied as looking after collections at our busiest property, Hill Top, to gardening duties at Allan Bank and Townend or fundraising to keep an important family portrait at Sizergh Castle.

This year we discovered our conservation duties extend to 5,835 special trees across 62,000 hectares of land. Some trees have witnessed Roman invasion and huge changes in land use, while all the time turning sunlight into energy, locking up Co2, providing shade for stock, protection for the soils and giving hundreds of insects, mammals, birds, fungi, mosses and lichens a home. They are unique, irreplaceable and usually the oldest living organism in the landscape.

Like all charities, raising income to meet our ambitious conservation objectives is mission critical. Our five million strong membership base is incredibly important, and so is every visit people make to our countryside car parks, tea rooms, shops, attractions and holiday cottages. We will continue to strive to make everyone feel welcome and that they have had the best of experiences with us.