This year The National Trust celebrates 125 years of caring for beautiful, natural and historic places for the nation. Here the charity’s head of operations for Cumbria and North Lancashire, Jeremy Barlow, talks about its work, how people can get involved and the Trust’s anniversary plans.

A trio of nature-loving campaigners founded the National Trust in 1895.

They were social reformer Octavia Hill, who believed better environments made better people; lawyer Sir Robert Hunter and a charismatic vicar and conservationist Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, who died at Allan Bank, his Grasmere home, in 1920, a century ago.

All were united by a belief that beautiful, natural and historic places were worth protecting for future generations and that everyone should have access to them. Fast-forward 125 years and these values lie at the heart of everything we do and seem to be more relevant than ever.

In the Lake District these values underpin our responsibilities for a fifth of the national park, equivalent to more than 54,000 football pitches, and including 100 mountains, 24 lakes and tarns, 92 farms and nine major visitor attractions. All are in a World Heritage Site, which recognises farming traditions and culture and the role our founders played in the rise of global conservation movements.

In meeting our founder’s aims we are working harder than ever to respond to climate change, to look after nature and to help even more people enjoy the places in our care.

Ambitious river landscape projects are under way to restore healthy rivers and catchments to benefit people and nature. We continue to build sensitive hydro power schemes to produce green energy and, with our tenant farmers, we are increasing conservation initiatives as part of running a successful farm business.

And it’s been rewarding to see nature responding. The flower of Cumberland bloomed across Lakeland farms thanks to changes in grazing regimes, as did spring orchids in Arnside and Silverdale. Rare species and mammals are also thriving in the meadows at Hill Top Farm, which inspired many of Beatrix Potter’s much-loved characters, as a result of a 25-year project.

Funding from Sport England means we are helping more people get active in the outdoors. At Fell Foot at the southern end of Windermere, there’s a new club house and year-round activities beginning with a New Year’s Day dip.

Securing income to help us look after our places is ongoing and our 5.6 million members are an incredibly important part of that. We hope everyone, members and non-members, feel welcome at our places and that they have a great experience. Every stay, visit and cup of tea, each ticket and gift purchase contribute to the £10 million we raise and invest each year in Cumbria.

Crucial support comes as gifts, legacies and through the Lake District Appeal too. Seventy hay meadows on our farms are being restored through an award of £35,000 from a trust and in Arnside and Silverdale legacies fund a ranger and a visitor experience officer.

We also get a massive helping hand from our volunteers, around 2,000 people of all ages and from all walks of life who say it’s a healing and rewarding experience as they mend, fix, nurture and enthuse. At Fell Foot, alongside more traditional volunteering opportunities, there are youth rangers and sixth formers - find out more by booking on to one of Fell Foot’s February taster days.

In our anniversary year we are also reminded of Rawnsley’s friendship with Beatrix Potter, whom he met at Wray Castle, now an attraction that’s popular with our family visitors. The pair shared a passion for protecting the Lake District and Rawnsley may even have advised her on some of her farm purchases which she left to the Trust.

We are currently investing around £2.2m in repairing and refurbishing nine farms, including two of 14 Beatrix Potter farms.

The Trust has a unique stake in farming in the Lake District, not least because it shapes a landscape that is loved by millions, from its dry-stone walls and traditional farm buildings to Herdwick sheep. Given all the challenges facing farming from climate change to financial viability we are looking ahead for solutions with industry experts, partners and our tenant farmers.

As we head into 2020 why not be the first to see what’s new?

Climb to the roof of the Solar Tower at Sizergh for a birds’ eye view of three counties. Visit the Beatrix Potter Gallery in Hawkshead, where there’s a new exhibition of original artwork, illustrations and letters. And at Wordsworth House in Cockermouth there’s the 250th birthday of William Wordsworth to celebrate.

Find out how his wild, outdoor upbringing shaped his life and for young people there’s a poetry competition to enter by February 24. At Allan Bank, we’ll be unveiling a specially commissioned art installation and continuing the restoration of our magical woodland Pleasure Ground.

We would love to see you in 2020. Your support will ensure these special places are there for future generations to enjoy too.

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