Despite the economic downturn, it’s been a bumper year for the National Trust, according to its 2008/2009 Annual Report.

Visitor numbers at pay-for-entry properties are up 18%, with more than 12 million visits by the start of September, compared to 14.8 million for the whole of last year.

Membership recruitment is up nearly 21%, with total membership now at 3.76 million, more than a quarter of a million higher than two years ago.

The National Trust’s catering and retail operations are up by 22% and 19% respectively, and bookings at holiday cottages are up by 8%.

batemans NTPL John Miller
Bateman’s, East Sussex – John Miller/NTPL

Simon Jenkins, chairman of the Trust, says: ‘A confident and constructive spirit matters at a time like this, when so many are dispirited and distressed.

‘We’re not immune to the recession, but our founders’ vision-that everyone should benefit from the joy and inspiration of beautiful places-has never been more compelling than it is today.’

Fiona Reynolds, director-general of the Trust, adds: ‘Our drive to bring our properties to life, give people the chance to get more involved in our work and provide them with an inspiring and very enjoyable visit is paying huge dividends.

‘Any additional revenue we earn goes straight back into our properties for conservation work and to support our growing emphasis on engagement.’

The Trust’s activities this year included the campaign to save Sir John Vanbrugh‘s Seaton Delaval Hall in Northumberland, the BBC‘s Autumnwatch at Brownsea Island and the receipt of three Historic House Hotels-one of the largest single donations in the Trust’s history.

Brownsea island national trust
Brownsea Island/National Trust

In financial terms, the report shows that the Trust’s margin achieved between net operating revenues and operating expenditure was 21.5%, above the long-term 20% target.

Andrew Copestake, finance director for the Trust, notes: ‘The Trust is always on guard against complacency, but the good news is that, thanks to our members and visitors, our reserves continue to grow to give us some protection against the bad times.’

Read more about National Trust’s autumn Heritage Open Days.

Another area of British conservation is benefiting from the staycation trend: wildlife and nature, according to the RSPB.

Almost half a million people visited the top RSPB nature reserves between April and June, a 20% increase on last year, and 22,000 people attended this summer’s British Birdwatching Fair at Rutland Water, up 14% on 2008’s record-breaking attendance numbers.

Bluetits feeder
Jane Tomlinson

In addition, bird-food sales have increased by one-third in the past 18 months, and the number of people buying RSPB porducts to feed birds and wildlife in their gardens has increased by about 20%.

Paul Forecast, head of people engagement at the RSPB, says: ‘Enjoying spectacular wildlife is priceless, and many of our reserves are free to get into. We hope that even more people will enjoy great days out with nature over autumn and winter, with some of the best wildlife spectacles still to come.’

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