Malcolm Anderson - our environmental advisor
Everyone loves a cuppa at the Trust, so we thought we’d make a regular feature out of interviewing people over a day’s worth of tea breaks.
For the first of our ‘Tea time with...’ interviews, we sat down with Malcolm Anderson, our environmental advisor for the South West.
10.30am, cup of tea and a biscuit
Morning Malcolm. Tell us a little about your role at the Trust...
I try to help the properties I look after in the South West reduce their environmental impact. That covers everything from energy and water to waste and any raw materials that are being brought in. It means being involved in the day to day operations of properties – lifting sewerage lids and checking in every nook and cranny to see what needs to be turned off – and also the big projects like insulating a mansion roof.
What’s the best bit about mornings in your job?
The part that I love about mornings is the quiet time when you arrive at a property and there’s nobody there. No noise, no cars. If you walk into Dyrham Park at 8.30am and park at the top of the driveway and walk down, all the deer are by the road and the house is in the mist. You see a different side to a property in that early morning light from when it’s open to visitors.
Who do you normally share your morning cup of tea with?
My first cup of tea is normally alone in post school run silence once the chaos of being a single parent subsides. I often work from home – just outside Salisbury in a 16th-century cottage in the middle of nowhere. Also it would be other staff at properties I’m visiting, and that could be anybody from a building surveyor to a ranger. There’s very little pattern in my day to day role.
12.30pm, cup of tea and a ham sandwich
What have you been working on since this morning?
We’re reviewing our environmental performance across our properties at the moment, so this morning we interviewed heads of departments about the impact of their activities on the environment – the good, the bad and the ugly. That involved sitting at a desk, chatting lots and filling out a big spreadsheet. Next, we’ll check what’s actually happening on the ground. It can’t all be glamour unfortunately.
How did you get into this job?
I dropped out of school and followed the surf and snow around the world. At one point when travelling through the Canada, I went through an enormous logging scar where no living things had survived. I thought ‘I need to do something about this’, so I got on a plane, went home and did a degree in environmental protection.
From there I went to work for a government research agency and was seconded into Whitehall for three years. I worked on the Millennium Village and lots of other big construction projects with a sustainability focus. I did that for nine years and then, six years ago, I got the opportunity to work for the Trust.
Why is your role important to the National Trust?
We spend a huge amount of money on energy, and as a charity we just can’t afford to do that. If fuel prices treble in the next ten or 15 years, we simply won’t be able to heat the places that we look after. It’s quite a stark message, but at the current rate of consumption we could even have to mothball houses, seal them up and not open them.
The Trust was set up as a philanthropic organisation. It was about access to fresh air and green spaces and I think the environmental message sits right in that. In my role I’m helping to make sure these places can be accessed for ever.
3.30pm, cup of tea and a slice of lemon cake
What are the biggest challenges in your job?
I think the biggest challenge is that we’re an enormous organisation. The property that the public see is just the tip of the iceberg and until you work for the trust you don’t realise what’s under the surface. You’re trying to achieve a lot on little money, so it’s about prioritising. We have to be clear on where to act, what the action needs to be and who to take with you on that journey.
What do you love about your job?
It’s an amazing job and it does make a lot of people envious. Sitting on the quayside at Brownsea and having a meeting while eating fish and chips; helping the rangers out with the Stonehenge solstice; looking in cupboards, basements and attics that aren’t open to the public – there are lots of little moments that I love.
I once found an old mantrap that was used to catch poachers in the basement at Stourhead. We thought about using it on the next person who didn’t turn the lights off… only kidding!
Who would you choose to have tea time with, Malcolm?
There are lots, but I’d like to have a cup of tea with Deanna Fernance. She’s the national water advisor for the Trust and always has an interesting story to tell.
Next time we'll be enjoying a cup of tea with Deanna Fernance.