Bonds Meadow legacy

Parke House, Parke, Devon

We couldn't do what we do without donations. Whether it's buying a raffle ticket, planting a tree to remember a loved one, funding a conservation project, or leaving a legacy in a will - the generosity of our donors means the country's heritage, nature and beauty continues to be cared for, for everyone. Rebecca Burton, Regional Director for the National Trust in the South West, reflects on the Bonds Meadow legacy and the Parke Estate.

'Sometimes land and buildings are left to us with the donor giving us permission to later sell those assets to help safeguard other special places long into the future. In the 1970s we were generously left a piece of land on the fringes of Dartmoor, with the instruction from the donor that it could be sold to help the conservation of the nearby Parke Estate - a 200-acre site that's home to a myriad of wildlife, including rare butterflies, as well as woodlands, gardens and an orchard, all of which are all free to visit.

'We've been in discussions with the local community and other stakeholders about the sale of three acres of this land, known as Bonds Meadow, for several years. In March 2020, we made the community group aware that the realistic price for the land needed to be in excess of £300,000, as we understood they were looking to put forward a proposal - which we welcomed. We always want to work with local communities and we extended the deadline several times so they had the opportunity to submit a proposal.

'In mid-June, the deadline for formal bids passed, and unfortunately the indicative offer of between £30,000-£50,000 made by the local community fell a very long way short of the £300,000+ valuation. We cannot sell a donor's land for six times less than it is worth. As the land has already been allocated for housing in the council's Local Plan, we have therefore agreed to progress with the conditional sale to a local developer.

'We understand the concerns of the local community and we never make these decisions carelessly. The proposed sale is conditional, so it will only proceed if Teignbridge District Council approve a planning application - which must include the necessary safeguards for nature. If the scheme proposed is not approved by the local authority the sale will not proceed.

'As a charity, supporters would expect nothing less than for us to ensure we get the maximum benefit from any gifts they give us, especially if the donor has allowed us to sell the land to provide a lasting and positive impact on the natural environment. The past year, and the resulting financial impact of the pandemic, have made us realise more than ever that we must show thought for the future, and balance current financial decisions with long term conservation.

'In line with the donor's wishes, the money from the sale of Bonds Meadow will help keep Parke's 200 acres open and accessible to all, while funding the creation and extension of wildlife habitats. Parke is cherished by walkers, orienteers, runners, cyclists, and nature lovers of all ages. It includes a section of the old railway line, a stretch of the River Bovey and provides a traffic-free link for cyclists. In 2019, it welcomed 240,000 visitors.

'We care for many places that require charitable funds but bring in little or no money themselves. So it's thanks to generous donations like these that places like Parke can remain open, accessible, and free to all - and that our role to look after heritage, nature, and beauty, on behalf of the nation, can continue.'

 Rebecca Burton, Regional Director for the South WestProfile picture of Rebecca Burton Regional Director for the South West