National Trust reports record spend on conservation, supported by highest membership and visitor numbers

Press release
Releasing water voles
Published : 01 Sep 2019 Last update : 02 Sep 2019

The National Trust has spent more than ever before looking after houses, gardens, coast and countryside as record numbers of people joined the charity, new figures out today reveal.

During 2018/19 the conservation charity spent £148m on conservation projects and restoration works to look after the 780 miles of coastline, 248,000 hectares of land and more than 500 historic houses, gardens, parks and countryside in its care, according to its annual report. The figure is £10m more than the previous year, equivalent to an extra £830,000 per month.

The biggest increase came on projects to protect the coast and countryside, with more than £35m (£35,723,000) spent, an increase of £5million on the previous year. Projects included the restoration of the cairn on Scafell Pike, England’s highest war memorial and the launch of the Riverlands partnership with Environment Agency, which included the reintroduction of water voles at Porlock Vale on Exmoor.

Almost £105m (£104,448,000) was spent on historic houses and collections, an increase of more than £3m compared to the previous year. Work included conservation of the Robert Adam ceiling in the Saloon at Saltram in Devon, to address problems caused by the craftsmen’s original technique, and preservation of Horsey Windpump in Norfolk, including restoration of its sails and fantail. Conservation work at Knole in Kent has seen the restoration of internationally significant pieces of Stuart furniture including the Spangled Bed, a rare treasure from the 1620s which has been returned to its original condition, complete with silver and gold spangles (sequins) and is now back on display in its full glory.

In addition, more than £8m (£8,221,000) was spent looking after the parks and gardens in its care – nearly £2m more than the previous year.

The increased conservation spend has been supported by record numbers of visitors and members. During 2018/19 more people than ever before joined the Trust, increasing the number of members to 5.6m, from 5.2m the year before. And 26.9m visits were made to National Trust places.
The increases come on the back of the success of two new member schemes, which saw more than 28,000 under 15s join its junior membership at £10 per year, and almost 26,000 take up the offer of a free essential companion card for visitors who require support or care.
Director of Support and Revenue Sharon Pickford said: “These latest figures are not only great news for the National Trust as a charity, but also for the hundreds of special places that we look after. Our work to care for these places is only possible through the generosity of our members, visitors, volunteers, funders and donors. Without them we simply wouldn’t be able to spend record levels on conservation and access work to ensure more people have a great experience when they come to our places.

“This year we welcomed record numbers of visitors, and it is fantastic to see even more people exploring what we have to offer and learn about nature and heritage – especially young people who have been joining us in their tens of thousands.

“However, we aren’t complacent and we know there are many more people who may like the opportunity to access and enjoy what we have to offer and we will continue working to provide events and activities which cater for a wide spectrum of the public, while ensuring we look after special places in our care.”

Elsewhere the report found:

  • The Trust is supported by 65,000 volunteers who collectively donated more than 4.8m hours of their time. This year the number of volunteers who would strongly recommend volunteering for the National Trust is also at its highest level ever, at 67% (compared to 61% last year). Overall, 95% would recommend volunteering with the Trust.
  • Fundraising income grew, from £94.3m in 2017/18 to £97.8m.
  • Operating margin shrunk slightly, from 21.4% to 19.7%