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National Trust’s new operations director for Cumbria sets out challenges ahead

Jeremy Barlow with his dog Sam. Credit National Trust images

[T]HE National Trust’s new assistant director for the North of England, in charge of operations in Cumbria, says he will be championing nature, farming, tourism and cultural heritage in response to the challenges facing the 120 year old charity in Cumbria.

Jeremy Barlow believes the Trust is well placed to work with others to deliver real benefits for nature while supporting the unique heritage of the Lakes; one reason why over 18 million people visit the area annually. Of those, over half a million visit the National Trust’s nine major attractions and an estimated one million more enjoy the country-side in its keep.

Jeremy, who took up the post this month (April) has been with the Trust for the last 18 years. He says working with their 90 tenant farmers is fundamental to looking after a landscape which recently gained World Heritage Site Status. He also reinforces the Trust’s commitment that all monies it raises, approximately £10million annually, goes directly back into looking after the Lake District.

He said: “Conservation is at the heart of what we do, we are Europe’s largest conservation charity. All the money we raise, through membership, car parking and from people visiting our attractions, is used to repair footpaths, renovate farmhouses, build jetties and cycle ways and improve visitor facilities. This year a particularly poignant task is to rebuild the WW1 memorial cairn on the top of Scafell Pike, a centenary after it was gifted to us.

“We are also fortunate enough to be left legacies and private donations funding projects like tree planting after Storm Desmond, countryside apprenticeships and protecting red squirrels. We are beginning to raise money through micro hydro-electric power schemes to support conservation projects and to cut carbon emissions. Three of our schemes generate enough power to meet the annual electricity needs of around 500 houses, we are soon to complete two more and there are others in the pipeline. I will also be making sure we develop initiatives to cut down our use of plastics” added Jeremy.

Another important challenge for Jeremy is the implications of funding for farming post Brexit. He recognises it’s very much a shared issue with many people working together to secure support and public funding for what the landscape brings – including clean water, high quality food, wildlife, access to the outdoors and land that can respond to the impact of climate change – storing water and capturing carbon.

Communities and their links to the Lake District is something the new operations director for Cumbria wants to develop. He cites work with ex mining communities and Carlisle residents, led by their interest in the mountains on their doorsteps, as one example. Jeremy is also quick to point out that the Trust is a local employer, reliant on a large army of volunteers.

“We’re entering a new chapter in the history of the Lakes and how this landscape is being managed” said Jeremy. “Nature underpins all of this but it is not in universal good health. There is clear evidence that we are losing soils, wildlife has declined and our rivers are in a pattern of repeat flooding. We need to address this by collaborating with those who know the landscape inside out and manage it with us, from our tenant farmers to the 25 organisation strong Lake District National Park Partnership.

“We’re a charity, entirely independent of Government, looking after nine major visitor attractions and over 20% of the land in the Lake District National Park. My ambition is to get the message across that all the money we raise goes directly back into looking after the Lake District, the birthplace of the Trust and somewhere I care passionately about.”

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