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26 February 2020: NT supporter Group AGMGavel

Our local National Trust Supporter Group held its Annual General Meeting this evening. My wife and I both attended. We now have a new Chairman, the previous one having stepped down after nine years in the role. She was thanked for all the work she has done for the Group as Chairman and presented with flowers. She has agreed to remain on the Committee, at least for the time being. The new Chairman mentioned that we now have over 330 members.

Our Treasurer reported that a financial surplus was made on the meetings last year after payment of the venue and speakers’ fees but there had been a reduced surplus on the outings. As a result the Group’s contributions to the National Trust were lower than the previous year. We were given details of the various NT projects for which we as a Group had donated funds.

Our President is in the middle of his term of office. Some eagle-eyed person had spotted that the Group’s constitution did not provide fully for the election of a President, so we changed it at the meeting.

The Programme Officer reported that all outings, and the Group holiday, are now full. He will try to see whether extra capacity can be arranged for the holiday and for the October outing.

After an interval Paul Forecast, Regional Director for the Eastern Region of the National Trust, brought us up to date on developments in the Trust.

Paul reckoned that authorities had to take note of the Trust not only because of the work it does but also because of its size. Today the Trust has about 6,000,000 members. (By my reckoning that’s about 10% of the country’s adult population.) It has around 10,000 staff and 60,000 volunteers.

Wicken Fen is the oldest nature reserve in the country. It started when two acres were bought by a couple of individuals to preserve it and it now consists of 1,000 acres. There are plans to extend it much further. It will then cover a large area, but not as large as the original fens, which extended over a large part of the northern section of East Anglia.

It is not all good news, though. Orford Ness is being eroded and it is expected that the lighthouse will fall into the sea within weeks.

Much of the Trust’s work is, of course, about conservation and it is recognised as one of the world’s leading organisations in that area. Paul recommended a visit to the Trust’s textile conservation centre near Ickworth. He described as looking like the headquarters of a Bond villain, with ultra-high-tech facilities at one end and hand embroidery taking place at the other. He showed us a close-up picture of a “privy purse”, showing the magnificent embroidery.

Among the other treasures the Trust looks after is an Oscar won by George Bernard Shaw. Apparently Shaw is the only person ever to have won both an Oscar and a Nobel Prize.

The Trust continues the founders’ original vision of making the properties it owns accessible to all. One aim for the future is to increase the diversity of the Trust’s membership. Efforts are already being made to give children living in inner-city areas experience of life in the countryside. Paul showed a photograph of children with kayaks on a river. Some were sitting in the kayaks and others were balanced between them!

The Trust is also going to look at increasing its stock of urban properties. Paul said he would like to see the Trust looking after the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, which he told us was the place that had produced more Nobel Laureates than any other.