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National Trust book reveals hidden heroes of charity – beekeepers, stone wallers and more | Books | Entertainment


The National Trust has governed our historic buildings, coastal paths and countryside since 1895, preserving their beauty for a multitude of generations. Today, the Trust has nearly six million members and manages more 250,000 hectares of land home to manor houses, castles, parks and gardens. And to mark its 125th birthday in 2020, a commemorative book of 125 specially-commissioned portraits is being released of the staff, volunteers, visitors and donors, whose love and expertise keeps everything running.Titled A Portrait of the National Trust – 125 Stories for 125 Years, it includes evocative black-and-white pictures shot by leading portrait photographer John Millar, each accompanied by the subject’s personal story. 

Seal rangers, dance instructors, beekeepers and blacksmiths are among the sitters, all of whom are captured imaginatively to denote their skillset or passion. IT IS Europe’s largest conservation charity and the protector of Britain’s natural treasures.

The National Trust has governed our historic buildings, coastal paths and countryside since 1895, preserving their beauty for a multitude of generations. Today, the Trust has nearly six million members and manages more 250,000 hectares of land home to manor houses, castles, parks and gardens. 

And to mark its 125th birthday in 2020, a commemorative book of 125 specially-commissioned portraits is being released of the staff, volunteers, visitors and donors, whose love and expertise keeps everything running.

Titled A Portrait of the National Trust – 125 Stories for 125 Years, it includes evocative black-and-white pictures shot by leading portrait photographer John Millar, each accompanied by the subject’s personal story. 

Seal rangers, dance instructors, beekeepers and blacksmiths are among the sitters, all of whom are captured imaginatively to denote their skillset or passion. 

The book was devised and commissioned by Chris Lacey, Head of Photography for the National Trust, who said the style of the portraits was inspired by the ‘small trades’ portraits taken by photographer Irving Penn in 1950/51.

Chris said: “Irving Penn took images of tradespeople showing the tools of their trade very simply, but beautifully, and we wanted to do the same, be that in a kitchen garden, a retail outlet, an historic house, a coastline, a habitat, or in an office. We wanted them to be sympathetic, descriptive, emotive and captivating.”

National Trust beekeepers Sheenagh and Adrian

National Trust beekeepers Sheenagh and Adrian Dixon, left, dance instructor Stuart Bowden, right (Image: John Millar courtesy of National Trust)

An online exhibition will also feature on the National Trust website, alongside a podcast featuring its Snowdonia Shepherdess Teleri Fielden.

Learn about her story below along with a selection of other faces who help to make the Trust the beloved institution it still is today.

The book was devised and commissioned by Chris Lacey, Head of Photography for the National Trust, who said the style of the portraits was inspired by the ‘small trades’ portraits taken by photographer Irving Penn in 1950/51.

Chris said: “Irving Penn took images of tradespeople showing the tools of their trade very simply, but beautifully, and we wanted to do the same, be that in a kitchen garden, a retail outlet, an historic house, a coastline, a habitat, or in an office.

We wanted them to be sympathetic, descriptive, emotive and captivating.”

An online exhibition will also feature on the National Trust website, alongside a podcast featuring its Snowdonia Shepherdess Teleri Fielden.

Learn about her story below along with a selection of other faces who help to make the Trust the beloved institution it still is today.

Sheenagh and Adrian Dixon

Volunteer beekeepers, Erddig, Wrexham

Sheenagh started volunteering at Erddig before beekeeping piqued her curiosity.

Not long after she roped in her husband Adrian and soon the pair were managing 24 hives on site, in addition to a further nine at home.

Part of their job includes educating the public on how bees make honey and how to protect them.

“We do get stung – a lot – but it’s worth it because we enjoy beekeeping so much,” jokes Sheenagh. “It’s an interest that we both share so it’s lovely to do it together.”

Stuart Bowden

Dance instructor, Sutton House, London

Stuart Bowden goes by the moniker “Doctor of Dance” at Sutton House where he leads its reggae and pop routines for the over-55s.

“I create choreographed routines to anything from UB40’s ‘Red Red Wine’ to Beyonce’s ‘Single Ladies’,” he says.

“The group learnt the full ‘Single Ladies’ routine last year, which was a real achievement. It’s their showpiece now and they insist we practice it at every class.”

Carlos Soares

Conservation volunteer, room and tour guide, Nuffield Place, Oxfordshire

Brazilian native Carlos is part of a group of fun-filled volunteers called “The Friday Team”.

A former hospitality worker, he shows visitors around the exquisite rooms once lived in by Morris Motor Company founder Lord Nuffield and his wife.

“One of my favourite items is the Kirman rug in the sitting room,” comments Carlos. “Lord Nuffield actually had the floor recessed so that the rug wouldn’t move.”

James Drury

Volunteer, Longshaw Estate, Derbyshire

Duke of Edinburgh apprentice James Drury has a profound learning disability and autism, and has no speech so communicates through photographs.

His duties at Longshaw include sweeping outside the tea-rooms, litter picking, keeping the visitor reception areas tidy and making sure the dog bowls are full of water.

James’s dad Peter says: “James gets a lot out of his time at Longshaw and other people get a lot out of him too. He’s got an amazing smile and so much charisma. People just warm to him.”

Conservation volunteer Carlos Soares

Conservation volunteer and tour guide Carlos Soares, left, volunteer James Drury, right (Image: John Millar courtesy of National Trust)

Joan Capel

Bookshop volunteer, Erddig, Wrexham

Joan is the National Trust’s oldest volunteer at 102, having celebrated her most recent birthday in May.

An Erddig volunteer for 30 years, she was one of four volunteers to set up its bookshop 15 years ago.

“I do love it,” she says. “There have been times when I have been very much alone, and it’s almost only in the Trust that I have found friends I can rely on.”

Ron Wood and Roy Isherwood

Volunteer dry-stone wallers, Langdale valley, Lake District

Despite having a combined age of more than 160, Ron Wood and Roy Isherwood enjoy lugging tonnes of stone around to skillfully repair and rebuild dry-stone walls around Langdale and Grasmere. Each wall can remain up to 200 years afterwards.

“I’m 73, that’s why Roy calls me Young Ron as he is coming up to 91,” jokes Ron.

“He’s having some trouble climbing up hills but if he can get to the site, he’ll do it.

“In a day Roy and I can save the Trust £200 to £250, and we’re out 20, 30 times a year.”

Bookshop volunteer Joan Capel

Bookshop volunteer Joan Capel, left, stonewallers Ron Wood and Roy Isherwood, right (Image: John Millar courtesy of National Trust)

Emma Warner

Head horseperson, Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire

Emma cares, trains and rides Wimpole Estate’s five Shire horses, who give carriage rides to visitors.

“I was here when one of our horses, Lady, was born,” she says. “She is six years old now.

“I enjoy watching a horse grow from a slightly unsure youngster who doesn’t quite know what’s being asked of them to one who’s confident in their role and actually enjoying the work. It’s probably my biggest moment of achievement.”

Matthew Oates

Specialist butterfly volunteer, Nationwide

One of the country’s leading butterfly experts, Matthew spent nearly 30 years as the National Trust’s National Specialist for Nature.

He continues to devote himself to butterflies in retirement as one of its volunteers.

“Butterflies are very strongly affected by weather and changes in climate patterns,” he says.

“Their behaviour can tell us an awful lot about the condition of the natural world – they’re like canaries in the mineshaft.”

Emma Warner and Matthew Oates

Emma Warner, head horseperson, left, and butterfly expert Matthew Oates, right (Image: John Millar courtesy of National Trust)

Teleri Fielden

Farm manager, Llyndy Isaf Farm, Snowdonia, Gwynedd

A rare scholarship scheme enabled Teleri to release her dream of running her own farm, following in the footsteps of her grandfather who also kept sheep and cattle.

Now in her second year of the three-year scheme, she was trailed by a BBC documentary team in her first year on the job.

“I’ve had so much mentoring and support from experienced farmers, and I couldn’t do it without my trusty sheepdog Roy,” she says. “We have learnt the ropes here together.”

Natalie Pownall

Ranger, Hardcastle Crags, West Yorkshire

On her first official day as a ranger, Natalie found herself standing alongside firefighters trying to beat out the flames of a ferocious fire on Marsden Moor.

The out-of-control blaze eventually ravaged 3,700 hectares across several days in April 2019.

“My legs were black, my hair stank of smoke and I had nightmares for a while afterwards, but I’d do it again tomorrow if I had to,” she recalls.

Much of her role since then has involved restoration and fire awareness.

Teleri Fielden, Natalie Pownall and Ian Edmans

Left to right: Teleri Fielden, Natalie Pownall and Ian Edmans (Image: John Millar courtesy of National Trust)

Ian Edmans

Curator of birds, Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire

The châteaux-inspired Waddesdon Manor, built for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild in the late 19th-century, has a stunning aviary filled with rare and endangered birds.

“I was coming down Mount Emei in Sichuan Province in China when I received an email offering me the role of curator of birds at Waddesdon,” says Ian.

“When you’ve successfully bred a bird, especially something rare, it’s joyous.”

A Portrait of the National Trust – 125 Stories for 125 Years is available exclusively from the National Trust shop from August 15 at nationaltrust.org.uk/shop



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