The International National Trusts Organisation (INTO)

National Trust – Climate change adaptation guidance

Climate change June 6, 2023

National Trust - Climate change adaptation guidance

For caretakers and managers of historic and beautiful places

Together with other heritage organisations, and thanks to INTO’s ‘Withstanding Change’ project, National Trust experts are developing a range of guidance for the owners and managers of historic and beautiful places.

This guidance is available to any heritage organisations looking after such places. The guidance aims to help sites become more resilient to climate change, and support teams to take decisions in the face of climate hazards.

NEW – November 2023: sections on Gardens and Parks, as well as covering Collections and Interiors (Paper & Books), Buildings (Historic Building Fabric), and Infrastructure (Bridges, Culverts and Tunnels).

The seafront at Porthdinllaen - a site particularly exposed to sea level rise and working on climate change adaptation

The seafront at Porthdinllaen – a National Trust site particularly exposed to sea level rise and other climate hazards

Each guidance section includes information about different asset types and activity associated with historic estates and landscapes, and provides hazard, impact and options tables for potential climate threats. The guidance also provides case studies and detail on options and thresholds for implementing adaptation measures, as well as useful advice on permissions and consents where statutory obligations apply.

So far, we’ve completed sections in the chapters on Water, Archaeology & Landscape, Buildings, and Infrastructure. In summer 2023, we published new material in the People & Visitor Activity chapter (on Higher Temperatures), and in the Places chapter (on Wildfires). This month we added new sections on Gardens and Parks, as well as covering Collections and Interiors (Paper & Books), Buildings (Historic Building Fabric), and Infrastructure (Bridges, Culverts and Tunnels). Scroll down this page to explore the different chapters of the guidance.

More to come

Further guidance documents will become available over the course of 2023 and 2024 – please keep checking back.

If you would like this guidance in an alternative format, please call 07977 634046 or email katherine.shingler@nationaltrust.org.uk.

How to use the climate adaptation guidance

Read our short introduction on how to use this guidance. (PDF 9MB)

Read the introduction here

Climate change adaptation guidance chapters

Chapter 1: Places

The National Trust owns over 400 historic places across England, Northern Ireland and Wales, with over 250,000 hectares of land. While later chapters of this guidance consider individual assets and activity, this opening chapter provides holistic guidance for our places, thinking about the inter-dependencies of the things in the care of the organisation and the way whole places will be threatened by climate hazards such as wildfires (see below). Further chapters on managing floods and drought will be published in 2024.

Wildfires
Chapter 2: People and Visitor Activity

The National Trust is currently undertaking research on this area of business activity. We’ve published guidance on adapting to higher temperatures, and will be developing further information on wetter and windier weather over the coming months.

Higher Temperatures
Chapter 3: Countryside

The National Trust owns land with complex ecological systems that are continually impacted by surrounding pressures of development, land use and wider environmental issues such as water quality and soil condition. The National Trust is working hard to conserve the natural environment and was inspired to create this chapter by existing guidance on climate change adaptation for the natural and farmed environment, created by Natural England.

Natural England climate change adaptation guidance
Chapter 4: Gardens and Parks

New for 2023: we’ve published three chapters on Gardens and Parks, taking in the measures that may be considered to safeguard and adapt cultivated plants, lawns and grass paths, and trees in designed landscapes to the impacts of climate change.

Cultivated Plants

 

Lawns and Grass Paths

 

Trees in the Designed Landscape
Chapter 5: Farming

The National Trust holds over 250,000 hectares of land, much of which constitutes a farmed environment. Many of our farms are under agri-environment schemes and guidance produced by Natural England on the farmed environment is available via their web publications.

Natural England climate change adaptation guidance
Chapter 6: Coast

The National Trust owns around 800 miles of coastline around England, Northern Ireland and Wales. This land is vulnerable to shifting shores; erosion and accretion, impacting our historic and natural environment. The National trust is currently researching and developing guidance on this chapter following on from the launch of our Shifting Shores policy document which explains our approach to managing coast generally and adapting to climate change as part of this approach.

National Trust Shifting Shores Report
Chapter 7: Water

Water is potentially the most vulnerable asset and resource when it comes to climate hazards. From rivers to water features, the National Trust owns a range of sites that include water as a functional, natural or designed aspect. The sections below give detail on impacts, case studies, approaches and thresholds for change when considering climate change adaptation.

Rivers

 

Water Features

 

Water Sourcing & Efficiency
Chapter 8: Archaeology and landscape

The National Trust has records of over 90,000 archaeological sites and features in its Historic Buildings, Sites and Monuments Record. Most of these sites are not protected by statutory designations and are vulnerable to land management practices, animal burrowing, vandalism and access erosion. These sites are also vulnerable to the changing climate and the compounding impacts of flooding, prolonged periods of rain, drought, landslides and coastal erosion. These factors affect features such as earthworks, buried remains and waterlogged deposits. The sections of this chapter below explore this in more detail.

Archaeological Earthworks

 

Buried Archaeological Remains

 

Waterlogged Archaeological Remains
Chapter 9: Collections and interiors

The National Trust is currently researching impacts of climate hazards on a range of internal fabric and collection types, working in collaboration with partner heritage organisations in the UK (below). Newly published in November 2023, our first guidance chapter on this area deals with paper and books. More will follow in 2024.

Paper and Books
Chapter 10: Buildings

The National Trust owns around 28,500 buildings across England, Northern Ireland and Wales. Most of these are of pre-1919 construction and are therefore principally of traditional materials such as brick and stone masonry, cob and timber framed. All buildings are vulnerable to climate change but are resilient in their nature and the guidance published to date focuses on the building envelope, specifically the rainwater goods, which constitute a first line of defence against the harm that can be caused by water ingress.

Rainwater goods

New for November 2023: we’ve published a new chapter offering wide-ranging guidance on the adaptation of historic building fabric.

Historic Building Fabric
Chapter 11: Infrastructure

The National Trust owns and is responsible for over 30,000 kilometres of paths and tracks. These vary in construction type and are at varied levels of use, accessibility and vulnerability to climate hazards. We’ve published two chapters so far, on paths (a principal access route to National Trust places), and bridges, culverts and tunnels.

Paths

 

Bridges, Culverts and Tunnels
Chapter 12: Utilities and services

The National Trust is researching and developing guidance in this area of our assets and how to manage them in the face of climate hazards. Impacts of flooding and shrink-swell on sub-stations, sewage treatment systems and our mechanical and electrical infrastructure are already being experienced at many sites. Please check back for updates as we draw together case studies and research for publication in 2024.

Chapter 13: Finance, risk and insurance

In the knowledge of increasing exposure to climate hazards, but with the uncertainty of climate projections and future conditions, the National Trust is working with professionals in the operational risk, insurance and financial sectors to develop research and guidance around potential measures and thresholds that can be practically useful for owners and caretakers of historic places. Please check back in the future as this guidance is developed in 2024.

Chapter 14: Procurement and commercial

As well as sustainable supply chains and commercial services, the National Trust is working to make sure that these business areas are also resilient to climate impacts. The research and guidance for this chapter will be developed in 2024.

This guidance has been developed with Cadw, Department for Communities Northern Ireland, Historic Environment Scotland, Historic England, English Heritage Trust, and National Trust for Scotland.

 

NT climate change hazard map

National Trust hazard map

The National Trust has developed a hazard map that illustrates the threats posed by climate change. Working to a worst-case scenario model, the map plots places alongside existing data on climate change-related events, such as heat and landslides. It's the first map of its kind to collate and plot data in this way and will help the National Trust and other organisations identify the hazard level facing countryside locations, monuments, coastlines and historical sites in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Explore the hazard map