The International National Trusts Organisation (INTO)

Sparks of inspiration

Case StudiesClimate changeINTO Projects May 15, 2023

Climate adaptation in action

A blog by Katherine Shingler, Project Manager – heritage and climate, on the ‘Withstanding Change’ study visit 

From 24 April – 5 May, I accompanied INTO members from the Middle East and Africa on a two-week study visit to National Trust sites, where climate adaptation can be seen in action. This kicked off the ‘Withstanding change’ project, led by INTO and funded by the British Council’s Cultural Protection Fund.

The study visit allowed the project partners to network and exchange knowledge, learning together about climate adaptation and engagement in the National Trust and INTO partner organisations.

In reality, it was so much more than this. Our conversations covered everything from business models, through to designing sustainable transport routes to sites, to engaging with local and national government on climate and heritage. Keen to make the most of our time together, we packed in so many brilliant places.

The first week

We started the tour at Quarry Bank, where we heard about the Unintended Consequences programme and the impact of increased rainfall on the site.

We looked at flood management in our second North region visit, where we learned how Lyme Park has put in a ‘swale’ (a new word for me: a shallow ditch or trench!) to divert heavy rainfall from the gardens and avoid a repeat of the floods of 2019.

In Porthdinllaen, North Wales, we got a glimpse of how the site will be impacted by sea level rise, and Penrhyn Castle showed us how the team are managing more intense rainfall and extreme storm conditions.

Our first week concluded with a visit to Gibson Mill, where we learned about renewable sources of energy and ways of taking properties ‘off grid’, as well as optimising water use to make properties more resilient to drought conditions.

Week 2

This week focused on engaging with communities and starting conversations about climate change with our audiences. How can we make climate change feel more ‘real’, rather than somebody else’s problem? How can we make conversations about climate change feel positive, so that they inspire people to act?

On a visit to Stourhead, we heard about the Planted festival, as well as local community initiatives from Ewan Jones, mayor of nearby Bruton.

We travelled to Cliveden, to see how planting has been adapted to suit hotter conditions, using more sustainable, perennial plants instead of the costly and water-guzzling annual bedding plants. And we looked at how Coleshill estate is imaginatively repurposing its buildings, to showcase and pass on heritage building and conservation skills.

Presenting the partners

The visit concluded with a day at National Trust head office Heelis, where the INTO partners presented their sites, their organisations and their aims for the project to the wider National Trust, and INTO’s Catherine Leonard led a panel on heritage and climate communication.

Lighting a spark

The key takeaways from the two weeks are too many to list here, but one thing really stuck with me: Hoshil Dhanji of the Zanzibar Stone Town Heritage Society commented at the Heelis event that the National Trust is ‘full of SPARK: Service, Purpose, Attraction, Resilience, Knowledge’.

I think the same can be said of all the partners working on the ‘Withstanding Change’ project: all of them working in very different contexts, under sometimes very challenging conditions, they are united by that shared ‘spark’, that inspires them to safeguard their precious heritage for their communities, and for the future. Huge thanks to the many teams who shared their considerable expertise and knowledge.

In the next phase we will be twinning the project partners with National Trust places, enabling each to learn from one another. Please bookmark our pages or sign up to the newsletter, to follow all the project news.