Opening doors

fen-2-copyThe National Trust’s Wicken Fen nature reserve. ©Andy Mabbett

While National Trust properties remain closed, Richard Speller, chairman of the charity’s Woodford and District Centre, is pleased to have launched the group’s programme of virtual talks

Like so many local and indeed national voluntary organisations, the Woodford and District Centre of the National Trust has suspended all of its activities for a year now, obviously due to the pandemic.

The centre has well over 200 members, most of whom are also members of the National Trust centrally. We endeavour to keep in touch with them regularly by email to assure them of our continued existence, but it has to be accepted that, due to the demographic nature of our membership, many do not have an internet connection. In February, we started a series of virtual talks, commencing with my own presentation on war memorials. It is our intention to continue these monthly, or even more frequently, until lockdown is ended and meetings are once again permitted.

It is worth remembering our centre normally has a varied programme of events, including monthly talks from September to April, autumn and winter London visits to places of interest, summer outings to houses and gardens, both National Trust and others, and an annual summer holiday. It is most certainly our intention to re-arrange all of these missed activities as soon as possible.

The Woodford and District Centre is one of many supporter groups around the country affiliated to the national organisation. We support the national charity by providing volunteers for National Trust properties and donating money to their projects. Over our centre’s 50-year existence, we have donated the best part of £200,000. During 2020, money was given to Wicken Fen for a thermal telescope, to Sutton Hoo (very topical with Netflix’s The Dig) for a wheelchair accessible sand tray and to Lavenham for tea room furniture, to name a few.

It is, of course, ironic that 2020 was the 125th anniversary of the National Trust, founded in 1895 with 100 members, paying 10 shillings and looking after four and a half acres in North Wales. The first president, the Duke of Westminster, told co-founder Octavia Hill: “Mark my words, Miss Hill, this is going to be a very big thing.” In 2020, there were almost six million members, caring for a vast number of places, from captivating castles to historic  houses and magnificent meadows and miles of wild and beautiful coastline.

Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus, all the properties are closed – although some grounds are open – and staff have had to be laid off and many projects abandoned. However, for those able, it is well worth visiting the National Trust website, where there are many virtual tours and stories.

The Woodford and District Centre will re-energise, take up where it was before and provide an educational, social and worthwhile service to the people of Woodford and surrounding areas.

For more information on the Woodford and District Centre of the National Trust, call 07774 164 407