In the last week there have been two articles on the UK national press regarding the sale of the lease of Ashdown House.
One was in The Times. The other was in the Daily Telegraph, complete with pictures of the interior of the house. Now, I'm all for Ashdown Park receiving coverage in the national press. I can think of nothing nicer. Anything that brings more visitors to this stunning National Trust property, to admire the peerless architecture, share the fascinating history and admire the peace and beauty of the countryside has to be a good thing.
Maybe that is why I am so disappointed in the articles I've read because they make no mention of those aspects of Ashdown Park at all. In fact the crucial point - that the house belongs to the National Trust and it is only the lease that is for sale - seems instead to be presented as something of an inconvenience to a potential buyer who might have to tolerate tour groups "straying" (according to the Times) or "parading through the house" according to the Telegraph.http://property.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/property/article6206028.ece
Excuse me? Am I missing something here? Here are the aims of the National Trust, taken directly from their website:
"The National Trust is a charity and is completely independent of Government. We rely for income on membership fees, donations and legacies, and revenue raised from our commercial operations. We now have 3.5 million members and 52,000 volunteers who gave 2.3 million hours in 2007/08. More than 12 million people visit our pay for entry properties, while an estimated 50 million visit our open air properties. We protect and open to the public over 300 historic houses and gardens and 49 industrial monuments and mills. But it doesn’t stop there. We also look after forests, woods, fens, beaches, farmland, downs, moorland, islands, archaeological remains, castles, nature reserves, villages - for ever, for everyone."
For ever, for everyone. National Trust properties are there to be shared. Visitors are to be welcomed. Those of us who have worked for the National Trust as volunteers at Ashdown House have been doing that for years, making the most of what the house has to offer with energy, enthusiasm, creativity. Wouldn't it be marvellous if the new tenants also shared the Trust's aims and aspirations - and our pleasure in welcoming visitors?