National Trust to close properties – but opening parklands for free
PUBLISHED: 19:00 18 March 2020
The National Trust is to close all its properties during the coronavirus covid – but hopes to open parkland for free to the public to give people the chance to get exercise in relative isolation while the country faces lockdown.
Exact details are still being worked out – and the Trust hopes to publish them on Friday. But its chief executive Hilary McGrady said the charity would work hard to keep as many of the Trust’s gardens and parklands open, free of charge, alongside coast and countryside, to encourage the nation to enjoy open space.
All opening would have to be in line with the government’s social distancing guidance.
Ms McGrady said: “The National Trust was founded 125 years ago for the benefit of the entire nation. We want to honour our mission – to enable people and nature to thrive. Over the coming weeks we will do all that we can to keep on providing public benefit through caring for places and giving people access wherever possible.
“While we will close our indoor areas to help fight the spread of coronavirus, we recognise that people are likely to need access to open space and to nature, beauty and history.”
Among the sites which could be open are Sutton Hoo where there are countryside walks through the extensive grounds where the Anglo Saxon treasure ship was discovered in 1939, and Ickworth near Bury St Edmunds where the huge stately home is at the centre of a very large estate.
The Trust also owns Dunwich Heath and part of the beach between that area and the RSPB reserve at Minsmere.
Government health chiefs and the Prime Minister have made it clear that while people should avoid coming into contact with others as much as possible, it is important that they should be able to do some exercise and carry on with activities like walking pets if at all possible.
Opening National Trust land to more casual walkers would help that – but officials could be wary if too many people started using parkland, meaning they had too much contact with other people which could risk spreading any germs they were carrying.
Full details of the National Trust’s final proposals are expected to be published by the weekend.