The Daily Telegraph

National Trust volunteer numbers at lowest in decade as activists prepare for AGM clash

- By Daniel Capurro SENIOR REPORTER

THE number of volunteers at the National Trust has hit its lowest figure in a decade, its annual report has shown.

The trust said this was at least in part down to the fact that pandemic closures meant that not all volunteer posts were available again while it had been prevented from creating new ones.

The continued fall in volunteer numbers comes ahead of its annual general meeting where the council is expected to clash with socially conservati­ve activist members.

The Restore Trust group has successful­ly pushed for a vote on censuring the trust for promoting Pride and LGBT causes.

In 2018-19, the last pre-pandemic period, the trust had over 65,000 volunteers while it has averaged around 63,000 over the past decade. However, in the 2020-21 period, the trust had just 44,000 volunteers. While it said the numbers were pushed down by closures, it admitted that some would not come back.

“Like many other charities, we acknowledg­e that not all our volunteers may want to return. Whether people stay actively involved or have chosen to help us in other ways, we remain very grateful for their continued support,” it said in its annual report. While volunteer numbers are down on last year, the number of members has bounced back although it is yet to hit its pre-pandemic figure of six million. This time last year, the trust had just 5.4million members but it has now risen to 5.7million.

While the effects of the pandemic are lingering, the trust used the report to warn that climate change is the greatest threat facing its work.

The heritage body said that global warming brought with it the risk of everything from fires and flash floods destroying precious ecosystems to higher pest numbers attacking historic homes and their contents. “The nature and climate crises are now the most significan­t threats to our work,” said Harry Bowell, the director of land and nature at the trust.

In response to the threat from climate change, the trust said it was making changes to how it sources energy and manages land.

It has already committed to reaching net-zero status by 2030, planting 20 million new trees by the same date.

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