(re)visiting the roots of the National Trust

Alfriston in Sussex is a quintessential English village. A picture postcard place whose story mirrors that of village life across the nation: its buildings witness to the changes in our way of life over hundreds of years.

At the heart of Alfriston, next to the village green and lovely church, is a building that shaped the destiny of a organisation that itself changed our relationship with places and landscapes.

A home dating back to the years after the Black Death in the 14th century, with a garden covering two thirds of an acre, was the second property acquired by a young National Trust in 1896. The first site was a strip of coastal cliff, known as Dinas Oleu, in north west Wales above Barmouth.

Alfriston Clergy House and Dinas Oleu are at the heart of why the National Trust exists – standing up for the special places across the nations of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. They provide a direct link back to the founding principles of the founders of the Trust.

As organisations grow, and the Trust has grown hugely in the last 119 years since it was set up, its so important to remember and revisit your roots. They provide a compass for the journey ahead and remind you of why the organisation exists and why its worth fighting for the cause of caring for the places that people love.

I visited this really special place, rich in social and architectural history, with fellow members of National Trust staff. Many have worked for the Trust for decades and yet this was their first visit to the Alfriston Clergy House. It felt like a collective experience of emotional intensity and pure pleasure to visit somewhere so influential in the organisation we care passionately about.

Coming to this beautiful garden, rich in herbs, raised beds and an idyllic orchard, and the simple timber framed house, felt very special. It cost the Trust ten pounds to acquire and it symbolises a cause worth fighting for – standing up for places of historic interest and natural beauty – that has resonated down the generations.

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