National Trust Reply to Save Our Samphire

Helen Bailey, General Manager of Blickling Hall, has given permission for me to publish her response to my open letter. Here it is in its entirety:

Dear Victoria

Re Samphire Shop, Blickling Hall, Norfolk

Thank you for your letter to Dame Fiona Reynolds, Director General of the National Trust. This has been forwarded to me, as General Manager of the Blickling Estate, to answer.

I understand your disappointment about our decision not to renew the Nethercotts’ lease. Your passion for Samphire is clear from your letter, and the comments added to your blog show great support from local people. We understand how Samphire has become part of some people’s visit to Blickling. This was a decision we deliberated over long and hard, with a lot of discussion with the Nethercotts. We were – and are still – keen to try to find alternative accommodation for Samphire at Blickling, but no mutually satisfactory space has been found yet.

The redevelopment of the Dutch barn, as the main place to welcome visitors onto the Blickling Estate, is the start of major Estate-wide work to enhance people’s enjoyment here. Also in the early planning stages is work on the Courtyard area, which could create opportunities for local businesses, including Samphire, which we look forward to discussing in due course.

It is in direct response to the views of our visitors, which we gathered from extensive research, by a formal survey, comment cards, and in conversation, that we are making improvements to the main entrance to Blickling. Hundreds of thousands of people come to Blickling, and it is important to us that everyone is made to feel welcome, whether they come to walk their dog in the Park, use the cycle routes, or visit the house and gardens.

There is a real drive at the National Trust to bring our places to life, the result of which should not feel like some corporate roll-out, but provide the welcome visitors need and start to tell the story of Blickling and its rich history. We are developing and strengthening relationships with our neighbours and the local community to ensure that we understand their views and expectations. Inevitably, there are decisions we have to make which do not please everyone.

Please don’t underestimate how seriously we take support from, and for, the local community. The National Trust employs 35 permanent staff and around twenty more seasonal staff at Blickling, all local people. We are incredibly fortunate to have the support of over 350 volunteers, most of whom live locally. Also, we have 300 tenants on the estate, residential, local businesses and farmers. In our shop and restaurant, a very high proportion of what we sell comes from local producers, including our tenants – this is something we insist on, despite commercial pressures.

I hope this answers the questions you raised. I would welcome the opportunity to sit down and discuss our plans with you when I am back at work in the New Year.

Yours sincerely

Helen Bailey

General Manager, Blickling Estate

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5 Responses to National Trust Reply to Save Our Samphire

  1. Bernice O'Neill says:

    I was so surprised when I read in Helen Bailey’s letter that the NT had been in a ‘lot of discussion’ with the Nethercotts regarding alternative accommodation on the estate for Samphire.
    I immediately rang Karen and Jeff to find out why they had not been able to reach a ‘ mutually satisfactory ‘ agreement and what offers had been made.
    I could not believe that they would have made 5 staff redundant , let down over a 100 local small businesses and fellow smallholders and given up such a successful venture if there had been a viable alternative on offer!
    I was aghast to find out there had been no offer of alternative accommodation or a ‘ lot of discussion’ apart from an offer , accepted, to buy all Samphire’s fixtures and equipment!
    This letter is clearly very misleading and certainly not the behaviour I would have expected from what I would have previously thought of as a reputable organisation.
    I would be interested to hear from Helen Bailey what offers she thinks she has made and to whom?

  2. Angela says:

    As long term National Trust members, we hope something can be sorted out with Samphire to everyone’s advantage. Angela and Tony Bowhill

  3. Sarah Goldser says:

    I am very disappointed that Dame Fiona Reynolds has not taken the time to reply to Victoria’s articulate and coherent letter herself with regard to this matter. It should be noted that a great deal of support for Samphire comes from NT members and in this light it would reflect well for some notice to be taken!
    Yet again, the reply from Helen Bailey is less than helpful and rather in the same vein as the one I received myself when I emailed her before Christmas ie somewhat corporate! As I said to Ms Bailey we have been NT members for a very long time, but when decisions such as these are taken it makes one question one’s membership.
    Sarah Goldser

  4. Vicky says:

    Sarah, I have a short reply from Dame Fiona, also a detailed reply from Justin Scully the area manager. I will obtain their permission and print them as I can see people would be interested to read them.

  5. Len says:

    Economic with the truth perhaps?
    This cynical National Trust decision to shut down the Samphire Shop.
    As one would expect at first. Hand washing from the hierarchy, Disingenuous waffle from junior management. This Big Corporation vandalism, this destruction of something that is good, this is an unjust decision made by persons who are either ill informed or who have a secret agenda. I’ve seen it all before. It is possible to show the National Trust the error of its ways, but only by sustained negative publicity, protests, boycotts and pressure from the public/visitors/members via petition, letters etc. Lobbying local MPs can have a big influence(always more effective in an election year).
    David can beat Goliath.
    Good luck.

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