From Justin Scully, General Manager of Fountains Abbey National Trust. Justin works closely with us and also takes part in parkrun, both at Fountains and at Roundhay Park. He has prepared a report for us on things going on at the Abbey that affect us all; it's well worth a read
In terms of the Trust's financial year we are half way through the year so I wondered if our parkrun "community" would like to hear about how things have been at Fountains so far this year. Can I again say that we really support parkrun & are delighted to welcome everyone here: it's great to see everyone on a Saturday morning (and indeed take part myself occasionally!), indeed increasing numbers of my team are taking part and we've just got them distinctive Fountains running shirts so do look out for them. We were very pleased to support parkrun by purchasing a new defibrillator to be available as guided by parkrun nationally.
In short we’re doing well - visitor numbers have continued to be strong, although impacted by the variable weather (both good & bad) and we are beating our budgets - this is vital as the way the Trust's finances are structured means that we get to keep all the money we exceed targets by to spend on building & conservation projects. You'll have seen an example of this as you run over the footbridge with the £50k repairs to the Studley Lake dam. You'll see many conservation projects over the autumn as we work on the Moon Ponds and the Garden buildings - we're also updating the interpretation in Fountains Hall & the Mill as well as more mundane things like refurbishing our offices. A particular success has been West Gate Lodge (the cute cottage just near the parkrun start line) which we have converted into a holiday cottage - with another two cottages being converted this autumn that will take us to 14 holiday cottages on the estate.
In some ways these are only the beginning - we are acutely conscious that our facilities need to match up with our World Heritage Status - we are at the very early stages of planning a £1.5m refurbishment of the Studley tearooms - that whole area is in desperate need of improvement. We will refurbish the visitor centre restaurant, visitor reception & shop next year and then we'll get on to car parks which will be a big challenge but one we need to solve - we simply don't have enough space in our car parks on some days and this trend is continuing (we have had to close the estate twice this year simply because the car parks were full). For a conservation charity encouraging more cars is a real dilemma but we are also continuing to support access by public transport and have installed an electric vehicle charging point for the public (as well as starting to move our own vehicles off fossil fuels).
Alongside investment in 'infrastructure' we are also at the early stages of a £2.8m Heritage Lottery Fund bid (working in partnership with Nidderdale AONB) to address flooding issues in the estate & surrounding area by working with all landowners in the Skell River catchment, no matter what the outcome of this bid flooding is the biggest risk to FASR so we will continue to work with partners to address this risk.
Our ambition for Fountains continues of course to be hugely busy & magnificent but also to be a flagship both for the National Trust & for World Heritage. Alongside this we also want to be an active part of our community and I hope you'll agree that parkrun is a great example of how we can do this. I'm not sure we are the only World Heritage parkrun, though an interesting question is how many of the UK's 31 World Heritage sites have a parkrun? - although I think we can assume that the Gough and Inaccessible Islands haven't.
Finally, as you can tell, Fountains is really rather expensive to look after and of course the Trust gets no government funding, so if there's one message you could share it's that being or becoming a member of the Trust is the best way to support the amazing place we look after.
Justin Scully, General Manager - Fountains & Brimham Rocks, The National Trust