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tom boden

The Big Rethink: Tom Boden

General Manager, National Trust Bath Portfolio

During lockdown we saw more people visiting the Bath Skyline, seeking solace in this wonderful landscape. We understand the importance of our beautiful local green spaces to the people of Bath and and the boost to wellbeing that they can provide.

Through the Bathscape Project, we will work with partners to manage our landscape so that people and nature can thrive, and together do all we can to address the climate and ecological emergency.

We reopened Dyrham Park and Prior Park Landscape Garden in June, using a booking system to manage safe numbers at our properties. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, showing how much our members value getting back to the places they love. Pre-booking could well become the norm and help us manage the flow of visitors in the future.

The closure of organisations during lockdown meant cultural interactions had to move online. I can’t wait for us to open the house at Dyrham so that visitors can see the collection with their own eyes and I’m looking forward to returning to the wonderful museums in Bath. I hope that this forced absence will encourage our community to value and support their local cultural organisations who have been hit particularly hard, especially as visitors from further afield might not return soon.

Lockdown has also given us time to reflect on the way we interpret the history of our properties, particularly in response to the Black Lives Matter campaign. Many National Trust places have direct and indirect links to slavery and colonialism, and we must do more to share these histories.

At Dyrham Park, we have been working with local communities through partners Colonial Countryside since 2017 to explore and share its story, but we still have much more work to do.

Wealth generated through the appalling exploitation of enslaved people also helped finance the building of Georgian Bath and we are working with partners to look at how the city, as a World Heritage Site, can address and not suppress this legacy. This work feels ever more vital and urgent to help our community to be inclusive, diverse, welcoming and resilient.

Looking back to those surreal days of full lockdown, I’m struck that this very difficult experience also gave us space to slow down, notice nature, enjoy a traffic free city with clear skies and find new ways to connect with our neighbours. Octavia Hill, co-founder of the National Trust, recognised the importance of space when she wrote in 1875: “We all want quiet. We all want beauty… We all need space. Unless we have it we cannot reach that sense of quiet in which whispers of better things come to us gently…”

I hope we can avoid returning to the frenetic pace of life before lockdown and reap the benefits of taking time, travelling less, connecting with nature and each other. Maybe this can lead us towards a greener, kinder and more sustainable future.


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