National Trust welcomes visitors back to its historic houses
By David Wood
National Trust houses across Gloucestershire will start to reopen from Monday (May 17) and welcome visitors back following the Government's easing of Covid restrictions.
Staff and volunteers have been working hard behind the scenes to get properties ready to reopen safely with social distancing in place.
Some small properties or rooms which cannot accommodate social distancing will reopen later once Covid restrictions are lifted or when repair or redisplay work is completed.
National Trust properties in Gloucestershire include Newark Park, Chedworth Roman Villa, Hidcote, near Chipping Campden, Snowshill Manor and Westbury Court Garden.
Hilary McGrady, director general of the National Trust, said: "This is a big moment that we have all looked forward to for months as we welcome people back safely, to spend time together at their favourite properties.
"Hundreds of our parks, gardens and countryside locations have already reopened, but we know how much our members and supporters have been looking forward to returning to see our houses and collections again.
"Our places are nothing without our visitors there to enjoy them and our staff and volunteers have been working hard behind the scenes, cleaning chandeliers, polishing floors and dusting books, to get everything ready.
"It is a matter of huge relief, pride and gratitude that the places in our care can start to reopen following closure due to the pandemic. Not a single place will be lost to the public. The cultural treasures that are our shared inheritance are waiting - for everyone."
During the pandemic conservation work has continued in Trust's houses across the South West, including:Dyrham Park in South Gloucestershire will be redisplaying two rare 17th century Flemish tapestries which have returned following specialist conservation.
At Newark Park in Gloucestershire a stained-glass window on the stairs was removed for conservation at Holy Well Glass conservation studio in Wells and was replaced on the Monday that the country went into lockdown last March.
The reopening of houses also coincides with the Trust's focus this year on its collections and the one million items it looks after, with many properties featuring in a new book celebrating 125 treasures in the charity's care.
Andy Beer, the National Trust's director of operations, said: "Our houses have been closed and treasured collections haven't been seen for some time. But a lot of work has been going on behind the scenes.
"As a result of some of the changes we've had to make during the last year we have looked at new ways to present and share places and their individual stories, for example by introducing guided tours to bring them to life, as we have done for years with places like the Beatles' houses and the Back to Backs. These tours will, we hope, give visitors a more in-depth experience and a personal welcome."
Hilary McGrady added: "We could not reopen so many of our places or carry out essential conservation without the patience and support of our members, visitors, donors and government schemes throughout this pandemic. And we are enormously grateful to our volunteers for the roles they have played, and will be playing again, as they return to our properties."
Entry arrangements for houses will vary so please check property web pages before visiting. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lists/indoor-days-out-in-the-south-west
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