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National Trust’s ‘ambitious and exciting’ strategy for first county attraction

Coming soon: The National Trust is expected to take over as custodian at Wentworth Castle Gardens shortly
Coming soon: The National Trust is expected to take over as custodian at Wentworth Castle Gardens shortly
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The National Trust is promising to embark on its most ambitious strategy ever for the re-opening on Wentworth Castle gardens – which will become its only site in South Yorkshire when the public are allowed back in next summer.

It is currently in negotiations which should see it take on a 25 year lease for the gardens, which are the only Grade I Listed gardens in the county, at Wentworth Castle in Stainborough, Barnsley, and is now recruiting key members of the team which will operate the site.

The organisation is taking a new approach to operating the site, which had to close more than a year ago when the trust which was running it failed to make the books balance, leaving Barnsley Council responsible for maintenance until a new operating deal could be worked out.

The management of the site is complex, because it also includes Northern College, which operates from the stately home within the grounds, meaning there will be three interested parties when the National Trust lease is signed.

They are now recruiting staff members including a general manager, garden and outdoors manager, along with colleagues to take charge of food and drink sales and partnership and participation work.

There will also be a ‘membership visitor welcome manager’, with a total wage bill for the five anticipated at more than £150,000 a year.

The Trust describes those roles as “a truely one-off opportunity to shape a special place with the needs of the local community at its heart.”

It is aiming “to build a new, creative and collaborative leadership team to enable more people to experience Wentworth Castle Gardens”, with potential job applicants told: “Our current strategy is the most ambitious we have ever had and its also the most exciting.

“To meet the challenges we face in the historic and natural environment we know we need to work differently, have a more participative approach, working with new partners, communities and visitors in new ways.

“This is not a conventional National Trust operating model.

“Working in partnership with Northern College and Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, we are looking to create an experience where everyone feels welcome, and are once again able to enjoy this vital green space to explore, walk, relax and spend time together in the outdoors.”

The gardens were restored and opened to the public in the early part of this century after being featured on a BBC television programme.

They had previously been out of bounds to the public for decades and the project later extended to the restoration of a Victorian conservatory, which had deteriorated to the point where it was in danger of collapsing.

However, the site failed to generate the income needed to cover running costs and the trust set up to run it was forced to fold, leaving Barnsley Council to negotiate new arrangements to bring the gardens back into public use.