Interview with Dame Helen Ghosh, Director General at The National Trust


- Credit: Archant

Dame Helen Ghosh, Director General at The National Trust, reveals her favourite county properties on a recent trip to Hampshire

Tell us about the last time you were in the county

I was last down in Hampshire in March to help Winchester City Mill celebrate 10 years of milling there. Just before Christmas, I spent a “back to the floor” day at Mottisfont, which included serving in the shop and making mince pies for the tea room. I’m a Hampshire girl (brought up in Farnborough) and my mother lives in Winchester, so I know the county well.


What is your favourite Hampshire National Trust property and why?

I first visited The Vyne as a child, and remember being fascinated by the many layers of history in the building, so that would be a contender. But of course, as Director General I shouldn’t really have a favourite – I love them all!


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Talk us through a typical day as Director General of the National Trust

Can I talk about a typical week? I’m generally in our HQ in Swindon one day, catching up on meetings and e-mails. I also drop in on our London office in the middle of the week. But other than that, I’m out and about, visiting NT properties across the country. Recently I was at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, site of the Anglo-Saxon ship burial. Later in the week I was at Runnymede, walking around the meadows and talking to my team about the Magna Carta celebrations there next year.


What is it about our properties that make them so successful?

The sheer variety! Each of them has something different to offer its visitors, from intriguing stories and exotic collections, to amazing art exhibitions and gardens full of scent and colour. Whatever your interests there is something for you and your family, whether it’s the fascinating architecture of The Vyne, the wonderful gardens at Hinton Ampner or building a den in Mottisfont’s ancient woodlands.


Can you reveal any exciting events taking place this year?

The City Mill is hosting lots of themed baking demonstrations this year; next up is Father’s Day, and beer bread! ‘Wartime in the Dorm’ tells the colourful story of school girl evacuees at Hinton Ampner during the 1940s, while Mottisfont plays host to Britain’s best-loved children’s illustrators, in a summer exhibition.


How would you spend a spring day?

Walking at Cheesefoot Head. I love the views. It was one of my father’s favourite places, and it’s particularly beautiful in the spring when the violets are out.


Are there any new additions in the pipeline for Hampshire?

We’ve just opened up an additional 1,600 acres of estate at Hinton Ampner, so visitors can enjoy walks and picnics in beautiful beech woodland. Mottisfont’s younger visitors are also in for a treat when its new Wild Play wet and climbing area opens in early summer, inspired by the children who played there in the 1890s.


If you could recommend one non-Hampshire property, which one would it be?

Can I suggest two? In this World War One centenary year, you should go to Dunham Massey in Cheshire where we have recreated the Stamford Military Hospital, where they looked after 300 soldiers from the trenches. And the Back to Backs, round the corner from New Street Station in Birmingham gives a fascinating insight into the lives of ordinary people from Victorian times to the 1970s.


What do you like to do when you have a day off?

I travel so much in my job, I like just pottering around at home, cooking for my family and listening to Radio 4. Now that the weather is getting better I should also be spending some time on my allotment!