Right of Reply: Peter Nixon

The director of estates for the National Trust answers David Aaronovitc h's attack on the charity
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The Independent Culture
WE COULDN'T but smile at David Aaronovitch's "tongue-in-cheek" idea of charging the National Trust, along with the Royal Family and The Archers, with influencing the psyche of the great British public. As I'm sure David knows, the National Trust was created with a prime purpose of protecting open countryside so that people could enjoy it. Indeed one of our founders, Octavia Hill, was deeply committed to safeguarding countryside as "open air sitting rooms." The Trust has a particular remit, as stated in its Acts of Parliament, to ensure that extensive areas of land in its care are kept "as open spaces for the recreation and enjoyment of the public".

We can only estimate the number of people - around 50 million visits - who come to enjoy the coast and countryside in the Trust's care. There is no single gate to walk through and be counted - much of the Trust's open countryside and coastlines never closes.

We don't just sit back and wait for people to turn up. In addition to our education, community and volunteering programmes, we organise a host of countryside activities for all ages such as our "Ugly Bug Safaris" for children and "Birds Before Breakfast" walks for early risers.

The National Trust does all it can as a charity with finite resources to manage and protect the countryside in its care, but our commitment to access comes at a price. For this, we rely on the support of many people, including our 2.6 million members and countless visitors, benefactors, supporters and volunteers. All of these people play an invaluable part in ensuring that the National Trust continues to provide access to the countryside for the benefit of the nation - and that means everyone.