There is only one signpost to the 1,925-acre estate acquired from the Earl of Feathersham in 1972. It is not featured in the handbook and the nearest tourist office has no leaflets on it.
But this low-key approach has left three properties unoccupied, including one, Stork House, which is now derelict. One tenant, who did not wish to be named, said: 'The condition of Stork House is nothing less than tragic. It's a magnificent farmhouse which has become almost a ruin during the Trust's time here.'
Dorothy Fairburn, the Trust's land agent for Bransdale, denied that the three properties were neglected. 'The deterioration of Stork House is a tragedy but the house needed attention when the National Trust came here and there is a problem with access,' she said. 'When we took over Bransdale there were a lot of properties in a dreadful state. If the Trust had started spending money on Stork House, we would have been laughed out of Yorkshire. Our priority was to work on the farmhouses and let the cottages, which were 'saveable'.'