23 NOVEMBER 1991, Page 30

Sir: Charles Clover's attack on the Nation - al Trust seems

to have been written with the instinctive spite that inspires some jour- nalists to belittle anything that we do better than any other country, like Ordnance Sur- vey maps, processions, film-documentaries and the care of our architectural heritage.

The phrases of denigration trot out: 'do- gooders', 'distressed gentlefolk', 'fence-Sitting', 'instinct for the quiet life'. Much of

the article concerned the hunting dispute, as if that were typical of the Trust's preoc- cupations, but Mr Clover, abandoning his 'genteel surrender' line, goes on to abuse the Trust for its ruthless treatment of its donors, of whom I am one. Many of them, he says, have been obliged to quit their houses by the Trust's high-handedness. Those that remain suffer from restrictions on the parking of their cars, cutting a sprig of parsley from their gardens, and choosing the shade of pink for repainting their entrance-hall. The impression given and intended is that of an insensitive, ignorant


and fumbling bureaucracy crushing the families who were foolish enough to hand over their properties to it.

That has not been my experience. Occa- sionally I have received an instruction, like that which forbids me to light a candle Without the written permission of the regional director (an instruction which he is happy for me to ignore), but our relations have remained for 25 years amicable and mutually advantageous. The Trust is a highly professional and active organisation, Which daily makes a thousand minor deci- sions and three major ones based on an almost unrivalled experience of estate man- agement; which, in this very week, can cheerfully accept Chastleton from the National Heritage and plan to spend 19.5 million on restoring it; which saves the donors untold sums in tax; which gives a great deal of pleasure to millions of visi- tors; and which is applauded by all political parties at home and is the envy of every conservation body abroad. Against all this Mr Clover has to tell us that an earl once found himself shut out of his castle because the Trust had changed the locks.

Nigel Nicolson

Sissinghurst Castle, Cranbrook, Kent