Chief collaborator. Critical friend. Expectation manager.

Published : Tue 19th Jun

David Bailey explains why becoming General Manager of Hughenden requires a lot of plate spinning – and why you’ll never stop learning. 

The Hughenden portfolio encapsulates mostly everything that the National Trust does – there’s a manor house, a Palladian home and estate, huge swathes of countryside, ancient woodland, an internationally significant chalk stream, two tenant farms, all we’re missing is the coast! And as General Manager at Hughenden you’ll oversee many, many different elements of work, encouraging the people who work with you to do the best they can. That’s the key to the General Manager role here – you certainly can’t be a micro manager – there’s such a broad remit, you need to rely on the people in your team to help you. There are many different areas of work at the Trust, so many different specialists and not just those that are experts in the region, but the volunteers that have been here for 30 years and the neighbours that know every undulating hill. You always need to have your eye on the bigger picture.  

Challenges and opportunities

The biggest challenge is that no decision can be made in isolation. In the visitor infrastructure, for example, a new tearoom needs to be conceptualised alongside the future plans for your let estate and what to do with it. In fact, estate management is absolutely key here. We’re one of the first NT sites in this region to have a plan for how we deliver our land, outdoors and nature objectives. It has involved me working very closely with my Estate Manager, Countryside Manager and all the Rangers, looking at what can we do, what’s going well and how are we going to achieve some of those objectives. It’s involved a lot of work, but it’s ready, which is quite exciting. It’s reviewed annually, so the incoming General Manager will come in and be able to shape it further.

Another challenge will be managing expectations here – mainly your own! There’s so much potential that you’ll need to work out how much is actually achievable. There’s everything from the international significance of the Disraeli collection to the highest views from the Chilterns, for example, and it’s important that you’re able to appreciate all the complexities and think of the bigger picture rather than focus on individual aspects of the portfolio.   

Make a difference

Hughenden is such a launch pad because it’s so spread out and there are so many partner organisations, so much going on, you’re set up to make a real difference to the Chilterns in terms of how that area of the country is looked after for future generations. And that’s important because it’s an area that is under so much pressure from development, housing and roads, and HS2 for example.

What’s next?

We’re looking for a special type of person to take on the Hughenden portfolio as General Manager. At the heart of it you’ll need to appreciate and understand what we have here – it’s more than a job. It’s all about the outdoors here. It’s the countryside that brings it all together. As a portfolio, Hughenden ticks so many boxes, it’s so close to London but within the hour you could be in remote woodland. It’s also culturally diverse, which gives whoever comes in such a great opportunity to feel part of the community.

If you’re interested in learning more about the General Manager role at Hughenden, please click here