Karen Wittaker: a fresh look at the National Trust

Published : Mon 21st Mar Author : National Trust

Afternoon all. I wanted to share Karen Wittaker's story with you today, a complete convert! Gone are her days of chit chatting at the office watercooler (just to grab that extra bit of exercise) now Karen spends her time out and about on the South Downs, soon to become a National Park don't you know, what's more she invited me down to the area to show me what Saddlescombe farm and the surrounding area are doing to help reconnect people with the outdoors.

"I'd like to tell you my story about how my perception of the National Trust has changed and how I see the Great Outdoors as my new favorite place to be. Already a keen power kiter and lover of picnics and kayaking, but I soon discovered a whole new aspect to the countryside.Karen-Whittiker-Side-Image.jpg

Although I knew about the National Trust before I joined them. Of course it's a well-loved organisation; those nice people who look after big country houses and have lots of tea and cake on offer in their tea-rooms. I didn't think I would be part of it and putting one of their nice car stickers in my car window – well not yet anyway. Don't get me wrong, I had visited plenty of their historic houses and yes, I had had a very enjoyable day out. But little did I know what amazing places, spaces, walks, talks and events they offered in the countryside.

There was so much happening on my doorstep that I didn't know about.

Like most people I worked in an office, a very groovy one in Brighton, but redundancy came along and my life was about to change. I was working in communications for the Arts Council writing for the web and e-newsletters and knew I wanted to try something different and get out of the office environment.

I found out more about the National Trust when I applied for a role as a 'Web developer and assistant countryside warden'. The last part sounded really fun!

I got the job and started project managing the new pages for the countryside sites. I met all the wardens and listened to what they were offering on the 628 hectares of open access land from East to West Sussex. I wrote about the cycling, walking, talks and events, together with great education activities that they offered. Their days are packed, they are experts at looking after the land, woodlands and cattle. In addition to writing about the countryside, Graham Wellfare, the Senior warden soon had me herding sheep and Llamas up the hill, riding across the South Downs on the back of a quad bike or 'hoovering' the Dyke!

This was more like it. What a great days work!

Working at one of the most beautiful places on the south coast (I may be a little biased!) Saddlescombe Farm was such a change. I didn't even know the farm existed and it is only seven miles from Brighton. Memories of office life soon faded, even making tea was different, filling up the kettle for tea in the old Tudor kitchen, rather than the nice pink carpeted glass walled office.

When I read about Leni and Outdoor Nation I couldn't wait to invite her to come to the South Downs to see for herself how much fun could be had here. She was soon enjoying it as much as I do. Zorbing down the hill (in a giant blow up hamster ball), flying over the downs and hearing about the high adrenalin activities on offer like mountain boarding, cycling, kayaking and power kiting. But it's not all about sports there are fabulous places for all to enjoy, take a stroll with a picnic and just admire the views.

The National Trust are really moving with the times, with facebook, twitter, flicker, blogs and new web site pages, there are loads of ways to find out more and get involved – be sure to keep an eye on what's going on near you. Remember, spending time in the countryside is free, fun and healthy." 

 Leni, Roaming Reporter, March 21 2011

Originally posted on Outdoor Nation

Original post here (opens in new window)