Wildlife walks, World Heritage and working with local partners
Chris Fowler was General Manager at Fountains Abbey, one of our incredible World Heritage sites with a Cistercian abbey, elegant Georgian water garden and medieval deer park, until he retired in 2016. Whilst still in his role, he talked to us about working with local partners and what makes Fountains Abbey unique.
I’ve been with the Trust for 12 years now, having previously owned my own consultancy business and worked for a large retailer. I have a fantastic job and Fountains Abbey is such a fabulous place, with 880 acres of incredibly beautiful landscape. We’re proud to be a World Heritage Site and as we don’t have any formal collections, we’re quite a unique property in the Trust’s portfolio.
As part of our offering we do a lot of work with local partners, who love to visit and enjoy all that we have to offer. We have a great rapport with local schools in the area and every year over 11,000 school visits are held here. We also have specific family programmes at Fountains Abbey including wildlife walks with our fantastic guides, and deer walks where visitors can spot some of our 500 deer!
Since joining the Trust, I’ve definitely seen a lot of positive changes in the organisation. While there has always been a strong infrastructure in place, there’s now even more room for us to grow and ensure we make the most of our facilities. The business side of the Trust is also much more joined up and we’re now able to manage money for conservation more efficiently.
At Fountains Abbey we’re looking to develop by increasing our retail space and catering options for visitors. At the moment we have three catering outlets; two tea rooms and a large restaurant, but now we want to re-design one of our tea-rooms to accommodate more people coming to enjoy our stunning surroundings.
As we look forward, recruitment of new members to the Trust and membership retention are key challenges for us as a team. We have an enormous amount of visitors to Fountains Abbey and we want to be able to convert more of them to a National Trust membership.
And in terms of staff recruitment, we’ve got 72 staff and over 400 volunteers, and have recently developed our skills requirements. We want to make sure that people are not only able to display an understanding of history and conservation, but they’re also able to enable visitors to understand and enjoy their visit to Studley royal including the ruins of Fountains Abbey.