Every year thousands of visitors head to the National Trust’s Sizergh Castle and Gardens, near Kendal. 

However, there is much more to the attraction than the grand stately home and its grounds.  

The house - which has been home to the Strickland family for more than 800 years - stands on a 1,600-acre estate, consisting of wetland, ancient woodlands and three tenant farms.  

Dan Taylor, the National Trust’s general manager for South East Cumbria and Morecambe Bay, is focused on making sure the whole estate - and neighbouring areas - move towards cutting their carbon footprint as much as possible, as well as operating in a way which benefits nature and the local community. 

“We ride several horses at the same time at the trust,” says Dan, who has been in the role since last January. 

“We’re there for history, we’re there for nature, we're there for people.” 

Prior to taking on the job, Dan worked for Southwark Council, in London, focused on regeneration and developing schemes to bring prosperity to deprived areas. At the same time, he gained his mountain leader qualification and took children from the inner city on expeditions into the outdoors.  

“I always had a dream of moving to a national park and transferring my skills one day and that’s how I ended up here,” he says.  

He and the trust are aiming to make Sizergh a “low carbon, nature friendly centre of wellbeing”.  

A key part of this revolves around three tenant farms - Low Sizergh, Lane End and Cinderbarrow - which have adopted organic and regenerative farming methods. 

Cinderbarrow Farm has recently been taken over by the Benson family, who previously farmed at Town Head Farm, near Grasmere, who are carrying out initiatives such as planting more trees and hedgerows. 

"The idea is that we work with those farm businesses, so that they're successful enterprises but they're also making space for nature as well," says Dan.  

"We want to do more for nature, planting more trees and increasing the size of our wetlands.” 

Meanwhile, work has been underway at the castle to install renewable energy systems, including solar panels on the roof of its cafe and shop and a biomass boiler which heats the main house.  

Both developments were introduced last year, reducing the amount of energy it draws from the grid by 44 per cent.  

Sizergh is also in the process of installing air source heat pumps and moving to using electric tools in its garden.  

Its kitchen garden grows over 130 different types of vegetables which are directly put to use in pies, quiches, soups and other delights in the cafe, as well as being donated to Waste into Wellbeing, a community cafe in Kendal. The food from the cafe is sold on a ‘pay what you can’ basis or distributed to local people in need. 

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Meanwhile, charity Growing Well, which therapeutically supports people with mental health challenges through horticultural activities, such as growing fruit and vegetables, has a base on the estate.  

Efforts are also underway to encourage people to use more sustainable methods to get to Sizergh. 

These include offering a free hot drink to anyone who arrives by bus and creating a new footpath alongside the drive leading to the house. 

Dan is also keen to see more people arrive by train via the Furness Line or by bike from the Morecambe Bay Cycle Way.  

To achieve this, Sizergh is working with Green Journey - an online planning tool for sustainable travel - to develop an action plan to help people reach the attraction in a more environmentally friendly way. 

They are also working with local company Ease E Ride, which rents electric bikes at Arnside railway station which people can then use to travel to Sizergh. Ease E Ride bikes are also available to pick up at Sizergh, so people can explore the Lyth Valley, South Lakes and Kendal. 

Work is also ongoing with Westmorland and Furness Council on ways more people can be encouraged to use the former route of the Lancaster to Kendal canal to arrive by foot or bike from Kendal. 

“We’re thinking about how we could map it or add more signage and it would be a dream to have an access path along it one day,” says Dan.  

"I really like the idea of creating ripples, starting off with lots of small things and starting slowly and building towards waves and a tsunami to respond to climate change.” 

In time, Dan says the goal would be for Sizergh to produce no carbon, although he is realistic about the challenges.  

“Behaviour changes take time and so does the infrastructure,” he says. 

“There’s no silver bullet but I love the challenge. It’s such a privilege. The National Trust looks after these sites forever and so we don’t have that political short-termism. We have long-term stewardship and so we take a long view.”