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  1. ITV Report

National Trust membership reaches five million for first time ever

Ickworth House near Bury St Edmunds. Credit: ITV News Anglia

The National Trust is celebrating reaching five million members for the first time in its history.

The conservation charity has dozens of sites in the East of England, including Ickworth House near Bury St Edmunds and Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire.

Nationally, 24.5 million people visited National Trust sites that charge an entrance fee last year, while in the East of England that figure was two million.

There are also now 500,000 members in East Anglia.

The National Trust has 500,000 members in the East. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Members are the lifeblood of the National Trust.

On the one hand, they get the opportunity to access and visit wonderful places in the countryside, houses and the coast.

Through their visiting and through them spending money in the cafes and the shops, they help to conserve these places.

– Paul Forecast, National Trust

Selected National Trust sites in the East

Blickling Hall, the Wimpole Estate and Wicken Fen are all big tourist attractions in the East. Credit: PA
  • Blickling Estate (Norfolk)
  • Felbrigg Hall (Norfolk)
  • Oxburgh Hall (Norfolk)
  • Sheringham Park (Norfolk)
  • Dunwich Heath (Suffolk)
  • Sutton Hoo (Suffolk)
  • Bury St Edmunds Theatre Royal (Suffolk)
  • Lavenham Guildhall (Suffolk)
  • Anglesey Abbey (Cambridgeshire)
  • Houghton Mill (Cambridgeshire)
  • Wimpole Estate (Cambridgeshire)
  • Peckover House and Garden (Cambridgeshire)
  • Wicken Fen (Cambridgeshire)
  • Bourne Mill (Essex)
  • Copt Hall Marshes (Essex)
  • Paycocke's House and Garden (Essex)
  • Northey Island (Essex)

Despite the positive press, the National Trust has attracted its fair share of criticism as well.

The organisation was recently forced to reverse a decision to make some volunteers work away from the public after they refused to wear rainbow-coloured badges and lanyards in support of an LGBTQ campaign, while the Trust has now come under fire for defending trail hunting on its land.

"Here in the East of England we have no trail hunters, it's not been a place where we've ever done hunting in the past," Paul Forecast told ITV News Anglia.

"But I know where we do have it, the Trust is ensuring as much as it can that foxes are not killed as a result of the hunts that take place.

"We're putting in place licenses where we insist on hunts carrying out practises in such a way that they minimise the risk of running after foxes - so for instance, putting out aniseed trails instead of fox urine trails."