Historical homes launch eco-drive

Keeping dozens of vast rooms with lofty ceilings warm and bright as well as being environmentally friendly is a difficult business. But the National Trust is aiming to be more energy-efficient and cut down on carbon emissions at some of its stunning properties and even a nature reserve in East Anglia.

Keeping dozens of vast rooms with lofty ceilings warm and bright as well as being environmentally friendly is a difficult business.

But the National Trust is aiming to be more energy-efficient and cut down on carbon emissions at some of its stunning properties and even a nature reserve in East Anglia.

The imposing houses, which have a combined age of 1000 years and were not built with electric sockets, light switches and heaters in mind, are hosting a 'switch off, keep cool' week to cut down on the amount of energy used by staff.

Simple methods that can be used in any home, such as switching off unnecessary lights, shutting down computers when out to lunch and turning off plug sockets at the wall, will all be taken on board during

each home's week-long drive and beyond.

Peckover House in Wisbech, Ickworth House in Suffolk, Oxburgh Hall, near Swaffham, and the trust's regional offices in Bury St Edmunds have all had surveys carried out to highlight the key areas where energy is being wasted.

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Drafts were spotted in the Georgian Peckover House, while basic habits that can easily be changed have been added to must-do lists, such as filling kettles with only the required amount of water.

Alix Crosbie, assistant house steward at the 15th century moated manor house, Oxburgh Hall, said staff will be doing their bit throughout the ancient building and its grounds.

“Our gardeners have replaced ageratum with heliotrope marine, a more drought-resistance plant which requires less watering.

“In the house itself we are doing all the stuff you would expect - switching off, turning down the thermostat by

one degree and paper recycling,” she said.

“We will definitely carry on with it beyond the week and keep bringing the bills down.”

Even the visitor centre and café at Wicken Fen, near Ely, will be taking part in the pioneering programme, which the National Trust hopes to spread out across Britain.

Between 2005 and 2006 alone, the trust spent almost £2.5m on electricity, gas and oil to keep its properties maintained for visitors.

Energy outreach officer Clare Eke will be working with the properties running the pilot scheme and will be able to assess how much energy they have saved during one week alone.

“The programme has been well received by the properties, which in many cases already exhibit good practice when using energy,” she said.

“Some of the initiatives include staff pledges, calculating individual

carbon footprints, monitoring each others behaviour and communal tea breaks.”