The National Trust is giving its workers siestas in summer due to increasingly hot weather because of climate change.
Staff and volunteers in the south of England will be given more Mediterranean working hours, with a long lunch break and the day starting earlier and finishing later. This will allow them to avoid the hottest part of the day, as people already do in countries such as Italy and Spain.
A spokesperson for the charity said: “It’s fair to say that as we experience more extreme temperatures, we will be looking to offer Mediterranean working hours, especially in the east which is likely to experience more frequent higher temperatures to ensure the health and safety of our staff and volunteers.”
This has already begun at Ham House in Richmond, south London, which was forced to close for the first time in August 2019 as temperatures reached more than 40C. Staff are offered the new working hours when it is hot – and it is expected this will be rolled out across more trust properties in coming years.
The charity is also planting trees to provide shade and make a visit to a property more bearable in a heatwave, and has moved its benches into the shade in order to protect staff and visitors from extreme heat. In some gardens, staff are planting Mediterranean plants, which can survive drier, hotter conditions.
It is also expected that the peak visiting times will shift to later in the year. At the moment, it is in July and August, but trust executives believe that due to rising temperatures making long walks uncomfortable, the majority of visitors will come in the autumn. They are also preparing for increased visits to their coastal properties in spring, as hot weather comes earlier each year.
Analysis of visitor data over the last five years found that numbers of tourists increase as the mercury hits 24C, but drops off dramatically at temperatures over 28C. This is particularly pronounced for indoor activities, including guided walks around stately homes.
The National Trust’s head of climate and environment, Lizzy Carlyle, said: “What this data shows us is that we have a lot to do to prepare the UK tourist industry for the effects of climate change.
“In time, there could also be a need for a slight cultural shift in our approach as tourists, like avoiding hotter parts of the day like those currently experienced in southern European countries.
“The National Trust is already taking action across the places we care for to ensure sites are ready for these changes, but there is much to be done across the industry to collectively prepare us for more frequent days above 30C, higher winds and increased flooding.”