George Clarke to explore lockdown secrets of local National Trust properties

The lockdown secrets of some of the North East’s most fascinating visitor attractions are set to be revealed in a new TV series.

Airing weekly from Sunday August 23, a new six-part Channel 4 series presented by George Clarke gives a behind-the-scenes look at some of the National Trust’s most remarkable properties during their closure to visitors.

And he’ll be returning to his North East roots, visiting three of the region’s stately homes – and even scaling Sunderland’s famous Penshaw Monument.

In ‘George Clarke’s National Trust Unlocked’, the popular architect will explore some of the UK’s most impressive historic homes; finding out more about the architecture, design and stories behind each property. He’ll also share the stunning gardens, open countryside and surrounding scenery of these estates with viewers.

Every year around 27 million visits are made to the National Trust’s 300 houses and gardens, but this all came to a halt in March as tourism sites across the country closed.

With the sites shut, cameras were granted special access, delving into the hidden recesses that visitors don’t normally get to see.

The presenter, who is from Sunderland, said: “I know lockdown has been unbelievably tough for so many people and that’s why I feel honoured and privileged to have been given the most amazing access to show the people of Britain some of the most wonderful buildings, gardens and landscapes we have across the nation.”

Penshaw Monument
Penshaw Monument
(Image: Newcastle Chronicle)

In episode two, airing on August 30, he’ll explore Washington Old Hall, ancestral home to the first president of the USA.

The following week, George can be seen exploring one of the most modern Victorian houses in existence, the water-powered, cliff-top home of industrialist Lord Armstrong at Cragside in Rothbury, Northumberland.

He’ll head back to the North East in episode four for a walk with his faithful four-legged companion, Loki the Siberian husky, through the Gibside Estate, an eighteenth century landscape park with royal connections and crowned with jaw-dropping architecture.

George completes his six-part journey back in the North East, fulfilling a boyhood dream by scaling the iconic Penshaw Monument, the top of which can be reached by visitors through a hidden passage in one of the pillars.

On his visits George will meets the people keeping these sites in working order until they are ready to be re-opened.

He added: “The history of our architecture tells the stories of our past, both good and bad, and the National Trust grounds and walks have made me realise, now more than ever, just how important our open, green and beautiful spaces are to our happiness, well-being and mental health. What an opportunity for me to explore so many properties, many of which I’ve never seen before.

“Stay safe, sit back and enjoy the series, because it’s the most unique series of programmes I’ve ever made.”

As lockdown eases, the National Trust is re-opening gardens, parks and some houses on a pre-booking basis. Tickets must be booked in advance via the website, with new batches of tickets released each Friday for the following week.

The conservation charity also recommends that visitors check the relevant property web pages before travelling to ensure they have the latest access and facilities information.

John Orna-Ornstein, director of culture and engagement at the National Trust, said: “We are really looking forward to welcoming all our visitors back to our historic properties as we slowly continue to re-open.

“In the meantime, we are delighted that Channel 4 viewers will be able to enjoy some of these special places from their homes as George Clarke explores diverse sites, from grand stately homes to quirky cottages and gardens and meets the staff who have been caring for them during lockdown.”

George Clarke’s National Trust Unlocked airs at 9pm from on Sundays on Channel 4 until September 27

Chronicle Live – Sunderland