Anger over new charges at A la Ronde in Exmouth
PUBLISHED: 06:30 18 April 2016 | UPDATED: 11:31 19 April 2016
Furious visitors have vowed to stay away after charges were introduced to use the grounds at the National Trust's unique A la Ronde.
People used to be free to roam the grounds and enter the tearooms, although there has always been a charge for visiting the 18th century, 16-sided house.
Adults now must pay £8.40 to walk the grounds and enter the house, with a child paying £4.20, a family £21, one adult and up to three children £12.60 and a group adult £7.10 for group bookings of 15 people or more.
However, the National Trust has defended the move and said the money would be used to maintain the property.
A resident, who wished to remain anonymous, was shocked when faced with charges during a recent visit to the grounds - and said the charges were ‘unacceptable’.
The 63-year-old Salterton Road resident told the Journal: “I consider A la Ronde to be Exmouth’s crown jewel. I hadn’t been to the property since last summer.
“I paid the charge with my friends from Topsham, as I didn’t want to make a fuss in front of them. After they had gone, I complained.
“The charges have backfired, as one person will talk to 20 others and it will have an impact on the National Trust.
“The experience has left a bitter taste in my mouth. The National Trust has got you in a difficult position because they know the English don’t like to complain.
“I was considering becoming a National Trust member, but not anymore.
“The charges are unacceptable. I have travelled all over the world and haven’t experienced anything like this. Who would want to pay more than £8 for the same thing they have seen 20 times before?”
Exmouth resident Delia Pemberton has urged the National Trust to reconsider.
She said: “We’re happy to pay to look around the house, but we don’t want to do that every time.
“Quite often we like to pop up for lunch or afternoon tea, to enjoy a nice meal and the lovely view, and look at the exhibitions of local art. We never leave without spending money in the café or shop, so why turn our business away?
“I really think the National Trust urgently needs to reconsider this policy, to take local people into account before their visitor numbers and revenue go through the floor. A la Ronde isn’t a big property with a national draw – the National Trust needs locals like us to bring in visitors, and we just won’t be doing that if it costs £8 a time.”
Denise Higgins posted on the A la Ronde Facebook page that she would never visit the property again because of the charges.
But David Ford, National Trust general manager for South and East Devon properties, defended the move.
Mr Ford said: “As a charity, the National Trust is committed to the care and upkeep of A la Ronde. Conserving such a beautiful spot, including the grounds, garden and the house itself, all have a cost.
“Every penny of the vital funds contributed by visitors to A la Ronde, through their membership, or the entry charge, goes towards the upkeep of the house, grounds and our wider conservation work to support nature at A la Ronde, for everyone to enjoy.”