Meander through the sweeping lawns of Bodnant Garden near Conwy and you cannot mistake the fact you are at a National Trust site.

You would have been offered a membership as you paid your entry fee and seen the trust’s unmistakeable oak logo.

The same goes for Tredegar House outside Newport and any of its other buildings and gardens across Wales.

There is also a good chance you have stood on ground owned by the National Trust without even realising it.

As well as owning 18 Welsh castles, houses, gardens and industrial sites, the trust is Wales’ largest private landowner.

Since it took ownership of Dinas Oleu above Barmouth in 1895, the charity has gone on to own 46,000 hectares of land across the country including vast areas inside national parks and 157 miles of coastline.

Park at Pont Ar Daf carpark before your hike up Pen-y-Fan, or at Rhossili before heading over to Worm’s Head, and you will have set foot on National Trust land.

Visitors from inside and outside of Wales are a fundamental part of the trust’s model and identity. More than 1.8 million people visit the charity’s locations in Wales each year. Each year except last year.

The National Wales: Plas Newydd House is just one of 18 attractions the Trust owns in Wales. Source: National TrustPlas Newydd House is just one of 18 attractions the Trust owns in Wales. Source: National Trust

As lockdown struck in March, gardens and buildings closed overnight and did not reopen in the morning.

Footpaths repaired over the winter months in preparation for the Easter holidays went largely untrodden. For the first time since its establishment, the National Trust was closed.

When it became obvious lockdown would be neither short nor sharp, the charity faced the unenviable and unavoidable task of managing job losses.

It had initially feared up to 1,200 jobs would be lost throughout Wales, England and Northern Ireland as the pandemic hit almost every aspect of its income, from annual memberships to car parking charges.

In Wales, 112 redundancies were finally announced in October as it faced a shortfall of £18 million.

In order to mitigate its losses, the charity announced it was stopping or deferring £124 million worth of projects planned across Wales, England and Northern Ireland.

Projects that fell victim in Wales included plans to build a new café at Plas Newydd and the refurbishment of some the trust's holiday cottages in Pembrokeshire.

Rebecca Williams, the trust’s director of conservation in Wales, told The National: “That loss of income is going to have a big impact on any organisation and we had to make really difficult decisions.

“We lost a number of people here in Wales as well as the skills and experience they bring. That is a loss we will feel even harder when we reopen again.

“A number of projects were reviewed very early on in the pandemic and will have to be revisited at a later date.

"We have to think about how we work and how we approach projects differently. Those new ways of working and bedding in will take a couple of months yet.

“It isn’t about returning to a pre-pandemic world. The world has moved on and we have to move with it.

“People have reconnected with nature and we desperately have to hold onto that as a society. Our challenge is how we embrace that passion and help people understand nature in a way they haven’t done before.

“We will continue to work to ensure people have access to the outdoors, providing opportunities while also managing the flow of visitors."

Despite the drop in footfall, more than 320,000 people still made their way to the trust’s houses, gardens and outdoor spaces last summer.

A similar peak is expected when restrictions are lifted again this year and staff are preparing sites and locations for an inevitable upsurge in the number of visitors across Wales.

The National Wales: Preparing the Laburnum Arch in Bodnant Garden is a meticulous process. Source: National TrustPreparing the Laburnum Arch in Bodnant Garden is a meticulous process. Source: National Trust

Some tasks are routine in habit but essential in producing some of Wales’ most cherished attractions.

Every January, two gardeners at Bodnant Garden carry out the two-week task of cutting back every Laburnum plant and reattaching each one to a 55-metre-long pergola framework.

The garden’s Laburnum Arch attracts around 50,000 visitors when it blooms in late May.

Other projects have exploited the opportunities offered by site closures. The team at Dinefwr’s 800-acre estate on the outskirts of Llandeilo have been repairing the parkland’s boardwalk, creating a 600 meter all-ability access trail.

For Rebecca, promoting accessibility and inclusion at sites and locations is vital for both the trust and the environment moving forward.

“Something we have definitely reflected on is how important access to quality green spaces is to everybody. We must ensure our landscapes and locations are accessible to all communities by reducing the barriers that exist.

“Thinking about the green recovery in Wales, we must look at the connectivity between urban and rural areas. It will only be a genuine green recovery if it addresses inequality.

“We have done a really exciting piece of work on climate change, looking at each of our houses and identifying risks like flooding, heat and insect infestations.

"As well as thinking about how we respond to mitigating those hazards, it is really important that we tell stories, engage and involve our visitors in that journey.”

The National Wales: The trust has a vital role to play in Wales' environmental futureThe trust has a vital role to play in Wales' environmental future

As an owner of so much land in Wales, the charity has an instrumental role to play in Wales’ environmental future.

It has an ambitious target to restore 4,600 hectares of habitat by 2025 in a bid to reverse a 13% decline in average wildlife abundance across the UK since the 1970s.

In a project partnered with Natural Resources Wales, the trust is also working on a first of its kind plan to combat flooding on the River Conwy.

The Uwch Conwy project plans to deliver peat and river restoration which aims to store flood water in the upland areas of the Conwy’s drainage basin.

It is the first time the issue of flooding has been tackled by looking at an entire river catchment area in Wales.

Like so many organisations, The National Trust has been hit hard by the pandemic.

It will be different when we return to its sites and locations across Wales later this year.

How we embrace the new normal will be fundamental in how the trust moves forward as a guardian of so much of what Wales holds dear.