LORD Montagu has warned that "convoluted and bureaucratic" new rules are deterring foreign exhibitors from attending international events at the National Motor Museum.

Giving his annual speech at the Beaulieu Estate Dinner, the peer said import-export regulations imposed in the wake of Brexit were having a negative impact on the local economy.

Lord Montagu also spoke about the pandemic's effect on the award-winning museum, which celebrates its 50th anniversary next year.

He said: "During the two lockdowns the Beaulieu attraction was closed for a total of 273 days, as were the facilities at Buckler's Hard.

"Knowing we would suffer a major drop in income we furloughed many of our staff, whilst some were able to continue working.

"When a date for reopening was set working out how to provide for our visitors in a Covid-secure way took a lot of effort but we did it according to the 'We're good to go' guidelines and people seemed happy.

"The summer months saw a steady increase in visitors and by late July we were recording higher numbers than two years ago."

Lord Montagu said the International Autojumble went ahead as planned but was affected by Covid-related travel restrictions.

He added: "Unfortunately this was not the only deterrent; it is clear that the convoluted and bureaucratic import-export regulations that have come in since Brexit are putting many of our continental exhibitors off coming.

"The providers of local accommodation also noticed a drop in demand.

"We will be trying to clarify the rules over the coming months in the hope we can present an easy-to-follow system for our overseas customers.

"The situation as it affects our international events in just one example of how Brexit, even with what is supposed to be a free trade agreement, is impacting the economy at local level, as well as breaking ties with valued customers from the other side of the Channel."

Lord Montagu also sounded a new warning about Britain's new coastal path and its potential impact on areas such the Beaulieu River.

In a message aimed at Natural England he said: "If their route for a coastal path is put into effect, as presently proposed, the ability to manage and protect sensitive sites close to the river will be greatly compromised."

This year's guest speaker at the dinner was Martin Stewart, chairman of the New Forest Agricultural Show Society.

Lord Montagu's speech in full:

I would like to start with a special welcome to guests who are new to this dinner. They include: Professor Gavin Parker, Chairman of NFNPA, Paul Manning, our resident Falconer, and is wife Mandy, Chandrakant and Nirmala Patel, of Jays Pharmacy in Dibden Purlieu, Mike Ward of Marina Projects and my nephew Ben Scott.

And of those who once attended this dinner, I am sorry to report the death of Eric Dovey, formerly of Warren Farm, and John Roper-Curzon, Lord Teynham from Pylewell. Happily he is succeeded by his son David who is here tonight.

I will also mention an item of family news from my brother Jonathan, who lives in Berlin. On 29th May last year, he became a father when his wife Nathalie gave birth to a baby girl, Akina. We marked the arrival of a new girl in the family in the customary way by raising a pink flag over Palace House.

At the Estate Dinner two years ago, one of the things I reported on was a project to create a new adventure playground for the spring of 2020. The opening date, 14th March, turned out to be more significant than I had expected. By the time it arrived, a national lockdown was being widely anticipated, and within days it had happened and our visitor businesses had to close.

We all know what the lockdowns meant for us personally but – if only to ‘take stock’ – I feel I should give you a brief account of how the Covid lockdowns and other measures have affected the estate.

As with many businesses, working out how the rules should be applied to our many activities took time to clarify. During the two lockdowns, the Beaulieu attraction was closed for a total of 273 days, as were the public facilities at Buckler’s Hard and on the river. Knowing that we would suffer a major drop in income, we furloughed many of our staff, whilst some were able to continue working particularly those in outdoor jobs on the estate.

Whilst the closures were terrible for many businesses, those of us lucky enough to be living in the countryside could at least enjoy a period of calm and take some long walks. However, as one of the few people still on site, there were plenty of caretaker duties for me to do with a handful of other staff who stayed to keep guard.

When a date for reopening was set in July 2020, working out how to provide for our visitors in a Covid-secure way took a lot of effort, but we did it according to the ‘We’re good to go’ guidelines and people seemed happy with this. Sadly, all our large events for last year had to be cancelled but we were able to continue with our Simply drive-ins and a Motoring in Miniature exhibition in the Motor Museum. I had the pleasure of augmenting this with a display of my own Matchbox toy car collection in Palace House.

This year, as the second lockdown eased, the Beaulieu attraction reopened fully in mid-May. After a prolonged period of closure, it was heart-warming to be able to welcome people back. At the end of May, I was pleased to host the BBC Gardeners’ World Spring Fair. The three-day event was a sell-out, with the added bonus of Fairweather’s Garden Centre being awarded the Best Border. The second of these events is planned for April next year with even more on offer for the avid gardener.

The summer months saw a steady increase in visitors, and by late July we were recording higher numbers than two years ago. Needless to say, there is a still a lot of ground to make up, but the turnaround has been most encouraging. With the emphasis on providing safe outdoor activities, our second Sculpture exhibition in the gardens also played its part. I was particularly pleased that this included the work of local sculptors Michael Turner and Gary Boulton, the latter based at St Leonards Farm Buildings and here tonight.

Major events such as the Supercar Weekend was also able to take place and, most significantly, the International Autojumble in September. Given the circumstances, this was well attended, but the international component was somewhat diminished due to Covid travel restrictions. Unfortunately, this was not the only deterrent; it is clear that the convoluted and bureaucratic import-export regulations that have come in since Brexit are putting many of our Continental exhibitors off coming. The providers of local accommodation also noticed a drop in demand.

We will be trying to clarify the rules over the coming months in the hope that we can present an easy-to-follow system for our overseas customers. The situation as it affects our international events is just one example of how Brexit, even with what is supposed to be a free trade agreement, is impacting the economy at local level, as well as breaking ties with valued customers from the other side of the Channel.

In October, I was pleased to welcome Chris Corbould, the special effects supervisor of the James Bond films, who opened a new exhibition of the cars, gadgets and costumes from the recently released No Time to Die. There are few, if any, themes that better combine our subject – motoring – with mainstream entertainment.

We are also pleased to have a new booth in the museum dedicated to Sir Henry Segrave’s Golden Arrow. This is the wonderful Art Deco styled car which, in 1929, set a new land speed record of over 231mph. The Arts Council funded project uses a new interactive touch screen and computer-generated imagery to complement the existing record breakers display.

The National Motor Museum Trust is undergoing a period of strategic change which started in 2020 with the recruitment of several new Trustees. Out of this has come the appointment of a new Chief Executive, Dr Jon Murden, who is joining us from the Dorset Museum and is with us tonight. Drawing on work already done by the Trustees and our Director of Learning and Collections, Andrea Bishop, he will be instrumental in pursuing an ambitious strategy in the years ahead. One of the priorities will be the future of mobility, looking beyond the era of the internal combustion engine, a theme which inspired our first event this year, Simply Electric, at which we welcomed nearly 300 electric vehicles.

On the Beaulieu River, the £2m reconfiguration of the marina, which was undertaken in two phases over two winters, was completed this spring. To mark the occasion, together with the 50th anniversary of the marina, we were visited by Olympic sailor Sir Ben Ainslie, and the man who opened the original marina in 1971, Sir Chay Blyth. It was quite a day, ending with a mooring holders’ party and fireworks. It is gratifying to report that the extra capacity we have created has already been taken and we are once again keeping a waiting list. Our attentions will now turn to improving the boat yard and other land-based facilities.

The whole of the New Forest, and many other parts of the countryside, endured extraordinary pressures during the early summer of 2020, when people, tired of the lock-down, were desperate to get out. Whilst this was is entirely understandable, there seemed to be an element who believed that because everything was still officially closed, there would be no-one around to enforce the normal rules of responsible behaviour.

The consequences of this on Gull Island at the mouth of the Beaulieu River were particularly unfortunate. This spit forms part of the North Solent Nature Reserve and is out of bound at all times, to protect ground-nesting birds. Regrettably, some paddle-boarders decided to ignore the signs, land on the shingle and light a barbecue. They were within yards of some very rare chicks which perished due to their parents being scared off by this very ill-judged human encroachment.

We have sought to respond with positive measures to better inform the public, and I am pleased to say that at Park Shore, volunteers from the ‘Solent bird aware’ group are present as often as they can be to help inform visitors to the beach and stress the importance of keeping dogs on a lead.

I think that all rural landowners need to recognise that the demand for walking, cycling and water-based recreation is on the increase. The challenge is to provide areas which can take the pressure whilst ensuring the protection of conservation areas. This is a point I would particularly like the access wing of Natural England to take notice of. If their route for the coastal path is put into effect as presently proposed, the ability to manage and protect sensitive sites close to the river, the condition of which is my responsibility, will be greatly compromised.

One of the activities which continued largely irrespective of the pandemic was farming, and this was against a backdrop in which government policy is very much under review, and for a number of reasons.

June 2020 saw the publication of the National Food Strategy review, led by Henry Dimbleby, co-founder of the Sustainable Restaurants Association. This presented a detailed, thought-provoking and in some places radical vision for what the food and farming sector could become. Additionally, in July last year, a Trade and Agriculture Commission was established to advise the government on trade opportunities for UK farmers and food producers.

Even if there is clarity in these areas, food standards and trade are not the only aspects of farming policy; there are also the environmental dimensions which will be closely linked to future payment systems. Here, the government has an Agricultural Transition Plan under which a Sustainable Farming Incentive will be the basic level of the new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS).

There will also be a Local Nature Recovery Scheme and a Landscape Recovery Scheme. The principle here is that government pays not for food production but for environmental benefits or improvements to natural capital, in support of a national 25 Year Environment Plan which includes a commitment to net zero emissions by 2050.

It will be a few years before the ELMS scheme is fully in place, but not all initiatives need to wait for government approval. As a landowner, I have the opportunity to positively manage the land to increase biodiversity and other benefits such as carbon capture and improving water quality – the latter being a particularly important issue for an estate defined by its river.

In this regard, we have supported a number of initiatives with tenants to ensure that water running off the land is filtered and cleaned before it reaches the river. A case in point is the New Forest Fruits operation based at Newhouse farm. Here, rainwater harvesting systems on their greenhouses will feed two new reservoirs for irrigation. The oxygen levels in this stored water will then be managed to optimise plant health, meaning that it is no longer necessary to add sodium hypo-chlorite to the water.

Unfortunately, we have no such control over the sewage treatment plants at Lyndhurst and Beaulieu, where the operator Southern Water makes storm water discharges into the Beaulieu River. These can include raw sewage as the systems are not designed to separate this from rainwater. The effects are regularly noted by fishermen and we fear this may also be the cause of disease in our oyster population. The problem is a national one which received little attention until recently when Southern Water was fined £90 million for illegal discharges, and the House of Lords then strengthened the Environment Bill.

Boats can also be a source of pollution, so at Buckler’s Hard Yacht Harbour we have installed environmentally-friendly pump-out and washdown facilities. We are also working with the Blue Marine Foundation to re-establish oyster beds, which are one of the best natural cleansers of water. One adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day!

Our management of the woods continues in accordance with our Countryside Stewardship agreements, under which a good deal of roadside fencing has been renewed: a very necessary measure when there are forest ponies and cattle on the other side.

Within plantations, the use of plastic tubes is increasingly giving way to temporary deer fencing which protects both new planting and natural regeneration. Of course it is always good when we can use home-grown timber on the estate. This year, for example, larch trees from Lodge Plantation were used to make groynes for sea defences.

In the village, it has been a difficult two years for traders, but the closure periods did create an opportunity for some changes which were already planned. New Forest Activities moved to Hazelcopse Barn, Beaulieu Hair and Beauty moved to the Old Forge, Steffs To Go opened next to Patrick’s Patch, and Finolla Shaw took over Queensmead Stores. The closure of the Abbey Stores by its owner, the Montagu Arms Hotel, also meant the loss of the village post office. The shop has now been taken on by greengrocers Bellord and Brown.

Special mention, incidentally, must go to Dominic Ide of Pallets, who set up a click and collect service during the first lockdown. During the second lockdown, he kept busy refurbishing the Beaulieu Bakehouse tearooms which he is now operating.

A new car park for residents and traders has been completed at the south end of the High Street, kindly funded by the Beaulieu Beaufort Foundation. This is helping to free up on-street parking for non-residents and to encourage greater use of the shops. Parking arrangements have also changed at Buckler’s Hard, where we have separated parking and museum tickets so that people can simply park and enjoy the outdoor parts of the village and riverside if they wish.

This brings us back to the increase in demand for recreation in the countryside, and the need for people to understand the vulnerabilities of the places they visit. This is one of the things the Countryside Education Trust was set up to do but, with Covid restrictions in place and no income from visiting groups, the trust had to reduce its operations to the bare minimum.

Thanks to the dedication of Director Jane Cooper, supported by Anna and Steve Hanks who live at Home Farm, the trust has come through this. I know that they would like me to recognise the kindness and generosity of volunteers, friends and donors who have helped them through this difficult period.

Children are thankfully now back in the residential centre, and when the first bus rolled over the cattle grid, there was a cheer! The trust has now added an after-school club to its range of activities which include playgroups, day visits, family weekends, outreach to schools and hopefully, care homes again in the future.

The trust is also very pleased to be part of a research collaboration developed by the Ernest Cook Trust on how best to provide the benefits of open green spaces for disadvantaged children, something the trust has sought to do since its foundation.

Another major theme is climate change. The trust’s ability to raise awareness of this and provide courses in conjunction with the National Park will be greatly strengthened by the building the Fort Climate Centre at Home Farm. This endeavour, due to open next year, will be greatly assisted by a grant from the National Heritage Lottery Fund, arising from the CET’s partnership with the National Park and other environmental charities.

Looking ahead to Christmas, we will be hosting a new event, The Artisan Collective Christmas Fair. Running from 10th to 12th December, it will feature festive gift, food and drink stalls, as well as street food and live entertainment. Then, from 17th December, the London Touring Players will be returning with their outdoor promenade performances of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. These atmospheric performances in the abbey ruins will be produced by local theatre director Abbey Wright, and are not to be missed! As usual, Palace House will be welcoming visitors over Christmas, with every room decorated, log fires in the hearths and Christmas music playing.

July 2022 will be the 50th anniversary of the National Motor Museum and we will be marking this with The Story of Motoring in 50 Objects. The exhibition will be drawn from all the NMM collections, some chosen by me personally, to tell the motoring story from a variety of different perspectives.

I mentioned at the start of my speech that we have a number of special guests. One of these is Aline Fairweather, whose late husband Christopher started the Garden Centre and nursery at Beaulieu some 60 years ago. Aline is still actively involved with the business, which is now managed by her son Patrick with the very successful Steff’s Kitchen being the venture of his wife Steph. It is therefore very appropriate that the tenants’ response for this year should be given by Patrick Fairweather.

In 2019, I had the honour to serve as the President of the Hampshire County and New Forest Show. From the start of my presidency, I was supported by the show’s enthusiastic Chairman Martin Stewart. As it happens, his main business is running the Garden Centres which bear his name, one of these being in Titchfield next to Place House, formerly the seat of my ancestors the Earls of Southampton.