I thought it best to start by providing you with an overview of the key scenic areas of the British Isles and where better to start than with Britain’s beautiful breathing spaces – the national parks of England, Scotland and Wales of which there are currently fifteen. Ten are in England, three in Wales and two in Scotland. There are currently no national parks in Northern Ireland but there are six in Ireland.
Although I have visited some of the parks in Ireland none of those visits has been during my photographic journey so, for now, I will concentrate on the others.
Two-thirds of those parks have been visited greater or lesser extents on my journey so, for now, I will share with you an initial insight into 5 of those parks. In due course, I will return to them in more detail along with others visited in the meantime.
Britain’s Beautiful Breathing Spaces
Loch Lomond and The Trossachs
Let’s start off in Scotland and an area I am sure you have all heard of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs.
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs is a truly special place and has a great variety of landscapes contained within it, even though it’s so close to the major cities of Scotland. Loch Lomond is the jewel of the park and is the largest expanse of fresh water in mainland UK and has many different moods depending on the weather, time of day and season. This image was captured from the eastern shoreline near Rowardennan in early Autumn.
Now for something totally different the Yorkshire Dales with wild valleys crisscrossed by drystone walls and dotted with barns, limestone pavements, high wild fells, waterfalls and the summer glow of wildflowers in the traditional hay meadows.
The image above shows Swaledale and is renowned for its archetypal Yorkshire Dales scenery of drystone walls, field barns and meadows. The barns and dry stone walls form a unique historic farmed landscape that has evolved since at least the 17th century. The majority of the field barns were built between 1750 and the end of the 19th century. There are 1044 field barns in Swaledale alone and a conservative guess of the number in the whole national park would exceed 6000.
Now it’s Wales turn. On the very tip of south-west Wales lies the unique Pembrokeshire Coast, the only one of Britain’s national parks that is almost entirely coastal. It contains long, windswept beaches, hidden coves, outstanding geological features and a variety of natural and man-made harbours. The park celebrated its Diamond anniversary earlier this year.
The ‘white sand’ that the beach gets its name from is as a result of the geological formations of the nearby cliffs and riverbeds, producing soft white sand that sits majestically on the shores of this bay on one of the most remote corners of Wales. Having walked to the bay I sat for ages one evening many years ago to capture this image. Fortunately, I got talking to a couple who were also watching the sunset who very kindly gave me a lift back to my base for the night otherwise I would have been walking back in the dark.
In Norfolk, on the east coast, we have the Broads National Park, Britain’s magical water land, a uniquely beautiful environment shaped by people working hand in hand with nature over thousands of years.
This image of Brograve Mill was captured earlier this year and is a windpump located on Brograve level in the parish of Sea Palling. The mill is a grade II listed building of red brick construction, now lying in an extremely dilapidated and unsafe state. Built-in 1771 it is thought to have last worked around 1930. Its purpose was to drain the Brograve levels into the man-made Waxham New Cut.
And finally, we briefly visit the newest national park, the South Downs which became fully operational in April 2011. The park in southern England stretches for 87 miles from Winchester in the west to Eastbourne in the east through the counties of Hampshire, West Sussex and East Sussex.
The National Trust now own the coastline around Birling Gap and its position receives the full force of the southwesterly wave action at the cliff base. The result is that over a metre of the cliff is lost every year and this rate has been increasing since the 1960s. Disappearing into the distance you can see the Seven Sisters, the finest example of unprotected chalk cliffs in Britain.
That concludes our brief introduction to some of the national parks. To see more and other areas of the British Isles don’t forget to follow this column on a regular basis.
Further images from Britain’s Beautiful Breathing Spaces can be found in the National Parks Collection