Welcome back for the second instalment of a whistle-stop tour of Britain’s Beautiful Breathing Spaces – National Parks. Having visited Loch Lomond, the Yorkshire Dales, Pembrokeshire, the Norfolk Broads and the South Downs in the first instalment we will now visit the next five parks on my list.
On this occasion, we will start off with one of the most popular and the largest park in England, the Lake District, which as well as including England’s highest mountain Scafell Pike as its deepest lake, Wastwater.
Britain’s Beautiful Breathing Spaces
The Lake District, also commonly known as The Lakes, is a mountainous region in North West England. A popular holiday destination, it is famous not only for its lakes, forests and mountains (or fells) but also for its associations with the early 19th-century poetry and writings of William Wordsworth and the other Lake Poets.
The Lakes were designated a National Park on 9 May 1951, becoming the second national park in the United Kingdom after the Peak District. It is the most visited in the United Kingdom with 15.8 million annual visitors.
This image is one of many captured on my trip to the Lakes in Spring 2011 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the formation of the park. An eight-mile walk to Angle Tarn near Patterdale was voted by “Country Walking” magazine readers as the “Best View in The Lake District”
Another park celebrating its 60th was Dartmoor and I paid a visit there also in 2011. Dartmoor in South Devon is an area of moorland and the largest area of granite in Britain.
Dartmoor is known for its tors — hills topped with outcrops of bedrock, which in granite country such as this are usually rounded boulder-like formations. More than 160 of the hills of Dartmoor have the word tor in their name but quite a number do not. However, this does not appear to relate to whether or not there is an outcrop of rock on their summit.
This image captured on Brent Tor which rises to 1100 ft (330m) above sea level is surmounted by the 13th-century Church of St Michael de Rupe (“Saint Michael of the Rock”), the parish church of the village of Brentor, which lies below the Tor. Supposedly the best place in the area for sunsets but unfortunately not on my visit.
There are three national parks in Wales but having visited Pembrokeshire last time we will now briefly visit the two other parks in Wales, the Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia, the park where I have spent the most time walking and photographing.
Firstly the Brecon Beacons, which is a mountain range in South Wales. In a narrow sense, the name refers to the range of old Red sandstone peaks popular with walkers which lie to the south of Brecon. Sometimes referred to as the ‘central Beacons’ they include South Wales’ highest mountain, Pen y Fan. The range forms the central section of the National Park, a designation which also encompasses ranges both to the east and the west of the central Beacons.
This much wider area is also commonly referred to as ‘the Brecon Beacons’ which is said to be named after the ancient practice of lighting signal fires (beacons) on mountains to warn of attacks by invaders or to commemorate public and national events such as coronations, the Millennium or the Diamond Jubilee.
The image above of The Lady Falls was captured after a period of extremely heavy rain in an area known as “Waterfall Country” and this is one of the most beautiful and popular parts of the Brecon National Park.
Caves and waterfalls abound between the villages of Pontneddfechan and Ystradfellte where the Rivers Mellte, Hepste and Nedd Fechan plunge their way down steep-sided, tree-lined gorges. There is even one waterfall, Sgwd yr Eira (Fall of Snow) behind which you can follow the footpath to look out through the waterfall and immerse yourself in its thunderous roar.
Snowdonia National Park, situated on the west coast covers 823 square miles of diverse landscapes and is a living working area and home to over 26,000 people. As well as being the largest national park in Wales, Snowdonia boasts the highest mountain in England and Wales, Snowdon at 3560ft(1085m), and the largest natural lake in Wales, Bala, as well as a wealth of picturesque villages like Betws y Coed and Beddgelert.
Snowdonia is an area steeped in culture and local history, where more than half its population speak Welsh.
Nant Gwynant lies below Snowdon and must be one of the most beautiful and photographed valleys in Wales. The road that descends to the valley base and Llyn Gwynant descends 600 feet in about two miles.
The lake is natural, having been formed by glacial action and is a popular place for canoeing and kayaking and was used as a filming location in the 2003 film “Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life”. The mountain in the background is not Snowdon but Moel Hebog.
Finally, for this post, we take a visit to my closest National Park, the Peak District. The third park to celebrate its 60th birthday in 2011 being the first national park in the UK. The Peak District is an upland area in central and northern England. An area of great diversity, it is conventionally split into the northern Dark Peak, where most of the moorland is found and whose geology is gritstone, and the southern White Peak, where most of the population lives and where the geology is mainly limestone-based.
This image shows part of The Roaches, which with Hen Cloud, Five Clouds and Ramshaw Rocks form the gritstone escarpment which marks the southwestern edge of the Peak. They stand like a line of silent sentinels guarding the entrance to the Peak District, worn into fantastic shapes by the elements.
Well, ten down and five to go, those being the Cairngorms in Scotland and the NewForest, North York Moors, Exmoor and Northumberland. Some of these I still have to visit so next time we will have a break from the National Parks and take a look at some of the Heritage Coasts.
Further images from Britain’s Beautiful Breathing Spaces can be found in the National Parks Collection
I look forward to sharing more of Britain’s beautiful breathing spaces with you shortly.