With 2019 marking the 70th Anniversary of the National Parks in England and Wales, there has never been a better time to encourage you all to go and explore these beautiful and protected areas of the British landscape just as I have done over the years. Before I share with you some of my images from each of the 15 National Parks just some background on how it all came about.
The National Parks & Access to the Countryside Act 1949 was passed by Parliament which gave us national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty, national nature reserves, long-distance paths (national trails) and definitive maps of rights of way among other things. None of these was achieved without a great deal of lobbying, and the fight for national parks was long and hard – but the result was that our most splendid landscapes have a strong level of protection which endures today.
Our National Parks now attract over 100 million visitors a year, provide a haven for nature, and allow people from all over the UK and beyond to connect with their incredible natural beauty, tranquillity and recreation opportunities.
Some of you may say why have you mentioned 15 National Parks when there are only 13 in England and Wales. Scotland’s 2 National Parks are covered by different legislation which only came to pass through The National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000 and but I am going to include them in my images of the parks.
Let’s now take a look at the diverse landscapes in each park starting with my closest and the first park established in 1951 that being the Peak District. The Peak District is an upland area in central and northern England, lying mainly in northern Derbyshire, but also covering parts of Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Staffordshire and South and West Yorkshire. 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.
A further three parks were designated in 1951, the next 4 months later was the Lake District a mountainous region in North West England being the largest National Park in England and Wales, and second-largest in the British Isles. All the land in England higher than 3000 feet above sea level lies within it, including Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England. It also contains the deepest and longest lakes in England. It is also our only National Park having UNESCO World Heritage Status.
We then move on to October 1951 with 2 parks designated one being Snowdonia, the first in Wales and probably the National Park I have visited more than any other. Named after the mountain that rises dramatically at the north end of the region, Snowdonia is one of Britain’s greatest landscapes with scenery that transforms with the seasons.
Two weeks later came Dartmoor, an area of moorland in south Devon which includes the largest area of granite in Britain, although most of it is under superficial peat deposits. Dartmoor is known for its tor’s – hills topped with outcrops of bedrock, which in granite country such as this are usually rounded boulder-like formations.
1952 saw 2 more parks designated including the second in Wales, Pembrokeshire Coast and the only coastal national park of its kind in the United Kingdom. Over the years Pembrokeshire’s beaches have been awarded many International Blue Flag Awards, Green Coast Awards and Seaside Awards. In 2011 it had 39 beaches recommended by the Marine Conservation Society.
In the Autumn of 1952, it was the North York Moors turn, a beautiful landscape of stunning moorland, spectacular coast, ancient woodland and historic sites.
North York Moors
After that flurry 1953 was a rest bite but in 1954 2 further parks were designated the first being Exmoor which has a wonderful coastal landscape, with moorland rivers draining to a wild rocky coastline with sandy beaches, attractive harbour towns, rocky headlands and cliffs, and a large estuary.
Back in Yorkshire for the second park of the year the Yorkshire Dales. The
Yorkshire Dales (also known as The Dales) is the name given to a collection of river valleys and the hills among them, rising from the Vale of York westwards to the hilltops of the main Pennine watershed.
Another break in 1955 and then it was Northumberland’s turn in 1956. Northumberland National Park is the northernmost national park in England. It covers an area of more than 1,050 square kilometres between the Scottish border in the north to just south of Hadrian’s Wall, and it is one of the least populated and least visited of the National Parks hence its known as “England’s most tranquil location.
1957 saw the last of the three Wales national parks designated, that being the Brecon Beacons and also the last for some time. It offers some of Britain’s most spectacular scenery. The region is characterised by remote open moorland, high mountains, and some of the UK’s most impressive waterfalls.
Fast forward thirty years to 1988 and we are in Norfolk where The Broads is designated. Britain’s magical water land, a uniquely beautiful environment shaped by people working hand in hand with nature over thousands of years.
Loch Lomond and The Trossachs
Another break and following the Scotland Act in 2000 the first National park in Scotland Loch Lomond and The Trossachs was designated in 2002. The Park has dozens of Lochs and Lochans. Loch Lomond is the largest and its beauty is legendary however the many other lochs and lochans have their own character varying from wild to tranquil.
The following year 2003 saw Scotland’s second park arrive the Cairngorms. The park covers the Cairngorms range of mountains and surrounding hills. Already the largest national park in the British Isles, in 2010 it expanded into Highland and Perth and Kinross.
After visiting our largest park we are off to the south of England and our smallest the New Forest designated in 2005. It lies within the county of Hampshire, on the south-central coast of England. The rare blend of open heathlands and ancient woodlands makes the New Forest – affectionately called the Forest by locals – a unique and very special place indeed, the underlying features of which have changed little over the centuries.
And last but not least 2009 saw the designation of the South Downs National Park with it’s wide open spaces from the cliff tops to the chalk hills.
Website links to all National Parks are provided within the highlighted text above where you will be able to find considerably more information on each park and if you wish to see more photos of the national parks just click on the photos and from there to each of the locations.
It’s been 10 years since the last National Park was designated and whilst the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales have been subsequently extended – is it time for more protected landscapes? Following the recent government review of Protected Landscapes, there is a possibility of more national parks being created and the public may even get their say. Areas mentioned have included the Cotswolds and Dorset and in Scotland, there have been suggestions for some time of Argyle and the Isles. Galloway is the latest to be be considered in the South of Scotland.
Which areas of the countries would you like to see become Protected Landscapes? Let’s get the ball rolling and provide the Government something to think about.