The campaign for national parks


Philip Nalpanis


The speaker gave a whistle-stop tour of the National Parks of England and Wales, outlined the role of the Campaign for National Parks and highlighted some of the issues being faced.


As Brian Redhead, (President of CNP in 1986) said, “The National Parks are not ours but ours to look after.”  While the parks get some support from government, they are generally privately owned.  They are designated as national parks because they are special on account of their scenery, cultural and historical associations and their flora and fauna.  They are the top tier of protected areas.  The 13 National Parks in England and Wales are :


Lake District

Yorkshire Dales

North Yorkshire Moors

Peak District


Pembrokeshire Coast



Brecon Beacons


Norfolk Broads

New Forest

South Downs


The first 10 were designated between 1951 and 1957 then it was 30 years before the Norfolk Broads were designated followed by the New Forest and the South Downs.


The Peak District provides a good illustration of what our national parks are about – enclosed land is lush and green and shows the impact of people in roads, farms and nearby is open moorland.  It epitomises the interplay between the heavily modified and natural (or at least less modified by human influence) landscapes.  In other countries, national parks are generally much wilder landscapes. 


The Countryside Commission in 1985 described Dartmoor as a place of hidden valleys which is high wet and cold and peat-bound and yet beautiful.  The Pembrokeshire Coast has a 186-mile long coastal path, extends into the Presceli Hills and includes the offshore islands of Ramsey Island with its grey seals and Skomer and Skokholm with manx shearwaters and gannets.  27% of Exmoor is protected by SSSI status.  The Yorkshire Dales includes botanical marvels such as clints and grykes in limestone pavements and wild flower meadows in upper Swaledale.  Northumberland has Hadrian’s Wall on the Whin Sill and the Cheviots and the Brecon Beacons has textbook glaciated corries.


The Norfolk Broads were thought to be natural until relatively recently but they were actually made by people digging peat in medieval times (when the second city of England was Norwich) and the park has 6 national nature reserves and 27 SSSIs.  The New Forest is one of the newest national parks and retains its very old legal system of verderers and the newest of all is the South Downs.


Creation of national parks and governance


Brian Redhead said in 1986 that “National parks are an inheritance not an invention”.  The creation of national parks resulted from the Hobhouse Report (1949) recommendations.  The first was created in 1951 and there are now 13.   It has always been recognised that it is not necessary to keep them exactly as they are because people live and work in them but they are worth conserving.


They are governed by National Park Authorities (NPAs), one for each park, funded by government and responsible for planning.  The NPAs comprise local councillors and nationally appointed members who work together to facilitate conservation and recreation.  Under the 1995 Environment Act, NPAs have a duty to:

  • protect and enhance natural beauty, wildlife and the cultural heritage; and
  • promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment.

 The Campaign for National Parks


The Campaign for National Parks’ mission is to inspire everyone to enjoy and look after national parks.  It is organised by trustees and its current president is Ben Fogle.  It provides a voice for many different stakeholders, essentially acting as a candid friend to national parks and NPAs.  Developments that affect national parks, such as wind farms, pylons, mines and quarries are of national importance, as are the parks, so it is not just local people who have an interest.  The CNP gives a voice to a wider range of people.  It also includes a wide range of organisations.


Issues faced by national parks


Some of the issues facing national parks include:

  • hill farming, where making a living is difficult;
  • industrial-scale agriculture;
  • drystone walling is prevalent and needs to be maintained;
  • burning heather to promote re-growth;
  • if land is not managed it is quickly overtaken by bracken and scrub;
  • man-made development such as reservoirs or quarrying;
  • military training;
  • forestry – much of this was planted with good intentions but…;
  • recreation – Windermere has banned power boats;
  • dredging is needed in the Norfolk Broads;
  • roads and pipelines;
  • public transport is preferable but people need to use it;
  • footpath maintenance;
  • climate change – how will it change national parks?
  • Rock climbing, hang gliding, access for the disabled;
  • Mosaic partnerships – building links between ethnic communities and national parks.


As Brian Redhead said in 1986, “National Parks are ours to treasure and enjoy”.


What can you do?


To help the CNP and our national parks you can join Friends of CNP, write campaigning letters, volunteer, tell others but most of all enjoy our national parks.