Blog > UK National Parks A Unique Resource
This year more and more British people have come to appreciate the great wealth of natural beauty to be found on their doorsteps. The COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged many us to explore what our own country has to offer. As incoming tour operators, we at Pathfinders are keenly aware of these great natural assets and what they can offer to international visitors.
The story of the UK's National Parks began soon after the Second World War. It was felt that increasing effort should be made to safeguard the UK's natural environment and scenic heritage for the nation. The 'National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act' of 1949 paved the way for the formation ten national parks during the 1950s: The Peak District was the first area to receive national park status in April 1951, later followed by the Lake District, Snowdonia and Dartmoor. By the end of the decade the Pembrokeshire Coast, North York Moors, Yorkshire Dales, Exmoor, Northumberland and Brecon Beacons had been added.
The concept was broadly copied from the United States, however a key difference was that the land was not acquired by the state. Much of it was, and still is, owned by private landowners or held by public bodies such as the Crown; or by charities which allow and encourage access such as the National Trust.
After hundreds of years of continuous occupation and agriculture, in truth not much of the UK's land-mass could be considered as genuine wilderness. Hence, our National Parks have always been places where people live and work. This in no way detracts from their intrinsic scenic value: these are some of Britain's most iconic and beautiful landscapes. At present there are 15 National Parks and 46 'Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty' - a similar designation - which include some of our most famous landscapes such The Lake District, Snowdonia, The Cairngorms, The Cotswolds, The Wye Valley, and The Giant's Causeway.
And now, for anyone who appreciates Britain's natural heritage, there is some good news in the form of the government's 25-year Environment Plan, which promises to create a number of new National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Although the exact number and locations are yet to be announced, the intention of granting more of the UK'S treasured landscapes National Park and AONB status is to expand and protect precious wildlife habitats, as well as to increase people's access to the countryside.
The overall commitment is to protect 30% of the UK's land by 2030, extending protected land by 150,000ha in England towards the government's goal of protecting and enhancing an additional area of over 400,000ha. This is surely good news for all those who value Britain's natural spaces and should ensure that these unique locations are conserved for posterity and future generations of visitors.
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