On this day in history : 17th April 1951 – The Peak District is officially confirmed as the United Kingdom’s first designated National Park after decades of campaigning by the public….
It was during the 1880s that Member of Parliament James Bryce started the campaign for public access to the countryside. His first Freedom to Roam Bill failed – but the ball had started to roll…. The 1900s saw a growing appreciation for the outdoors, with people wanting to escape the towns and cities to take advantage of the country air…. The arrival of the motor car and improvements in public transport making the countryside far more accessible to all….
In 1931 a government inquiry recommended the formation of an authority to select designated areas…. Only no further steps were taken….causing major public discontentment, resulting in a mass trespass in 1932…. Scores of walkers exercised their ‘right to walk’ in the Peak District – only to be opposed by the gamekeepers of wealthy landowners. Occasionally things got heated and came to blows; five trespassers found themselves being imprisoned….
In 1936 the SCNP – Standing Committee for National Parks – was set up….a voluntary organisation to lobby government. The result was the establishment of the Principle for National Parks….as part of Labour’s post-war reconstruction a White Paper was produced in 1945. Finally in 1949 the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act was passed – an Act to establish National Parks to preserve and enhance their natural beauty and provide recreational opportunities for the public….
Nowadays we have a total of 15 National Parks in the United Kingdom; 10 in England, 3 in Wales and 2 in Scotland…. Each is looked after by its own authority – with the aim to conserve and enhance natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage – and to promote understanding and enjoyment of the area’s special qualities….
The Peak District with its historic houses, rugged rocky moorlands and limestone valleys creating breathtaking views was the original Park designated in 1951….
Also in 1951 came…. Dartmoor with its open moorlands, medieval villages and wild ponies….
….The Lake District – home to deep glacial lakes, high fells, rural villages – and is now a World Heritage Site….
….And Snowdonia – where the highest mountain in Wales is found…. With its wooded valleys, coastline of sandy beaches and historic villages Snowdonia was the first National Park in Wales….
1952 saw Wales gain another Park – when the Pembrokeshire Coast, with its golden beaches, volcanic headlands and limestone cliffs, was designated…. It is also known for its 300km coastal path and marine wildlife….
In the same year the North York Moors were made into a National Park; wide open moorland with high hills, deep dales, bubbling streams and beautiful coastline….
The Yorkshire Dales were added to the list in 1954; old stone villages and dry stone walls, rolling hills – and the Three Peaks….Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough….
Exmoor National Park was also established in 1954 – with its rolling hills, moorlands, dramatic coastline and wild ponies….
Northumberland with its heather covered Cheviot Hills and Hadrian’s Wall was designated in 1956 – and is Europe’s largest area of protected night sky….
The last National Park to be designated in this decade was the third of the Parks in Wales – the Brecon Beacons in 1957…. Situated in South Wales with four mountain ranges and rolling hills it is again an International Dark Sky reserve….
In 1976 the Norfolk Broads in East Anglia, which had not originally been named as a National Park but had been recognised as having the same status, adopted the name…. Over 200km of navigable waterways and the habitat of some of Britain’s rarest wildlife….
In 1987 the UK’s largest National Park was designated….the Cairngorms in Scotland. Britain’s highest mountain range and the natural habitat of red squirrels, pine martens and golden eagles….
Scotland’s second National Park, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs was established in 2002…. Mountain ranges, forests, lochs – and the location of the largest lake in the British Isles….
The New Forest was given National Park status in 2005…. Wild heathlands, ancient woodlands, roaming sheep, cattle and of course, ponies….
Finally, the last area to be designated a National Park – the South Downs in 2010. Our newest Park, with its dramatic white cliffs, rolling hills, beautiful villages and rare wildlife, stretches across the South of England….
You cannot deny – this is a beautiful land we live in….