Visiting our national parks

By | Category: Travel destinations

This year the fortnight that is used to celebrate our national parks has a double purpose. Whilst the first is obviously meant for us to be stimulated to go out and visit them, the second is to remind us that this year is the seventieth anniversary of the national parks legislation. The BBC’s Countryside programme, on Sunday, helped kick off the fortnight with a quick flit through a number of national parks whilst highlighting the problems that can come from those who farm in the parks and those that visit. That visitors can be so uninformed that they still let dogs off leads in areas where sheep and other animals roam still surprises me given that, ever since I was in short trousers, I was told that dogs and other animals rarely mix compatibly.

panoramic view of the Lake District
The Lake District – the most visted national park in terms of overnight stays

Most readers will know that the Peak District was the first national park. That came into being in 1951, two year after the Countryside Act set up the principle of national parks. The most recent is the South Downs which came into being nine years ago. There are still proposals for new parks in Northern Ireland (where there are none at present, another in Wales – the Cambrian Mountains – and another in England, the Cornish Coast. In Scotland there have been calls for more parks to add to just the two that are there, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs and the Cairngorms but the Scottish government seems resistant.

Declaring an area to be a national park would seem to increase the number of visitors. Whilst the Lake District receives more overnight visitors than anywhere else, the South Downs gets more day visitors probably because of its proximity to major centres of population such as London and the south east of England.

It is suggested that 90 million people visit England’s national parks every year. Add on visitors to those parks in Scotland and Wales and the figure will be well over 100 million. But counting visitor numbers is difficult given the ease with which people can visit. Any figures will remain estimates.

What is clear, however, is that visitors will head to the national parks on both sunny and inclement days for the walking, the scenery, the enjoyment and the opportunity to just clear the mind’s cobwebs!

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