70 years after an Act of Parliament was passed creating National Parks in the UK, five of the original campaigning organisations have come together once again to pledge to protect and preserve the Parks for future generations and make access for everyone easier.
Campaign for National Parks, Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), the Open Spaces Society, the Ramblers and the YHA (England and Wales) made the pledge as part of a special day of 70th anniversary celebrations at Castleton in the Peak District.
Led by the Campaign for National Parks the only national charity dedicated to campaigning to protect and promote all of the National Parks of England and Wales, the organisations have pledged to work together once again to make the 13 National Parks of England and Wales more accessible, as well as to campaign for strengthened protections.
Despite their status, National Parks face considerable threats from fracking, mining, quarrying, road building, military training and housing developments. Additionally, there is the further challenge to make these beautiful areas of countryside accessible for everyone.
The creation of National Parks in 1949 is recognised as one of the seminal achievements of the environmental movement from the past 100 years. Today they attract around 100 million domestic and international visitors each year, contributing millions to the economy.
The pledge was signed at YHA Castleton Losehill Hall, a youth hostel based in the Peak District National Park on Friday 22 March 2019. The Peak District was one of the first National Parks to be created in 1951, two years after the Act was passed.
Janette Ward, Chair of Campaign for National Parks said: “I'm incredibly proud to be a signatory to this pledge to campaign for a bright future for National Parks. It's absolutely brilliant that the pledge has bought together such a diversity of people who all share the same passion for the countryside. It's a real reminder of the power we wield when we all come to together - that was the case 70 years ago and it is just as true now."
Recent research by Campaign for National Parks and CPRE has revealed that too many people face obstacles in getting to the Parks through lack of adequate public transport, cultural barriers or a lack of information. Ninety-three per cent of National Park visitors use a private car, creating further problems for these popular areas of countryside.
Lack of access to the National Parks means some of the most disadvantaged members of society are missing out on the associated health and wellbeing benefits. Research has shown that spending time outdoors can reduce the risk of developing depression by 30%* as well as benefiting self-esteem, mental and physical health.
James Blake, YHA (England and Wales) Chief Executive, commented: “Without the achievement of the Act to create National Parks, millions of school children would have been denied the transformative power of adventure in these fantastic spaces. There is, however, work to be done in making the Parks more accessible to the people who need them most - young people and their families. This is why YHA remains as committed now as it was in 1949 to preserving the National Parks.”
Crispin Truman, Chief Executive of CPRE said: “National Parks were created in order for everyone, from all walks of life, to be able to come and enjoy our most spectacular countryside. Events such as this one demonstrate and celebrate the health and wellbeing benefits that exploring these magical landscapes can bring. The 70th anniversary, along with this pledge, provides us with a wonderful opportunity to ensure that our finest countryside remains just as beautiful for the benefit of current and future generations.”
Vanessa Griffiths Chief Executive of the Ramblers, said: “Our National Parks and National Trails are an incredible asset created so all of us can enjoy the countryside. Today, more than ever, we are aware of the physical and mental health benefits of connecting to nature through walking, yet for too many people, accessing National Parks is still difficult or impossible. We must continue working together to ensure that everyone, everywhere, whatever their background, is able to experience the benefits of these wonderful landscapes.”
Kate Ashbrook, General Secretary of the Open Spaces Society, Britain’s oldest national conservation body, said: “It is shameful that our most precious wild landscapes should still be under threat, 70 years after they were given the special protection for which we all fought. It is time that government gave the parks the recognition and the resources they need to fulfil their amazing purposes for the benefit of all - and there is no better time to do this than in their 70th anniversary year.”
The pledge was sealed in a time capsule along with messages of support from people of all ages who use and enjoy the National Parks. The time capsule was buried in the grounds of YHA Castleton in the Peak District.