Last year, the government announced an independent review of England’s protected landscapes led by Julian Glover, journalist and former special advisor to the Department for Transport. The review, timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, is exploring ‘how these iconic landscapes meet our needs in the 21st century’.
Ever since we fought for the 1949 Act, the Ramblers has worked to ensure that the vision of Tom Stephenson, Francis Ritchie and the other national parks’ pioneers is fully realised. To this day, our volunteers work with the protected landscapes to achieve this mission. The Ramblers worked in partnership with these volunteers to respond to the review’s call for evidence and outline how these special places can be protected and enhanced for future generations of walkers.
Our national trails, national parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) should be viewed and managed, not in isolation, but as a network of habitats and landscapes connected by long-distance routes. With the right management and support, these landscapes and routes could be a national network for nature recovery and well-being. Yet funding for trails – the jewel in the crown of our rights of way – fell by 5% this year. National trails, national parks and AONBs need to receive equal recognition, protection and certainty of financial support.
Although resources are under pressure, public access is managed and maintained better in national parks than in many other places. We would like to see this strengthened through a presumption in favour of responsible public access in all national parks and AONBs. We think that AONBs should have a higher profile for public access within their purposes, so they can play a stronger role in connecting people to nature. We also support schemes – such as The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award – that encourage visitors from a variety of backgrounds to appreciate these unique landscapes. Better sustainable transport connections also have an important role to play.
In July 2019, Julian Glover released his interim findings. Many of the Ramblers’ messages were reflected – from the need to secure funding for national parks and increase investment in AONBS, to the importance of making the health and well-being benefits of the countryside accessible to all. The challenge now is to make that happen. In Glover’s words, it is time to ‘reignite the fire and vision which brought this system into being in 1949. We need our finest landscapes to be places of natural beauty which look up and outwards to the nation they serve.’
This year is the 70th anniversary of the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, legislation that led to the creation of National Parks, National Trails, the definitive map in both England and Wales, and National Nature Reserves across Great Britain.
With growing issues around mental health, well-being, loneliness and obesity, our ability to access nature, and open, wild spaces is more important than ever.
By keeping alive the ambitions of the 1949 act, we can ensure more people become happier and healthier because they ramble.
That’s why our growing Ramblers movement is going to #KeepOnRambling
Download our limited-edition poster commemorating the 70th anniversary and hear all the latest news about our campaigns and find out more about what we’ve achieved then and how we’re continuing to campaign today.