What's in a landscape?

Four people walking down a path that winds between low hills 

Alison Hallas, Ramblers policy officer, looks back at the history of our involvement with National Parks, and our current work supporting a new review into the future of protected landscapes.

In its 25 Year Plan for the Environment, the Government promised a review of England’s protected landscapes. An independent review was launched in the summer, led by Julian Glover – a journalist, author, former special advisor to the Department for Transport, and resident of a National Park – supported by a panel of experts. It will present its findings next year, in time for the 70th anniversary of the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, the Act that created the National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The task of the review is to “explore how access to these beloved landscapes can be improved, how those who live and work in them can be better supported, and their role in growing the rural economy”. The terms of reference make clear that “weakening or undermining their existing protections or geographic scope will not be part of the review, which will instead focus on how designated areas can boost wildlife, support the recovery of natural habitats and connect more people with nature”.

The protected landscapes are very special to the Ramblers. In the 1930’s and 1940’s, we joined others in the Standing Committee on National Parks, which pressured Governments until the passing of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act in 1949. Our first paid secretary, Tom Stephenson, and one of our past presidents, Francis Ritchie, played central roles in formulating proposals for those parts of the Act which dealt with National Parks, rights of way and access to open country. 

Tom Stephenson was instrumental in persuading members of Parliament of the importance of the legislation. He helped to ensure that the legislation was not deferred and thus possibly lost altogether.  Ever since then, the Ramblers has worked to ensure that the vision of these and other pioneers of the national parks movement is fully realised and, as a result, we know that thousands of walkers continue to enjoy the beauty of our protected landscapes every year. 

We’re supporting this review as much as we can, and raising the issues that matter to walkers. Over the past few months, we’ve met with Julian Glover to discuss the issues affecting National Parks and AONBs, and we’ve made suggestions for some of the places the panel could include in their visits to protected landscapes. Recently, the review team launched their call for written evidence, which is open until 18 December 2018. This is our opportunity to give our views in more detail, and we’ll be submitting a response on behalf of the Ramblers, but they would also like to hear from individuals.

You currently have the opportunity to tell the review team what makes protected landscapes special to you, and whether there are particular issues affecting your local National Park or AONB - find out how to submit your views and get involved.