Ensuring the vision of those pioneering Ramblers who brought about the landmark protection is carried forward.
By Alison Hallas, policy and advocacy officer for the Ramblers
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 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 wellbeing. 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 wellbeing 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.’
Be a Ramblers campaigner
Inspired? We rely on our members to campaign with us and keep the original ambitions of the 1949 Act alive. Sign up and receive a free downloadable vintage poster of the Autumn cover and join the movement: ramblers.org.uk/1949Act