National Parks, AONBs and National Trails

Our position on protected landscapes in England.

Our protected landscapes offer some fantastic walking

Protected landscapes are areas renowned for their landscape quality, wildlife habitats and the opportunities they offer for walking and outdoor activities. It’s a designation that includes National Parks, such as the Lake District, and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), such as the Chilterns. 

National Parks and AONBs were first created in the 1950’s, thanks to years of campaigning from the Ramblers and other similar organisations.  They protect outstanding countryside for the enjoyment of future generations. The landscapes were joined by the first National Trail in 1965. 

Although most land in the National Parks and AONBs is privately owned, all National Park Authorities have a legal responsibility to promote the public’s enjoyment of their park. AONBs have a responsibility to conserve and enhance natural beauty.  


What we have achieved so far

In the 1940’s, we campaigned for improved access to the countryside. This hard work ultimately led to the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act. The Act introduced National Parks, AONBs and National Trails. Ever since then, we have worked tirelessly to protect and support them.  

In 2019, the government launched an independent review of how the protected landscapes can meet the needs of the 21st century. Today we are working to ensure the government takes forward recommendations from that review to improve access to these iconic places.  


What we want to see in the future

National Parks, AONB and National Trails are all equally important. We think that: 

  • Our protected landscapes should be equipped to lead our nature, climate and wellbeing recovery.  They should be protected  from damaging developments and activities via the planning system.  

  • Our National Trails should be funded to a level that recognises their status as the jewel in the crown of our public path network and ensures they can be properly maintained.  

  • Any off-road recreational motoring in protected landscapes should be managed so that it does not damage rights of way. 

  •  People visiting National Parks and AONBs expect to be able to explore these national treasures. It is important that the government supports those managing our protected landscapes to test models for expanding public access.  We want to see areas such as woodlands and watersides, opened up for everyone to access, in a way that works well with farming and nature. 

We are campaigning for National Parks and AONBs to be:  

  • Welcoming and accessible for everyone, especially those new to exploring the outdoors.  

  • Full of nature, leading our nature recovery and encouraging our interaction with the natural world.  

  • Supporting and improving public access for everyone to get out into nature.  

  • Linked to each other and to towns and cities by a well-maintained network of National Trails, forming corridors for people and nature. 

  • Able to be visited using public transport. 

  • Funded properly, with a long-term vision. 

If you’d like to read our full response to the 2019 Glover review of protected landscapes, please contact and we would be delighted to share a copy with you. 

As a charity, you can support our work to protect and improve our access rights and green spaces by donating or becoming a member. As a charity, you can support our work to protect and improve our access rights and green spaces by donating or becoming a member. Together we’ll increase access to green spaces, open up more places to walk and boost Britain’s wellbeing one step at a time.


Access to woods

Woodlands bring benefits to people, nature and the climate. The mental health benefits of woodland are estimated to be £185 million per year in the UK.

A narrow path winding above a cliff

The England Coast Path – What we think

Once complete, the England Coast Path will be our longest National Trail and the longest continuous coastal walking route in the world.