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Interesting Facts about the UK’s National Parks | National Parks Week

As part of our celebration of National Parks Week (24-30 July 2017) we introduce some interesting things you might not have known about the UK's protected areas

The Oldest National Park

The 1930s and 1940s saw huge levels of public protest over rights of access with the most famous instance being the Kinder Trespass in 1932. As a response to the protests, in 1949 the government passed an Act of Parliament to establish national parks throughout the UK. The Peak District was the UK’s first to be designated in 1951 and the Lake District, Snowdonia, Dartmoor, the Pembrokeshire Coast, North York Moors, Yorkshire Dales, Exmoor, Northumberland and the Brecon Beacons all followed within the decade.

The Youngest National Park

The South Downs, an area of chalk hills that extends across the south-east of England, is the youngest of the national parks having been officially established in 2011. It had been a long wait, with the first calls for Park status being made all the way back in 1929 when the Council for the Preservation for Rural England first sent a memorandum to the Prime Minister.

The Biggest National Park

The Cairngorms is the UK’s biggest national park. It covers a total of 4,528 square kilometres altogether. The second biggest is England’s Lake District which spans 2,362 square kilometres. The biggest national park in Wales is Snowdonia at 2,176 square kilometres. The biggest national park in the world is a whopping 600,000 square kilometres, but only around 500 people visit it every year. It’s no surprise considering the challenges of getting to North-East Greenland.

The Highest National Park

Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK, isn’t within a national park so the title of the national park with the highest point goes to the Cairngorms where the UK’s second highest mountain, Ben Macdui, can be found. At 1,309 metres, it’s only 36 metres shorter than Ben Nevis.

The Smallest National Park

The smallest of the UK’s national parks is the New Forest which covers only 570 square kilometres across Hampshire and Wiltshire. It’s also a relatively young one, officially launched in 2005.

The New Forest National Park. Photo: Annie Spratt

Most Populated National Park

Over 120,000 people live within the South Downs National Park making it by far the UK’s most populated. At the other end of the scale is Northumberland which only has around 2,200 residents.

Most Visited National Park

The Lake District is the most visited national park in the UK with a 2014 report stating that it received 16.4 million visitors that year. The number is expected to be considerably higher from now on as UNESCO has just given the area World Heritage Status. The least visited national park is Exmoor, with the same 2014 report recording it as having 1.4 million visitors in a year.

The Lake District by Margot Brodowicz

Interesting Facts about the UK’s National Parks | The Only Completely Coastal National Park

The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is the only national park to be designated primarily for its coastline, the whole of which can be walked via the 299-kilometre Pembrokeshire Coast Path. This isn’t to say that the inland areas can be overlooked though. The Presseli Hills in north Pembrokeshire are well worth a visit for their panoramic views and Neolithic relics. A few years ago, archaeologists confirmed that the stones from Stonehenge originated in this hill range.

The National Park that Never Was

Mid Wales was once close to being recognised as a national park. A proposal for its designation was submitted by the Countryside Commission in 1972 and it received strong backing from organisations including the Ramblers and the Youth Hostel Association. It was eventually rejected however when the Secretary of State for Wales concluded that there was “massive evidence of objections”. This was the first time an application for national park designation was rejected.

The Next National Park?

Daniel Raven-Ellison, a former geography teacher, came up with the idea of a ‘Greater London National Park City’ back in 2014 and his campaign has since received considerable support – not just from local councillors but from none other than the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. The idea isn’t for legislative change, instead it’s about changing perceptions and encouraging people to become more appreciative of the green spaces that still exist around them.

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