Where? – 4 – National Parks

Over the past few weeks we’ve looked at the location of mountains and hills, rivers and sea areas. Today we are going to link in with last Friday’s post in my parks series, with a look at the locations of the National Parks of the British Isles.

There are 15 National Parks in Britain and 6 in Ireland.  Some of them you will already know because they are mountain areas but you get landscapes worth protecting in lowland areas too.

So once again print out a blank outline map.  You can use the one below.

The best way to learn where things are is to put them on a map, but if I just give you a completed map, that won’t help much, so grab a blank map and a pencil, find somebody for a bit of competition, and let’s see what you know already.  Just put the numbers onto your blank map.

  1. Brecon Beacons
  2. Broads
  3. Cairngorms
  4. Dartmoor
  5. Exmoor
  6. Lake District
  7. Loch Lomond and the Trossachs
  8. New Forest
  9. Northumberland
  10. North York Moors
  11. Peak District
  12. Pembrokeshire Coast
  13. Snowdonia
  14. South Downs
  15. Yorkshire Dales
  16. Ballycroy
  17. Connemara
  18. Glenveagh
  19. Killarney
  20. The Burren
  21. Wicklow Mountains

Now scroll past my pictures for a look at the answers. If you are having a competition, two points for a correct answer and if no-one is right, then the nearest person gets one point.

Peak District
Snowdonia
Lake District
Yorkshire Dales
North York Moors
Killarney
The Burren
Wicklow Mountains

If you are signed up for worksheets, check your inbox for a map of the correct locations, ready for you to label.

And finally an interesting fact. London is making a bid to become the world’s first National Park city. That brings a whole new perspective to the idea of a National Park.

National Parks

National Parks were set up by a 1949 Act of Parliament.  This was the result of years of public demand for access to the countryside, which included the famous mass trespass of 1932, when three teams of hikers clashed with gamekeepers on Kinder Scout, in the Peak District.

View across Buxton towards the Peak District

A National Park aims to preserve and enhance the natural beauty of an area while providing recreational opportunities for the public and also protecting the livelihoods of the people who live there.

Yorkshire Dales

The land owners keep their land but the National Park Authority oversees developments to ensure that the aims are being followed.

Peak District

The first National Park, the Peak District, came into being in 1951.  It was rapidly followed by another 9 areas and eventually a further 5 were added, bringing the total to 15, with 10 in England, 3 in Wales and 2 in Scotland.

There are no National Parks in Northern Ireland, but in the south there are a further 6.

Killarney

On Monday, my “Where?” series will be looking at National Parks, so that you can find out where they all are.

Meanwhile you may be thinking, what about Northern Ireland and the rest of Scotland?  Don’t they have beautiful landscapes worth protecting?  Well large areas of these benefit from protection under different designations.  Join me next week to learn more.

Bradgate Park

Last week we looked at Britain’s first country park: a local council owned, repurposed railway line, on the Wirral.  Bradgate Park is another excellent country park, but in this case the land is a historical estate and deer park, which is owned by a trust.

Described as “Leicestershire’s most popular countryside destination” and having a huge ‘local’ population, Bradgate Park is 830 acres of wild and rugged landscape, just outside of the city of Leicester.

It contains the ruins of one of the first unfortified, brick-built country houses in England, which was the birthplace and childhood home of Lady Jane Grey.

In 1928 the estate was purchased by a local industrialist and was given to the people of Leicestershire, with Bradgate Park Trust being set up to manage the area for the benefit of all.  It was designated a Country Park in 1970.

The underlying volcanic rocks produce an interesting landscape, with rugged hills and rocky outcrops, steep slopes and thin soils, providing habitats for plants and animals not usually found in the central England.

The Visitor Centre houses an exhibition of the story of the park, and a tarmac driveway crossing through the park allows easy access for pushchairs and wheelchairs.  There is even an off-road mobility scooter that can be borrowed by the adventurous!  All of this is free, the only cost being your space in the car park.

If you live within reach of Bradgate Park I would encourage you to go and explore for yourself, but if not then you can take a virtual tour on your computer or tablet.

Check out the 18th century folly of Old John Tower, on the 2nd highest point in Leicestershire, for some fantastic views.

There is a full programme of events and walks.  You can join a 1 hour guided history walk on March 8th 2018. It is free but only 12 places so booking is essential.

But Bradgate Park is part of something much, much larger.  Join me next Friday to find out more.

The First Country Park

A Country Park is a public open space, often near to a town, providing opportunities for outdoor activities.

In 1968, Cheshire Council purchased a disused railway line on the western side of The Wirral.  This long and narrow strip of land, between Hooton and West Kirby, was officially opened as Wirral Country Park in 1973.

You can still see evidence of its previous use.

At Neston, a sandstone cutting provides plants with a shady and damp environment.

At Willaston, the station has been beautifully restored.

There are over 400 Country Parks in England, though only 31 have accredited status, which shows that they have met certain criteria.  Amongst other things they must be within 10 miles of a housing area, free to visit, have a natural or semi-natural landscape and have signposted routes and access to toilets.

Wirral Country Park can be reached by a vast number of people with the cities of Chester and Liverpool close by.

The railway has been turned into a walking trail, the 12 mile “Wirral Way”.  This also doubles as a cycle route and has a suitable surface for wheelchair users.  A rather more churned up and muddy horse riding track runs parallel.

The visitor centre at Thurstaston is open daily (except Christmas Day) and is staffed.  It provides more extensive facilities with toilets, picnic and barbeque areas, and access to the beach.

The end points (Hooton and West Kirby) are still linked by train, via the eastern side of the Wirral, so although the park is long and narrow you can walk right through and not have to retrace your steps.  You’ll be rewarded with extensive views across the River Dee into North Wales.

If you’ve signed up for worksheets, check your inbox for a map of Wirral Country Park.