It may seem an unusual time to be celebrating National Parks, as many of them are currently closed to visitors, even to locals, to help reduce traffic to these sites and prevent people congregating. However, this week is National Parks Week. Normally we would encourage people to go out and explore, by foot or by bike, all of the trails, tracks and paths that crisscross and interweave these beautiful natural areas of countryside, woodland, heath, moor, mountain and coast. Today we are celebrating them in their absence from our lives. They will be there for us to explore at the end of this crisis, and they are still accessible to the wildlife that live there, the plants, trees and flowers still grow, the wind still blows, and that is certainly something to celebrate.
Many of the National Parks social media platforms have been sending out beautiful pictures of these parks to inspire us to visit when we are able to, to know that these spaces are flourishing, that Spring has arrived and all of the newborns and blossoms with it. While we are getting used to a life lived more indoors, it is important to remember these outdoor spaces and, of course, quite fun to plan our future return trips to them.
We have a wealth of National Parks in England, 15 in total, and 10 of which we are lucky enough to have in England. On top of these we have 33 designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty Countryside and Rights of Way Act to conserve and enhance the landscape’s natural beauty. It is incredible just how many there are for such a small Island and our tours take full advantage of their brilliant tracks and trails that make them accessible. In Dartmoor National Park alone, there is over 350km of bridleways and byways, and an endless variety of cycling and walking routes which crisscross the moorland and rolling hills. The New Forest’s idyllic glades and serpentine rivers border onto the Jurassic Coast and the 630 mile South West Coast Path, from clifftop to beach, harbour town and coastal village, heaven to explore if you enjoy hiking! The Cotswolds AONB has a 102 mile National Trail, the Cotswolds Way; a walking route spanning its entire length, rolling over its hills, through quaint golden-stoned villages and into lush green valleys the perfect length for a week of walking in England.
Dotted throughout these landscapes and parks are the ruins castles, historic landmarks, old tin mines, ancient burial mounts, Neolithic henges and Iron Age Forts. Palaces, churches, Abbeys and of course the age-old British pub, accessible via hedgerow, green lane and Holloway. When you walk through these parks you wander through history in the footsteps of those who have come before you. These places are anything but new, and that goes for the New Forest National Park too! It got its name around 1079 in William the Conqueror’s time, but the Forest’s history stretches back further; it was once known by the Saxon name ‘Ytene’, meaning land of the Jutes.
These 15 National Parks in the United Kingdom are jewels in the crown of the landscape which we will be re-visiting as soon as restrictions are lifted. For now pictures of them fill our dreams, and our Instagram feeds, as we plan new trips to explore them fully towards the end of this Summer. As the National Parks Website declares, ‘That time will come again and we will welcome everyone back with open arms’.
For tips on how to keep fit while at home, so that you’ll be ready to hike and bike through these landscapes, check out our last blog on indoor isolation fitness.
If you are looking for travel inspiration, weeks and weekends away in some of these beautiful areas, check out our 6 Day Devon and Cornwall Walking Tour (hiking through Dartmoor National Park and along the South West Coast Path), or our 6 Day Cotswolds Cycling Tour.