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National Parks and AONBs: we want access for all

19th December 2018

As part of our contribution to a government review of our protected green spaces, we’re arguing for better transport links and access for every schoolchild so we can all enjoy the amazing experience of being in the countryside.

As part of our contribution to an independent review of England’s National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), we created some innovative recommendations on how to improve access to these ‘designated’ landscapes. We want National Parks to be built into curriculums, with all primary school children getting a chance to visit some of our amazing landscapes.

We believe that the countryside is for everyone, and want all children to have a chance to visit and learn about National Parks and AONBs as part of the national curriculum. If the government follows our advice, all primary school students would experience these amazing landscapes as part of their school experience.

The review of National Parks and AONBs, which was led by journalist and writer Julian Glover, looked at how these iconic landscapes can continue to benefit society and continue to meet our needs in the 21st century.

We responded to the chance to comment as part of the review, and made the case for an area close to our heart: the profoundly positive effect that access to nature can have on our physical health and mental wellbeing. Despite these positive impacts, 2015 research from Natural England showed that 12% of all children have no engagement with the natural word at all.

The countryside charity warns that many of these children, particularly those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities and those in urban areas, are currently missing out on the benefits these beautiful places can bring due to lack of opportunity for them to access the countryside.

Transport is critical

Access to these green spaces can’t improve until local transport links improve. Currently, 93% of all visits to National Parks are made by car – but less than half of all households in England have access to one.

And poor public transport links makes access to protected landscapes near impossible for many people. This is why we want schools without easy access to National Parks and AONBs to be prioritised for transport initiatives – and we recommend that organisations of all kinds be supported to champion outreach to communities who have limited access to these places.

Emma Marrington, our rural communities enhancement lead, said:
‘CPRE was integral to the creation of both National Parks and AONBs. Promoting and protecting our most precious landscapes was a core aim for CPRE when we were formed in 1926 – and the same is true today.

‘We feel it’s essential for everybody to be able to enjoy these breath-taking places, and only introducing and promoting affordable and accessible ways to explore them will make this possible for many people. This review is a golden opportunity to help these magical landscapes thrive.’

Do you share our vision for a healthy, accessible countryside that’s available to and enjoyed by all? Join us! Together, we can make sure the countryside is really for everyone.

Two young people walk through a dramatic landscape with a snowy hill in the background
Two young people explore the Peak District, with a snowy Kinder Scout beyond

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The legacy of Ethel’s vision and determination lives on thanks to the continued efforts of the Friends of the Peak District, and she remains an inspiration to everyone within CPRE