Helping people enjoy the benefits of England’s special landscapes

11th February 2019

Our research shows how to help people get the benefits of England’s special landscapes. 

National park walkers follow a path through ferns
Walkers in the Peak District National Park

England’s National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are some of the best places to enjoy iconic landscapes, relax in the peace and quiet of nature, or go on an adventurous family hike. But not everyone can get to these beauty spots so easily: our research found that nearly a third of England’s population could be missing out on the huge benefits that regular access to these landscapes can bring.

Why are people missing out?

Our new maps show that 34% of people in England live too far from the current network of 10 National Parks and 34 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) for these places to count as easily accessible.

We found that transport is one of the main barriers making it difficult for people to visit National Parks and AONBs. Visitors to National Parks overwhelmingly rely on driving to get there, with 93% of journeys made by car. But the majority of areas where less than half of all households own a car also fall outside of the accessible range of these landscapes. This means that most people who live furthest from England’s most beautiful landscapes have to rely on public transport to reach them.

What can we do about it?

As well as showing the problems preventing people from visiting National Parks and AONBs, our research has highlighted what we need to do to solve them.

One of the best ways to make sure nobody is missing out on the benefits of National Parks and AONBs is to improve the public transport options available to help people get there. ‘Creating more affordable and sustainable transport options to and around these places would not only create a countryside for all, but also help to combat isolation among communities within National Parks and AONBs,’ said Emma Marrington, our senior rural policy campaigner.

We also want to see a network of accessible, stile-free paths that are wheelchair-friendly in all National Parks and AONBs, as well as opportunities for schoolchildren to visit and learn about these landscapes as part of the national curriculum.

How we’re changing things

An independent review of England’s National Parks and AONBs is currently being led by journalist and writer Julian Glover. This autumn the review will make recommendations to the government on how to improve England’s protected landscapes for the future.

‘Seventy years ago parliament voted to protect our finest landscapes for everyone’s benefit. Now it is time to renew that mission’, said Julian Glover. ‘We need to preserve and enhance their beauty, help people who live in them and turn around the decline in the natural environment. We also need to make sure they can be understood and enjoyed by all parts of a changed society.’

We have submitted our research to the review, and we hope it will help show the need to enable greater access to these landscapes so that they can benefit even more people, improving their health and wellbeing, as well as instilling a love for these special places.