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Our National Park memories

2019 marks the 70th anniversary of our National Parks, and some of CPRE’s national charity staff have shared a few of their favourite memories of enjoying these special places.

Many people’s first memories of the countryside come from visiting a National Park. Thanks to the visionary campaigners that brought about their creation, millions of people have had the opportunity to experience some of England’s most famous, iconic and inspiring countryside.

2019 marks the 70th anniversary of our National Parks, and some of CPRE’s national charity staff have shared a few of their favourite memories – as well as a recommendation or two that you might want to check out for yourself. (We’d stick to the ones that don’t involve a nocturnal cave visit…!)

Maddy, Campaigns Manager

South Downs

‘Growing up in Brighton, I was fortunate enough to have the South Downs on my doorstep. As a child I was begrudgingly lured on walks along the South Downs way with the promise of cheesy chips. But as I got older I learnt to appreciate the beauty and tranquillity of the landscape.

‘As teenagers, my friends and I would often hop on the bus to Devil’s Dyke for a windy adventure. Now that many of us have moved away, it’s become a yearly tradition, when we return to our hometown for Christmas, to venture out with our dogs for a blustery walk in the South Downs national park. Those rolling hills formed a beautiful backdrop to my childhood and as an adult have become a place where lifelong friendships are preserved.’

Shelagh, Major Donors and Corporate Development Manager

Wainstones Walk, North York Moors

‘This summer, my teenage children, husband and I visited the North York Moors National Park for a few days to walk some of its more challenging trails. Wainstones Walk, an eight-mile circuit on the Cleveland Way National Trail, was a particular highlight for us as it boasts some of the most spectacular moorland views, leading to the magnificent Wainstones rock crags.

‘We climbed the rocks, picnicked on the moors, got stuck in bogs and sang songs all day long. I still remember that feeling of utter joy and content when we returned to our cabin knowing how lucky I was to be so connected with the countryside and my family.’

Emma, Rural Policy Campaigner

Castleton, Peak District National Park

‘My mum used to take me youth-hostelling to so many beautiful places in Britain. The Peak District made a strong impression on me and I especially loved the caves. My favourite is Speedwell Cavern where, if you’re adventurous enough, you can get a boat into the cave itself!

‘We’d often walk between youth hostels and I recall walking along the Winnats Pass – a winding road through a rocky ravine – and meeting a lot of friendly sheep. I visited again recently to celebrate 70 years of National Parks. It brought back so many happy memories, and I hope it will remain just as beautiful for generations to come.’

Paul, Strategic Planning Lead

Brendon Hills, Exmoor

‘I was heading from the fantastically-named Stogumber to Washford in West Somerset, on the fringes of Exmoor National Park. This area is part of the Brendon Hills, one of the upland areas of Exmoor. Little-known and little-visited compared to the coast, it’s one of the most tranquil areas of England. The peaceful appearance belies the area’s industrial history; iron ore was mined in these hills in the 19th century and a railway line used to run through this valley to take the ore to Ebbw Vale steelworks in south Wales.

‘I stumbled on this view after hiking up a steep path through a wood, dropping down again, crossing a road and there it was, largely unexpected, in front of me. It’s for these private, unexpected moments of joy that we all love our National Parks.’

Rebecca, Planning Officer

Lake District

‘I was unable to appreciate the true beauty of the Lake District on the first day of my gold Duke of Edinburgh’s expedition – for the whole ascent we were rather unfortunately surrounded by cloud and mist! But nothing could take away from the achievement of reaching the top, and the strengthened sense of camaraderie among the group that had only met the previous week.

‘Almost ten years later, I returned. The summit was much less cloudy this time, allowing me to appreciate the stunning views of the route back to Ullswater. Again, just last summer I was reminded of the expedition, this time at the top of Loughrigg Fell, whilst enjoying much more comfortable accommodation that had hot water and the ability to dry socks – what a luxury!’

Lucie, Relationship Officer

Stanage Edge, Peak District

‘If anyone’s looking for a cheap trip this bank holiday, I can heartily recommend the caves on Stanage Edge in the Peak District. I once cycled there with a few friends after dark. It was quite spur of the moment – we only packed sleeping bags and a tin of beans!

‘Although cycling through the Peaks was a real wonder (there were more stars than you could shake a stick at), it was too cold for sleep. A few clouds here and there might have warmed us up a bit. It was a very stimulating night for my ears; without much light the senses are sharpened, and we heard all sorts of interesting night-time noises and wildlife.

‘Breakfast was a simple affair: a singular date, and it was blooming delicious. Bike broke on the way back.’

People playing rounders with large hills behind


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