Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

We're campaigning to make National Parks more beautiful. But what does that mean? We asked Douglas Chalmers from the Friends of the Lake District.

All of our National Parks are beautiful. Should we now be considering making them even more so? Each is different. They have been shaped by the actions of those who have lived and earned their livings in these landscapes. They have evolved, each in their own way.

So it seems strange to be addressing the question, ‘How can we make our National Parks more beautiful?’

After all, it’s hard to describe a National Park without using the word ‘beauty’ in some context. I was so puzzled when asked that I reverted to one of my techniques for dealing with difficult questions and asked other people who I thought would be able to help me. After all, ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’.

The Lake District

I expected comments relating to litter, dog soiling and the impact of commercial and major development but these were not topics widely voiced.

The consensus was for a more species rich, flower-filled grassland and an increase in native flora and fauna. Traffic was also a common theme; specifically a wish to reduce it, make it more sustainable and to make it affordable with the introduction of cheaper or subsidised public transport.

In addition, there was a widely held view that our National Parks would be more beautiful – or perceived as such - if our politicians accepted that they should be protected from development that is intrusive or inappropriate. This would enable National Park Authorities and Societies to concentrate on promoting what is beautiful and good rather than spending their time reacting or campaigning against the bad and the ugly.

This last point is one worth developing, specifically, how we go about increasing interest in our National Parks and nurturing a wider sense of ownership and appreciation.

Past generations had different relationships with them. Some didn’t have them. Some campaigned for them and then some were able to welcome them into existence. National Parks were desired and then appreciated. Have we reached the point where we are now taking them for granted?

It wasn’t a sentiment in evidence last year here in Cumbria as we celebrated extensions to two National Parks within the county's boundaries, the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales. The work of Friends of the Lake District and others, including Campaign for National Parks, over many years certainly kept the interest and the appreciation of the areas’ beauty in local people’s minds, and the buzz around the time of the public inquiry into the extensions aroused national and international support.

The new extension area, Friends of the Lake District

Perhaps our efforts should be focused on making it easier to appreciate and connect with our National Parks. Building stronger connections between visitors and communities, imparting more understanding about geology, heritage, history, and culture could help everyone to find their own definition of beauty in these glorious landscapes.

This article was originally posted in our Friends magazine, Viewpoint. To receive the magazine and find out about other benefits, click here.

Please note, the opinions expressed in all our blogs are of the author, and not endorsed by Campaign for National Parks. We are hosting blogs on a variety of subjects to provoke thought and discussion about National Parks.