National Parks: My constant inspiration

Earlier this month Janette Ward took over as our chair. She blogs about what inspired her to become chair and her love of National Parks.

I recently visited Exmoor National Park, not far where I live in rural Somerset. The visit was arranged by the National Park Authority to meet with our brilliant, new President, Caroline Quentin. It was one of those glorious clear days, with a low sun illuminating the myriad-coloured autumn leaves. It stirred up such wonderful, evocative memories for me. I was brought up in North London, and first went to a National Park when I was a child with my family on a holiday to a farmhouse in Exmoor. The beauty, and those thrilling first moments came back to me. It was such an important and vivid memory for me.

Janette (left) with our new president, Caroline Quentin

It is a great privilege to be the new chair of Campaign for National Parks, following on from Anne Robinson, who has done such a tremendous job for the past seven years. I joined the board just over 15 months ago, after a career primarily in nature conservation and the natural environment, including working with National Parks. Though it was not just a career for me. My constant inspiration has always been landscapes, nature and wild places. I have explored many of our National Parks, and while the Parks differ in landscape and character, the emotional bond they create with us is truly unique.

This is an auspicious year for Campaign for National Parks – our 80th anniversary. We were there at the beginning, playing a central role in the movement for creating our National Parks. Our history is important and has meant that this year, collectively, we have been looking forward and thinking about what we want to achieve in the next 80 years.

It is unconditionally critical that we have a body such as Campaign for National Parks which will continue to look out for our National Parks and to speak out for them strongly and unequivocally – whether that is in celebration or in their defence. These precious landscapes must be protected for now and for future generations. The decision last year to grant planning permission to the potash mine in the North York Moors serves to underline that nothing is sacred.

The beautiful Exmoor - John Starkey

But we can’t just protect the Parks – we must also enhance them and make sure they are the best they can possibly be.

Earlier this year Campaign for National Parks ran the Big Conversation about National Parks, and the key theme which came out was that people wanted our National Parks to be more biodiverse.

One of the very purposes of a National Park is to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage. This couldn’t be truer in a world where so much of our nature is on the brink of extinction, and where we are faced by so much political uncertainty which will no doubt have a big impact on National Parks.  

We should never take our National Parks for granted. They are vibrant and culturally important places which reach out beyond their boundaries in so many ways, inspiring millions of people each year. But we should dream big, with an even bigger movement of people passionate about National Parks.

I hope you will join us to standing up for and championing our fantastic National Parks.

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.