#KeepOnRambling – Protecting our landscapes for the next generation

  • Contributor information: CNP

11 September 2019

Ramblers’ Oliver Hicks-Pattison reflects on the extraordinary achivement of the 1949 and urges you to #KeepOnRambling to protect landscapes for the future

This year is the 70th anniversary of the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, legislation that led to the creation of National Parks, AONBs, National Trails, the definitive map in both England and Wales, and National Nature Reserves across Great Britain.

The Act was achieved thanks to tireless campaigning from the Ramblers, and like-minded organisations such as YHA and Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), campaigning which led initially to the creation of the Standing Committee on National Parks (now the CNP) and then the 1949 National Parks Act.  


Tom Stephenson persuading MPs of the case for the landscape

Rambler’s Tom Stephenson leading MPs to persuade them of the case for National Parks. 

The Ramblers’ Secretary at the time of the passing of the act was Tom Stephenson, who would hold this role for 21 years before becoming our President. Tom passionately believed access to open and wild places would benefit us all, and it is this ambition that the 1949 Act was built on. Over the past 70 years the Ramblers have continued to campaign to achieve this ambition and we #KeepOnRambling today to continue the fight to protect and enhance our landscapes for the next generation.

Rambler's Tompion Platt recreates the photo

The thoroughly more modern Tom recreates the picture at part of Campaign for National Parks 70th anniversary celebrations.  Including MP’s Sir Patrick McCloughlin and Ruth George, Glover review member Sarah Mukherjee, Maxwell Ayamba, Kate Ashbrook and Marika Kovacs. Photo: John Bradley

The Definitive Map – Whilst the creation of National Parks was a major success of the Act, another key creation was the definitive map. Following it’s passing, local authorities across England and Wales were required to map out all their paths to create a definitive map of our path network.

However, 70 years later Ramblers volunteers across the country are still looking for lost paths and filling in the gaps ahead of the 2026 deadline. This map records our access rights, and it is vital that this work is complete, and every right of way is recorded and protected before they are lost forever.

National Trails – Another key success of the Act was the creation of National Trails. Tom Stephenson had first outlined the idea for the Pennine Way back in 1935, and the Act created the opportunity to make this a reality. Sixteen years after the legislation made it possible, and years of hard work from ramblers on the route, the Pennine Way opened in 1965.

Seventy years after that Act we are still adding National Trails to the network, and Ramblers volunteers around England are busy walking, mapping, checking and supporting the installation of the England Coast Path, the country’s latest, longest and most ambitious National Trail.  

National Parks and AONBs – Seventy years on from their creation, the government has launched a review into National Parks, AONBs and our protected landscapes with the aim to explore ‘how these iconic landscapes meet our needs in the 21st century’.

Ever since we fought for the 1949 Act, the Ramblers has worked to ensure that the vision of Tom Stephenson, Francis Ritchie and the other National Parks’ pioneers is fully realised, and today we’ve been working with our volunteers across these protected landscapes to respond to the review’s call for evidence and outline how these special places can be protected and enhanced for future generations of walkers.


With growing issues around mental health, wellbeing, loneliness and obesity, our ability to access nature, and open, wild spaces is more important than ever. By keeping alive the ambitions of the 1949 act, we can ensure more people become happier and healthier. Together, we’re continuing the fight to protect and enhance our landscapes for the next generation.

Be part of the fight and #KeepOnRambling to protect and improve our landscapes for the next generation. By joining the Ramblers campaigners email list you’ll be the first to know about our campaigning work. Join today and you’ll also receive a free limited-edition 70th anniversary poster!

Find out more about the history of Tom Stephenson and the 1949 Act, and the Ramblers’ priorities for the future, at www.ramblers.org.uk/1949Act.

By Oliver Hicks-Pattison

Senior campaigns and engagement officer Ramblers