Hundreds join royal picnic in Exmoor

22 July 2019

Last week the Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall were  joined by hundreds of picnickers in Exmoor National Park for a special celebration marking 70 years since the ground-breaking 1949 Act of Parliament that established UK National Parks.

The ‘National Parks Big Picnic’ saw more than 500 people gather to enjoy a picnic and a cream tea in the beautiful surroundings of Simonsbath’s riverside meadows at the heart of Exmoor’s former Royal Forest.

Celebrations in SimonsbathPhoto credit: Exmoor National Park Authority

Their Royal Highnesses were greeted by leaders from across the UK National Park family. They also met local groups such as the Exmoor Society and Exmoor Hill Farming Network, children from Exford First Primary School, local producers and craftspeople, and were presented with a hamper of local Exmoor produce to enjoy at home.

All attendees received a souvenir programme with a Forward by the Prince of Wales stating: “However much our lives, and those of our children, may change in the future the basic human need for peace, beauty and spiritual refreshment from engaging closely with the natural world will, I believe, remain every bit as important as it was seventy years ago.”

Click here to read that foreword in full

The centrepiece was the unveiling of a stunning cake inspired by the diverse landscapes of the UK’s 15 National Parks – from rugged mountains and vast open moorland, to soft rolling hills, meandering wetlands and dramatic coastline.

Special guests at the celebration included Niall Hobhouse, whose grandfather Sir Arthur Hobhouse pioneered the 1947 report that paved the way for the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, and the creation of the UK’s National Parks.

The Act, described at the time as a “recreational gift to Britain’s returning Second World War service men and women”, set out to recognise, conserve and enhance access to landscapes deemed to be “of national importance and quality”.

HRH Prince of Wales and the Duchess of CornwallHRH the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall attend the celebrations. Photo credit: Exmoor National Park Authority

70 years on the UK has 15 National Parks, attracting over 130 million visitor days a year, worth almost £6bn to the UK tourism economy and much more in terms of crucial ecosystem services, such as carbon storage, flood prevention, clean air and water.

Sarah Bryan, Chief Executive of Exmoor National Park Authority, who hosted the event, said: “It’s with immense pride that we welcome Their Royal Highnesses to Exmoor today. Many say they love Exmoor for its incredible variety - made up of wild open moorland, spectacular coastline, deep wooded valleys, fast flowing streams and magnificent starry dark skies. But what really makes Exmoor is its people and the immense sense of responsibility we all feel towards this beautiful place. It goes right to the core of why National Parks were created, and I think today we all go away with a sense of the shared passion still felt for that cause.”

Campaign for National Parks was established in 1936 to lead the campaign to establish the National Parks. Throughout 2019 the charity has be leading celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the 1949 Act. Click here to read more about our incredible history.