Our Tribute to Queen Elizabeth II

  • Contributor information: CNP

Whether a royalist or not, it is impossible to deny our late Queen’s deep connection to the natural world. Learning to horse ride at the age of three, a passion she continued to enjoy until age 95, lay the foundations for a lifelong love affair with the countryside. Fitting too that Queen Elizabeth II should spend her last days at her Balmoral estate, the place she reportedly could ‘truly relax’ whilst living an outdoor life of walking, riding and fishing across the estate’s forests and moorlands. With the support of her husband Philip, the late Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen also turned her estates at Balmoral, Windsor and Sandringham into best practice exemplars in sustainable farming and wildlife preservation.  

Queen Elizabeth II

Above: The Queen with her Fell ponies Bybeck Nightingale (right) and Bybeck Katie (Royal Windsor Horse Show/henrydallalphotography.com/PA)(PA Media)

The Queen’s enduring connection to our National Parks also manifested itself through her enthusiastic and consistent support of Prince Philip’s groundbreaking Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme, a charity which has enriched the lives of more than eight million young people worldwide for more than six decades. With its focus on serving communities and experiencing adventure, it has equipped generations with the skills, knowledge and self-belief to discover and fall in love with our AONBs and National Parks though hiking, trekking and sleeping under the stars. 

Some of the Queen’s most prominent trips to our National Parks during her 70-year reign include a visit to the newly established Lake District National Park in 1956. Arriving at Appleby by train, the Queen and Prince Philip travelled on to Ambleside and then via Lake Windermere to Bowness before concluding in Kendal. On a later visit in 2013, the Queen visited Brockhole National Park Visitor Centre and the Fell Pony Society, a charity close to her heart. 

The New Forest National Park, one of the youngest in the UK and well known for its heathland, forest trails and native ponies, has also enjoyed several visits from Her Majesty. Commemorating the 900th anniversary of the New Forest in 1979, Queen Elizabeth planted an 8ft sapling known as the Queen’s Oak, believed to have grown from an acorn of the Knightwood Oak, known colloquially as ‘the Queen of the Forest’. With a seven metre wide trunk, the Knightwood Oak is purported to be between 450 and 600 years old.