National parks: the soul of Britain

The new environment minister, Rory Stewart, has given a resounding endorsement to our national parks.  I have reproduced below his interview which was posted on You Tube by National Parks England on 31 July. It is brilliantly clear and unequivocal and delivered with deep feeling.  

Rory Stewart.  Credit:

Rory Stewart. Credit:

It is excellent to know that this minister will stick up for national parks and recognises their value.  It’s hard to believe that the government can go on cutting the funding for our national parks when the minister responsible for them asserts that they represent ‘what’s very best about Britain’.  This interview will be a boost to the Campaign for National Parks’ campaign against the cuts.

Here is the interview.

What do national parks mean and why are they valuable?
I think national parks are the soul of Britain.  They are the centre of my imagination.  When people think of Britain, wherever they are, whether they’re abroad, whether they’re at war, whether they’re sick—when they imagine Britain the imagine these landscapes.  And for me, as a resident of the Lake District National Park, I can think of nothing more precious in people’s minds than that land.  It’s protecting all that that landscape means, in terms of the environment, in terms of culture, in terms of society that is our national parks.

Ninety per cent of the public say national parks are important to them—why do you think that is?
The public believe in national parks I think for the reason we all believe in national parks, which is that it represents what’s very best about Britain.  It’s our soul, it’s our imaginations, it’s the landscape of our history, it’s our nature, it’s all these things together, it’s what makes us human, it’s what makes us proud to be British.

Why are sustaining fantastic landscapes, thriving rural communities and strong economies important? How significant are national parks in achieving these goals?
One of the miracles of national parks is the way they bring together different things.  They bring together environment, they also bring in traditional farming communities, sheep farmers, for example, where I come from, and they also introduce tourists, they introduce elements of our history, elements of our poetry, elements of our literature, and a national park is an extraordinary way of balancing the different ways that humans interact with the landscape, from food production right the way through to our nature and even our minds and our literature.

Ullscarf above Thirlmere in the Lake District National Park. Photo: Ian Brodie

Ullscarf above Thirlmere in the Lake District National Park. Photo: Ian Brodie

Do you support the Love Your National Parks initiative?
The Love Your National Parks initiative is one of the most magical things, I deeply endorse it, I want people to sign up to it, I think we should have even more people involved with our national parks and I’d like to work very closely with the national parks and the British public to make sure that everybody in Britain has the unique experience of going to one of our national parks.

About campaignerkate

I am the general secretary of the Open Spaces Society and I campaign for public access, paths and open spaces in town and country.
This entry was posted in campaigns, Lake District, National parks, parliament, wild country and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to National parks: the soul of Britain

  1. Sand says:

    Great news indeed, as MP for Penrith and the Borders he is well placed to champion the National Parks.

  2. Ann Sandell says:

    The Northern Extension to the Yorkshire Dales National Park which is also in Rory Stewart’s constituency has been on his Minister’s desk for two years since the very expensive public enquiry.

  3. rwakeford says:

    I hope he feels the same about Areas of Outstanding Beauty.

  4. Very encouraging words – let’s hope his actions are equally positive.

  5. So National parks are miraculous, magical centres of imagination. what twaddle. Apart from that, what is going to do to protect our National Parks? This government’s record on environmental issues is not very encouraging – Ministers say one thing and do something different altogether – except here perhaps, when the Minister for the Environment hasn’t really said anything at all.

  6. Gaslight Crime says:

    He’s my MP. I think he’s hopeless when you try to pin him down on specifics. Don’t believe the spin.

  7. Gaslight Crime says:

    Pure lobby fodder!

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