The national parks of England and Wales are areas of relatively undeveloped and scenic landscape that are designated under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. Despite their similar name, national parks in England and Wales are quite different from national parks in many other countries, which are usually owned and managed by the government as a protected community resource, and which do not usually include permanent human communities. In England and Wales, designation as a national park may include substantial settlements and human land uses which are often integral parts of the landscape, and land within a national park remains largely in private ownership. There are currently thirteen national parks (Welsh: parciau cenedlaethol) in England and Wales. Each park is operated by its own national park authority, with two “statutory purposes”: to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area, and to promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the park’s special qualities by the public.
An estimated 110 million people visit the national parks of England and Wales each year. Recreation and tourism bring visitors and funds into the parks, to sustain their conservation efforts and support the local population through jobs and businesses. These visitors also bring problems, such as erosion and traffic congestion, and conflicts over the use of the parks’ resources. Access to cultivated land is restricted to bridleways, public footpaths, and permissive paths, with most (but not all) uncultivated areas in England and Wales having right of access for walking under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.
National parks of Scotland are managed areas of outstanding landscape where habitation and commercial activities are restricted. At present, Scotland has two national parks: Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, created in 2002, and the Cairngorms National Park, created in 2003. These were designated as such under the National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000 which was an early piece of legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament not long after its creation in 1999. It was a Scot, John Muir, who had initiated one of the first national parks in the world, at Yosemite in the United States.
In June 2005, the Scottish Executive announced their intention to create Scotland’s first coastal and marine national park. Five possible locations for this were being considered:
- Solway Firth
- Argyll Islands and Coast
- Ardnamurchan, Small Isles and South Skye Coast
- North Skye Coast and Wester Ross
- North Uist, Sound of Harris, Harris and South Lewis
In 2011 the Scottish Government rejected a propsal to create a national park on the isle of Harris
Every National Park has a main website, packed with information for visitors, residents and students. Some National Parks have pages on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter as well, so there are lots of way to keep in touch!
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