Rory Stewart: 'nothing more precious'

Rory Stewart: 'nothing more precious'

Conservative junior minister and adventurer Rory Stewart said national parks are the ‘soul of Britain’.

Interviewed by the umbrella body for England’s’ national parks, the MP for Penrith and the Borders waxed lyrical about the nation’s protected lands.

Mr Stewart, a former chair of the all-party parliamentary on mountain rescue, was appointed under-secretary of state in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs by David Cameron. His brief includes England’s national parks.

He said national parks represent the best of Britain. In the interview, he said: “They are the centre of our 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 they 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.

“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.”

Mr Stewart’s remarks were welcomed by campaigner Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, president of the Ramblers and veteran fighter for public access to the British countryside.

She said: “The new environment minister, Rory Stewart, has given a resounding endorsement to our national parks.

“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.”

English national parks had to cope with cuts in funding of up to 40 per cent during the previous coalition Government, and there are fears that the budget reductions will continue under Chancellor George Osborne’s austerity programme.

Mr Stewart said: “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. 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 nature and even our minds and our literature.

“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.”

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