Children enjoy a discovery visit to the Peak District. Photo: Peak District NPA

Children enjoy a discovery visit to the Peak District. Photo: Peak District NPA

The Westminster Government has announced plans to boost the number of children visiting England’s national parks.

Environment Secretary Liz Truss said she also want more overseas visitors to visit the country’s protected areas.

Ms Truss visited the South Downs to detail an eight-point plan for the nine English national parks and The Broads, which are operated in a similar way.

The enlargement of the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District was confirmed for August, along with plans to help diversify the types of visitor to national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty.

The minister said: “National parks already welcome over 90 million visitors every year and make a major contribution to our vibrant rural economy, but too many children in our country are not aware of these natural wonders.

“I want to celebrate our inspiring natural environment so more visitors than ever before can enjoy the majestic Lakes, tranquil Northumberland, and the wide open spaces of the South Downs.

“Just as Yellowstone is known worldwide as one of America’s national treasures, our beautiful lakes and dales, moors and fells are a symbol of this country, part of our British identity. They are also huge public assets that should benefit as many people as possible.

“By instilling a love of nature in our young people and building thriving communities in every national park, our plan will allow these unique spaces to flourish for generations to come.”

Young visitors to the North York Moors look at freshwater inverterbrates. Photo: North York Moors NPA

Young visitors to the North York Moors look at freshwater inverterbrates. Photo: North York Moors NPA

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said, as part of the new plan, the Government will promote a new package of relevant teaching materials for schools based on national parks, to connect the areas with the curriculum and show children what they can learn and experience when they visit.

A Defra spokesperson said: “This will be promoted by the Department for Education and accessible through the National Parks UK website.

“We will support national park authorities in their ambition to produce a range of materials. National park authorities will work in partnership with the private sector and philanthropic donors to achieve this ambition.”

Defra’s plan is to:

  • Connect young people with nature
  • Create thriving natural environments
  • Drive growth in international tourism
  • Deliver new apprenticeships in national parks
  • Promote the best of British food from national parks
  • Promote the idea of everyone’s national parks
  • Promote landscape and heritage in national parks
  • Encourage health and wellbeing in national parks.

Among details in the plan are those to support the Lake District’s bid for Unesco world heritage status, realise the potential of outdoor recreation in all the parks, double the number of apprenticeships in the term of this parliament and celebrate the 70th anniversary of the first parks’ creation.

The Government is backing the Lake District's bid for world heritage status

The Government is backing the Lake District's bid for world heritage status

Jim Bailey, chair of National Parks England said: “Our national parks are the jewels in the crown of our beautiful countryside and something to be very proud of.

“They are living, working landscapes that need careful stewardship, for the benefit and enjoyment by all. I look forward to working with the Government on delivering this exciting plan for England’s national parks.”

The Government announcement was welcomed by the Campaign for National Parks. Chief executive Fiona Howie said: “It is fantastic that this plan sets out the Government’s ambition to put national parks at the heart of how we think about and manage the environment for future generations.

“The Campaign for National Parks has always believed that the National Parks are inspirational and special and we share the ambition that even more people, whether they are visiting or live or work in the Parks, should be able to benefit from these unique places.”

Defra said it want to double the number of young people who experience national parks as part of the National Citizenship Service.

The Government also wants visitor numbers to increase from an annual 90 million to 100 million. It is backing plans, such as the Northumberland Dark Skies scheme, to extend the main visiting seasons.

Tourism is the biggest sector in the UK’s rural economy, supporting three million jobs and generating £11bn every year for local communities.

The Peak District was England's first national park

The Peak District was England's first national park

Councillor Lesley Roberts, chair of the Peak District National Park Authority and deputy chair of National Parks England, said: “We are delighted to welcome the Government’s new Plan for National Parks which comes in our 65th anniversary year.

“Sixty-five years on we continue to work together with our partners and local communities to care for and protect this living landscape, and looking forward one of our ambitions is to introduce thousands more young people to the national park as part of their education so that they discover new opportunities and are inspired by this wonderful natural and cultural resource.”

Peter Harper, chairman of Dartmoor National Park Authority, said: “At Dartmoor we have understood how important it is to engage young people with the natural environment and are proud of the fact our junior ranger programme has been highlighted in the plan.

“It is important that we engage with people of all ages and backgrounds so that those who enjoy the special qualities of places like Dartmoor also help contribute to its conservation and the wellbeing of local communities.”

North York Moors National Park Authority chief executive Andy Wilson added: “We’re extremely excited about today’s news. We believe national parks are a perfect place to understand and explore the natural environment.

“By working at an early stage with young people it gives us the best chance to help promote these unique spaces by providing education on nature-based activities.”

The full national parks plan can be downloaded from the Government website.

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