Sir Chris Bonington: 'We all need to play our part'. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Sir Chris Bonington: 'We all need to play our part'. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Mountaineering elder statesman Sir Chris Bonington has called for an injection of idealism into Britain’s national parks if they are to survive.

The Everest summiteer, who lives in the Lake District, said the powers that be should provide enough cash for them to be maintained, but the public also has a part to play.

Britain’s national parks need to be properly funded and properly managed he said.

The 84-year-old climber and adventurer, who has undertaken groundbreaking expeditions from Hoy to the Himalaya, said: “As I look back at a long and eventful lifetime of climbing which has taken me all over the world, the importance and uniqueness of Britain’s national parks and other protected landscapes is more apparent to me than ever.

“Places like the Lake District, Snowdonia and the Yorkshire Dales give our mostly urban population the opportunity for challenge, open skies, adventure, excitement, wonder, even a little healthy risk.

“I would go further and say that these places are an essential part of who we are. National parks are places where we can test ourselves, enjoy life and explore the ecology and culture of these islands. We should take great pride in them.

“Yet I am concerned for the future. These places need to be properly funded and properly managed, yet the tightening of public purse strings in recent times threatens to undermine that.

“Visitor rates are climbing but infrastructure is straining under the pressure. Money is not the answer to everything, but those in power should take a long-term view which recognises the many well documented public benefits of outdoor recreation for happiness, wellbeing and mental and physical health.

“But we all need to play our part. For example, every one of us is capable of making problems like overcrowding, congestion, litter or erosion worse.

“When we set foot in a national park we should all be thinking about the impact we have. Can I use public transport? Can I walk a lesser known route to spread erosion damage? How can I leave this place in at least as good a condition as I found it?”

He also urged outdoor enthusiasts to contribute to the British Mountaineering Council’s Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million appeal, which aims to raise £1m for path repairs and renovation in national parks.

“Contributing to path repair campaigns such as Mend Our Mountains is another great way of giving something back,” he said. “Places like Scafell Pike, Beinn a’ Ghlò or Cadair Idris offer a lifetime of free enjoyment. Is chipping in what you can afford to help take care of them too much to ask?

“We need an injection of idealism, passion and effort if we are to truly preserve our national parks and other protected places for future generations. They will only survive as long as we all care about them, value them, and are willing to help look after them.

“Let’s make our voices heard loud and clear. I would encourage everyone to start by giving to Mend Our Mountains today.”

A crowdfunding phase of the appeal has raised only a half of its £150,000 target, with five days to go until it closes.

Various rewards are on offer to contributors to the crowdfunding projects.

The larger appeal, which launched in March and will run until March 2019, has raised about £430,000 of its £1m goal. Three of the footpath projects are also on the shortlist for €30,000 of funding from the European Outdoor Conservation Association. Cadair Idris, Carn Liath and Cut Gate in the Peak District make up three of four projects in the mountain category, and a public vote is currently running to decide which will receive funding.

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