National parks are large areas of land that have been given special protection by national or local government as places of outstanding natural beauty and historic interest. They often include designated areas of countryside with an exceptionally high concentration of wildlife. There are 10 national parks in England covering a huge range of terrain – from the rugged and dramatic landscape of the Lake District to the tranquil wooded valleys of the North Downs.
The 10 National Parks in England
Peak District National Park
This national park lies on the southern edge of England and covers much of south Derbyshire, plus small parts of north-east Staffordshire, south-east Cheshire, southwest Yorkshire and northern Nottinghamshire. It is a popular place for walking, cycling, fishing and horse riding. The Peak District National Park was the first to be created in the United Kingdom in 1951.
Lake District National Park
The Lake District lies in Northern England between The Cumbrian Mountains and the Irish Sea. It is one of England’s largest national parks at 526 square miles. The Lake District is the most popular tourist destination in England with millions visiting every year to enjoy its beautiful scenery including mountains and lakes, rivers and woodlands.
Yorkshire Dales National Park
The Yorkshire Dales covers an area of 1,837 square kilometres (715 sq mi) and is one of England’s first national parks. The park spans the Yorkshire Dales which are part of the Pennine Chain and contains a large number of limestone pavements and caves such as Gaping Gill and Ingleborough Cave.
Yorkshire Dales National Park is the best place in England for outdoor activities such as walking, cycling, climbing and rock climbing. The park also has a rich heritage of folk music and dance. It has some of the most spectacular scenery in Europe including wild moorland, limestone cliffs, caves, woodlands, dales and hills.
North York Moors
North York Moors National Park lies in the traditional county of North Yorkshire but extends into the far north of the ceremonial county of York. It was designated as a national park in May 1954, following the designation in 1951 as a national park area. The park’s northern border is only 3 miles south of Bamburgh on the east coast of England.
The park has five distinct areas: the open expanse of the Moor itself, the Howardian Hills, a deeply incised river valley through which the River Rye meanders and drains most of the moor down to Whitby Harbour on the North Sea coast, an area known as ‘the Coast’, dominated by cliffs and wild seas, and ‘the Gap’ which lies between the North York Moors and the Cleveland Hills.
Dartmoor National Park (July 2011)
The Dartmoor National Park is a national park in Devon, England. It covers an area of nearly 600 km2 (230 sq mi). It was established as the UK’s second national park on 16 November 2002 and is currently the smallest national park in England and Wales. It is managed by Natural England, the designated public body for England’s natural environment.
Exmoor National Park
The Exmoor National Park covers 530 square miles of open moorland in north Somerset and south Devon in southwest England. The park was established on 1 April 1954 as Britain’s third national park. It is managed by Natural England, and is part of the 3% of the United Kingdom that has been designated as a national park.
Exmoor National Park was designated in 1954 as Britain’s third national park. Exmoor’s landscape consists of woodland and farmland, grazed by sheep on wide expanses of heather moorland. The moorlands include the South West’s highest point, Dunkery Beacon (409 metres).
The landscape of the national park is very varied with areas of high ground such as Hutton Roof and Countisbury Hill on the south-west coast and sweeping lowland river valleys such as those at Porlock.
New Forest National Park
The New Forest National Park lies in the south west of Hampshire, England and was designated as the United Kingdom’s first national park in 1951. The name also refers to the New Forest county division which has similar boundaries. New Forest is one of two National Parks in this part of England; the other being the Dartmoor National Park (now renamed as simply Dartmoor). Together they cover 3% of England with 60% of the area being protected by law from any kind of development. New Forest National Park is a large area of land that surround the New Forest, one of the largest remaining tracts of unenclosed pasture in Southern England.
Broads National Park
The Broads are an extensive system of mostly navigable rivers and lakes in the English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. The lakes, known as broads, were formed by the flooding of peat workings, formerly used for extracting firewood, and by medieval peat diggers. Much of the area is protected by law from disturbance. It lies within the Norfolk and Suffolk Coast AONB, is a UK National Park and constitutes most of it.
The Broads was added to the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage list in July 2017 due to its outstanding natural values.
Northumberland National Park
Northumberland National Park is situated in north-east England, covering some of the wildest and most spectacular landscapes in the country. It was designated on 21 May 2011 as one of ten new national parks across England and Wales.
Northumberland National Park lies entirely within Northumberland but also extends into Tyne and Wear (around Bellingham) and County Durham (around Stanhope). The park runs from the Northumberland Coast to the Scottish Borders mark and covers an area of .
The South Downs National Park is primarily situated on the south coast of England and includes all of the chalk downland between Winchester and Eastbourne. It was designated in 2011 as England’s first national park. The name also refers to a 100-mile long by 20 mile wide area of protected landscape running from the South Coast near Eastbourne, eastwards to the western suburbs of Southampton.
The South Downs National Park is managed by Natural England and includes seven areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB). The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty does not lie within the boundaries of the park but lies between Portsmouth and Winchester.
If you enjoyed this article you might also like to read about these national parks in Wales.