didn't have great deal going for it. Only four years after
the end of WW2, the country was recovering from prolonged
hardship. Rationing of clothes and sweets was only just
ending and throughout the towns of Great Britain, bomb sites
reflected the scars left by air raids. In
these bleak post-war days however there were a few beacons
of light on the horizon, one of these being plans for the
protection of areas of the British countryside leading to
increased access and the formulation of National Parks and
Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs).
National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 was
a seminal piece of post war legislation under the Atlee
Government and was passed in December of that year. It paved
the way for the establishment of protected landscapes, and
since the act was passed, 14 UK National Parks, 49 Areas
of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), 294 National Nature
Reserves and 2,900 miles of National Trails have been established.
These are diverse in character: areas of lowland heath;
upland mountains; gently rolling hills; coastal plain and
shingle beaches; each containing unique and fascinating
landscape features. They also vary in size: the largest,
The Lake District National Park being 2292 sq. km and the
smallest The Isles of Scilly AONB at just 16 sq. km.
first protected landscape, the Peak district National Park
was designated in 1951, the first AONB, was Gower in 1958
and the most recent is the South Downs which received its
National Park status this year.
Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was designated
in 1971 and recognized some of the most beautiful lowland
scenery in Britain, creating a unique protected landscape
area which straddles the border between England and Wales.
It includes areas within Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean,
Herefordshire and Monmouthshire. The 44 mile (72km)
stretch of the River Wye winds down the valley through spectacular
limestone gorge scenery and dense ravine woodlands. Superb
wildlife, intriguing archaeological and industrial remains
and impressive geological features all make it into one
of the most fascinating Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
60th Anniversary has provided a superb opportunity for a
combined 'Diamonds in the Landscape' celebration, AONBs
and National Parks are using this landmark year to not only
look back to past achievements but also to encourage interest
in current issues and challenges facing protected landscapes
over the next 60 years and beyond. >