The call of the wild: Environment Minister champions weekend walking trips in our National Parks

DEFRA minister

Published Friday 29 April 2016

Environment Minister Rory Stewart is urging all would-be walkers and have-a-go-hikers to visit their nearest National Park or public woodland this Bank Holiday weekend as he visited the New Forest.

Treading a path for others to follow, the Minister visited the New Forest as part of a trip to some of our most iconic green spaces over the three-day weekend, also including the South Downs, Heart of England Forest and the National Forest.

Encouraging others to get out and discover their local landscapes, Environment Minister Rory Stewart said: ‘The UK’s National Parks, forests and woodlands are right at the heart of our national identity. These spaces belong to each and every one of us, and I’d challenge anyone visiting to enjoy them without feeling a pang of pride about that sense of ownership.

‘I’m delighted our outdoor spaces and National Parks are driving economic growth through international tourism, but there’s no reason we shouldn’t be enjoying them for ourselves as well - getting out and enjoying the great outdoors is a brilliant way to feel healthier and properly unwind over the long weekend.’

New Forest National Park Authority Chairman Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre said: ‘We are delighted to welcome the Minister to the New Forest National Park and to have the opportunity discuss the ways we are working to support this living, working landscape now and for the future.

Rory Stewart visit to Beaulieu Road Salesyard‘His visit comes at a critical moment for the National Park. We recently launched a Partnership Plan where all the main statutory bodies pledged a series of actions to protect and enhance the area. We are also ensuring we join up better with a wide range of organisations and communities to look at caring for the environment on a landscape scale, rather than individually working on small areas or single issues.

‘Government also recently published an Eight Point Plan for National Parks to ensure our iconic landscapes are conserved for future generations to enjoy. It shows how crucial National Parks are in helping to improve the rural economy, increasing the number of children connecting with nature, creating a thriving natural environment, delivering apprenticeships and promoting the best of British food.

‘We are looking forward to working closely with Government to keep the National Park a living, working Forest that is resilient into the future.’

In March, the Government announced a new Plan for National Parks to further secure the future of our iconic protected landscapes, ensuring they are effectively managed and contribute to the growth of our strong rural economy.

With over half of the population in England living within an hour of a National Park, the plan aims to increase the diversity of visitors from the UK – as well as promoting these world-class cultural attractions to a global audience through the GREAT campaign to drive international tourism.

The government aims to grow annual visitor numbers to reach 100 million, giving local businesses a £440 million boost and adding to the £4 billion already generated by National Parks.

The budget for outdoor spaces was protected in the last Spending Review, committing over £350 million for English National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and forests.

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Notes to photo editor:

Front row l to r: Pictured at the historic Verderers Court in Lyndhurst: Environment Minister Rory Stewart; New Forest National Park Authority Chairman Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre; Andy Macdonald, Natural England; Area Environment Manager Mike O’Neill, Environment Agency.

Top row (l to r): New Forest National Park Authority Chief Executive Alison Barnes; Deputy Surveyor of the New Forest Bruce Rothnie, Forestry Commission; Clare Moriarty, Permanent Secretary, Defra; Official Verderer Dominic May.

Notes to editor:

For more information please contact the Defra press office on 020 8026 3906 or out of hours on 0345 0518486.

Further information about National Parks and the New Forest, South Downs, Heart of England Forest and the National Forest are available here:

About the New Forest National Park Authority

Protect - Enjoy - Prosper

The New Forest National Park Authority’s statutory purposes are to:

  • Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park - Protect
  • Promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities – Enjoy.

We also have a duty to:

  • Seek to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park – Prosper.

The New Forest National Park was designated in March 2005. Its unique landscape has been shaped over the centuries by grazing ponies, cattle and pigs which roam free. Majestic woodlands, rare heathland and a spectacular coastline provide fabulous opportunities for quiet recreation, enjoyment and discovery.

Visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk to find out more

New Forest Media Contact:

Hilary Makin, Communications Manager, New Forest National Park Authority
Tel: 01590 646608
Email: hilary.makin@newforestnpa.gov.uk

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