England's breathing spaces...
ure, England’s national parks are about protecting the environment but they’re also great places to have fun. That said, it’s pretty hard work climbing the Lake District’s Scafell Pike, but get to the top and you’ll quickly forget all that huffing and puffing when you see the view.
It could be straight out of a painting – and chances are it probably is. Over the years, the dramatic scenery of the Lake District National Park has inspired the likes of John Constable and Ruskin, as well as poets like Samuel Taylor Coleridge and some chap called Wordsworth.
For English countryside that’s more afternoon amble than hardcore hike, however, head for the rolling hills of the South Downs Way . This ancient 160-kilometre route follows the chalk escarpment, and is a Mecca for mountain bikers. Be sure not to pedal too fast, though, or you’ll miss out on the clusters of wild flowers like pansies and scarlet pimpernels that line the way.
If you prefer your ‘riding’ to come with stirrups and a mane, then you might want to look at the wild and haunting plains of Dartmoor instead. Saddle up and gallop out onto the open moor, where a few clumps of heather and the odd bit of bog are the only things that are going to slow you down.
In the New Forest , meanwhile, horses aren’t just for riding – they’re responsible for helping to maintain the landscape. By constantly nibbling on the shrubland, the 3,000 resident ponies stop the vegetation from getting out of control, and save the park’s wardens hours of pruning.
For the great outdoors with a watery theme, hop on a boat and see the Broads . Spanning Suffolk and Norfolk, it’s Britain’s largest nationally protected wetland and home to all kinds of wildlife. It’s also dotted with charming country towns and villages where you can moor and explore.
Exmoor is wild and rugged and offers a rich taste of ancient English countryside in all its forms. Spectacular landscapes, from woodland to moorland, valleys and farmland, act as an adventure playground to walkers and cyclists, and there are plenty of opportunities to see majestic wildlife, particularly red deer and wild ponies.
Home to the Roman fortification of Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland National Park reaches across the hills and valleys at England’s northernmost tip and rewards walkers with awe-inspiring views across a patchwork blanket of fields and meadows. Home to thousands of years of history, the park's rolling moors and grasslands surround the ancient hill forts and springs of the Cheviot Hills, while the traditional villages of Harbottle and Holystone lie in the park’s centre, tucked within the Simonside Hills.
The waving purple heather of the North York Moors runs into hushed woodland, crossed by brilliant streams flowing down from the hills. Among it all are ancient pathways, historic churches and forgotten castles where settlements once stood and the old ways of life stood strong.
Flowers and hay meadows gently grazed for centuries rush up to the towering Pennines in the Yorkshire Dales , presenting visitors with some of England’s most spectacular scenery. The Dales is famous for its diversity of grand sights, particularly its waterfalls and sweeping valleys carved out by glaciers.
While not actually mountainous, (the ‘Peak’ of its name is a corruption of the word ‘Pict’), The Peak District National Park certainly has a vast store of dramatic sights and incredible landscapes on offer, not to mention some remarkable Neolithic heritage. One of its most famous viewpoints is Mam Tor, a Bronze Age hill fort and part of the Great Ridge.
Exmoor National Park
A unique landscape of moorland, woodland, valleys and farmland...Exmoor National Park