National Parks Week

Iconic sights like Hadrian’s Wall and Sycamore Gap are drawing in more crowds than ever before – with a record 1.5 million visitors stepping foot in Northumberland National Park last year.

And it seems these outdoors enthusiasts are spending more than ever before too – with tourism spend in the Park up by seven per cent, bringing an £80 million boost to the north east’s economy. National Parks Minister Lord Gardiner visited Northumberland yesterday to celebrate this success and kick-start National Parks Week – an annual celebration of some of the UK’s most stunning landscapes.

While there he had an opportunity to take in the breath-taking scenery, historic landmarks and unique habitats, and see first-hand the work the Park is doing to encourage more families, children and young people to enjoy the great outdoors. In particular, he explored the new Sill Discovery Centre opening this Saturday – a £14 million project designed to help people understand the landscapes and heritage of Northumberland.

National Parks Minister Lord Gardiner said, “National Parks are a huge part of our national identity and many of us, including myself, have fond memories of visiting a National Park as a child.

“With its secluded valleys, clear night skies and rare wildlife, Northumberland National Park is one of our most tranquil and picturesque landscapes – and I really hope the park’s new visitor centre will help even more people discover the region’s unique heritage.

“I’m thrilled to be here during National Parks Week to see how they are encouraging people of all ages and backgrounds to connect with the natural environment around them.”

Thousands of tourists are flocking to Northumberland National Park to see magnificent views of the pristine night skies following the Park’s International Dark Sky Park designation in 2013 – making Northumberland Europe’s largest area of protected night sky and officially the best place in England for people to enjoy the heavens. This accreditation has also helped to extend the visitor season in the region.

The Park will be celebrating National Parks Week by holding a range of family friendly activities and events at its Walltown Country Park.

Lord Gardiner and Tony Gates

Tony Gates, Chief Executive of the Northumberland National Park Authority, said:

“We are delighted the Minister has been able to visit Northumberland to kick off National Parks Week. National Parks across the UK are encouraging more people to get active and engage with the natural environment. National Parks are great places for friends and families to enjoy the great outdoors and the theme for this year’s National Parks Week ‘Do It Together’ encourages this.  Through The Sill: National Landscape Centre we have achieved the wow factor but the wow factor exists in National Parks right across the country and there is something for everyone.”

Over the course of National Parks Week Lord Gardiner will be speaking with farmers at the New Forest National Park, exploring the moorland at Exmoor, and meeting some of the apprentices and graduates at Dartmoor National Park

With more than 90 million visitors to the country’s National Parks each year, they contribute £4billion to the UK economy and are home to some of our most rare wildlife.