They were designed to serve three
basic purposes: to make it easier for town dwellers to enjoy the
open air without travelling too far and adding to traffic
congestion; to ease the pressure on the more remote and solitary
places; and above all, perhaps, in the words of the White Paper,
to 'reduce the risk of damage to the countryside – aesthetic, as
well as physical – which often comes about when people simply
settle down for an hour or a day where it suits them, somewhere
"in the country" – to the inconvenience and indeed the expense
of the countryman who lives there.
A good country park will certainly be readily accessible for
cars and pedestrians and you may be able to reach it by public
transport. It will cover at least 25 acres and may contain woods,
open parkland or a stretch of water. It may even be on the coast.
Some country parks provide refreshment facilities, picnic sites,
information centres and a warden service. All of them have car
parks and toilets. There may be an admission fee or a charge for
parking your car, and a few parks close during the winter, so it
is best to check before setting out. The great thing about
country parks is that they are prepared for people. So you feel
really welcome in the countryside.
In some parks you can swim, sail, fish, row or go horse-riding.
Others offer quieter pleasures: nature trails, gardens, ancient
monuments, fine views.
The commonest type of park is the traditional parkland of some
bygone ancestral estate, sometimes with the great house or
castle still intact within the grounds, as at Elvaston Castle,
near Derby. But there is no truly typical country park. In
landscape terms their range is immense: downs, cliffs, woods,
moors, heaths – even reclaimed mineral workings, old gravel pits
and derelict railway lines have been transformed with the aid of
cash handouts from the Countryside Commission.
A few private individuals and non-public bodies such as the
National Trust have established country parks, but so far most
country parks have been set up by local authorities.
Nevertheless the picture as a whole is bright. A survey carried
out last year by the Countryside Commission showed that on one
Sunday in July well over 200,000 people visited the parks.
Whatever other change may alter the face of the countryside in
coming decades, one thing is certain; country parks are here to