Excitement is growing for next week’s fully-booked National Parks Big Picnic with the announcement that The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall are expected to attend. The event is being held in Exmoor National Park on Wednesday 17th July to mark 70 years since the landmark 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act that gave rise to UK National Parks was passed.
Following decades of campaigning, the Act provided the framework not only for the creation of National Parks but also for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and addressed public rights of way and access to open land.
70 years on the UK has 15 National Parks, attracting over 130 million visitor days a year, worth almost £6bn to the UK tourism economy. Each has its own distinctive character - some with high mountains and open moors, others with meandering wetlands and dramatic coastline. But all with endless opportunities to connect with nature, enhance our health and wellbeing, trace our heritage and look to a sustainable future.
The 500 tickets available for the event were allocated within less than two weeks. Those attending will gather in Simonsbath’s beautiful riverside meadows, at the heart of Exmoor National Park’s former Royal Forest in celebration of all these much-loved places mean to the nation.
To help mark the occasion, Their Royal Highnesses will be joined by Niall Hobhouse (grandson of Arthur Hobhouse who led the 1949 Act) and representatives from the UK National Park family.
Along with ticketholders, they will have the chance to meet National Park staff, local producers and craftsman, whilst enjoying a showcase of some of the area’s culture, history and local breeds. A new film on the history of UK National Parks, presented by Campaign for National Parks President Caroline Quentin, will also be previewed at the event ahead of a major exhibition due to launch at Northumberland National Park’s ‘The Sill’ later this year.
Sarah Bryan, Chief Executive of Exmoor National Park Authority, who are hosting the event, said: “We’re thrilled to be welcoming Their Royal Highnesses to Exmoor and deeply honoured to be hosting this celebration. National Parks offer so much to the country and simply wouldn’t exist were it not for the foresight and determination of those who fought for their establishment.
“We have been amazed and encouraged at the strong demand for tickets from those wishing to help mark this special occasion. We regret anyone without a ticket will be unable to join us due to the limited capacity of the site.”
Rachel Thomas, Chair of the Exmoor Society, who have helped organise the event along with the Exmoor Hill Farming Network (EHFN), said: “As an independent charity, our aim is to protect and promote Exmoor’s national park status. The Big Picnic at Simonsbath will celebrate all that makes Exmoor unique – not only its beauty, wildlife and heritage – but also upland farming livelihoods, produce from the land and the connection with nature so necessary to people’s wellbeing. So we are more than delighted that Their Royal Highnesses will be coming, recognising the national and international importance of the UK’s national parks for all.”
Dave Knight, Chair of EHFN, said: “We are absolutely honoured to welcome Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall to Exmoor. The Prince's Countryside Fund is one of the Network’s principal funders. Without this ongoing support the network would not be where it is today.”
The event is kindly being sponsored by Tarmac, with further support from Somerset County Council, Devon County Council and the family of UK National Parks.