Why do we go to National Parks? You’re going to hear different answers depending on who you ask…
For some, it’s to chase history, to seek out all those riches left to us through the centuries – from late famous writers’ houses to their resting places, from mysterious haunts of locals to the very presence amongst a natural world shaped by the incomprehensible millennia. For others it’s a chance to return to some of the better human habits and desires: exercise, calm, solitude, fresh air, quality local food and drink, discovery, inspiration – a return to our most cherished slices of countryside: the Lake District, the Peak District, Snowdonia, the Yorkshire Dales, Dartmoor, the Broads, the Pembrokeshire Coast, the Brecon Beacons… the list goes on. What a treasure trove of natural beauty we have on this small island of ours! But there are some things we would do well to remember when visiting…
Look at those guys up there. They look pretty prepared, right? Two things to bear in mind though: firstly, you don’t necessarily need to be as kitted out as those hikers to be ready for your National Park visit. But then again, you do need to consider some small things that could be the difference between the perfect big day out and… well, let’s just say that it might otherwise be stunning from the top of that mountain you’ve hiked up, but without sufficient food, water and some basic first aid, those views won’t matter for long. Your health should always come first. Hike that mountain, swim in that lake, go explore at night where few others would dare to go. But be prepared.
Forget for a minute what’s conjured up by the word “Park”. While these are typically some of the most way-marked and hiker-populated places in the country, they are also in large part wild places. When you’ve left the tea shops and historical homes behind for the day, remember that those miles you intend to eat up during the course of the afternoon may well take you through unexpectedly rugged routes. I’m reminded of a solitary trip I made myself to the Lake District. Lost in the unexplainable simple pleasures of walking through nature with nothing but some basic supplies, good gear, my own quiet thoughts and the sun on my back, my steps were suddenly brought to a halt as I noticed an animal unmoving to the side of the path. It was a young sheep. I wasn’t sure how it had happened but I promptly continued down the path to the nearest cottage. The farmer didn’t look very surprised. And why should he? These things happen. This is the natural world we’ve chosen to explore and we need to remember that such things could well meet us on our individual paths. But don’t let that detract from all the wonders of such places. Just remember to be realistic.
Remember that walk I did? Immediately going to that cottage was part of the point. National Parks are beautiful on many levels, but we need to remember that they’re also home to many locals and hard-working farmers and other professionals. As much as it’s important to have fun – otherwise why visit at all? – it’s also important to show respect for all the people – as well as animals and all forms of the natural world – which rely on these places. That can mean many things: from simply keeping out of private property to keeping a good distance from animals and clearing up after yourself. It’s all simple courtesy which for most of us is second nature. But for some it’s not so obvious; and for those few, if you ever come across them, it may be worthwhile politely bringing their attention to such issues. These National Parks are for everyone, but the only reason we’re lucky enough to experience them as they are, protected and unbeatably perfect in their own ways, is that we’re willing to acknowledge that this is only possible when we’re respectful and we all work together to keep them from needless harmful treatment.
Let’s think again about why we come to these places. It’s for different reasons, depending on who you ask, but for everyone, no matter their situation, no matter who they’re with, how old they are, where they’ve come from, where they’re going next and no matter whatever else they intend to do with their time in the lakes or by the coast or on the moors – be present. This is something that is so easily and unconsciously neglected in today’s fast-paced world. But it’s just as important as it always has been – maybe even more so! Without taking the time, especially in such beautiful natural places, to stop for a few moments and let all the wonder of your current situation come upon you again and again in ever-surprising waves of appreciation, inspiration and pure, simple gratitude – without this, none of it really matters. We come to these places to feel alive, to be with the ones we love, with new senses of meaning, fun and value. But for the gaining of all of this, we need to be present.
Check out some of our favourite houses at home in National Parks around the country…
Taikoo | Dartmoor | Sleeps 14
High on Dartmoor among the buzzards and falcons, sits Taikoo. Bring the generations together in an oasis of comfort and grace, walk the mature gardens, fire up the charcoal barbie and chill in the indoor pool complete with sound system.
Sweetoaks | Somerset | Sleeps 14-16
A fairytale house that’s Far, Far Away – yet so close, on the edge of Exmoor. Lawns sweep back to verdant hills in a blaze of bucolic birdsong, cricket and croquet, and drinks around the pool. AtSweetoaks, perfect relaxation is no myth.
Storbrook House | West Sussex | Sleeps 14
A thing of English colonial beauty, Storbrook House in rural Sussex will bewitch you with its topiary and trees, gin on the terrace, or the swing of a croquet mallet and the thwock of balls on the court. Inside, the fire crackles, the piano tinkles and the happy chatter over champers never ends.
Peak View | Peak District | Sleeps 20
Peak View does what it says on the tin: gives you a deliriously lovely view of the Peak District. This is rustic England padded with luxury. Settle back on soft furnishings in the cinema room, fire up the woodburner, take a picnic on the lawn, get together with friends and family and get a new perspective on life.
The Lake House at Raithwaite | North Yorkshire | Sleeps 12
Peace here at The Lake House in Whitby is dented only by scrabbling badgers or the dipping beak of a heron. Inside, the woodburners are crackling, the AGA’s ready for fresh local fare, our chef’s on call and the coast is just a sea-splash away. Put your feet up on the balcony over the lake, pop a cork and grab a slice of the good life.
Waters Reach | Lake District | Sleeps 10
Bathe in the lakeside hot tub and bask in the bosom of oak-timbered luxury in a Windermere waterside lodge with home cinema, boathouse and sundecks. At Waters Reach, lake meets mountain and experience exceeds expectation.