The Standing Committee on National Parks was created in 1936 to develop more formal protection of our most special landscapes.
The committee’s secretary was John Dower. He was asked to look into how the National Park ideal could work for England and Wales. He did this from his cottage at Kirby Malham here in the Yorkshire Dales.
Speaking with local farmers he was well aware of the great contribution hill farming and local culture made to the area’s special landscape qualities. He also believed that supporting farming communities was essential to the National Park.
John was often joined by fellow Quaker and visionary, Arthur Raistrick. Arthur would walk from his home in Linton to discuss issues such as nature protection and public rights of way which they hoped would be covered by legislation.
The third hero of the National Park movement was Tom Stephenson, a journalist from Burnley. He campaigned for access to the countryside and long distance footpaths such as the Pennine Way.
Tom joined Sir Arthur Hobhouse’s Committee on National Parks. In 1947 the Committee endorsed all of Dower’s key recommendations. Two years later the act which lead to the creation of National Parks in England and Wales was born.
Core purposes of National Parks
The Bill that led to the creation of National Parks stated their two core purposes are:
- to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage
- to promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of their special qualities
The Yorkshire Dales National Park
In 1952, a year after the creation of the first National Park, the National Parks Commission visited the Yorkshire Dales. The deputation included John Dower’s widow, Pauline, a passionate conservationist, and Tom Stephenson. But it was not until May 1954 that a planning inspector held a public inquiry into its proposals for a Yorkshire Dales National Park.
There were plenty of serious objectors. One town clerk in the North Riding said: “National Parks are not greatly desired. It is a scheme of fantasies, idealists and those out of touch with life in the countryside.” Others spoke of their fears of “hordes” of trespassing visitors from the cities disturbing livestock, damaging walls, leaving gates open and dropping heaps of litter.
The inspector, however, rejected all these arguments and urged the government to confirm a designation order. The Yorkshire Dales National Park came into being in November 1954.
“We welcome the Park”, wrote campaigner Arthur Raistrick on hearing the news of its formal creation.
“It offers all that we want, country for the walkers, ranging from the wildest fell tops to the pleasant riverside walks of the lower dales. It is a paradise for the naturalist and geologist, and we who live in it and know it, believe that any right minded person, whatever his country taste, can find satisfaction within its bounds.”