An incredible new film with actress Caroline Quentin, star of TV and stage, features the voices of the visionaries of the environmental movement as they describe the early days of the National Parks in their own words. The six-minute film from Campaign for National Parks, the charity originally set up to establish the National Parks, has been released to mark the 70th anniversary of the National Parks.
The voices featured in the emotional film include:
- Len Clark – The last surviving member of the original committee that saw through the 1949 Act. Len and his future wife had an unconventional date watching the passage of the bill in the commons in 1949. Len was 102 when interviewed last year. Sadly, Len passed away last month and will be much missed by the charity.
- John Foster – the very first person to run a National Park in the UK. John oversaw the early days of the Peak District National Park including setting up the very first ranger service in the UK. John was 98 at the time of the interview.
- Jean Smart – secretary to Gerald and Ethel Haythornthwaite. The Haythornthwaites were true pioneers of the movement and their hard work led to their beloved Peak District being designated the very first National Park in the UK.
- Gordon Miller – a former National Park ranger and “legend” of the Peak District, Gordon would go on to pioneer the ranger service world-wide.
- Michael Dower – son of John and Pauline Dower. Both visionaries of the movement, the work of John Dower in particular put National Parks on the government’s post-war agenda. Michael reflects on the incredible work of his parents and would go on to lead a National Park himself.
In 2019, the 13 National Parks in England and Wales are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the 1949 Act of Parliament that led to their creation. In that time these incredible places have received millions of visitors, inspired artists and provided habitats for some of our most precious species.
Corinne Pluchino, Chief Executive of Campaign for National Parks commented: “This film is in honour of those incredible men and women who dedicated their lives so that we might enjoy some of the most special and spectacular landscapes in the countryside.”
“This film is incredibly special to Campaign for National Parks. We were established back in 1936 to lead this fight. It’s been very moving to hear of the dedication of John Dower, the tragedy that inspired Ethel Haythornthwaite to fight to protect the Peak District countryside and to reflect on the incredible foresight of pioneers such as Len Clark who we will sadly miss.”
Speaking in the film, Caroline Quentin, president of the charity, reflects on how far we’ve come and the work left to do: “Our National Parks are unique and special places that have been enjoyed for generations. That’s why it’s vital we pick up the mantle and take on the work that was started 70 years ago. So that future generations can come and enjoy this extraordinary diversity of landscape and the wildlife that lives within it. It’s more important than ever that we continue to campaign for our National Parks.”
The film has been featured in Northumberland National Park’s Yours since 1949 exhibit at their Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre. The interviews featured in the video form an incredible history of the movement and will be made available by Campaign for National Parks for all to enjoy.
Tony Gates, Chief Executive Officer of Northumberland National Park said:
“We’ve been delighted to feature this film at The Sill as part of our 70th Anniversary Exhibition on the 1949 Act. Our National Parks are the result of great foresight and vision, give so much to the nation and we should never take them for granted; from climate change to mental health, National Parks have as much, if not more, of a role to play in society today than when they were first conceived. We hope people who have visited the exhibition at The Sill now feel inspired and motivated to care for the future of our unique National Parks.”
Len Clark 1916-2019
Len Clark was a former chairman of YHA with links going back to the pioneers of youth hostels including the man who invented hostels, Richard Schirrmann. Len truly was a countryside champion with such a strong passion for natural beauty. He was the conscience of organisations such as the National Trust, Campaign for National Parks, the South Downs National Park and the Open Spaces Society. Historian and author, Duncan Simpson, has provided this wonderful tribute to one of the oldest and most influential members of all time. Read it here.