It’s National Parks Week! This week is all about celebrating the UK’s 15 national parks and all they have to offer. Throughout the week, each park will host free family events to encourage people to connect with nature and appreciate the beauty of the British countryside. As someone who loves nature and the great outdoors, I am determined to show you just how the county of Staffordshire matches up to these treasured national parks. That is why I have devised Local vs National, a series of blogs that will shine the spotlight on one local green space, either in Stoke-on-Trent or surrounding Staffordshire, alongside one national park, in the hope that I can encourage at least one more young person to pause the box set autoplaying on Netflix and discover some of the true wonders within our county and country alike.
Day 4: Biddulph Grange vs The Cairngorms
About: Biddulph Grange itself comprises of the larger Biddulph Grange Estate and the publicly-accessible Biddulph Grange Country Park. The latter is a 73-acre site including woodland with meadows, a large lake and several ponds. This place is described as extremely tranquil, and if you happen to be passing by, it is perfect for a quick spot of lunch or even a fully-planned picnic that can be enjoyed in one of the most calming environments in Stoke-on-Trent.
What to do: Although the country park itself is free and a lovely place to walk and feel at one with nature, there is also the option of visiting the Biddulph Grange Garden. This is a cultivated and maintained Victorian landscape garden in the grounds of the glorious stately home by the same name. The National Trust acquired the property and its gardens in 1988, but until 1991, it remained as an orthopaedic hospital. After this, the gardens were fully restored to their former glory, with many feature attractions being found again through archaeology-style digging. One such feature is the Dahlia Walk where, in 2011, bulbs were finally planted to allow beautiful dahlias to come into flower once more. The garden is now renowned for its beauty and is a popular destination to soak in this horticulturalist’s dream.
With dahlias being my favourite flower, I can’t sing the praises of this place enough. Not only do you get the joy of visiting a National Trust garden which just makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside, but the surrounding public country park is one of the calmest places you will ever be, and perfect for students that need a good stress buster during the academic year.
About: This is Britain’s largest national park, and deserving of its title. Found in Scotland, it contains both the highest mountain range and the biggest native forest of all the 15 national parks, and boasts incredibly clean rivers and lochs, moorland and farmland. As such, it is a stronghold for many of Britain’s most vulnerable wildlife species, including red squirrels. Its dramatic mountains, ancient Caledonian pine forests, historic castles, towns, Highland estates and even whisky distilleries make this national park one of the very best examples of how nature can thrive. Aside from red squirrels, the park is also home to Scottish wildcats, mountain hare and Capercaillie (the latter being the largest bird in the grouse species, and well worth a search on YouTube due to its rather unique call). There is no end to the beauty of the Cairngorms National Park and, for much of it, it must be seen to be believed.
What to do: Aside from wildlife spotting trips, this national park is perfect for hill walking, climbing, cycling and even skiing at the Cairngorms’ very own ski resort. It dubs itself a ‘natural playground’, with 12 golf courses and a variety of watersports also on offer here. Alternatively, you could just travel around and find all of this beautiful park’s scenic spots, whether for photography purposes or just to soak in the very best of the Scottish wilderness.
When I think about being out and enjoying nature, wildlife is always my first point of interest. Getting to see a rare bird or an endangered mammal is just incredible, but a lot of the time, you have to know what it is you’re looking for. One of my favourite birds of prey, the osprey, calls the Cairngorms home during the spring and summer months for breeding season, but there are only a handful of other places where I would get to see them. Scotland is a beautiful country in its own right, and this national park just showcases that at its very best.
From Biddulph to Scotland, I hope that one of these places has sparked your interest. Today I focused on the specific parts of nature that people might be interested in, with the flowers of Biddulph Grange Garden and the wildlife of Scotland’s Cairngorms. Both are places that I love, and I hope that I can get at least one more person to love them too!
Next: Queen’s Park vs Exmoor National Park