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 5: Queen’s Park vs Exmoor National Park
About: What I consider to be Stoke-on-Trent’s hidden gem, Queen’s Park in Longton is a grade II listed heritage park that includes a clock tower, three bowling pavilions, a traditional bandstand, children’s play area, fishing lakes and two full-size football pitches. Aside from these facilities and landmarks, the rest of the park is made up of glorious and maintained fields, all separated by the concrete paths that guide walkers around the park. There is also an area protected for conservation, with star species being kingfishers and several rare plants. The land is registered under the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act 1953 by English Heritage for its special historic interest, and has held this accolade for 19 years. It was made a public park in 1887, with lakes and winding tree-lined carriage drives, an excellent example of a later Victorian municipal park in an industrial town, the first in the Potteries.
What to do: When you imagine a park, you envisage just a few different trails, but there is no end to the winding paths of Queen’s Park. There seems to be something new at every turn, so just visiting this park for a walk is enough to feel like you’ve had your fix of the great outdoors. Hidden within its trails is a huge pond home to a variety of ducks, and all around the park, the grey squirrel population is thriving. However, the modern facilities on offer at this park are also impressive, with the aforementioned three bowling pavilions, football pitches, tennis courts and skate park. A beautiful park in the understated towns of Stoke-on-Trent.
In the past, I have driven for 20 minutes just to walk my dog around this park, and if you were to pay it a visit, you’d see why. It is such a beautiful place to be despite seemingly being a normal public park. I highly recommend Queen’s Park and attending any of the community events that are often pencilled into their calendar.
Exmoor National Park
About: Located in the south west of England, Exmoor National Park is a vast landscape of moorland, ancient woodlands with swathes of bluebells, valleys, farmland, high cliffs that plunge down into the Bristol Channel and cosy villages that are renowned for their local produce. It is also home to the hardy, resilient and unique breed of horse, the Exmoor pony. This national park prides itself on its special qualities, including the fact it is still possible to find tranquillity and peace here as well as rediscover your sense of adventure. You can catch glimpse of wild red deer, take in the breathtaking sight of dark skies full of stars, and explore villages that are just full of character and charm. This, and it is situated along a coastline, so there is also stunning views of the ocean to give this park even more appeal. Exmoor also has a claim to fame in its population of trees, as it is home to not only England’s highest beech plantation but also England’s tallest tree – not to mention some of the oldest and rarest species alive today.
What to do: Exmoor plays host to a variety of activities such as road cycling, mountain biking, trail running, canoeing, sea kayaking, fishing and climbing. But a more relaxing past time is the stargazing at Exmoor, one of the best places in the country to do it as it has now become Europe’s first International Dark Sky Reserve. With this newfound accolade, the park is hosting astro-parties, stargazing evenings, specialist talks, mobile planetarium sessions and guided night walks in its first Dark Skies Festival.
This national park is one of the most diverse we have in the UK and I think it deserves special recognition for that. The amount of things you could do here in one day is insane, and they even have their own breed of pony! If you’re based more in the south of England, just take a day or two to visit Exmoor, and you will not be left wanting.
Well, that’s it for my National Parks Week 2017 blog series! I hope if you have stuck with me throughout this week that you have enjoyed reading Local vs National as much as I have enjoyed writing it! Hopefully, if you weren’t already going to celebrate this week with a trip to the great outdoors, this has at least encouraged you to explore what Staffordshire has to offer if not one of our glorious national parks. This may be all from me, but National Parks Week isn’t over yet! Events will still be taking place to celebrate our national parks this weekend, so maybe a Saturday peruse of the Peak District or a Sunday stroll around Snowdonia may be on the cards?
Now, get off the internet and get outside, go and celebrate National Parks Week 2017!