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South Downs National Park, by Tim Locke

timlocke.jpgAnd about time too… The South Downs has finally got the go-ahead to become a National Park, a mere 60 years after it was first proposed.

This is terrific news: a more valued, trodden, vulnerable and loved-to-bits landscape is hard to imagine. It’s no coincidence that posters produced by the government in the Second World War depicted Alfriston, in the South Downs, with the message that this was what the country was fighting for.

Because partly of its location not far from London, the South Downs now gets twice as many visitors as the Lake District, currently Britain’s most visited national park, and the pressures on it are huge. Parts of the Weald have been included in the area, thus protecting a huge chunk of the Southeast for posterity.

True, it’s not wild scenery, but it’s treasured both for its exhilarating sense of space and the settlements that are an intrinsic part of it. My own town of Lewes is now to become the largest town within any national park. Wedged in a gap between two chunks of the chalk hills, it obviously belongs to the landscape, and the inspector ‘accepted that it had strong visual and historic links with the Downs’. Spot on. If properly managed. a boost in tourism would not at all be a bad thing for the area. There’s plentiful scope for car-free tourism in the area and hopefully there will be better provision for cyclists.

Common sense has won the day.

11 April 2009

Tim Locke’s publications include the AA Leisure Guide to the South Downs and Coast, and Landscapes of the South Downs; more on


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