Secret coves, historic hillforts, ancient forests and tranquil lochs are all waiting to be discovered this National Parks Week.
National Parks Week is the annual National Park family festival championing all that is unique and special about National Parks. This year’s festival takes place Sunday 22 to Sunday 29 July and celebrates the countless opportunities to get outside and discover the length and breadth of the UK’s 15 National Parks.
From treasure trails and seaside safaris to guided forest walks and local food and drinks, there are a series of diverse events on offer. Discover them all as they’re announced here.
Whilst you're exploring the National Park this week, share your adventures with us and you could win yourself £1,000 worth of prizes courtesy of our national partners Sykes Cottages and Columbia Sportswear. Plus, you could help raise £1,000 for your favourite National Park while you’re at it!
To enter, tag your images with #DiscoverNationalParks and #NationalParksWeek on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The week kicks off with wildlife friendly events across the country. Nature enthusiasts can join an Evening Deer Search in Exmoor National Park on Tuesday 24 July from 19:00 to 21:00. Join a National Park Ranger for an evening of exploration and searching for deer. Meet at Ashcombe car park, Simonsbath SS774395 / TA24 7SH, it’s free!
In the Yorkshire Dales National Park on Tuesday 24 July, join Secret Squirrel from 14:00 to 16:30. National Park Wildlife Conservation Officer Ian Court will show you how to find red squirrels and other wildlife on this gentle 1½ mile (2.4km) stroll through the tranquil woods. It’s £5 for adults, and £2 for under 16s. Meet at Dales Countryside Museum, Hawes, DL8 3NT
Heading east, to the North York Moors National Park on Thursday 26 July, join the Cleveland Way National Trail, the National Trust and the National Park from 10.30 to 16.00 on a Geocaching Treasure Hunt. Search for hidden treasure using GPS units, searching for clues and goodies in hidden boxes along the way. It’s £5 per family, plus £20 deposit for the GPS unit. Meet at the Moors National Park Centre, Danby, YO21 2NB
For joggers, racers and dawdlers alike, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park is playing host to the Balloch Run ‘n’ Park on Saturday 28 July, 09:30 at Balloch Castle Country Park. There’s a 2k and 5k run, starting just inside the main gates. There is no registration, no fee and no official recording of times, just turn up for a Run in the Park! It’s suitable for all ages.
If you’re keen to lend a helping hand this National Parks Week, discover your inner volunteer with the Roborough Rock Volunteers in Dartmoor National Park. Join the National Park Rangers on Saturday 28 July 2018 between 10:00 - 15:00 and help to revive and conserve the fascinating Roborough Down area. Meet at Roborough Rock, grid ref SX515 672.
The South Downs National Park Rangers are on tour for National Parks Week this summer. Kicking off on Sunday 22 July with a brand new Free Family Fun Day ‘Wild Chalk’ in Brighton the rangers will then be on tour from 25 to 28 July bringing family fun and a little bit of the National Park into towns around Sussex and Hampshire, visiting Crawly Town Centre on Wednesday 25, Southsea Seafront on Thursday 26 and Worthing Shopping Centre on Friday 27. Learn how to make a ‘Forest Friend’, help us colour in a giant wildlife mural, and get crafty making wildlife sashes. Rangers will be on hand throughout to answer questions and invite you to free follow-up events taking place in the National Park the following week.
Round off National Parks Week with Picnic in the Park 2018 in the Broads National Park on 29 July. From 11.00 to 16.00, Whitlingham Country Park plays host to a family event with great music, food, family activities, displays, crafts, trails, boat trips, canoeing, and more! Bring a picnic and enjoy a day with the family in the idyllic park, known as the “Gateway to the Broads”. It’s free! Meet at Whitlingham Country Park, Whitlingham Lane, Trowse, Norwich, NR14 8TR
You don’t need to join an event to explore the UK’s National Parks, here are our top tips for discovering National Parks for free throughout the summer:
Being immersed in truly ancient woodland is a very special experience - seeing the slow-growing plants that can only exist here and listening to the chatter of birds that have made it their home. At Freeholders’ Wood near Aysgarth Falls there is different light and sound to experience every day. You may even be lucky enough to spot roe deer darting away into the shadows. Dormice were reintroduced after nearly a century’s absence and are thriving here. These tiny creatures only come out at night so you are unlikely to see them - but maybe you will hear them snoring if you are very quiet!
Close your eyes. See if you can tell the different tree species by the sounds you hear – our ranger swears by it. Do the leaves rustle differently? Can you hear more insects under one tree than others? And when you emerge from the wooded stillness, the rush of Aysgarth’s three stepped waterfalls will blow you away. All in one magnificent setting.
Cwm Idwal is one of Snowdonia’s most dramatic landscapes and internationally renowned as a fantastic example of a glacial valley. The cwm is internationally recognised for its rock formations and rare and fragile flora and has been studied by various well-known scientists and geologists, including Charles Darwin himself! Cwm Idwal is Wales’ oldest National Nature Reserve, designated in 1954.
Local legend abounds here, it is said that no bird flies over the lake and that a wailing voice can be heard when there is a storm in the Cwm. The path around Cwm Idwal is a moderate 3 mile (4.8km) walk.
One of the most spectacular features in the North York Moors, the Hole of Horcum is a huge natural amphitheatre 400 feet deep and half a mile across. Geologists reckon it was created by a process called spring-sapping, where water has undermined the slopes, eating the rocks away grain by grain. Locals know better, telling the tale of Wade the Giant, who – in a blazing row with his equally giant wife Bell – scooped up a handful of earth to throw at her, thus gouging out the Hole of Horcum. (He missed, and the earth fell to the ground to form the nearby outcropping, Blakey Topping.) It all makes for a spectacular walk from Saltergate – a 5-mile circuit starts from the car park.. Tread carefully – you don’t want to wake the giant.
We’ll be revealing more National Park discoveries soon at nationalparks.gov.uk
For adventures for children check out our Mission: Explore National Parks adventure book – with 49 missions to keep them entertained all summer.
Join in with #NationalParksWeek2018 and #DiscoverNationalParks across the summer