Environment Minister Richard Benyon yesterday chose Northumberland as the venue to launch a campaign to highlight the value of national parks.
The minister began his visit to Northumberland National Park at Branton First School in the Breamish Valley to officially launch the Love Your National Parks celebration.
The school, which has an adjacent nature reserve created from a quarry, faced closure after pupil numbers fell to six.
But the local community pledged money and embarked on fundraising events to finance the school, and plans were also laid for a nursery. Last year, the closure threat was lifted and the school won the Thriving Communities category in the annual Northumberland National Park awards.
Mr Benyon met Anthony Murray, deputy chairman of the Northumberland National Park Authority, head teacher Alison Lloyd-Harris, and Laura Capper, chairman of the school governors. The campaign is led by National Parks England, which aims to increase understanding of the work of the parks and the benefits they offer for rural living and working; conservation; leisure and environmental services for the whole population.
The organisation’s director, Nick Hamblin, said yesterday that the “sheer beauty” of Northumberland National Park made it the ideal location to launch the drive.
“There is a lot to celebrate in Northumberland national park,” he said.
Last month, a study by National Parks England claimed Northumberland National Park contributes £81m to the regional economy, rising to £166m when settlements on its boundaries are included.
The report also put the value of tourism in the park in 2011 at £66m, with that figure increasing to £151m with bordering settlements such as Bellingham, Kielder and Rothbury taken into account.
“Our national parks are some of the most treasured places across the country, with 90m visitors every year,” said Mr Benyon.
“National parks play a key role in rural economic growth, as they are home to thousands of businesses and provide benefits to local communities.
“I fully support this great campaign and hope it encourages people to visit, enjoy and love our national parks.”
Anthony Murray said: “Branton School, like the National Park, is part of the community and it is also the mainstay of a viable parish.
“I am proud as a park authority member that we are in a position to work with local people to maintain thriving communities in our uplands and to help educate new generations of custodians of our park.”
Mr Benyon also visited Ingram to see riverside flood protection work.
He was told how the national park authority is working on a landscape scale to deliver the conservation objectives of the Natural Environment White Paper through its Border Uplands Restoration Project and the Northern Upland Chain Local Nature Partnership.
He also heard about the authority’s intentions for the new Sill Landscape Discovery Centre at Hadrian’s Wall.
Finally, the minister was taken to see the work that has been done to restore large sections of heather moorland in the Cheviot Hills.
Our national parks are some of the most treasured places across the country