I was thrilled to have the opportunity to write this feature for Prospect magazine – titled ‘Dear Green Place’ in the November 2023 issue.
Nature is more depleted inside our national parks than outside their boundaries. Like me, you might expect that our ‘protected landscapes’ would be better for wildlife than the surrounding countryside. So why aren’t they?
Well, the short answer is that national parks are largely comprised of privately-owned farmland and farming has been the primary driver of nature loss due to intensification, over-grazing and use of pesticides and other chemicals.
Bannau Brycheiniog National Park took the bold step of making a short film with the world-famous actor Michael Sheen which told the truth about the degraded state of nature in the park. Sheen surveys the uplands and says, “Beautiful, isn’t it?” Then we hear the doubt. “Isn’t it?”
Where some see beauty, others see a barren landscape devoid of life. The poet Owen Sheers told me:
“I associated the environment [of the Bannau] with natural beauty, wilderness, getting back to an intimate connection with nature. But then your idea and perception of aesthetics changes with knowledge. I now see those upland areas as ecologically arid and not beautiful at all.”
The question of how to recover nature in our national parks is not only an ecological challenge – it’s a political, social and cultural one too. It’s about power and education.
I also appeared on the Prospect podcast to discuss all of this. So if this article interests you, do have a listen too.