National parks of England and Wales

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The national parks of England and Wales are areas of relatively undeveloped and scenic landscape that are designated under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. Despite their similar name, national parks in England and Wales are quite different from national parks in many other countries, which are usually owned and managed by the government as a protected community resource, and which do not usually include permanent human communities. In England and Wales, designation as a national park may include substantial settlements and human land uses which are often integral parts of the landscape, and land within a national park remains largely in private ownership.

There are currently 13 national parks (Welsh: parciau cenedlaethol) in England and Wales. Each park is operated by its own National Park Authority, with two "statutory purposes":

An estimated 110 million people visit the national parks of England and Wales each year. Recreation and tourism bring visitors and funds into the parks, to sustain their conservation efforts and support the local population through jobs and businesses. These visitors also bring problems, such as erosion and traffic congestion, and conflicts over the use of the parks' resources. Access to cultivated land is restricted to bridleways, public footpaths, and permissive paths, with most (but not all) uncultivated areas in England and Wales having right of access for walking under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.



Untamed countryside

Archaeological evidence from prehistoric Britain shows that the areas now designated as national parks have been occupied by humans since the Stone Age, at least 5,000 years ago and in some cases much earlier.

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