National Parks are England's nature hotspots

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Embargoed: for release Monday 20th July 00.01am

A new assessment1 by National Parks England2 has found that England’s ten National Parks are among the very best places in the country for wildlife, providing much-needed homes for many of our most rare and threatened plants and animals.

Statistics compiled by National Parks England show that while the National Parks cover less than 10% of England’s area, they contain much higher proportions of the most wildlife-rich habitats such as heaths, fens and ancient woodlands. Up to 80% of some habitats that have been identified as national priorities for conservation are within the National Parks.

It is not surprising, then, that National Parks are havens for our native plants and animals3. 87% of conservation priority butterfly species and 80% of priority orchid species can be found in England’s National Parks. Dedicated management and reintroduction projects are helping special species such as the fen raft spider, the freshwater pearl mussel and the barn owl to thrive and increase their range.

National Parks England believes that National Park designation has provided extra protection, creating the right conditions for nature to flourish. National Park Authorities work with landowners, communities and a range of charities and agencies to implement conservation measures and projects. The Authorities’ conservation expertise and role as planning authorities helps to protect wildlife, and support developments that enhance the natural environment.

Best of all, England’s National Parks – unlike those in some other countries - are not strict preserves where the public cannot visit. Our National Parks are free and open to all, with 90 million visitors every year enjoying the opportunity to get closer to nature.

To secure this natural value for the future, continued protection needs to be maintained across the whole of the National Parks’ area.  With investment the National Parks can help expand and join up wildlife-rich habitats, providing even more places where nature can thrive and people can come to enjoy it.

Secretary of State for the Environment, Rt Hon Liz Truss MP, said:  "Our National Parks are some of the UK’s most beautiful natural environments which we want everyone to enjoy. They are home to our native plants and spectacular wildlife, from the stunning orchids in the South Downs to the ospreys that return each year to breed in the Lake District. They boost our rural economies with visitors spending £4bn each year and bring together local communities helping the countryside and its businesses to thrive."

Jim Bailey, Chair of National Parks England, said:  “National Parks hold sites of national and international importance, and as National Park Authorities we take seriously our role in looking after such special places. Against a backdrop of national declines in many species, we have seen notable successes. For example, the latest data on high brown fritillary butterflies on Exmoor shows the highest numbers since records began.”


1. National Parks: England's Wildlife Wonders, published July 2015. Infographics from the publication are below.

2. National Parks England is the umbrella organisation that brings together the nine National Park Authorities (NPAs) and the Broads Authority.  It exists to support policy and practice by providing a collective voice for the views of the English NPAs; raising the profile of their work; facilitating discussion on issues of common concern; and working in partnership with other bodies. Follow us on Twitter: @natparksengland 

3. For further examples of species, habitats and conservation action in National Parks, see Wildlife Facts below

Contacts for further information

Paul Hamblin, Executive Director, National Parks England
Tel: 020 7072 7421  Mobile: 07968 760 854  Email: 

Andy Wilson, National Lead for Biodiversity, Chief Executive, North York Moors National Park Authority
Mobile: 07980 737 580

Meriel Harrison, Policy and Research Officer, National Parks England
Tel: 020 7072 7421  Mobile: 07930 632 510  Email: 

Images and a map of England's ten National Parks are available on request. A YouTube playlist of National Park Wildlife videos is available.

Wildlife Facts

Special species: the wonderful plants and creatures you can find in National Parks

  • The Broads is home to Britain’s largest native butterfly, the brightly-coloured Swallowtail
  • Dartmoor is the only place in Britain where you can find the Bog Hoverfly, a species that mimics the appearance of a bee
  • The rare amphibious River Jelly Lichen thrives in the clean waters of Exmoor’s River Barle
  • Ospreys returned to the Lake District in 2001 and have bred there every year since
  • The New Forest is home to the largest breeding population of Dartford Warbler in the UK
  • Autumn visitors to the North York Moors coast can spot Minke, Fin, Sei, Pilot and Humpback Whales
  • Northumberland contains the best site in England for rare species of colourful Waxcap Fungi
  • The Peak District is the only place in the world where the Derbyshire Feather-Moss grows
  • The Alcathoe bat, only discovered in the UK in 2010, can be found in the woodlands of the South Downs
  • The Yorkshire Dales holds the only wild site in the country for the beautiful Lady’s-Slipper Orchid

Precious places: National Parks are concentrated pockets of our most important habitats

  • The Broads is Britain’s largest protected wetland, with wildlife-rich fen, estuary and grazing marsh
  • The southernmost blanket bogs in Europe are found in Dartmoor
  • Exmoor has irreplaceable ancient woodlands, and the longest stretch of coastal woodland in England
  • The high fells of the Lake District are England’s stronghold for montane habitats and arctic-alpine plants
  • The New Forest holds the most extensive area of lowland heathland remaining in Europe
  • The North York Moors protects the largest continuous expanse of heather moorland in England
  • The cleanest rivers in England are sourced in the hills of Northumberland
  • The upland ash woodlands of the Peak District are the largest of their type in Great Britain, and of international importance
  • The chalk grassland found in the South Downs supports 30-40 species in just one square metre
  • Almost 1/3 of England’s remaining upland hay meadows, rich in wildflowers, are in the Yorkshire Dales

Nurturing nature: How National Park Authorities and their partners are giving wildlife a helping hand

  • The Broads Authority uses special lightweight vehicles to manage wetland areas, and the waste vegetation cuttings generated are used to improve farmers’ soils and create bioenergy
  • Thanks to recent blanket bog restoration works co-ordinated by Dartmoor National Park Authority, breeding dunlin have increased by 37%
  • Exmoor National Park Authority is part of the Exmoor Knotweed Control Project, safeguarding habitats including rivers, streams and meadows by treating invasive knotweeds on over 1,000 sites
  • The Arctic Alpine project, jointly led by the Lake District National Park Authority, is studying and protecting the special montane heath habitat
  • The New Forest National Park Authority has surveyed over 20,000ha of habitat for heathland birds and breeding waders
  • The North York Moors National Park Authority’s Farm Scheme spent £7m over 25 years on funding farmers to carry out conservation work
  • The Border Uplands project, led by Northumberland National Park Authority and partners, is connecting up bogs, moorland and grassland habitats to improve their value for wildlife
  • 650ha of clough woodland has been created through projects supported by the Peak District National Park Authority over the last 3 years
  • The Nature Improvement Area led by the South Downs National Park Authority has restored nearly 1,000ha of chalk grassland since 2012
  • The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has an ambitious native woodland programme that has already seen over 700ha planted

Species and habitats infographic

Wildlife wonders - Where the special is typical