Owen Plunkett, publicity officer for Hampshire Ramblers and South Downs Society member organised a celebratory fifth anniversary event at the Park Centre in Midhurst on Saturday 4th April.
The meeting began with an address from Margaret Paren, chairman of the National Park Authority, who said that she preferred to look to the future rather than dwell on the past. She spoke of an aim to produce an innovative local plan based on ecosystem services, initiate a ‘shared identity for the park’ and for the park to become part of an International Dark Skies Reserve.
Kate Ashbrook, president of the Ramblers and general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, also addressed the meeting. She congratulating the park on its five years of achievement, and that it was wonderful to see 98-year-old Len Clark who had arrived by bus from his home in Godalming. Len had been present at the second reading of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Bill in 1949 and had been a major voice in the campaigne for the South Downs National Park.
Kate went on to say; “The National Park is close to many population centres which is both a problem and an opportunity. There are numerous pressures for development close to its boundaries, threatening its grand landscape and its dark skies, and it is a vital place for refreshment and reinvigoration, especially for urban dwellers”.
She commented on the need for more open spaces on the downs and links between the scattered and inaccessible mapped areas and later congratulated the South Downs Society in doing a splendid job devising walks which take in access land and link up the sites.
Some 30 or so of the audience were then conducted on a 7 miles circular walk across the Cowdray Estate which proved very enjoyable. This was followed back at the Centre by drinks and cake including a toast to the national park.
The Society took the occasion to publically launch its new series of 10 Open Access Land map leaflets with their associated guided walks. These fitted in well with one of the themes in Kate Ashbrook’s talk and were well received by those present. The maps can be found HERE.